Hartford historian memorializes War of 1812 soldiers

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HARTFORD — Daniel Parsons. Chesley Leighton. Job Shaw.

Hartford Historian Lorraine Parsons wants to make sure these men are remembered as more than a simple footnote in history.

Richard Dyer and Hartford Historian Lorraine Parsons hang a plaque outside of the Town Hall honoring all 78 of the town's soldiers who served during the War of 1812.
Richard Dyer and Hartford Historian Lorraine Parsons hang a plaque outside of the Town Hall honoring all 78 of the town’s soldiers who served during the War of 1812.

This is why she made sure a plaque honoring the town’s 78 soldiers from the War of 1812 was erected — with the help of resident Richard Dyer —  on the outside of the Town Hall before Memorial Day. And now she’s pulling together a book chronicling the lives of these men.

Parsons’ interest in the project began roughly five years ago after mounting a plaque for the town’s Civil War veterans. She originally wanted to create a monument for the War of 1812 soldiers, but that idea was figuratively shot down.

“Instead of asking for enough money to build the monument and the plaque, I had enough money left over from previous begging for the plaque,” she said.

It took her a year-and-a-half to get the plaque and the names straightened out since the list of the soldiers sent to her from Augusta was partly inaccurate.

“I changed a couple of names because they weren’t our people,” Parsons said. “It’s entailing details. It takes time.”

The town’s old settlers book made it clear that Samuel Farrin, as he was called on the Augusta list, should really be Samuel Farrar. Parsons also changed Ephraim Pinkham’s last name to Tinkham since the town didn’t have any Pinkhams who lived there during the war.

In the initial research the historian has conducted, she’s discovered some interesting things, including evidence that the Hartford Rifle Company was around in 1812, but wasn’t too active until the 1830s. And she found out some information about her family, too.

“My people were here in 1810,” she said proudly from her Main Street home on Tuesday afternoon.

Parsons’ maiden name is Leighton and she is indeed related to Chesley Leighton, who served in the War of 1812. She came across a piece of land he owned in Hartford in 1810. Leighton served in Lt. Cyrus Thompson’s company based in Portland in September 1814.

Thus far, the preliminary information she’s gathered about the town’s War of 1812 soldiers has been gathered through family trees.

“It seems the easiest way to do it,” Parsons said.

Chesley Leighton was born in 1781 in Falmouth to Pelatiah and Elizabeth Allen. Leighton married Ruth Cushman on April 26, 1810, in Hebron. He had 11 children, two of whom are suspected to be birthed by an unnamed second wife.

That’s all she’s gathered so far, but she also was able to unearth some information about her ancestor through marriage, Daniel Parsons. He served during the War of 1812 and rose to the rank of colonel and apparently was a bit of a ladies’ man. His first wife was Ruth Tucker, and he later married Lydia Tobin. He had a third wife named Harriet Emery. All together, Daniel Parsons had 14 children.

He also served as a state representative and worked as the the town clerk and treasurer for 38 years, according to 1996 book on the Parsons family written by Lorraine Parsons.

The historian has also conducted extensive research on other major wars and has either had a plaque or monument erected honoring those from Hartford who served. These include the Civil War, World War I, World War II, Korean War, Vietnam War and Cold War. And sometimes these soldiers and wars cross paths.

“A lot of people who served in 1812 served in the Revolutionary War or in the Civil War, depending on the age,” Parsons said.

She’s looking for anyone who might know about their ancestors who served during the War of 1812 to drop off the information at the Town Hall at 1196 Main St. This will help her with her research, for which she plans on visiting the town’s cemeteries to gather more information.

“It just takes time. I will eventually have more in there,” she said about the piece she’s penning about the War of 1812 veterans.

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