Parmenter-Hunt Family Diaries, 1849-1931

Administrative Information

Biographical Sketch

Related Collections


Scope and Content Note

Library of Congress Subject Headings

Series Description and Folder Listing

Administrative Information
7 ½ document boxes
4.63 linear fee
Processor: Giordana Mecagni
Date: May 2004
Inventoried by: Amy E. Gray, December 1993

Acquisition: Mary F. Parmenter, grandniece of Mary Parmenter, donated the bulk of the Parmenter-Hunt diaries in 1988. Katherine M. Babbitt donated additional diaries in 1994, after Mary F.’s death, according to her wishes.

Access: There are no restrictions to items in this collection.

Permission to Publish: Requests for permission to publish from the collection should be made to the Executive Director.

Copyright: The Cambridge Historical Society does not hold copyright on the materials in the collection.

Biographical Sketch:
Parmenter Family:
Mary Parker and William Parmenter, both from early settling families in Massachusetts. William, a naval officer, served in the lower branch of the Massachusetts General Court in 1829, and in the Massachusetts Senate in 1836. In 1836 he was elected (Democrat) to the US House of Representatives. He was re-elected 3 times, serving in the 25th through 28th Congresses. After serving his time in the senate, he was appointed Naval Officer for the port of Boston during the Polk administration. (See Scott, “Hon. James Parker Parmenter,” New England Historical and Genealogical Register.)

The family had 8 children: William Ellison, Mary, George Washington, Martha Parker, Elizabeth Thompson, Ezra, Anna Maria, and Abigail Hart Parker. The family moved with Mary Parker’s sister Abigail Hart Parker in 1924 to 37 Second Street in East Cambridge, Massachusetts. The family belonged to the Third Evangelical Congregational—Unitarian church in Cambridge, and was involved with the Odd Fellows Society of Cambridgeport. Martha P, Anna Maria, and Abby H.P. all died young. Of the surviving siblings, William E. became an attorney, and married Helen James. George married Elizabeth Bent. Ezra, who never married, became heavily involved in Cambridge and Massachusetts politics, serving as a Massachusetts senator (1874-5), a representative in the general court (1871-2), the mayor of Cambridge (1867), an alderman (1863-4), and a common councilman (1858). Mary kept house for him during their adult lives.

Mary Parmenter:
Mary writes in her diary about her daily life, such as the weather, the health of her family, marriages, births, and deaths of relatives and neighbors. Most days include what she ate, what she did, and whom she visited. Occasionally includes snippets of news (i.e. President Polk died, the Fugitive Slave trials are abuzz in Boston, the Civil War.), but generally does not elaborate on these topics. She was active in the Soldier’s Aid Society during the Civil War. She died December 30th, 1906.

Elizabeth Hunt:
Elizabeth Thompson [Parmenter] Hunt, sister of Mary, was born May 24th, 1821. She married Freeman Hunt of New York in October of 1853. Freeman Hunt was an entrepreneur who worked in the shipping industry. He founded and was the editor of the magazine New York Traveler: The Spirit of the times & life in New-York, wrote a book entitled Book on the Hudson River, and then founded and edited Hunt’s Merchants’ Magazine, “devoted to the interests of the influential class of merchants.” In an article written by Edgar Allan Poe, “The Literati of New York City. – NO. II.: Some Honest Opinions at Random Respecting their Autorial [sic] Merits, with Occasional Words of Personality” in Godey’s Lady’s Book, Poe describes Hunt’s accomplishments and physicality. His obituary describes him in this way:

“Mr. Hunt was not a man of brilliant talents or profound learning, but he was a skillful manager and exceedingly attentive to his business, and had accumulated a considerable fortune by it. He had an unfortunate foible for drink, which he strove manfully to overcome, and did, so far as not to allow it to interfere with his business arrangements. He was three times married, his last wife and his widow was a daughter of Hon. W. Parmenter, or East Cambridge, MA.” (New York Times, March 4th, 1858, p. 4).

After their wedding, Elizabeth and Freeman moved to Brooklyn with his nine-year-old daughter from a previous marriage, Emma. On September 4th, 1855, Elizabeth bore Freeman Hunt, Jr. Three years later, Freeman Hunt died. After his death, she, Emma, and Freeman Jr. moved back to live with Ezra and Mary in East Cambridge. After her son, Freeman, married and moved out of the house, Elizabeth and Mary moved to Humboldt Street in Central Cambridge, property owned by the Brooks family. She died February 13th, 1902.

Abbie Brooks Hunt:
Abbie Brooks Hunt was born June 21st, 1861, daughter of Sumner J. Brooks and Jane Bullard Brooks. Sumner J. worked in the West Indies trade, and the family lived for several years in ‘Hayti’. Once in Cambridge, the family joined the First Parish Church of Cambridge. Sumner and Jane had two children after Abbie: Jennie (born 1866), never married, and Sumner, Jr. (born 1869). An avid reader, Abbie played pool, tennis, and had dinner parties. Her 1882 diary is filled with a European tour on a steam ship.

She married Freeman Hunt Jr. in 1887, son of Elizabeth T. Hunt and Freeman Hunt, Sr.. Freeman Jr., a lawyer, was prone to depression and alcoholism. Abby writes on April 12th, 1886, that “Freeman is not very well,, he is afflicted by bouts of nervous depression, he had fewer of them since our engagement than ever before. He inherited them from his father, his sister has them much more than he.” Freeman and Abbie put off the wedding, but eventually married June 8th, 1887, and went to Europe for a tour the day after their wedding. Upon their return, they moved to Lancaster Street in Cambridge. She bore a daughter, Edith Brooks Hunt, on March 5th, 1891, and a son, William Parmenter Hunt, on May 27th, 1896.

In 1903, Freeman’s alcoholism and depression became too difficult for Abbie to bear. Freeman started disappearing for days at a time. He went to Lowell, to New Bedford, to Providence without telling anyone where he had gone. January 14th, 1907, Abbie writes “Freeman went to Fall River last Thursday and has not been home since. He was turned out of a French restaurant this evening with his companion… without his coat + hat, he telephoned for Mr. Swift [his assistant] to go up and pay the bill… I think he began drinking last Wednesday, this is the first time he has been off since last August.” Eventually, Abbie and Freeman divorced on March 29th, 1907.

Abbie describes her children’s activities in great detail. William Parmenter Hunt [called Parmenter, or “Parmie” in the diaries] attended Harvard, Edith attended Radcliffe. Abbie describes their social lives extensively. In 1917, Parmenter joined the Ambulence service, and went to fight in France. In her diaries, Abbie describes scenes from his letters.

In 1918, Edith married George Aldridge. In 1919 the Brooks family fell into financial trouble. Abbie’s brother, Sumner, who was supporting his mother, as well as Abbie, Jennie, and his own family, was forced to sell the family’s entire estate. Sumner, his wife, Abbie, and Jennie moved to apartments in “The Hampstead” in Cambridge. In 1929, Freeman was knocked down by an automobile, had mental trouble and was incapable of taking care of himself. As the family couldn’t afford to send him to a private mental hospital, they sent him to Westborough State hospital. He died three months later. Abbie died June 6th, 1931.


Parmenter Family Papers, 1653-1865. Massachusetts Historical Society, Boston MA.

Baldwin, Thomas W., compiler. Vital Records of Cambridge Massachusetts, to the year 1850, vol. 1 “Births.” Boston, MA, 1914.

From Baldwin, Thomas W., compiler, Vital Records of Cambridge Massachusetts, to the year 1850, vol. 2 “Marriages and Deaths.” Boston, MA, 1915.

Cambridge Directories, 1848-1889.

Lucius R., History of Cambridge Massachusetts 1630-1877 Supplement and index by Maria Isabella Gozzaldi. Cambridge Historical Society 1930.

From Scott, Henry E. “Hon. James Parker Parmenter, A.M., L.L.B” New England Historical and Genealogical Register vol. XCI. July, 1937.

Freeman Hunt (1804-1858):

Article 7—No Title. [Death of Freeman Hunt] New York Times, March 4, 1858, p. 4

Obituary 1—No Title [Freeman Hunt Dead] New York Times, Jul 23, 1929, p. 20

“Virtual American Biographies” [Edited Appletons Encyclopedia], 2001.

Hunt, Freeman, Worth and Wealth: A Collection of Maxims, Morals, and Miscellanies for Merchants and Men of Business. New York: Stringer & Townsend, 1856.

Hunt, Freeman, New-York Traveller: Spirit of the Times & Life in New-York. [newspaper] published by Freeman Hunt, New York, N.Y, 1832.

James, Charles T., Letters on the Culture and Manufacture of Cotton addressed to Freeman Hunt, Esq., editor of Hunt’s Merchants’ magazine, and published in the numbers of that journal for February and March, 1850, in reply to the communications of A.A. Lawrence, Esq., originally published in the Merchants’ magazine for Dec. 1849 and January, 1850. New York: G. W. Wood, 1850. Also published on microfilm, Chicago, IL, Library Resources, 1970, (Library of American Civilization; LAC 40019)

Hunt, Freeman, Catalogue of the Private Library of the Late Freeman Hunt, Esq., to be Sold at Auction, on Monday Evening, Feb’y 21st. 1859… by Bangs, Merwin & Co. New York: Bangs, Merwin & Co., 1859.

Hunt, Freeman, (1804-1858) Letter of Freeman Hunt. Library of Congress, Manuscript Division, Washington DC.

Poe, Edgar Allan, “The Literati of New York City – No. II .: Some Honest Opinions at Random Respecting their Autorial [sic] Merits, with Occasional Words of Personality.” Godey’s Lady’s Book,Vol. XXXII, June 1846, p. 266.

William E. Parmenter (1816-1903):

“Gov. Butler’s Appointments” New York Times Jan 18, 1883, p. 5 [William E. appointed to be chief justice of the Municipal Court of Boston]

Related Collections:

Additional Parmenter family papers can be found at the Massachusetts Historical Society, including the following collections:
Elisha James family letters, 1777. (No Call # listed)
William Parmenter letters, 1842-1844. (Call # Ms. N-130)
Parmenter Family papers, 1653-1865 (Call # Ms. N-668)

Scope and Content Note:

The Parmenter-Hunt diaries represent the diaries of three members of the Parmenter and Hunt families, from 1849 through 1931. The first two diarists, Mary Parmenter and Elizabeth Thompson [Parmenter] Hunt were sisters; Abbie Brooks Hunt, the third diarist, was Elizabeth T. Hunt’s daughter-in-law.

The three women keep in good contact, and often fill in gaps in their own personal diaries. I.e. Mary P. “Abby fell down and cut her finger pretty badly.” May 27th, 1895. Mary and Elizabeth often write in each other’s diaries when they are away, or indisposed. The families summer at Petersham, NH.

The donor, Mary F. Parmenter, has extensively written in the diaries. Phrases have been circled, underlined, and in some places, the text has been obscured. She also wrote notes on other slips of paper, about major events happening in the family. The notes from each diary are have been removed, and placed in a folder after each diary.

Two of the diaries had been used originally for other purposes. The first diary in the Mary Parmenter series had been used as the official minutes of the Ladies Union society of Cambridge, the auxiliary group to the [male] East Cambridge Union Temperance society. Another diary, the first in the Elizabeth T. [Parmenter] Hunt series, was originally used as Freeman Hunt’s journal from October 10th, 1849 to February 27th, 1851.

This collection has been divided into three series: Series I, Mary Parmenter; Series II, Elizabeth Thompson Parmenter; and Series III, Abbie Brooks Hunt.

Subject Headings:

  • Cambridge (Mass.) History.
  • Diaries.
  • Divorce
  • Independent Order of Odd Fellows
  • Family records.
  • Family — Health and hygiene.
  • Hunt, Abigail B.
  • Hunts Merchants Magazine
  • Mental illness
  • Temperance
  • United States—History—Civil War, 1861-1865
  • Women Societies and Clubs
  • World War, 1914-1918

Series I. Mary Parmenter
Most entries include a description of Mary Parmenter’s day. Most days include what she ate, what she did, who she visited, births and deaths of neighbors and friends. Mary describes the family’s many visitors and visits to friends, family, and neighbors.

Box 1
Folder 1|Diary, Mary Parmenter, 1849-1852 and
|Records of the Ladies Union Society, East Cambridge 1842-1844.
|The Ladies Union society was the auxiliary group to the East Cambridge Union Temperance society, set up to raise funds for the betterment of the East Cambridge Union Temperance society. Mary Parmenter was the first directress of the society in 1842. This group met in a rotating list of member’s homes, sewed for the poor, and attended lectures. They also raised money, which they mainly gave to the East Cambridge Union Temperance society.

Folder 2|Mary F. Parmenter’s notes on this diary
Folder 3|Diary, 1853, ends and restarts 1857
Folder 4|Mary F.’s notes from the previous diary
|Verso: Mary P’s French lessons
Folder 6 |Diary, April to December 1959
Folder 7|Loose pages from 1860 diary

Folder 8|Diary, 1864
|Describes activities in the Soldiers’ Aid Society, gives money and clothes to civil war soldiers, lecture given by Dr. Stone, pastor of the Park St. Church.
Folder 9 |Diary, 1865
Folder 10|Diary, 1879
Folder 11|Mary F.’s notes from the previous diary
Folder 12 |Diary, Jan 1880- March, 1881.

Box 2
Folder 1|Diary, March 13, 1881- 1883
Folder 2|Mary F. Parmenter’s notes on the previous diaries
Folder 3|Diary 1884
Folder 4|Diary, 1885
Folder 5|Diaries, 1886, 1887
Folder 6|Diaries, 1888 and 1889
Folder 7|Diaries, 1890, 1891
Folder 8|Mary F. Parmenter’s notes removed from 1890 or 91 diaries

Box 3
Folder 1|Diary, 1892
Folder 2|Mary F. Parmenter’s notes removed from 1892 diary
Folder 3|Diaries, 1893, 1894
Folder 4|Diary, 1895
Folder 5|Diary, 1896
Folder 6|Diary, 1897
Folder 7|Diary, 1898- Jan 7, 1899

Box 4
Folder 1|Diaries, 1899 and 1900
Folder 2|Diaries, 1901 and 1902
Folder 3|Diaries, 1903, 1904
Folder 4|Diaries, 1905, 1906
|[Not much written, she died December 30, 1906.]
Folder 5|New England Historical and Genealogical Register, July 1937.
|Issue re: James Parker Parmenter, [1859-1937, son of William E. and Helen (James) Parmenter]

Series II. Elizabeth Parmenter Hunt

Elizabeth’s diaries are much more emotive and describe her daily activities in much more detail than Mary’s. In the first few diaries, she refers to herself in the third person, “Mrs. Hunt” or” Lizzie.” Later diaries are written in the first person. She describes the current events of the day, family events, travels, letters she has received and written. Mary often takes Elizabeth’s place as diarist.

Box 5
Folder 1|Elizabeth Parmenter Hunt Diary, 1853-1856 and
|Verso: Freeman Hunt, Sr. New York, October 10th, 1849—Feb 27, 1851
Folder 2 |Items removed from the previous diary
Folder 3|Elizabeth Hunt, January- June 15 1858
Folder 4 |Elizabeth Hunt, June 19 through December 1858
Folder 5 |Elizabeth Hunt, January to April 19, 1859
Folder 6|Elizabeth Hunt, Jan 1861 through November 4th 1862
Folder 7|Elizabeth Hunt, Nov 5th, 1862- March 7th 1863
Folder 8|Elizabeth Hunt, March 19th through September 15

Folder 9|Elizabeth Hunt, September 17 through December 1863
Folder 10|Elizabeth Hunt, July 5, 1864 through Feb 3, 1865
Folder 11|Elizabeth Hunt February 5 through August 27, 1865

Box 6
Folder 1|Elizabeth Hunt, 1868
Folder 2|Elizabeth Hunt, 1869

Series III. Abbie Brooks Hunt

Box 7
Folder 1|Diary, 1882
Folder 2|Diary, Jan 1, 1886-1887 Diary ends, July 18th.
Folder 3|Diary, July 1886 through May, 1867
Folder 4|Letter to Abbie Brooks from Emma Weeks from Bermuda.Found in previous diary
Folder 5|Abbie Brooks Hunt, June 9-29 1887 and Jan-July 1888
Folder 6|Diary, Jan 1, 1891—Jan 16th, 1892
Folder 7|Diary, 1900
Folder 8|Diary, 1907-1912
Folder 9|Diary, 1914 through 1918 [a re-used “Massachusetts Lawyer’s Diary” from 1890.]
Folder 10 |Items removed from previous diary

Box 8
Folder 1|Diary, 1919
Folder 2|Diary, 1920
Folder 3|Items removed from 1920
Folder 4|1929
Folder 5|Diary, 1930-1931
Folder 6|Diary, 1931, May 7-June 1
|[Abigail Brooks Hunt died June 6.]