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John Gibson Parkhurst papers

Identifier: 00025

Scope and Contents

The largest part of the collection consists of the pocket diaries Parkhurst kept from 1847 to 1906. The early diaries (1847-1860) relate details of his court cases and only rarely mention his personal life. Records of various financial transactions are incorporated in these early diaries. The diaries of the war years (1861-1865) include battle accounts and descriptions of Parkhurst's experiences as a prisoner-of-war in 1862. In the diaries of the post-war years, Parkhurst discusses primarily his business affairs and political problems. The diaries of 1888 and 1889 are of particular interest since they cover his tenure as Minister of Belgium.

Parkhurst's correspondence mainly consists of letters written to his sisters during the war and exchanges with various government officials relating to his appointments to governmental positions.

Most of the speeches included in the collection were delivered at regimental reunions. Two are clearly political in scope: one was used in Parkhurst's own campaign and one for Horace Greeley's Presidential campaign.

The newspaper clippings largely relate to reunions but a few give biographical sketches of Parkhurst. Several also deal with political affairs of the post-war era.

The collection also includes microfilm copies of materials from this collection, and the John Gibson Parkhurst papers at the University of Michigan Bentley Historical Library.


  • Creation: 1831 - 1906


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

John Gibson Parkhurst was born April 17, 1824 in Oneida Castle, New York. He received his education at Oneida Academy and after being accepted into the bar, rode the circuit court in New York. In 1848 he moved to Coldwater, Michigan where he continued his law practice. In 1860 he began his political career as secretary to the ill-fated Democratic Convention that met in Charleston, South Carolina. Parkhurst had two daughters, Margaret and Kate Amelia ("Kittie"). His wife, Amelia, died on July 26, 1861.

When the Civil War broke out he enlisted as Lieutenant Colonel in the Ninth Michigan Infantry Regiment, the first Michigan regiment to enter active service in the Western Department. On July 13, 1862 a detachment of the regiment was attacked at Murfreesboro by a Confederate force under Nathan Bedford Forrest. After a sharp fight, Parkhurst and his men were forced to surrender. He was exchanged in December 1862 and was commissioned as Colonel of the regiment on February 6, 1863. For the remainder of the war, the Ninth Regiment served as Provost Guard in the Army of the Cumberland seeing action at the battles of Stones River, Chickamaugua, and the Atlanta Campaign. Parkhurst received successive promotions to Provost Marshall for the 14th Army Corps and Provost Marshall for the Military District of Tennessee. On May 22, 1865 he was appointed Brevit Brigadier General "for gallant, faithful, and mentorious services."

While in Tennessee, Parkhurst remarried and after the war attempted to practice law in Nashville. Strong sectional differences, however, forced his return to Coldwater. There he again became involved in politics and was nominated for the third district Congressional seat and the Office of State Treasurer. However, he was defeated for both offices. Later he was appointed Chief Deputy Marshall of Eastern Michigan by Andrew Johnson, and served for five months before being charged with kidnapping a postal official who was involved in a scandal. President Harrison appointed Parkhurst U.S. Minister to Belgium where he served from 1888-1889. In 1894 he was appointed by President Cleveland to be Postmaster General of Coldwater. During this time Parkhurst was on the Board of Directors of the Mansfield, Coldwater, and Lake Michigan Railroad Company and was President of the Coldwater Gas Light Company. He was also active in organizing several reunions of his Civil War regiment. Parkhurst died in Coldwater in April 1906.


1 Cubic Feet

Language of Materials


Custodial History

Gift of Eva Goodyear.

Legal Status

Donor(s) have transferred any applicable copyright to Michigan State University but the collection may contain third-party materials for which copyright was not transferred. Copyright restrictions may apply. Property Rights: Michigan State University.

John Gibson Parkhurst Papers
2 Draft Or Revision In Progess
S. Stawick and W. McDaid
March 1980
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