Parsons, Henry C. Papers A Guide to the Henry C. Parsons Papers, 1863-1905 Ms.1990.109

A Guide to the Henry C. Parsons Papers, 1863-1905 Ms.1990.109


Special Collections and University Archives, Virginia Tech

Special Collections and University Archives, University Libraries (0434)
560 Drillfield Drive
Newman Library, Virginia Tech
Blacksburg, Virginia 24061
Business Number: 540-231-6308

John M. Jackson

Special Collections and University Archives, Virginia Tech
Henry C. Parsons Papers, 1863-1905
0.2 Cubic Feet, 1 box
Parsons, Henry C., 1840-1894
The materials in the collection are in English.
Papers--including correspondence, legal records, and financial documents--of Henry C. Parsons, official of the Richmond & Alleghany Railroad, Atlantic and Northwestern Railroad, and Kanawha Construction Company, and owner of Natural Bridge, Virginia.

Administrative Information

Conditions Governing Reproduction and Use

The copyright status of this collection is unknown. Copyright restrictions may apply. Contact Special Collections and University Archives for assistance in determining the use of these materials. Reproduction or digitization of materials for personal or research use can be requested using our reproduction/digitization form: . Reproduction or digitization of materials for publication or exhibit use can be requested using our publication/exhibition form: . Please contact Special Collections and University Archives ( or 540-231-6308) if you need assistance with forms or to submit a completed form.

Conditions Governing Access

Collection is open for research.

Preferred Citation

Researchers wishing to cite this collection should include the following information: [identification of item], [box], [folder], Henry C. Parsons Papers, Ms1990-109, Special Collections and University Archives, Virginia Tech, Blacksburg, Va.

Source of Acquisition

The Henry C. Parsons Papers were purchased by Special Collections in 1990.

Processing Information

The processing, arrangement, and description of the Henry C. Parsons Papers commenced and was completed in June, 2013.

Biographical Note

Henry Chester Parsons, son of Jethro and Comfort Parsons, was born in St. Albans, Vermont on September 25, 1840. After obtaining a bachelor's degree at the University of Vermont, Parsons enlisted as a captain in the 1st Vermont Cavalry and was placed in command of Company L. Wounded at Gettysburg, Parsons received a medical discharge on January 4, 1864. Soon afterward, he married Eliza Jane "Nellie" Loomis of Springfield, Massachusetts; the couple would have three daughters. Following the war, Parsons moved to West Virginia, settling in Cabell County, and engaged in real estate business. Later, he became a director of the Chesapeake & Ohio Railway. In partnership with others, he purchased the right-of-way of the James River and Kanawha Canal and built the Richmond & Alleghany Railroad on what had been the canal's towpath. Parsons served as vice president of the railroad and as president of the associated Alleghany Coal and Iron Company. Plans called for the R&A to be extended to Toledo, Ohio through a connection with the to-be-built Atlantic and Northwestern Railway at Kanawha Falls, West Virginia. The Kanawha Construction Company, with Parsons as chief stockholder and H. D. Whitcomb as president and chief engineer, was organized to build the Atlantic and Northwestern. Parsons became involved in a dispute with his partners in the R&A, however, and they purchased his interest in the companies by selling him their shares in the Natural Bridge of Virginia. (The R&A extension failed to be completed, and the line was sold in 1889, eventually becoming a branch of the C&O.) In 1884, Parsons published a small collection of poems titled The Reaper . Henry C. Parsons was killed by Thomas A. Goodman, a Chesapeake & Ohio Railway conductor, in Clifton Forge, Virginia on June 29, 1894. He was buried at High Bridge Presbyterian Church in Natural Bridge, Virginia.

Scope an Contents

This collection contains the papers--including correspondence, legal records, and financial documents--of Henry C. Parsons, railroad executive and owner of Natural Bridge, Virginia. Parsons' correspondence relates largely to the operations of his enterprises at Natural Bridge, the Alleghany Coal and Iron Company, and the Richmond & Alleghany Railroad. Included are several letters from Edward H. Fisher, who served as Parsons' private secretary while with the Richmond & Alleghany Railroad and later as Parson's manager at Natural Bridge. Among Fisher's letters are three lengthy, detailed descriptions of his work at Natural Bridge. The most predominant correspondent in the collection is H. D. Whitcomb, president of the Kanawha Company, regarding construction of the Atlantic and Northwestern Railroad and an Ohio River crossing at Pt. Pleasant, West Virginia.

The collection also contains a few pieces of correspondence addressed to others, including several letters from S. G. Agee to Nellie Parsons regarding the sale of timber on her land. Many of the remaining letters seem to relate to a land transaction between Robert Patton, S. P. Capehart and Jerome T. Bowyer. A single letter from D. F. Houston, of Roanoke, relates to Virginia politics and the Republican Party.

Among the financial records in the collection is an 1863 quarterly report on clothing and equipment issued to Company L, 1st Vermont Cavalry. Other financial documents in the collection include receipts and account statements relating to the Alleghany Coal and Iron Company, the Kanawha Company, and the Richmond & Alleghany Railroad. Legal records include a part of the Richmond & Southwestern Railroad act of incorporation, various deeds, and summaries of legal cases. A folder of notes and ephemera completes the collection and includes the calling card of N. K. Burger.


The collection is arranged by document type.

Subjects and Indexing Terms

  • Civil War
  • Local/Regional History and Appalachian South
  • Railroad
  • United States -- History -- Civil War, 1861-1865

Rights Statement for Archival Description

The guide to the Henry C. Parsons Papers by Special Collections and University Archives, Virginia Tech, is licensed under a CC0 ( ).

Container List

Outgoing correspondence,
box-folder 1 folder: 1 1881-1885
Incoming correspondence
  • box-folder 1 folder: 2
    • Axtell, Decatur,
    • Bartholomew, George M.,
      [3 items]
    • Davis, J. W.,
      [2 items]
    • Dennis, Robert F.,
      [3 items]
    • Dudley, Thomas H.,
      [3 items]
  • box-folder 1 folder: 3
    • Fairchild, George W.,
    • Ficklen, James B.,
      [2 items]
    • Fisher, Edward H.,
      [11 items]
    • Fisher, Thomas J.,
    • Fowler, Elbert,
  • box-folder 1 folder: 4
    • Jolliffe, William,
    • Johnson, W. W.,
      [fragment only]
    • Macneill, George,
      [6 items]
    • Miller, Henry,
    • Moore, J. S.,
  • box-folder 1 folder: 5
    • Parsons, C. W.,
    • Parsons, Joseph H.,
    • Patton, Mary,
    • Randolph, W. C. N.,
    • Robertson, Jno. B.,
    • Rogers, Jno D.,
    • Rosenberger and Diggs,
    • Russell, Otis H.,
      [3 items]
    • Slote and Janes,
    • Swank, James M.,
    • Thayer, W. T.,
    • Tompkins, Chas. C.,
    • Tucker, Henry St. George,
  • box-folder 1 folder: 6
    • Walker, H. S.,
    • Walter, Thomas,
    • Watts, William H.,
    • Weeks, Joseph D.,
    • Wells, H. H.,
  • box-folder 1 folder: 7
    [2 folders]
    • Whitcombe, H. D.,
  • box-folder 1 folder: 8
    1870-1883, n.d.
Other correspondence
box-folder 1 folder: 9
  • Agee, S. C. to Mrs. H. C. Parsons,
    [4 items]
  • Bowyer, J. T. to S. P. Capehart,
  • Capehart, S. P. to J. T. Bo[w]yer,
  • Foster, G. W. to C. W. Parsons,
  • Houston, [D.?] F. to James M. Swank,
  • Knight, E. B. to George W. Cargill,
    [2 items]
  • Lackey, Maria S. and H. T. to Mrs. H. C. Parsons,
  • Parsons, E. P. to E. N. Bagg,
  • P., N. L. [Parsons, Nellie Loomis] to Horace Brenton,
  • Reilly, John W. to Mr. Tompkins,
  • Reinhart, J. W. to Jno. G. Fisher,
  • Watts, William H. to Thomas Reid,
    [on Millboro Springs letterhead]
Financial records,
box-folder 1 folder: 10 1863-1885, n.d.
Legal records,
box-folder 1 folder: 11 1869-1876, n.d.
Notes and ephemera,
box-folder 1 folder: 12 n.d.