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Francis Parker, Farmer, Prospector, Murdered on Santa Fe Trail

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Francis Parker, Farmer, Prospector, Murdered on Santa Fe Trail
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9/6/2020 1:26:41 PM
Historical People
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Robert Underhill
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Robert Underhill
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The Parker clan came to Clarendon from Massachusetts in the 1780's settling in what is now North Clarendon.  The patriarchs were Jonathan Parker Jr. (1722 - 1803) and his wife Eleanor (Hunt) Parker (1718 - 1789).  There are numerous entries about or including references to the extended Parker family that can be found using the search feature of this website.

One of Jonathan & Eleanor's grandsons, Francis Parker (1788 - 1865) was born here to Benjamin Parker (1758 - 1813) and Rachel (Wetherbee) Parker (1759 - 1832), the 3rd of their 8 children.  Francis left Clarendon in 1810 to marry Rhoda Chaplin (1792 - 1846) in Reading, VT where she had grown up.  Rhoda's parents Colonel Moses Chaplin (1760 - 1840) and Mary (Platts) Chaplin (1760 - 1825) subsequently moved to Clarendon.

Francis & Rhoda lived most of the next 18 years in Cavendish with brief forays to Clarendon, Rutland and Windsor.  Nine of their twelve children were born in VT.  In 1828 they along with their then 6 surviving children moved to what is now Belmont, NY where they had a 400 acre farm, a saw mill, and cloth dressing works.  Three additional children were born in NY.  The financial panic of 1837 and depression that followed set in motion the need to move again.  His brother Jonathan (1786 - 1875)  had already moved to Davenport, IA in 1836 and on his recommendation Davenport became the next home for Francis and family.  This move took several years to accomplish however. 

Francis along with his sons Benjamin (1813 - 1891) and Francis (1818 - 1881) built a raft and in the spring of 1839 set down Olean Creek to the Allegheny River and then Ohio River to the Ohio's juncture with the Mississippi River.  There they sold the raft for lumber and completed their journey north to Davenport by steamboat.  Agreeing Davenport was where he wanted to move, they returned to Belmont NY in autumn 1839 via the Great Lakes to Buffalo.  In autumn 1840 the family traveled by wagon to Davenport beginning anew. 

In 1849 the now widowed Francis and his son Francis caught gold fever and headed west via the Santa Fe Trail to seek their fortune.  They returned to Iowa in 1852 via a six month journey around Cape Horn to Cuba and then New Orleans and finally a steamboat north to Davenport.

In 1859 gold fever struck again, this time Francis and his daughter Rhoda (1827 - 1916) traveling to the Colorado Territory.  There Rhoda married Edward Gallatin (1828 - 1906) and remained in Denver for the remainder of her life.  The Gallatins became wealthy manufacturing western saddles. 

Francis prospected in the Rockies and down into what is now New Mexico and up into what is now Montana.  These were wild territories still with hostile Indians trying to fight off these men intruding into their lands.  His accounts via letters to his daughters greatly inform us of the conditions he faced as a prospector in the western territories.  A comprehensive bio written in 1945 by his descendant Chaplin Gurney Gue can be read at the link above. 

In 1865 about 40 miles east of Albuquerque, NM on the Santa Fe Trail Francis was shot in the back and robbed of his possessions and horse.  The next traveler coming through found his body.  It is said that friendly Indians buried him.  The exact location is not known.  He never did strike it rich.