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Historic Women of Killingworth: Clara Parmelee

Submitted by Claudette Lagasse, Killingworth Historical Society.

Editor’s Note: This is the first of a series about the Historic Women of Killingworth. In 2001 Sandy Smith proposed making small replicas of Historical Killingworth Women. Each doll was sold for $15 as a fundraiser for the Historical Society. Five dolls were made, one for each year 2001-2005. 

CLARA E. PARMELEE – POET…TEACHER…ORGANIST – Our first Historic Women of Killingworth

A lifelong resident of Killingworth, Miss Parmelee was born in 1869 and died at age 79 in 1948.  Her ancestors were some of the earliest families to settle in town.
She lived at “Four Firs,” which is located on Route 81 diagonally opposite the Congregational Church.  A most active member of the church, she was the church organist for 45 years.  Clara taught school at the Center School, a one-room schoolhouse.  That building did house the state Trooper and now houses the Helping Hands, but it was formally the Library building and before that the Firehouse.
Clara is dressed in 1900 fashion.  According to Ruth Robinson, a well known Killingworth folk artist…”Clara had a real knack of nicely and becomingly making over hats and clothing left by her mother and sister in the attic hold-out.”
Clara’s poem, “My Native Town,” was included with the doll purchase.  In 1899, Clara Parmelee wrote “My Native Town,” a poem describing Killingworth at the time.  Not only is it fascinating to imagine what the town looked like at the beginning of the 20th century, but the end of the poem tells how the young people in town are flocking to the city to get away from the country.  Indeed, Clara would find it interesting that 100 years later the exact opposite is happening.

“MY NATIVE TOWN”

You ask about my native town.
How can I half describe
The beauties of this piece of ground,
Though here I’ve spent my life.

“Tis here that nature has full sway,
She here displays her charms,
Here song‘birds trill their happy lay
On rocky, hillside farms.

In summer-time here may be heard
The robin, lark and jay,
The thrush, the cuckoo and blackbird,
The bluebird’s cheerful lay.

The hoarse caw of the crow is heard,
“Bob-white” shouts out the quail,
The cat-like call of the cat-bird,
The night-hawk’s mournful wail.

The humming-bird and the bee flit by
In search of honey sweet,
Hither and yon the swallows fly
On wings that are most fleet.

The cricket’s chirp, the croak of frogs
Sounds loudly in our ears,
The turtle’s whistle mong the boys.
Tree- toads say “rain is near.”

Now near the centre of all this
A church stands on a hill,
A Congregational church is this
And here we worship still.

For eighty years this church has stood
Through storm and heat and cold,
Its influence all has been for good
Blessing both young and old.

This church has missionaries sent
To lands far, far away,
And their lives have all been spent
In teaching men the way.

Now near this church but in the rear
Stands Agricultural hall,
Our great town fairs are all held here,
Town-meetings, courts and all.

And here the Y.P.S.C.E’s
Their weekly meetings hold,
Here also picnics socials, teas,
And festivals they hold.

Here too the Grangers have their home,
And semi-monthly meet,
When farmers and their families come
And brother-patrons greet.

Not far away’s a country store
And Post Office combined.
One mail a day does it afford
To satisfy our mind.

A wagon-ship is near at hand,
A blacksmith shop beside,
Here does the “Village smithy” stand
His anvil by his side.

The street is lined on either side
With houses, large and small,
Gardens and barns are there beside
And room enough for all.

Into districts the town’s divided,
In all they number eight,
In each a school-house is provided
For education’s sake.

The Methodist church’s ceased to exist
Their building’s even gone,
The “Piscopals have an edifice
Where their service they perform.

A paper-mill once was in town
And seemed to prosper well.
The mill long since burned to the ground,
Its ashes rest here still.

Old people tells us of the day,
When tan-works and shoe-shop
In operation were each day,
Long since their works did stop.

Now when our people need new boots
They to the village hie,
Look o’er the merchant’s line of goods
And ready made boots to buy.

Three saw-mills the town can boast
Of grist-mill likewise three,
Our industries are gone almost,
I fear all soon will be.

Our hills and valleys are here
And they are here to stay,
We’ve air so pure and springs so clear
And these can’t run away.

But boys and girls no sooner grow
To men and women strong,
Than to the city they all go
To join the busy throng.

They leave the farm to get along
In any way it may,
Because they rather join the throng
That’s rushing on its way.

More charms has city life they think
Than quiet rural life,
From pleasure’s cup they hope to drink
And never meet with strife.

It matters not where life is spent
Nor where our duty calls,
Trials to every one are sent
To each a full share falls.

So when old Killingworth you leave
Do not expect to find,
That cares, perplexities and grief,
Have all been left behind.

CLARA E. PARMELEE
Killingworth, Conn., July, 1899

The doll was designed by Sandy Smith, with assistance from other Historical Society board members. She was sold at the 2001 Christmas Fair held in the Black Rock School.

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