Parvin Pioneers, A Vintage Vignette
A Vintage Vignette by John P. Rankin
June 12, 2009
My first notice of the Parvin pioneer presence in the Madison area came many years ago when I explored the old section of the Madison City Cemetery. Actually, the Parvin family has no presence indicated in the older section of the cemetery on the south side of Mill Road. However, there is a bordered family plot in the newer section on the north side of Mill Road. Yet, there are no tombstones or grave markers of any type in the family plot, only the name etched into the portal of the concrete border. However, it turned out that there is at least one Parvin family member buried in the old section, but not under that name. The tombstone inscription reads “Sophronia E., wife of E. T. Martin, born Jun(e) 1859, died May 29, 1875”.
Madison County marriage records show that Sophronia married Mr. Martin on December 1, 1869. If the tombstone is correct about her birthdate, then she was married at ten years of age. E. T. Martin was at times a peculiar man, but since he was age 36 in 1869, it is doubtful that he married a ten-year-old girl as his second wife. Besides, he already had several children who were older than Sophronia. The records to identify the ancestry of Sophronia have been elusive, so nothing more is known of her except that she bore at least one child before her death. A small tombstone beside her grave has the inscription “Elma, son of E.T. and S.E. Martin, born Feb. 10, 1875; died Aug. 15, 1875”.
Sophronia’s mysteries and the apparently empty Parvin family plot heightened my awareness of the surname in this area. Accordingly, I took note when I encountered connections between Parvins and other pioneer families of the area in the 1800s, such as Freeman, Balch, Sanderson, Pike, Hilliard, Gravett, Looney, and Lynch surnames. Land and census records of the 1800s indicate that the Parvin (sometimes spelled as “Pervin”) families settled mostly along the north side of Highway 72 from the county line eastward to Old Monrovia Road and Indian Creek Road. Their holdings included the area where the Pike Cemetery is located, and some Parvin descendants are buried there. Parcels of Parvin land were as far northward along Wall-Triana Highway as Harbin Road and the Lake Rosemary area. The earliest Parvin parcel here was patented in 1849 by Lawrence S. Parvin, later completed by John R. Parvin in 1850. That tract was 40 acres on top of Rainbow Mountain, along Stoneway Trail and Circle. Other holdings included areas along Hughes Road near today’s Madison Senior Center and Discovery Middle School, plus a parcel near the junction of Slaughter Road with Eastview Drive.
Recently, while looking into some Crutcher and Dillard family history, I saw in Gandrud’s book of early Alabama newspaper notices an item about John “Pervin”. It was from an 1890 newspaper and stated that “John Pervin, an aged farmer who lives between Madison and Cluttsville, was shot through the heart by his nephew John Balch… an old family feud… both parties have many friends who will regret to hear of the sad affair.” Further research showed that John Parvin was born about 1834 in Alabama. He was listed as a mechanic in the 1860 census. He was one of 15 children of Benjamin F. Parvin (1809-1860) and Rodah Freeman (1818-1880). His grandfather was Isaac Parvin (1769-1830), and his great-grandfather was Thomas Parvin (1726-1807). John married Martha A. Pike and had ten children of his own before his death. John’s sister Mariah (sometimes given as “Martha” or “Maria”) Louisa Parvin married William McKinney Balch in 1865. It was their eldest son John (born 1868) who shot John Parvin. As the newspaper stated, it was an old family feud and a “sad affair” – the kind of thing that occasionally happens in the best of families, even involving the best of people. In fact, subsequent newspaper articles stated that John Balch had received “a severe cut in his left breast.” John Balch apparently was determined to be acting in self-defense, as he was married in 1890 and listed in the 1900 census with a wife and three children.