LIMA — According to contemporary accounts the whole thing began with the dispatch of a fire engine from the central fire station on High Street, which drew a curious boy on a bicycle into its wake.
Just to the west of the fire station on that Friday evening in mid-November 1906, 75-year-old Cornelius Parmenter was headed to his home in the 700 block of West High Street after visiting his son, Robert W. Parmenter, in the offices of the Lima Advertiser. At the corner of High and Elizabeth streets the heedless, hard-pedaling boy struck Parmenter, knocking him to the ground.
“Mr. Parmenter was dazed by the fall,” the Lima Republican Gazette wrote Nov. 25, 1906, “but soon regained his feet and again started for home. He got as far as West Street, one block from Elizabeth, when he suddenly reeled and fell.”
Taken to his home at 718 W. High St., Parmenter’s condition rapidly deteriorated. On Nov. 24, 1906, a little more than a week after the accident, Cornelius Parmenter — former editor, publisher, printer, postmaster and ardent Republican — a man entwined in Lima’s history for a half century, was history.
“The Grim Reaper, Death, at an early hour this morning, removed from his sphere of earthly usefulness, Mr. Cornelius Parmenter, one of the veteran editors of this city,” the Lima Times-Democrat reported.
“Love for his family, loyalty to party, to friends and to Lima coupled with his ability and untiring energy easily made Cornelius H. Parmenter one of the leading and most prominent characters in the early and middle life of Lima and to his labor and accomplishments this city and our people owe much,” the Republican Gazette eulogized.
Cornelius Parmenter was born May 5, 1831, in Green County, New York, one of 14 children of Winthrop and Sarah Parmenter. When he was 11 years old, Cornelius Parmenter was apprenticed to learn the printer’s trade, “which he afterward followed the greater part of his life, having worked up to the very date of the accident that resulted in his death,” the Lima Daily News wrote.
He arrived in Lima in 1854 and, in 1857, married Mary E. Boyer, the daughter of pioneer residents Daniel and Mary Boyer. The Parmenters had 11 children, three of whom followed their father into the printer’s trade in Lima.
Mary Boyer Parmenter died at the age of 73 in November 1911, five years after her husband. She was born in 1838 in a log house behind her father’s tailor shop and was reputedly the first white girl born in Lima after it was incorporated.
According to the Daily News, Cornelius Parmenter’s first impulse on arriving in Lima in 1854 was to leave — immediately. “There were no side walks and the streets were little more than a mass of mud holes,” the newspaper noted. “Arriving at the station he found he could not get a train out of the town for 23 hours, upon which he remained, and from that time to the day of his death he was a citizen of Lima.”
With his brother Harvey Parmenter, he purchased a weekly newspaper called the Western Gazette. Harvey Parmenter left the newspaper soon afterward, but Cornelius Parmenter stayed with it until 1885. “However, like all the early publishers he was a practical printer as well as a most virile writer,” the Republican Gazette wrote, “and after he disposed of his publication, he was almost continually employed at that trade in the office of his son R.W. Parmenter, the publisher of the Advertiser.”
Cornelius Parmenter was “a most virile writer” in the cause of the Republican party. “In politics Mr. Parmenter was a Republican of the uncompromising sort, one that believed in the teachings of his party in the fullest, and a stalwart advocate of its doctrines,” the Republican Gazette wrote. “His career as editor and publisher of the Western Gazette early stamped him as one of the strongest, most able and fearless wielders of the pen in northwestern Ohio if not within the state, and his editorial utterances were widely quoted.”
They also were widely derided by the Gazette’s rival, the Allen County Democrat, the editor of which invariably referred to Parmenter as “Bro. Parmenter” before launching an editorial assault. The Gazette, which later combined with the Republican to form the Republican Gazette, and the Democrat, which became the Times-Democrat, sparred over issues from slavery to sidewalks.
On Sept. 8, 1881, the Democrat’s editor even critiqued Cornelius Parmenter’s new carriage. “Bro. Parmenter now rides in the shade in a fine two-seated carriage, manufactured at Columbus. A good deal of style for a newspaperman.”
Cornelius Parmenter’s fidelity to the Republican party earned him two stints as Lima postmaster, the first by appointment from President Abraham Lincoln in 1861. He continued in that appointment until 1867. In 1869, he was appointed postmaster by President Ulysses S. Grant and served until 1877. He also served as Lima clerk from 1857 to 1860. During his first term as postmaster, he moved the post office to the Parmenter building in the southwest corner of the Public Square. The Gazette offices were on the second floor.
On his death, the Times-Democrat praised its old foe. “He was a man of strong individuality, one devotedly attached to his family. He was respected in the entire community by his many friends and by his political foes.”
Seven of Cornelius Parmenter’s children survived him, including three sons who continued the family printing tradition.
Robert W. Parmenter was born in 1858 and grew up in the family home on the northeast corner of Market and Elizabeth streets where the city parking garage is now located. The family moved in 1877 to a new home at the southwest corner of Market and Elizabeth streets.
Robert Parmenter began his career in printing and newspapers at the age of 10. For two years in his youth he worked in Wooster installing a telephone system before returning to Lima and a job at the Times-Democrat.
“He had established his own newspaper, the Lima Advertiser, a weekly, in his printing plant, the Parmenter Printing Co.,” the News wrote on Aug. 12, 1946, when Robert Parmenter died. “Publication was suspended during World War I.” The Parmenter Printing Co. moved into a new building at 215 N. Elizabeth St. in 1916.
George L. Parmenter was born in 1865 and died in 1938 in Berkeley, California. George Parmenter spent his youth in Lima and worked as a printer for his brother, Robert, before moving to California where he worked for the Standard Oil Co.
Walter C. Parmenter, born in 1869, was the last surviving son of Cornelius Parmenter when he died in 1947. Walter Parmenter gained a law degree from the University of Michigan but practiced only briefly before entering the printing business. He operated the Franklin Printing Co. on West Spring Street for 30 years before it ceased operation about 1932.
Robert Parmenter’s son, Robert Cornelius “Neil” Parmenter, and grandson, James H. Parmenter, would run the family business in subsequent years.
Reach Greg Hoersten at firstname.lastname@example.org.