Madison County Families
Kentucky Pioneers and Their Descendants
This site created by and maintained by Robert J. Parks, 11 Regents Park Lane, Frankfort, KY 40601-3845
© Robert J. Parks 2009-2013
The Parke Parade: From England to Kentucky
The great grandfather of the four Parke pioneers in Madison County, Roger Parke, migrated from England to New Jersey in 1682. He and his descendants directly experienced much of what caused the colonists to seek independence from the Crown a century later. Victims of religious persecution in England, in America they suffered at the hands of Royal Proprietors and poor government. Amid their tribulations, they prospered too.
In England, Roger Parke was a Quaker when it was illegal to be a Quaker. Quaker leaders were sometimes jailed and worship services were often disrupted. Then came William Penn. Thanks to a large land grant from the crown, in 1681 Penn established a colony that offered religious freedom to all. Roger Parke and many other English Quakers saw an opportunity.
The very next year, Roger, 32, his wife and two young children, sailed away from England. The ship Parke sailed upon is unknown, but the pattern of settlers coming from England to the Jersey Colony is well established. The ship would have sailed up the Delaware River past the future site of Philadelphia to just south of the Falls of the Delaware and landed at the five-year-old Quaker settlement of Burlington. That same year, 1682, Roger, bought 200 acres on Crosswicks Creek about 15 miles northeast of Burlington at 50 cents an acre. There, in the wilderness, he fashioned a new home and a new life for his wife, son John and daughter Anne. His other children, Roger Jr. and Sarah, would be born soon after.
The Move to Hopewell
While at Crosswicks Creek, Roger often visited two Indian villages some 15 miles to the north (near present-day Princeton) and became interested in their use of herbs and other natural materials as medicine. This interest turned into a profession: he soon acquired the title of “doctor.” About the same time, in 1689, he sold his land on Crosswicks Creek and purchased 600 acres near the Indian villages, becoming the first white settler in the area. Here Roger would live until his death in 1739.
While Roger was living at his new home, his sons and his son in law William Merrill purchased land nearby, giving the Parke clan about 1,000 acres north of Stony Brook in Hopewell Township. Many others, including many Quakers, also bought land in the area from the West Jersey Society, an English company. In 1700, critical changes came to New Jersey. It became a Royal Colony, subject to rule by proprietors and colonial governors, both appointed by the King of England.
The Anglican Church also became the official church (the divine right king being head of both the government and the church). That imposed a new obligation on the Parke clan. English law had two critical provisions impacting the Parkes: (1) To be considered legitimate, children had to be baptized in the Anglican Church, and (2) Illegitimate children could not inherit property. So in 1702, Roger Parke had his adult children baptized as Anglicans.
As the Jersey colony grew and prospered, back in England friends of the king began to see business opportunities. The king’s physician, Daniel Coxe, was granted control of 60,000 acres, including Hopewell, where Roger’s family lived. Disputes soon arose over legal titles.
Dr. Coxe claimed ownership of their land, claiming that the West Jersey Society never properly attained ownership, and therefore, could not grant proper title the Parkes and their neighbors. Six Parkes (Roger, his sons and three grandsons) and 44 others took the issue to the highest court in New Jersey at the time. In 1731, they lost, leaving them no good options. They could leave the land they thought they had purchased or were purchasing, abandoning the homes they had built in the wilderness and the fields they had cleared. They could repurchase their land from the new “owners” or work out a deal. They could resist and face eviction, which began in 1735.
The circumstantial evidence suggests that Dr. Roger Parke, now some 85 years old, stayed at his home place, where he died four years later. A successful physician, perhaps he repurchased all or part of his land. Perhaps he negotiated some other deal. Other affected landowners did. Roger Jr. and his sister also stayed in New Jersey, as did their children.
Escape to Virginia
For Roger’s son John, it was a different story. After being evicted from his home and homestead, John, his wife Sarah and his wife’s brother, Thomas Smith and family, first fled across the Delaware River to Pennsylvania. From there, they organized an attack on the people that had moved into their old property at Hopewell. In July, 1735, they tarred and feathered the occupants and burned the buildings before escaping back to Pennsylvania, fugitives from justice.
Almost immediately, John Parke and Thomas Smith, their families and a score or more of others made their way west to Virginia’s Shenandoah Valley at the headwaters of the Potomac. They settled near what became Jersey Mountain near current day, Capon Bridge, W.Va. It was not a happy place. Harsh conditions and Indian raids unsettled residents. About 1745, they began leaving. Several of them, including children of John Parke, resettled in the Yadkin River Valley in North Carolina, where the government was stable and no Indians threatened.
As to the Madison County Parke families, John Parke is the ancestor of Ebenezer and Allen. Charles and Timothy descend from Roger Jr.’s sons Nathan and Joseph, respectively. Charles and Timothy appear to have moved directly from New Jersey to North Carolina; there is no record of them having settled in Virginia with their cousins.
An American Story
From England, Roger, the Quaker, Parke moved to America seeking an escape from religious harassment. In America, he accommodated the Anglican Church by baptizing his children there, and he supported a Presbyterian congregation in his Hopewell neighborhood. After leaving New Jersey, his descendants seem to have gravitated away from the Quaker meetings.
While attaining religious liberty in the Jersey colony, Roger also lived under a government that did not protect property rights. His oldest son and his family fled New Jersey to Virginia and then to North Carolina seeking public safety and secure property rights.
Everywhere the Parkes went – New Jersey in 1682, Virginia in 1735, North Carolina circa 1750, Kentucky about 1795 -- they were among the first settlers in an untamed wilderness. Like millions of their countrymen, they worked hard – with their hands, their horses and simple tools – to obtain land, liberty and security for themselves and their families. They lived the American experience.
Ege, Ralph. Pioneers of Old Hopewell, Hopewell Museum, Hopewell, N.J., 1906. Ege’s family owned a portion of the Dr. Roger Parke farm, and he describes his childhood memories of it. He mistakenly assigns some of Roger Jr.’s children to Dr. Parke.
The Parke Society, http://www.parke.org/
Ethel Stroupe, Origins of the Jersey Settlement of Rowan County, North Carolina: First Families of Jersey Settlement, Rowan County Register, PO Box 1948, Salisbury, NC 28145.
Park, William D. Ancestors & Descendants of Ebenezer Park Sr. (1747-1839) & Tabitha Mills (1752-1826): History of a Remarkable Pioneer Family (1530-2008). Privately published.