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Hudson-Mohawk Genealogical and Family Memoirs:

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[This information is from Vol. I, pp. 467-468 of Hudson-Mohawk Genealogical and Family Memoirs, edited by Cuyler Reynolds (New York: Lewis Historical Publishing Company, 1911). It is in the Reference collection of the Schenectady County Public Library at R 929.1 R45. Some of the formatting of the original, especially in lists of descendants, may have been altered slightly for ease of reading.]

John D. Parsons, Jr., was born in Albany, New York, January 2, 1847, and died at his home in the same city, December 16, 1904. He was the son of John D. Parsons and Eleanor Bowne, and his father was the son of Stephen Parsons and Hannah Thorne, residents of Albany, New York.

Mr. Parsons was regarded as one of the best known and most influential financiers, not alone in the city of Albany, where he resided all his life, but throughout this section of the state, where he had banking affiliations in other cities, and also had a large circle of acquaintances among the more prominent financiers of New York City. Those who enjoyed his intimate companionship found him to be a cheerful, optimistic and faithful friend. Everyone could say of him that he made an excellent citizen. He was a far-seeing, shrewd financier, and a kind, devoted husband and brother, a loyal friend.

He received his preparatory education at local institutions and in Professor Collins' private school at Albany, then entered Union College. After his college days he began his professional career at once, finding employment under his father in the firm of Weed, Parsons & Co., proprietors of one of the largest printing establishments in the state, his father being a member of it, and there he remained for some time. Later on he commenced business on his own responsibility as a law-book publisher, but retained his position as superintendent of the Weed, Parsons & Co. concern. About 1888 he sold out the law-book business to Bancroft, Whitney & Co., of San Francisco.

His more important career, as a banker, began in 1885, when he was elected a director of the National Exchange Bank, then located on Broadway, in the same building with the Exchange Savings Bank. At a meeting of its directors, held February 15, 1887, he was chosen president, and he continued to hold this position until the time of his death. He made it a progressive institution, and by the wisdom of conservatism in his transactions succeeded in winning the confidence of Albany's best men of business and merchants. Comparison of its standing when he entered upon his management with the bank's condition when it ended, although it had previously been governed by sagacious minds, shows a steady advancement.

In 1900, he turned his attention to the organization of the first trust company ever established in the city of Albany, which was formed March 20, 1900, and on organization as the Albany Trust Company, May 1, 1900, he was chosen its first president, and he remained such until he died. He was much concerned in the erection of the building, and chose as a site one of the most prominent corners of the business section of Albany, the northwest corner of State street and Broadway, directly opposite the postoffice, and where for nearly a century had stood one of the city's landmarks, known as the Marble Pillar Building. Following the designs executed by Marcus T. Reynolds, architect, the trust company erected one of the notable edifices of the city, and opened there September 5, 1904. Mr. Parsons felt he had taken a propitious step in advancement of the city's interests, and well was proud when the new institution opened its doors, and he received the congratulations of his friends. Besides holding these two offices as president, Mr. Parsons was a director of the Schenectady Trust Company, of the Adirondack Trust Company of Saratoga, of the Syracuse Trust Company and of the Troy Trust Company.

His home at No. 233 State street was unusually handsomely furnished, because the power to buy was coupled with capacity to choose, and he possessed more than one oil painting by the Old Masters, that by Sir Joshua Reynolds possibly the choicest because of its rare beauty. He created a handsome country estate at Cedar Hill, where he built a spacious house that many guests might be welcomed, its veranda affording an admirable view of the Hudson river skirting his plateau, and the grounds laid out with skill. He was fond of good horses and driving, but his taste was especially for fine types of books, and as an ardent collector of special lines of autographs he probably was surpassed by but few in New York state. It is known that he cleverly planned a "corner" for the letters of several persons of note, and thus possessed the only specimens extant. So eager was he in the pursuit of this fascinating hobby that he made distant trips a number of times with the sole object of acquiring a rarity, and it delighted him more when it depended not so much on the size of the check as upon the sagacity to ferret it out and find the proper method to guarantee it for his collection. He was particularly desirous to complete his set of letters of the mayors of Albany, which required locating sixty specimens, a task he found to be far more difficult than gathering those of the presidents and vice-presidents, because those written by the nation's chief executive were more generally saved by recipients. He also took delight in good specimens of precious stones, securing them for their beauty.

Mr. Parsons had a wide affiliation with bodies of men other than the six institutions already named. He was a member of the Fort Orange, the Albany and the Albany Country clubs of Albany, of the Philip Livingston Chapter, Sons of the Revolution, and of the Albany Institute and Historical and Art Society. He belonged to the First Reformed Dutch Church congregation, and was formerly a trustee. He was extensively concerned in Masonic institutions, and was a member of Masters Lodge No. 5, Free and Accepted Masons, the Ineffable and Sublime Lodge of Perfection, Grand Council of Princes of Jerusalem, Albany Sovereign Consistory, A. A. S. R., and Cyrus Temple, A. A. O. N. M. S.

Unquestionably, Mr. Parsons was intensely interested and patriotically devoted to the upbuilding of his native city. Although a man of splendid charities, possessing a warm heart for those in whom he took concern, he distributed his largesse without ostentation, and as a rule avoided publicity in his giving, yet none the less were his contributions joined in every public cause or for philanthropic extension of a charity meriting his bounty. Beneath his business reserve, a quiet, dignified exterior, but far from coldness, palpitated a heart fresh and as kindly as a child, ready ever to be cordial and never counting upon a return.

His death came suddenly in the early morning hours of December 14, 1904, and was due to heart failure. It came as a severe shock to the business community, who had seen him only the previous day in apparently as excellent health as he had seemed to them at any time. It is true that he had been complaining of ill-health for a year or more; but this was not known in business circles, and he had busied himself in arranging his affairs so as to be able to take an extended recreation by traveling after the holidays. He had no child, and was survived by his wife, a brother, H. Bowne Parsons, and four sisters — Mrs. John P. Failin, Mrs. George M. Beadle, of Syracuse, Mrs. Walter M. Newton, and Miss Ella D. Parsons, of Albany.

Mr. Parsons married, at Albany, November 9, 1870, Miss Agnes Evans Chase, daughter of Sylvanus Goodnough Chase.

The Albany Trust Company's trustees voiced the following sentiment regarding the one who had created the institution:

"A deep sense of personal loss is experienced by each of us in the death of the genial, whole-souled, enthusiastic friend, the invariably cheerful, sanguine and buoyant counsellor, the loyal, unswerving, devoted confidant, the ever-ready, resourceful adviser; a man who formed the most intense and enduring friendships, and who, when he admitted one into that circle, would never hear or entertain any suspicion of wrong in him 'he grappled them to his heart with hooks of steel.' He was distinctively an Albany man, with business interests in our midst, which he established and carried on so successfully. To the subject of banking he brought the trained and educated mind, the untiring industry, unquestioned integrity, and that attractive personality which had distinguished him in college and in business. The formation of the Albany Trust Company was due to his forethought, energy and the reputation which he had achieved. He was a man of warm heart and generous impulses, and he was frequently importuned for financial assistance and responded with alacrity."

Among other sincere expressions recorded by the National Exchange Bank, the directors said: "Mr. Parsons was generous to all in need, and always ready to aid liberally every charitable case. His extreme modesty and dislike of ostentation have kept his acts and achievements from the public gaze."

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