Poultry Farmer, Civic Leader, Oldest Citizen and “Pioneer Woman”: Mary Augusta (Parker) Stowell of Merrimack New Hampshire (1871-1972)

Mary (Parker) Stowell

It seems that the history books are full of stories about how men built the towns and cities of New Hampshire, and yet these places had as many, if not more, women who contributed equally, if sometimes differently. Such was Mary (Parker) Stowell.

Why do I call her a “Pioneer Woman” when in fact the town of Merrimack was already quite developed by the time she arrived there, and she did not discover any great cure f9r disease nor discover some new piece of machinery? What she did do to earn that title, was to know a great deal about how women survived in hard times, how to do much with little–and then she shared her knowledge.

My cousin Virginia “Ginny” Penrod knew her fairly well, renting and then purchasing the house she lived in for many years. The following information is not anything you’d read in her obituary, but really explains her energy and zest for life. The 1940 US Census tells us that she had an 8th grade education, but that same year was a poultry farmer who worked 70 hours each week, 52 weeks a year.

This is what Ginny Penrod told me about Mary Stowell:

Photograph of Jenkins Brothers general store circa 1914. Colorized by the blog editor. Courtesy of Rick Price. [Editor’s notes: to the left of the store you can see a building in the background–on the corner of Depot and Pleasant street, the home of my grandparents Clarence & Mattie (Kilborn) Webster.

She [Mary Stowell] spent many years as housekeeper for brothers, Raymond and Kenneth Jenkins, of the Jenkins General Store in the Reeds Ferry section of Merrimack NH. That is where Ginny’s husband Allen, got to know her, as he was a clerk at that combination store and post office. She also liked Allen, and was happy to make his dream come true by renting her place on Bean Road in Merrimack to them for their home.

The house hadn’t been lived in for a number of years! Cobwebs and rocking chairs is my cousin’s first memory. They had a contract hand written in pencil on lined school paper. It also stated that she [Mary Stowell] could come and live with them a few weeks whenever, and that as renters they were free to pick berries and rhubarb when wanted.

Mary Stowell had kept diaries. What she wrote in them we will never know for Ginny remembers that she sat by the pot belly stove and burned them. Ginny said this made her feel so sad, but this is what she wanted to do.  “She taught me endless things of how to be a Pioneer woman,” (Ginny said)

She raised chickens in incubators that were in the cellar. She even canned the meat–lots of beautiful jars full. [Ginny: No, we did not eat.] She/we also had a peach that grew from a peach pit! And we canned LOTS …. ugh! [I presume the ugh because it was what seemed to be an endless amount of work].

She taught them how to turn the hay by hand when it’s ready! Never mind the black snakes who had been undisturbed for years, sunning them selves on top of the pile! She taught her how to paper the walls, and how to make practical quilts. [We saved every bit of clothing materials not useful for clothes, yet useful bits for quilts, AND every button and zipper… I still have many.]”

Mary Stowell’s rose bush today. Photograph courtesy of Ginny Penrod.

She had six apple trees that produced apples for so many pies and desserts. Only one remains.  Ginny Penrod continues: “One treasure long gone was a buffalo robe that my kids loved playing with and even won a prize for most original costume…as being lions. It had a mysterious slot in it! Mary explained that was for your hands to come out and hold the reins!! This was for when she was the school bus taking kids to school!!! I did not make this up! The sleigh robe!

She also loved flowers. “The rose of Mary Stowell’s tickled to life on the ancient stone wall by my neighbor, Doris Burt.”

These stories really give you a better idea of Mary Stowell–an extremely hard working woman with many practical talents. She was born Mary Augusta Parker, daughter of Simeon Leach & Sarah Josephine (Parker) Parker on 10 January 1871 in Bedford NH. So you can see in this case the apple did not fall far from the tree. She was the third wife of John Elmer Stowell, son of Abner Baker & Alma Ann (Ayer) Stowell. They married on 25 Aug 1887 in Manchester NH [by Nathan P. Kidder, Justiceof the Peace].

She died in 1972 at the age of 101, having lived a long and happy life. She had lived through

Mary (Parker) Stowell

several wars (Spanish-American, WWI and WWII) and all the troubles those brought to the community and herself.  And through it all she taught by example, and remained active in all the social clubs of the town that “did good.”

Her obituary appeared on 20 July 1972 Thursday in the Nashua Telegraph, page 2.
MERRIMACK–Mrs. Mary A. (Parker) Stowell, formerly of Bean Road and a resident of the IOOF Home of Concord, died Wednesday [19 July] in a Concord hospital. Born in Bedford, June 10, 1874. ,the daughter of Simeon and Sarah (Parker) Parker, she was Merrimack’s oldest citizen at the age of 101. She had been a 71-year member and past noble grand of the Puritan Rebekah Lodge and also held membership in the Rebekah Assembly of N.H., the Thornton’s Ferry Social Club and the Golden Age Club of Nashua. She was a communicant of the First Congregational Church of

New clipping on her 95th birthday – Mary Stowell (seated). Mrs. Flora Maker (representing the Souhegan Lodge) standing.

Merrimack. She is survived by three grandchildren, Mrs. Elizabeth Hills of Hollis, Carroll Stowell of Schenectady NY, and John Stowell of Chicago IL; six great-grandchildren, and two great-great-grand children. The George R. Rivet Funeral Home, Merrimakc is in charge of arrangements.

Additional information was supplied 4 days later about her funeral. Nashua Telegraph Nashua NH 24 July 1972 Monday. “MARY A. STOWELL. MERRIMACK–Funeral Services for Mrs. Mary A. Stowell, Merrimack’s oldest citizen, were held Saturday morning at the George R. Rivert Funeral Home. The Rev. John W. Wright, pastor of the First Congregational Church, officiated. Bearers were Henry Hills, Carroll Stowell, Paul Bishop, Charles Hardy, William Lawrence and George Greenleaf. Burial followed in the family lot at Last Rest Cemetery where commital prayers were offered.”

As you can see, the obituary only tells a small part of the story.  I am very grateful to my cousin, Ginny Penrod, who shared with me.  It is a great lesson for us all.  Honor and cherish those who hold the memories of a family, a town, a country.  For they can tell us so much more than what is written on paper, or even captured in photographs.

=====PARTIAL PARKER GENEALOGY of Mary (Parker) Stowell=====

SEE “Genealogies of the Parker Families of New England

Dea Thomas Parker (1609-1683) & Amy Aylesworth (1609-1690) m. 1635 Lynn MA.
Ensign Nathaniel Parker & Bethiah Polley
Sgt. Jonathan Parker & Barbara Ilsley
Daniel Parker & Sarah Parker
Daniel Parker Jr. & Sarah Richardson

—–next generation—–

Jonathan Parker b 26 Nov 1783 in Reading MA; d 22 Apr 1865 Windham NH.
He married 23 Apr 1811 in Reading MA to Susan “Susy” Bancroft.
[Read his biography and details in the History of Windham in NEw Hampshire by Leonard A. Morrison [Hathitrust]
Children of Jonathan & Susan (Bancroft) Parker:
1. Sophia Parker, b. 1812
2. Sarah Parker, b. 1813
3. Milo Parker b 1814
4. Anna Parker b 1816
5. +Daniel Parker b 14 April 1818 Windham NH [see later]
6. Ward Parker b 1819
7. Susan Parker b. 1821
8. Ann Parker b 1823
9. Laurens Parker b 1824
10. Olin Parker b 1826
11. Emery Parker b 1829

—–next generation—–

Daniel Parker b 14 April 1818 Windham NH d 9 Oct 1886 Bedford NH
He is buried in Bedford Center Cemetery, Bedford NH.   He married Mary E. Way, dau of John & Mary (Hanner) Way. She was b. 21 Oct 1829 in NY and d. 8 May 1913 in Bedford NH .  Lived Bedford NH
Children of Daniel and Mary E. (Way) Parker:
1. + Simeon Leach Parker, b. 21 Oct 1847 Bedford NH
2. Mary K. Parker, b 30 June 1848, d. 12 Jan 1860. Buried Beals Road Cemetery, Bedford NH
3. Lauren Parker, b 10 Apr 1854, d. 8 Aug 1854, aged 3 months
4. Charles L. Parker, b 19 Apr 1861, d. 18 Aug 1864, aged 3
5. Peter Parker, (twin) b 24 Nov 1862 Bedford NH; d. 21 Apr 1934 Manchester NH. He m. 22 Sep 1899 in Boston MA to Rosella Blood Mace, dau of Hiram & Rosanna (Cady) Mace.
6. Perham Parker, (twin) b 24 Nov 1862 NH; d. 13 March 1929 in Bedofrd NH aged 66. He married 22 Oct 1891 in Amherst NH to Annie Hamilton, dau of Silas & Mary (Allen) Hamilton.

—–next generation—–

Simeon Leach Parker son of b 21 Oct 1847 Bedford NH, d. 23 July 1923 St. Johns, Oregon. He married 1866 to Sarah Josephine Parker, daughter of Jesse & Lydia A. (Curtis) Parker [Jesse-3, Jesse/Jessie-2, Ebenezer-1]. She was b. 21 May 1845 in Merrimack NH and d. 28 May 1900 in Maynard MA. Buried Bedford Center Cemetery, Bedford NH. He m2d) 19 July 1897 at Salt Lake City Utah to Sarah Jane Cass. He is buried in Rose City Cemetery, Portland, Multnomah Co Oregon.
Children of Simeon L. & Sarah J. (Parker) Parker:
1. Jessie F. Parker b 30 May 1867 Bedford NH, d 1959; m. 6 Oct 1888 to Orrin J. Howard. He b. 14 Aug 1857 in Rochester NH.. Resided Griffin GA and Westboro MA
2. Lewis/Louis W. Parker, b. 1869 Bedford NH; m. 19 May 1889 to Mary Ann Blood dau of Wilson and Rosella (Mace) Blood. She b 10 July 1872 in Bedford NH. 2 children, Myrtie M. and Wilson L.
3. +Mary Augusta Parker, b 10 Jan 1871 in Bedford NH [see later]
4. Simeon J. Parker, b. 7 Oct 1872 in Bedford NH, m. 15 Nov 1890 to Sarah Coulter. She was b 10 Jan 1872 in England. They lived in Maynard MA. Children: Harry L., Orrin J., Charles O., Albert C., Ralph R., and Jesse Irene.

—–next generation—–

Mary Augusta Parker,  daughter of Simeon Leach & Sarah Josephine (Parker) Parker
born 10 January 1871 in Bedford NH. Died 1972.  Buried Last Rest Cemetery, Merrimack NH. She married in 25 Aug 1887 in Manchester NH [by Nathan P. Kidder, Justice of the Peace] to John Elmer Stowell, son of Abner Baker & ALma Ann (Ayer) Stowell. He m1) 1880 to Isadore L. French. He m2d) 1885 to Rebecca M. Blood. He m3rd) 1887 to Mary Augusta Parker. He was b 20 March 1860 in Washington NH and d. 27 Aug 1945.
1880 US Census > NH > Hillsborough > Bedford
Daniel Parker 63
Mary E. Parker 52
Simeon L. Wiggins 32
Sarah J. Parker 35
Peter Parker 17
Peram Parker 17
Jessie F. Parker 13
Louis W. Parker 11
Mary A. Parker 8
Simeon J.C. Parker 7
In 1900 living in Bedford NH
John E Stowell 40
Mary A Stowell 27
Maurice E Stowell 19 [b May 1881 MA]
Charles L Stowell 11 [b 29 Apr 1889 NH]
Abner B Stowell 68
Mary G Frye 23
In 1910 living in Merrimack NH on Cross Road. John’s Father Abner is living with them.
In 1930 living in Merrimack, no street given, but living near Francis & Augusta Bean so prob what is now Bean Road.
Annie Currie [Annie H. Parker, daughter, b abt 1928 in NH, RD Reeds Ferry, father b. Scotland, Mother b NH. dau of Rhoda J. Parker. Rhoda Jane Parker dau of Perham Parker & Annie Ellen m. 4 July 1923 to William Currie, div. Rhoda m2d) Dr. Paul DeNicola
In 1940 living in Merrimack NH, he has no occup she is a “poultry dealer” 1940 US census shows he finished 8th grade, Shows her hours worked week prior to census 70 (10 hours a day). Worked 52 weeks a year. Poultry Dealer She is 68, her husband is 80.
Child of John E. & Isadore L. (French) Stowell:
1. Maurice Elmer Stowell, b. 23 May 1881 MA, d. after 1942 prob Stoneham MA. He m. Nettie Emma Newhall (1885-1968). Buried Lindenwood Cemetery, Stoneham MA.
Child of John E. & Mary A. (Parker) Stowell:
2. Charles Lewis Stowell b 29 Apr 1889 Bedford NH, d. May 1970 Nashua NH. Buried Woodlawn Cemetery, Nashua NH. Had children. He m. Bertha L. Foster.


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6 Responses to Poultry Farmer, Civic Leader, Oldest Citizen and “Pioneer Woman”: Mary Augusta (Parker) Stowell of Merrimack New Hampshire (1871-1972)

  1. Wonderful article. I loved reading Ginny’s memories of the “Pioneer Woman.”

  2. Virginia Penrod says:

    Beautifully done, Jan. Thank you and I’m guessing Mary is Smiling!

    • Janice Brown says:

      Ginny sorry it took me so long to finally publish this. I could not have done Mary Stowell’s life justice, except for your wonderful stories about her. I am sure she is smiling down at you!

  3. Janet Barter says:

    What a woman! I really enjoyed this story…thanks!

  4. Amy says:

    It’s so true that most obituaries barely scratch the surface of who a person really was. How fortunate that your cousin had all the personal memories to share and that you’ve honored Mary’s memory by sharing it here.

  5. Pingback: Collected Stories of Merrimack New Hampshire | Cow Hampshire

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