William Parks, Colonial Printer
Facts and Events
William Parks was one of the Early Settlers of Augusta County, Virginia
About William Parks
William Parks became known as one of the first colonial publishers, founding both "The Maryland Gazette" and later, "The Virginia Gazette". The Virginia Gazette was the second newspaper to published in the area south of the Potomac River, after the South Carolina Gazette, and the first to be published in Virginia. William Parks published the first four-page edition on August 6, 1736. Nine years earlier, in 1727, he had founded "The Maryland Gazette" in Annapolis, the first Newspaper south of Pennsylvania. In 1743, Parks built a paper mill in Williamsburg, Virginia. He purchased the raw material to create newsprint from Benjamin Franklin.
William Parks started his printing activity for six years in his native Shropshire, England prior to his emigration to Annapolis, Maryland in 1726. Parks was an eminent printer. Before arriving in Maryland he operated printing shops in three locations of his native England – Ludlow, Hereford and Reading. Setting up his press in the colonial capital, he was commissioned as public printer to the province of Maryland in October, 1727 and served in this capacity until 1737. By the late summer or early fall of 1730, Parks opened a printing office on Duke of Gloucester Street in Williamsburg, Virginia. In 1736, he began printing "The Virginia Gazette", which he printed until his death in 1750.
A typical day for William Parks had him working ten hours, perhaps more if he was printing his weekly Gazette on his sheet-fed handpress. It was a laborious process of setting the type by hand, picking letter by letter from a box of matrices. During 1736-1744 Parks imported his paper from Pennsylvania, except for finer stock shipped from England for publishing books and other more permanent pieces. In 1743 at the urging of Benjamin Franklin, Parks set about building his own paper mill in Williamsburg. Over the next four years Franklin sold Parks 11,382 pounds of rags. Appeals were often printed asking readers to save their old clothes for paper-making purposes. Old shirts, caps, dresses, handkerchiefs and gowns were brought and subsequently returned to the reader in a different form.
In early 1750 Parks sailed for England on a business trip. During the voyage he was seized with a fatal attack of pleurisy and was buried at journey’s end in Gosport, England.
Records of William Parks in Augusta County, VA
From Chalkley’s Augusta County Records:
- Vol. 2 - FEE BOOKS OF AUGUSTA COURT - 1749--(Very much mutilated)-- page 93, Wm. Parks, Gentleman, Williamsburg.
- Vol. 1 - 1749 - Valuation of improvements on 2,464 acres belonging to William Parks, on Southern Border Potomac, 17th November, 1749, viz: George Mouss, improvements. Hanness Dockell's improvements. John Kerre's improvements. Peter Moser's improvements. Jacob Sifert's improvements.
- Vol. 1 - August 24, 1749 - (264) William Parks's 2,464 acres on So. Br. Potomac to be valued by Geo. Sea, Martin Stroup, John Knight Owells (O'Neils), Henry Kerr, John Skelton, John Patton, Jr., James Rutledge and John Smith.
- Page 131.--1st September, 1750. James Patton's will--Daughter, Mary, wife to William Thompson, 1 negro woman; tract called Spring Hill; 3,000 acres on which Saml. Stalnaker and others is living, known by name of Indian Fields, on waters of Houlston's river, a branch of the Missisipio. Grandson, James Thompson, infant, remainder in above in fee tail. Daughter, Margaret, now wife of Col. John Buchanan. To son-in-law, William Thompson, the tract called Springfield, joining where widow Gouldman now lives and on which Henry Patton lives. William is to keep the estate intact for his son, James, until 1772. To Margaret, tract called Cherry tree bottom, near Robert Looney's tract at mouth of Purgatory, tract on which there is a small stone house. Margaret's daughter, Mary; sister, Preston, and her son, William Preston, £10 to be paid to Rev. John Craig, pastor at Tinkling Spring, to pay his stipends from 1740 to 1750, to be paid by the congregation out of the money advanced by him to help build the meeting house. £10 of same to be laid out for a pulpit and pulpit cloth. John Preston's bond to be given up to his son. Wm. Preston. All debts due by George Wilson, who is married to testator's wife's niece, Rebecca Vicers (Viers?), to be given up. Granddaughter, Mary Buchanan. Executors, John Buchanan, Wm. Thompson, nephew, Wm. Preston, Silas Harte. All disputes between executors to be left to arbitration of the minister and elders of Tinkling Spring church. Testator was agent for John Smith, Zachery Lewis, Wm. Waller, Wm. Green, Wm. Parks for the Roanoke and James River grants. As to the Great Grant on the waters of Misicipia, James Gordon, James Johnston, John Grimes, John _____, Richard Barns, Robert Gilchrist, James Bowre, Robert Jackson, have assigned their parts to testator. Richard Winston's part is assigned to little John Buchanan. To Mary Preston, horses. Teste: Thomas Stewart, Edward Hall, John Williams. Proved, 26th November, 1755, bv Stewart and Hall. Wm. Preston refuses to execute, also Silas Harte. Buchanan and Thompson qualify, with sureties David Stewart, Joseph Culton, Wm. Preston, Edward Hall, Thomas Stewart. 16th August, 1769, Wm. Preston qualifies executor. (Note: as this William Parks had died just five months prior, this record may refer to a different William Parks, or perhaps word of his death had not reached James Patton at the writing of his will in September 1750).
- Chalkley's Augusta County, Virginia Records
- "William Parks, Printer and Journalist of New England and Colonial America", Wroth, Lawrence C. (Richmond, 1926)
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