COL. JOHN GILCHRIST PARR, deceased, who commanded the 139th Regiment, Pennsylvania Volunteers, during the Civil War, was a resident of Kittanning, Armstrong County, where his memory is honored not only by his family and veterans who served with him in the army, but by all who knew him.  Named for his maternal grandfather, John Gilchrist, a soldier of the Revolution, he came from that substantial Scotch-Irish stock which has been so important an element in the development of Pennsylvania, and from which he derived their characteristic qualities of intellectual strength, high morality and strict integrity.

Colonel Parr was born Dec. 9, 1823, on his father�s farm near New Alexandria, Westmoreland Co., PA, son of James B. and Hannah C. (Gilchrist) Parr, the latter a daughter of Maj. John and Eleanor Gilchrist, the former of whom died in the mountains, on the way from New Jersey to Westmoreland County, and was buried on the mountains; his wife and several children proceeded to Greensburg, and she taught a young ladies� school.  Mrs. Gilchrist died May 10, 1844, when about seventy-five years old.

When a young man John G. Parr went out to Illinois.  He had studied surveying and learned the painter�s trade, so he was not at a loss for employment.  Making his home with his sister Elizabeth, Mrs. George Oyler, at Freeport, IL, he was married there to Hannah Agnew Wiley, who died March 22, 1859, leaving two children, Bernard (who died at Leechburg when fifty-three years old, unmarried) and an infant of nine months; the latter died shortly after the mother.  Colonel Parr then returned to Pennsylvania, settling near Leechburg, at his sister�s, where he had been but a short time when the Civil War broke out.  He raised Company C, of the 139th Pennsylvania Volunteer Infantry, was elected captain of the company, and later became colonel of the regiment, serving as such to the close of the war.  At the battle of Cold Harbor, he lost his right hand, but soon after rejoined his company, and subsequently became colonel.

On Nov. 5, 1867, Colonel Parr married (second) Mrs. Emma P. (Smith) Sparhawk, who was born at Manayunk (near Philadelphia), PA, and was the widow of Thomas Sparhawk, of Philadelphia.  To this union were born children as follows:  (1) Lucy married Dr. Henry Wilson Temple, at present a member of Congress from Pennsylvania, and they have five children, John Parr, Martha Agnew, William Jameson, Henry Marshall and Edward Lawrence.  (2) Margaretta Correy is the wife of Daniel McKenzie Campbell, a prominent businessman of Leechburg, Armstrong County.   (3) John Beaton is the youngest living child of Col. John G. Parr.  (4) William Brooks died in infancy.  The mother, Mrs. Emma P. (Smith) Parr, died in Philadelphia, Oct. 22, 1881.

John Smith, great-great-grandfather of Mrs. Emma P. (Smith) Parr, came to America from Ireland with his wife Susanna in 1720, at which time they had five children, the youngest of these, Robert, having been born at sea during the voyage.  They made their home in what was then called the Brandywine Settlement in Chester County, PA, became prominent members of the Brandywine Manor Church, and prospered, Mrs. Smith appearing among the holders of real estate in 1753.  He died Dec. 19, 1765, aged seventy-nine years, his wife died Dec. 14, 1767, at the age of seventy-six.  They had fifteen children in all.

Robert Smith, the child of John and Susanna Smith, born at sea in 1720, died in December 1803.  The first public record, which relates to him, shows him as one of the subscribers to the support of Rev. Andrew Boyd, pastor of the Brandywine Church, 1747 to 1758.  In 1757, before his marriage, when the Indians became restless and aggressive along this whole Pennsylvania border, Sergeant Smith is recorded as �going to Reading to be qualified�, but there is no record that the command to which he belonged was called into action.  When next his name appears in the records of the times all of his family of eleven children, except the youngest, had been born and he was a man of fifty-five years.  He did important work for the Colonial cause during the Revolution.  In August 1775, he was thanked by the Supreme Executive Council of Pennsylvania for a model of a machine to be used in handling chevaux-de-frise to be sunk in the Delaware, and he was soon afterward directed by council to report on the merits of rival plans for his work that had been submitted by Govett and Guion.  After the spring freshet of 1776 had subsided, so that the river was low enough to allow the work to proceed with advantage, the council took up the defensive work in earnest, and in June of that year he was instructed to take charge of and sink the proposed obstruction in the channel.  For nearly a year he remained in charge of this undertaking, during which time he was also engaged in planning the earthworks, which were also used in the same line of defense.  The Committee of Safety ordered, in January 1777, that the committee appointed to view Liberty Island �repair as soon as season will permit with Robert Smith, John McNeal and David Rittenhouse, and lay out such works as they shall think sufficient, and that those gentlemen employ such persons as may be necessary to complete the work>� During those years, Mr. Smith was called into counsel to assist in preparing his native State for Self-government, and he sat in the convention which on Sept. 28, 1776, adopted the first State Constitution of Pennsylvania, an important and thoughtful document, which is said to have the distinction, among other advanced positions taken therein, of having been the first to enact religious liberty into the law.  Mr. Smith had the responsible position of county lieutenant of Chester County until March 21, 1786 and besides attending to the duties of same served as sheriff of the county, to which office he was elected March 29, 1777, and again Nov. 21, 1778.  He served one term in the State Legislature, 1785, and was one of the trustees of the State Loan Office, whose function it was to manage the indebtedness of the State, until 1787.  At that time, when sixty-seven years, old he retired from public life.  He had the title of colonel.  His career was one, which reflects the highest credit upon his intellect and integrity, and he was remembered as a man of upright and decided character.  His life was prolonged for sixteen more years.  He had grown very heavy, weighing 250 pounds.  Mr. Smith was a staunch Presbyterian, a supporter to the end of his life of the Brandywine Manor Church, and from 1776 a ruling elder of that congregation.

On Dec. 20, 1758, Robert Smith married Margaret Vaughn, who was born Nov. 1, 1735, daughter of John and Emma (Parry) Vaughn, of Red Lion, Uwchlan Township, Chester County, both of Welsh Baptist families.  John Vaughn, born June 5, 1690, died May 24, 1750; his name first appears on record in Chester County in 1718.  His wife, born 1700, died in 1791, was a daughter of Rowland Parry (born about 1665, died 1737), who lived at Haverford, Delaware Co., PA.  Mrs. Robert Smith survived her husband a number of years, dying March 18, 1822.  After his death, she spent part of the time at the home of Gen. Matthew Stanley, whose wife was her husband�s niece, but the latter part of her days was spent at the home of her sone, Joseph Smith, in Philadelphia.  Her wedding ring is still in existence, a plain gold band bearing the inscription on the inside, �As God decreed, so we agreed.�

Jonathan Smith, son of Robert, early left his birthplace in Uwchlan Township, Chester County, and entered, probably about 1782, the office of Maj. John Beaton, then register of wills and recorder of deeds for Chester County.  On April 25, 1786, he was sworn clerk to Thomas Smith, of the State Loan Office, of which his father, col. Robert Smith was a trustee.  When Col. Persifer Frazer, afterward father-in-law of Jonathan Smith, succeeded Major Beaton as register of wills and recorder of deeds in 1786, Mr. Smith again went into that office, becoming the deputy register and recorder.  He was subsequently an accountant in one of the United States offices in Philadelphia, to which city he removed in 1792, and he was appointed first teller in the first United States Bank, Incorporated, in 1791, and which transacted its business in Carpenter�s Hall, Philadelphia, from 1791 to 1797.  For a number of years, Jonathan Smith held a highly influential position.  Possessing a cheerful nature, and blessed with a plentiful sense of humor, he was not only looked up to for his substantial qualities, but also admired for his many lovable traits.  It was said of him, in matters concerning the feelings of others, his delicacy was careful and self-denying.  His large hearted hospitality made his house at all times the resort of friends from all parts of the country.  He was a handsome man, as is shown by his remaining portraits.

Jonathan Smith married Mary Ann Frazer, who was born Feb. 4, 1774 and died Feb. 9, 1845.  She was a daughter of Persifer Frazer, of Thornbury Township, Delaware Co., PA, from whom she inherited considerable land in western Pennsylvania, where he had located some of his Revolutionary land warrants.  Among the children of Jonathan and Mary Ann (Frazer) Smith were Dr. Beaton Smith and Gen Persifer Frazer Smith, of Mexican War fame, afterward lieutenant governor of some Western State.

Dr. Beaton Smith, a distinguished physician of Philadelphia, married Marry Anna Huddleson, and their daughter, Emma P., married Thomas Sparhawk, and (second) Col. John Gilchrist Parr.

Persifer Frazer, father of Mrs. Mary Ann (Frazer) Smith, was a merchant in early life, and an ironmaster.   Soon after the outbreak of the Revolutionary War, he was commissioned captain of the 4th Regiment, Pennsylvania troops, under Col. Anthony Wayne, and continued in the service several years, being in the campaign which led to Burgoyne�s surrender, and at the battle of the Brandywine, immediately after which he was taken prisoner by the British.  He escaped after six months of captivity in Philadelphia, and was present with his command at the battle of Monmouth, L. I.  He rose to the rank of lieutenant colonel, and resigned from the army Oct. 9, 1778, because he could not procure the righting of what he considered the injustice done him by Congress in promoting his junior officers over his head while he was held prisoner.  Afterward, he was appointed clothier general of the army, but did not accept.  In 1781, he was elected brigadier general in the service of the State of Pennsylvania, and he was further honored by election to the State Legislature in 1781, 1782 and 1784.  Later other public honors came to him, in his election at different times to such high offices as justice of the court of Common Pleas, county treasurer, and register of wills and recorder of deeds of Chester County.  He was of Scotch-Irish extraction, his parents, John and Nancy (Smith) Frazer, having come to this country from Glaslough, County Monaghan, Ireland; the earlier ancestors were from Scotland.  John Frazer became a merchant in Philadelphia.  Persifer Frazer married Mary Worrall Taylor, who was born April 8, 1745, and died Nov. 30, 1830.  Her parents were John and Sarah (Worrall) Taylor of Thornbury, Delaware Co., PA, the former an ironmaster and a large landowner.

Source: Page 489-496, Armstrong County, Pa., Her People, Past and Present, J. H. Beers & Co., 1914
Transcribed September 2001 by Donna Rae Smith for the Armstrong County Beers Project
Contributed for use by the Armstrong County Genealogy Project (

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