John Gibson Parkhurst Collection (LC.00025)
Online collection consists primarily of diaries of John Parkhurst relating battle accounts of the Civil War and his experiences as a prisoner-of-war. There is also Civil War correspondence with his sisters and with various government officials. There are speeches he gave at regimental reunions and during election campaigns, both for himself and for Horace Greeley. Included are Parkhurst's official military record and souvenirs from regimental reunions. Newspaper clippings discuss Parkhurst's life and his regimental reunions. Scrapbooks contain photographs of people from the Civil War period.
John Gibson Parkhurst (1824-1906) was born in Oneida Castle, New York. He passed his bar and rode the circuit court in New York. He moved to Coldwater, Michigan, in 1848, where he continued his legal practice. He married Amelia C. Noyes on November 10, 1852, and they had two children, Kate Amelia (b. February 16, 1855) and Margaret (b. May 24, 1861). Amelia fell ill following Margaret's birth and died nine weeks later on July 26, 1861.
Parkhurst began his political career at the 1860 Democratic convention in Charleston, South Carolina. When the Civil War broke out, he enlisted as a Lieutenant Colonel in the 9th Michigan Infantry Regiment, the first Michigan regiment to enter active service in the Western Department. He served as Military Governor in Murfreesboro and began courting a young local woman from a prominent family named Josephine (Joe, Joey, Josie, Josey) B. Reeves. Oliver Cromwell Rounds—the Provost Marshal during the initial Union occupation of Murfreesboro—may have been engaged to Josephine’s younger sister, Corine, even though he was already married. It seems the Reeves' lived in a mansion owned by their grandmother, Katherine "Kittie" Reeves, who took in Union officers and their wives as boarders. The Reeves’ Union sympathies were shameful to many Murfreesboro residents, most of whom were secessionists and resentful of Union occupation. At least two assassination attempts were made against Parkhurst and Rounds as they walked around town. Both were captured at the First Battle of Murfreesboro on July 13, 1862, when Nathan Bedford Forrest’s troops took control of the city. Parkhurst was sent to Libby Prison in Richmond Virginia, but was paroled on October 12th. He was permitted to visit family until he was officially exchanged in December, 1862.
Parkhurst was assigned to duty as Provost Marshal at the XIV Army Corps headquarters in Nashville and named commander of the Michigan 9th Infantry Regiment. Following the Battle of Stones River, Parkhurst was able to stay around Murfreesboro. On August 10, 1863, Parkhurst and Josephine Reeves were married in Murfreesboro. They traveled to Oneida County, New York, and held another ceremony on August 24th at the home of Parkhurst’s older brother, William Stephen Parkhurst.
For "gallant and meritorious services" at the Battles of Stones River and Chickamauga, as well as the Atlanta Campaign, Parkhurst was promoted to Brevet Brigadier General on May 22, 1865. After the war, Josephine and Parkhurst stayed in Nashville where Parkhurst attempted to set up and run his own law office, but the divisive political atmosphere drove them back to Coldwater. By 1866, Parkhurst was appointed Chief Deputy Marshal of Eastern Michigan by President Andrew Johnson, but was rejected by the Senate, possibly due to his appearance at the pro-Johnson National Union Convention in Philadelphia from August 14-16, 1866. Parkhurst was nominated for both a Congressional seat (1872) and the office of State Treasurer (1876), but he was defeated in each election.
Josephine died on June 20, 1871, from unknown causes, and Parkhurst married his third wife, Frances Josephine Fiske (1835-1900), in 1874. He was appointed United States Minister to Belgium for 1888-1889. He was appointed Postmaster General for Coldwater in 1894, at which time he was serving on the Board of Directors of the Mansfield, Coldwater, and Lake Michigan Railroad and was President of the Coldwater Gas Light Company. Frances struggled with poor health for over a decade and died on January 5, 1900. He was actively involved in organizing several reunions of his Civil War regiment.