Parkman Diary – Home

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Note: 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.


 

Introduction to the Diary of Rev. Ebenezer Parkman

The diary of Ebenezer Parkman (1703-1782), minister of Westborough, Massachusetts, from 1724 to 1782, is one of the most valuable extant documents from the colonial and Revolutionary periods of American history.  As noted historian Clifford K. Shipton observed, the diary provides “a record of the social history of Massachusetts provincial life nowhere equaled for length, for completeness, or for sustained interest.” Indeed, Shipton continued, “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 Ebenezer Parkman kept for sixty-two years.”[1]

Though portions of the diary have been published, a majority of this document—perhaps upwards of sixty percent—has remained in manuscript form and thus has not been widely available to scholars or the public.  Ross W. Beales, Jr., Professor Emeritus at the College of the Holy Cross, Anthony T. Vaver, Ph.D., M.L.S., Local History Librarian at the Westborough Public Library, and Professor James Cooper, Director of New England’s Hidden Histories (the Congregational Library’s church records digitization program) are pleased to make this astonishing, 2000-page document available, in its entirety, for the first time.

What appears specifically on this blog is a transcription of the printed diary edited by Francis Wallet through 1755 (excluding 1736 and 1742), the printed diary edited by Harriette M. Forbes,[2] and the manuscript diaries held at the American Antiquarian Society and the Massachusetts Historical Society.  With pleasure we acknowledge the generosity of both institutions for granting permission to post the printed and manuscript diaries of Ebenezer Parkman on this blog.

Additionally, Mr. Beales, who has studied Parkman and his papers for many years, is pleased to make available much of his extensive research on the diary.  This research includes PDF files on individuals and families whom Parkman encountered over his long ministry; his children; diseases and medical practitioners; crops, animals, and food; deaths; textiles and clothing; and many other topics.  There are also tables that set forth information about Parkman’s family; accidents; names; and other subjects.

For further context, this website will also publish or link to a vast quantity of additional documents drawn from Parkman’s extensive writings: sermons, church records, lay relations of faith, and miscellaneous papers relevant to the internal affairs of the church of Westborough.  So vast are the surviving papers of Ebenezer Parkman that we believe more can be learned about Westborough and its church in the eighteenth century than any other contemporary Massachusetts community during this same time period.

In transcribing the printed portions of the diary, Mr. Beales has followed Francis Walett’s lead, using so-called the “expanded” method.[3]  In the case of portions of the diary edited by Mr. Walett, every effort has been made to produce an accurate transcription, with the exception of the correction of minor errors.  In transcribing the portions of the diary edited by Harriette M. Forbes, Mr. Beales has used the expanded editorial method (for example, changing “ye” to “the”; bringing superscript letters down to the line, expanding abbreviations, and so on).  Similarly, the expanded method has been used in transcribing the manuscript diary.

Ross W. Beales, Jr., April 7, 2018

Notes to the Introduction

[1]Clifford K. Shipton, “Foreword” to The Dairy of Ebenezer Parkman, 1703-1782: First Part, Three Volumes in One, 1719-1755, ed. Francis G. Walett (Worcester, MA: American Antiquarian Society, 1974), [vii].

[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).

[3]Harvard Guide to American History, ed. Frank Freidel (rev. ed.; Cambridge, MA: Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, 1974), 1:27-32.


 

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.


 

Other Online Editions of the Parkman Diary


 

Special Note for the Year 1737

Francis Walett: “The original of the diary from Sept 1728 to Jan. 1740 has evidently been lost. Fortunately a portion of this (February 1737 to November 1737) was published by the Westborough Historical Society in The Diary of Ebenezer Parkman . . . , ed. by Harriette M. Forbes (Westborough, 1899).[1]  The present editor has been completely dependent upon the transcription of Mrs. Forbes, and only minor changes of form in her text have been made.  This has meant, essentially, writing out abbreviated words as has usually been done throughout the diary.  Some material from Mrs. Forbes’ notes has been incorporated in this work, and numerous other references added.”

Additional Note: This version incorporates both Forbes’s and Walett’s footnotes, with the author of the various notes indicated by last name.

[1]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), 9-47.  The original may be found at: https://archive.org/details/diaryofrevebenez00park.


 

Special Note for the Year 1742

The American Antiquarian Society acquired Ebenezer Parkman’s diaries for 1736 and 1742 in 1985, some two decades after the serial publication of Parkman’s diary, through 1755, in the Proceedings of the American Antiquarian Society.  Portions of the diary for 1742 had appeared in Joseph Tracy’s History of the Great Awakening, but the manuscript remained in private hands for another 143 years.  Like Joseph Tracy, readers of the diary for 1742 will find fascinating details about the religious revivals as they affected Parkman and individuals and families in Westborough and neighboring communities.  And, of course, there are many more details about the day-to-day life of Parkman’s ministry, his family, his farm, and his extended networks of neighbors, parishioners, kin, and ministerial colleagues, all part of the literally hundreds individuals, some identified, others anonymous, whom he mentioned in the course of a year.

This transcription of the diary for 1742 uses the so-called “expanded” editorial method (as described in the Harvard Guide to American History).

The following abbreviations have been used for sources cited in the footnotes:

CVR Vital Records of Cambridge, Massachusetts, to the Year 1850 (Boston: Wright & Potter, 1915)
DYG Franklin Bowditch Dexter, Biographical Sketches of the Graduates of Yale College with Annals of the College History (6 vols.  New York: Henry Holt and Company, 1885-1912)
HVR Vital Records of Hopkinton, Massachusetts, to the Year 1850 (Boston: New England Historic Genealogical Society, 1911)
LVR Vital Records of Leicester, Massachusetts, to the End of the Year 1849 (Worcester: Franklin P. Rice, 1903)
MVR Vital Records of Marlborough, Massachusetts, to the End of the Year 1849 (Worcester, MA: Franklin P. Rice, 1908)
Newbury VR Vital Records of Newbury, Massachusetts, to the End of the Year 1849 (Salem, MA: The Essex Institute, 1911)
Northborough VR Vital Records of Northborough, Massachusetts, to the End of the Year 1850 (Worcester; Franklin P. Rice, 1901).
RVR Vital Records of Rutland, Massachusetts, to the End of the Year 1849 (Worcester: Franklin P. Rice, 1905)
Sherborn VR Vital Records of Sherborn, Massachusetts, to the Year 1850 (Boston: New England Historic Genealogical Society, 1911)
SHG Sibley’s Harvard Graduates, more formally known as John Langdon Sibley and Clifford K. Shipton, Biographical Sketches of Graduates of Harvard University, in Cambridge, Massachusetts (18 vols.; Cambridge, MA, and Boston, 1873-1999).  Vol. 18 is by Conrad Edick Wright and Edward W. Hanson.
Shrewsbury VR Vital Records of Shrewsbury, Massachusetts, to the End of the Year 1849 (Worcester: Franklin P. Rice, 1904)
Southborough VR Vital Records of Southborough, Massachusetts, to the End of the Year 1849 (Worcester: Franklin P. Rice, 1903)
WCR Westborough Church Records (Local History Room, Westborough Public Library
WVR Vital Records of Westborough, Massachusetts, to the End of the Year 1849 (Worcester, MA: Franklin P. Rice, 1903)