Wilbur and His Mother

Wilbur Parmely and his Mother (G’pa Parmely & Great Grandma Parmely)

The subjects of the above photograph are as James Wilbur Parmely (1863-1922) and his mother Elizabeth Toay Ferrill (1844-1908). As you can see below, the reverse of the photograph also shows the name of Wilbur’s son Edwin Samuel Parmely (1890-1957). I resolved this possible confusion by dating Elizabeth’s dress to the 1860s. This photograph was purchased from Artifacts, Antiques, and Art on Main Street in Spearfish, SD by a StuffCTWFound.com field operative.

Elizabeth was born in Montreal, one of five children of James Ferrill (1799-1864) and Mary Toay (1810-1888) of Cornwall, England. The couple married in 1834, moved to Canada in the 1840s, and had settled in Wisconsin by 1849. There she married Melvin Augustus Parmely (1843-1910) in 1862 and Wilbur was the first of their 12 children.

Melvin was born in Missouri, the first of more than 20 children fathered by Ellsworth M. Parmely (1819-1913) and his four wives. Rhoda Emmaline Knowlton (1819-1855) was his mother. Melvin’s roots were also in southern England: John Parmely (1615-1689), Melvin’s fourth great-grandfather, emigrated from East Sussex, England to the Connecticut Colony in 1639. Soon after Melvin was born the family moved to Wisconsin, then to Iowa, then to South Dakota in about 1882. He received four land patents in Hand County, SD between 1888 and 1901.

Wilbur was born in Wisconsin. He was a farmer all his life. He married Isabella Hastings Barrett (1870-1910) in Hand County in 1890. Isabella had emigrated from Scotland with her parents, Thomas Barrett (1851-1905) and Mary Stevenson (1850-1918), in 1871 and spent time in Pennsylvania and Iowa before settling in South Dakota. Wilbur and Isabella had five children.

The Parmely family is very well documented on genealogy websites and there is a comprehensive family website where I reckon this photograph may one day appear. There is also a cache of letters from the early 1800s in the Sylvanus and Lois Gould Parmely Collection at the William L. Clements Library at the University of Michigan. Sylvanus (1784-1874) and Lois (1789-1873) were Melvin’s paternal grandparents and early settlers in Ashland and Lorain Counties in Ohio.

Wilbur and His Mother

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