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Parsons family papers

Identifier: 00020

Scope and Contents

The papers consist mainly of correspondence, diaries and account books of the Edward Parsons family from 1824 to 1910. Most of the material is personal correspondence between the Edward Parsons family and relatives living in Livingston and Clinton Counties, New York. A great number of letters between Edward and his father, Reverend Levi Parsons (1779-1864) are included. The contents of these letters range from Levi's concern over Edward's problems at Hamilton College (Clinton, New York) in 1827, to a description of "Michigan Fever", a sudden migration by people from surrounding states to Michigan around 1835, to a letter (January 7, 1863) commenting on the replacement of General Butler by General Banks during the Civil War. Levi Parsons died in 1864.

Two letters from Edward's son, Jacob, concern Jacob's schooling at the Agricultural College of the State of Michigan (now known as Michigan State University). The first, dated April 9, 1858, discusses the admittance procedure at that time, and the second, dated July 23, 1858, discusses the student wage of five cents an hour.

In correspondence from 1861 to 1868 general comments are expressed about the Civil War. One letter (April 13, 1864) states "General Sherman has cleaned out the inside and General Grant has knocked the rebel shell into finders". A letter dated December 28, 1865 noted the end of the Civil War, commenting "Peace instead of war, freedom instead of slavery to four million of our people."

A portion of the material concerns Edward's activities as a member and Deacon of the Congregational Church of Grand Blanc, including ministerial hiring and pay, missionary endeavors and other church matters.

An almost complete set of diaries by Edward Parsons from 1827 until his death on November 1, 1889 is included. Entries note weather conditions, social and family events and farm business. Also included is a set of "Family Expense/Income of Farm" books (1852-1884) and account books (1847-1850, 1857-1889), all from Edward Parsons. A genealogy of the Parsons family and lists of home remedies compiled by Edward and Jacob Parsons are also included. See folder 21 of this collection for more family genealogy information.

At the end of the papers is a daybook of James Nelson of Frenchtown, Monroe County, Michigan for the years 1849-1883 and printed materials on various topics. One is entitled "The Death of Reverend George Smith", who was a minister in the Grand Blanc Congregational Church; another is "A Visit to the Burnt District", a report of conditions in the thumb area of Michigan after forest fires swept through the region; a third entitled "State Reform", a political broadside (circa 1828) calling for voter awareness; and finally an article by the United States Christian Commission, "The Present Campaign is Virginia" describing its service to Union soldiers in 1864.

Combined with the Parsons family papers are the Ivan Parsons collection and the J. L. Parsons letter.

Additionally, Minister Cassen Eugene Parsons' scrapbooks and photographs are rich with information largely surrounding famine and floods in Northern China from 1903-1908 as well as his travels in Europe. The first scrapbook follows the Kuangren Famine with images of malnourishment in Ikpia, 500,000 refugees at Tsing-Kinag-Pu, the flooding of An'Ang, and many more general pictures of the people and the challenges that they were facing. Following the pictures of the suffering, Parsons also documented the relief process, both domestic and international. The first scrapbook also has pictures of The Great Canal and the relief ship "Buford". The "Buford" unloaded provisions to many various communities up and down the Great Canal. Following these pictures Parsons has 21 pages of articles published in "The Christian Herald", the majority of them published in 1907, covering the relief effort and the Christian faith's role in the process. There are also original Chinese labor tickets, food tickets, and petitions for relief. Of note are two maps, one of the canal system in Nantong and the other a marked map of Jiangsu that has concentration camps and areas receiving foreign aid clearly labelled.

The second scrapbook, titled "Six Years in China", tracks Cassen's days as the Superintendent of Transportation and contains pictures of inland China missions from 1903-1907, various photographs of the scenes and people of Northeastern and Northwestern China, and pictures of refuge work and relief. There is an especially interesting picture labelled "A Little Known Crisis of China" showing the officials of Lao-Ho-K'eo in Hupeh who, reportedly, helped avert a rebellion. There is also an interesting political cartoon that illustrates the demographics of China and the influence of foreign powers. Lastly, there are two pamphlets advertising lectures about China, hosted in Grand Blanc, Michigan.

The third and final scrapbook follows Cassen's years as a student, vacations in Europe and the Far East, as well as his time in a Chinese concentration camp in 1903. His 1900 M.A.C. class is depicted in the pages preceding his experiences at The Moody Bible Institute in Chicago from 1898-1900 and his two years (1902/03) at Livingston College. There are pictures showing England, Scotland, France, Japan, and China at the turn of the 20th century.

There are also three editions of "Every Saturday" from the January 1, 1870 to January 15, 1870.


  • Creation: 1824 - 1910

Conditions Governing Access

Collection is open for research.

Conditions Governing Use

Permission to publish material from this collection must be obtained from University Archives & Historical Collections, Michigan State University.

Biographical Note

Edward Parsons, born August 29, 1810 (to Rev. Levi and Almira Parsons), moved from Marcellus, New York to Grand Blanc, Michigan in the 1830s. He married Sarah Baldwin on June 16, 1836. They had 4 children: twins James (1837-1920), and Jacob (1837-1866), Almira (1841-1905), and Edward Dorr Parsons (1846-1919). Parsons was the Deacon of the Congregational Church of Grand Blanc, Michigan.

Jacob, attended Michigan State Agricultural College (now Michigan State University) in 1858.

Edward Dorr Parsons married Abigail Parker had two sons. Ivan Earl Parsons, graduated from Michigan Agricultural College with the class of 1907. Ivan married Elizabeth (Bessie) M. Kirby (class of 1908). Ivan was born November 29, 1883 in Grand Blanc, Michigan. He died August 1969. Ivan's older brother, Cassen Eugene Parsons, was born in 1877 and attended M.A.C. and Livingston College in London, England. Cassen traveled to China in 1903 to work as a missionary in famine relief efforts for which he was recognized in 1907 by the Chinese Emperor.


3 Cubic Feet (, letters, diaries, account books, and photographs)

Language of Materials


Custodial History

Gift of Ivan Parsons, transferred by the MSU Museum.

Legal Status

Copyright: Michigan State University. Property Rights: Michigan State University.

Parsons Family Papers
4 Published And Cataloged
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description
Language of description note
Finding aid written in English.

Repository Details

Part of the University Archives and Historical Collections Repository

Conrad Hall
943 Conrad Road, Room 101
East Lansing MI 48824 US