Diary – Home

Please note: This website is currently under construction. We hope to have the full text of Parkman’s Diary available by the Summer of 2019, if not before. If you have any questions about this project, please contact the Westborough Public Library.

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Use the navigation links to the right to browse or search the Diary of Rev. Ebenezer Parkman. Links to PDF versions of the Diary are also available.

Note: the diary entries on this blog are transcriptions created by Dr. Ross W. Beales, Jr. (Professor Emeritus, College of the Holy Cross).

Introduction to the Diary of Ebenezer Parkman

The diary of Ebenezer Parkman (1703-1782), minister of Westborough, Massachusetts, from 1724 to 1782, has long been a valuable source for historians, antiquarians, and genealogists.  As early as 1842, Joseph Tracy printed extracts from Parkman’s diary for 1742 in his history of The Great Awakening.[1]  In 1899 the Westborough Historical Society published parts of the diary from 1737 and 1778 and the complete years, 1779-1780, edited by Harriette M. Forbes.[2]  Starting in the 1930s, Clifford K. Shipton wrote fourteen volumes of sketches of Harvard graduates from 1690 to 1771, continuing the work of John Langdon Sibley.[3]  In reflecting upon his research for Sibley’s Harvard Graduates, Shipton writes, “I have read all of the available diaries, which number in the hundreds, and have come to the conclusion that by far the most interesting and important is the journal which Ebenezer Parkman kept for sixty-two years.”  Given that Shipton was well acquainted with the diaries of Cotton Mather and Samuel Sewall, both of whom made a greater mark on history (as commonly defined), this is quite a statement!  As he notes, the diary is “a record of the social history of Massachusetts provincial life nowhere equaled for length, for completeness, or for sustained interest.”[4]

Fortunately for scholars and a wider public, Shipton’s enthusiasm was shared by Francis G. Walett and the American Antiquarian Society, which, under Walett’s editorship, began publishing extant portions of the diary in the Society’s Proceedings.  Walett’s work occupied more than a thousand pages of the Proceedings, carrying the published portions of the diary through 1755.  While estimates are difficult, upwards of sixty percent of the diary remains in manuscript form, including two important years, 1736 and 1742, which were acquired by the Antiquarian Society in 1985.

What appears on this blog is a transcription of the printed diary edited by Francis Walett through 1755 (excluding 1736 and 1742), the printed diary edited by Harriette M. Forbes, and the manuscript diaries at the American Antiquarian Society and the Massachusetts Historical Society.  It is a pleasure to acknowledge the generosity of the American Antiquarian Society and the Massachusetts Historical Society for their permission to post the printed and manuscript diaries of Ebenezer Parkman on this blog.

I have transcribed only some of Francis Walett’s footnotes, and I have made occasional minor corrections to his transcription.

In transcribing the manuscript portions of the diary, I have used the expanded method as described in the Harvard Guide to American History, ed. Frank Freidel (2 vols.; Cambridge, MA: The Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, 1974), 1:27-31.

To help readers keep track of the dates, for each entry I have included the year, month, and day of the week: for example, 1723 August 5 (Monday).  I have noted those days for which Parkman made no entry – for example: 1724 January 13 (Tuesday).  [No entry.].

Ross W. Beales, Jr., March 26, 2018

Notes to the Introduction

[1] Joseph Tracy, The Great Awakening: A History of the Revival of Religion in the Time of Edwards and Whitefield (Boston: Tappan and Dennet, 1842), 204-12.

[2] The Diary of Rev. Ebenezer Parkman, of Westborough, Mass., for the Months of February, March, April, October and November, 1737, November and December of 1778, and the Years of 1779 and 1780, ed. Harriette M. Forbes ([Westborough:] Westborough Historical Society, 1899).  Forbes had already used extant portions of the diary in The Hundredth Town: Glimpses of Life in Westborough, 1717-1817 (Boston: Rockwell and Churchill, 1889). The manuscripts were loaned by Mrs. Edward Tuckerman of Amherst.  Their location, if they survive, is unknown.  Forbes also included extracts from Parkman’s birthday reflections, the Natalitia, by courtesy of the American Antiquarian Society.  According to Forbes, the manuscript of the diary was “all in one book, sewed together probably long after Rev. Ebenezer’s death.”  In describing the diary’s provenance, Mrs. Tuckerman wrote, “The book came to me directly from my aunt, Mrs. Asa Rand, an older sister of my father’s who received it from her mother Sarah, daughter of Rev. Ebenezer.  My good old aunt had more of her grandfather’s diary, but in some of our movings (she was a minister’s wife), it got left behind in a box of papers, on a closet shelf, she told me, and she could not recover it, probably destroyed as waste paper.” Merrifield, ed., Diary of Rev. Ebenezer Parkman, [v].

[3] For Clifford K. Shipton’s sketch of Parkman, see John Langdon Sibley and Clifford K. Shipton, Biographical Sketches of Graduates of Harvard University, in Cambridge, Massachusetts (18 vols.; Cambridge, Massachusetts, and Boston, 1873-1999), 6:511-27.  In addition to the three volumes by Sibley and fourteen by Shipton, Conrad Edick Wright and Edward W. Hanson wrote an eighteenth volume (1999), covering the Harvard classes 1772-1774.

[4] The Dairy of Ebenezer Parkman, 1703-1782: First Part, Three Volumes in One, 1719-1755, ed. Francis G. Walett (Worcester, Massachusetts: American Antiquarian Society, 1974), [vii].

Location of Extant Portions of Parkman’s Diary

  • 1723-1728 (Jan. 1723-Sept. 1728): American Antiquarian Society (hereafter: AAS)
  • 1736 Jan. 8-Dec. 31): AAS
  • 1737 (Feb., Mar., Apr., Oct., Nov.): Published by the Westborough Historical Society
  • 1738-1740: AAS
  • 1742 Jan. 1-Dec. 19): AAS
  • 1742 (Dec. 21-31): Massachusetts Historical Society (hereafter: MHS)
  • 1743-1748: AAS
  • 1749: MHS
  • 1750-1754: AAS
  • 1755: MHS
  • 1756-1761 (Jan. 1756-May 1761): AAS
  • 1764-1769 (June 1764-1767): AAS
  • 1770: AAS
  • 1771-1772 (Aug. 1771-Nov. 21, 1772): MHS
  • 1772 (Nov. 10-21): AAS
  • 1772-1773 (Nov. 1772-June 5, 1773): MHS
  • 1773-1778 (June 15, 1773 – Oct. 1778): AAS
  • 1778-1780: (Nov. 1778 – Dec. 1780): Published by the Westborough Historical Society
  • 1781-1782: MHS

Publication History

The Diary for 1723-1755, with the exception of 1736 and 1742 and the excerpts from Jan. 7 to Dec. 18, 1742, was edited by Francis G. Walett and published in the Proceedings of the American Antiquarian Society 71-76 (1961-1966).  The same years were subsequently reprinted in The Diary of Ebenezer Parkman, 1703-1782: First Part, Three Volumes in One, 1719-1755 (Worcester, Massachusetts, 1974).  Walett also included Parkman’s birthday meditations, the “Natalitia.”  The years 1736 and 1742 were acquired by AAS in 1985.

Harriette M. Forbes, ed., The Diary of Rev. Ebenezer Parkman, of Westborough, Mass., for the Months of Feb., Mar., Apr., Oct. and Nov., 1737, Nov. and Dec. of 1778, and the Years of 1779 and 1780 ([Westborough,] 1899).  These portions of the diary are not known to be extant.

Excerpts for the period Jan. 7-Dec. 18, 1742 were published in Joseph Tracy, The Great Awakening: A History of the Revival of Religion in the Time of Edwards and Whitefield (Boston, 1845), 204-12.