ⓘ John S. Parsons


ⓘ John S. Parsons

Parsons was born in 1836 in Gloucester. He received little formal education. Parsons attempted to become a fisherman, but was unable to because of Seasickness. Instead he started a house moving business. His son, Henry H. Parsons joined him and eventually took over the business. In their nearly fifty combined years as house movers, the Parsons had a virtual monopoly on house moving in Gloucester.


1.1. Political career Common Council and Board of Aldermen

In 1878, Parsons was elected to the Gloucester Common Council as a member of the Greenback Party. He was defeated for reelection the following year. In 1881, Parsons was elected to the citys Board of Aldermen. He was reelected in 1882 and 1883.


1.2. Political career Mayor

In 1884, Parsons ran for mayor on the "Citizens Ticket". He ran on a platform of ridding the city of its moral ills, including prostitution and illegal drinking. He defeated Democrat Charles C. Cressy and Republican Henry A. Parmenter in an upset.

After taking office, Parsons began his campaign of moral reform. He clashed with City Marshal Joseph A. Moore, whom Parsons did not believe was doing an adequate job enforcing the law. Once, while Moore was busy in court, Parsons took charge of the citys police force and launched several raids against Gloucesters brothels, which resulted in sixty arrests. In April 1885, Moore resigned and, after several of Parsons nominees were rejected, he was succeeded by Robert Tarr. After taking office, Tarr began a crackdown on illegal liquor sales. He secured convictions, however some of his seizures were deemed to be illegal. By July, Parsons found Tarr to be too lenient and asked him to resign. Tarr refused. That September, Parsons, without Tarrs knowledge, hired two detectives to investigate vice. However, Parsons detectives were found to be unreliable, as they did not show up for court.

In December 1885, Parsons was reelected. Once again running on the Citizens ticket, he received 1.117 votes to Democrat Frank H. Gaffneys 806 and Republican Fitz J. Babsons 584. Soon after Parsons reelection, Tarr resigned as City Marshall and Parsons took control of the police in the interim. After several of Parsons nominees were rejected, George Douglass was confirmed as City Marshal. Douglass continued Parsons crusade against prostitution and liquor sales.

Parsons did not run for reelection in 1886. He was succeeded by David I. Robinson, who, like Parsons, was a supporter of the Temperance movement.


1.3. Political career Later political activity

In 1887, Parsons ran for mayor again. He received 203 votes to David I. Robinsons 1.200 and Daniel D. Saunders 1.196. He sought the office in 1890 as well and finished third with 242 votes to Republican Asa G. Andrews 1.457 and Democrat Joseph C. Shepherds 872. In 1896 he ran as an Independent for the 11th Essex District seat in the Massachusetts House of Representatives, which consisted of Rockport and Ward 2 of Gloucester. He lost to Republican George M. McClain 582 votes to 241.


2. City Marshal

In January 1896, Parsons was appointed City Marshal by Mayor David I. Robinson. He took office on January 18, 1896. Soon thereafter he issued an order prohibiting the sale of cigarettes to minors. He also ordered his officers to arrest any person who appeared to be intoxicated and not to assist anyone under the influence of alcohol in getting home. During his tenure as City Marshall, Parsons clashed with the Clerk of the Gloucester Police Court, Charles D. Smith, over the issuance of warrants.

In March 1897, Robinsons successor Benjamin F. Cook, attempted to remove Parsons from office. Parsons refused to resign and the Board of Aldermen remained supportive of him, rejecting Cooks numerous nominees for the office. On April 23, 1897, a number of Cooks nominees were rejected as a result of a tie vote. After one of the alderman who had opposed Cooks nominees had boarded a street car for home, the pro-Cook aldermen met with the Mayor and had him call an emergency meeting. The board then voted four to three to appoint John Karcher City Marshal. He was sworn in the following morning.


3. Almshouse keeper

In 1898, Parsons was appointed keeper of Gloucesters almshouse. Following the death of an inmate of the almshouse in December 1903, an investigation was launched into its conditions. Parsons was accused of negligent care, wasting supplies, serving food that had gone bad or was poorly cooked, and abusing inmates. Further, allegations of disorderly conduct were made against Parsons wife, who served as matron of the house, and improper sexual relationships were said to have existed between inmates and members of Parsons family. The investigation was eventually dropped, however, in 1905, the new mayor, George E. MacDonald, replaced Parsons with his brother, William E. McDonald.


4. Later life and death

In 1907, Parsons son Henry was elected mayor of Gloucester. He later served in the Massachusetts House of Representatives.

Parsons died on November 15, 1911 in Gloucester.