Cousins in the
White House

Two men to occupy the White House are descendants of the Guilford Parmelees! Rutherford B. Hayes, left, and George W. Bush were declared victors after close votes and disputed ballots in Florida. Both were Republican governors who lost the popular vote but won in the Electoral College by slim margins.

Presidential Encounters

John Quincy Adams: The pages of his diary mention visits from Dr. Eleazer Parmly, the pioneering dentist.

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McKinley: Cleveland Mayor William and Martha Emily (Parmelee) Rose entertained the Ohio governor (and future president) and his wife, Ida.

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Taft: Once he'd left office and returned to Yale to teach, he had his eye on Henry Spencer Parmelee's old home.

Race 2012

Quest for the Presidency

Retired Navy master chief petty officer John Oscian Parmele [John Oscian, John Oscian, James McGinty, Joseph, Joseph, Joseph, Joseph, Isaac, John, John], has begun a 2012 independent presidential bid. Our Virginia Beach, Va., cousin has set up a Facebook page and is seeking volunteer campaign managers in all 50 states. For more info, email him. John has twice made independent bids to become a member of the Virginia House of Delegates.

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North Carolina in Play

Jay Parmley, the executive director of the North Carolina Democratic Party, says the Tar Heel State will once again be pivotal in the 2012 presidential race next year, and Bev Perdue could be the most targeted gubernatorial incumbent in the country. That was his message to a Cumberland County Democratic Men’s Club meeting.

He said that hundreds of paid staffers for President Obama’s re-election campaign will fan across North Carolina next year, and the fact that the national convention will be in Charlotte, further boosts the state’s prominence in the race.

"This is really ground zero for everything in 2012," Jay said.


Burr, Cheney ...
and Parmalee?

When it comes to a pol giving someone the business end of a firearm, we're right up there with Aaron Burr (the vice president who killed rival Alexander Hamilton in 1804) and Dick Cheney (the vice president who wounded fellow hunter Harry Whittington in 2006).

Daniel Stevens Parmalee [1821-1891; William, Dan, Lemuel, Nathaniel, Nathaniel, John, John], a member of the Nebraska Territorial Legislature that met in Omaha in 1867, and a Douglas County member of the House of Representatives for the state's first two legislative sessions, from 1867 to 1871, made headlines when his feud with Tom Keeler erupted in gunfire in 1874.

The story made the front pages of newspapers nationwide. It was made-to-order drama: a long-time grudge over a piece of property, two men blazing away at one another, runaway mule teams ... and Keeler was survived by two of his four wives!

An Alumnus of the
Electoral College

Many voters believe they cast their ballot for a presidential candidate, but they actually are selecting a slate of electors prescribed by the Constitution who do the real voting. One member of the family was a member of the Electoral College.

Solomon [1798-1876; Sheldon, Thomas, Thomas, Job, John, John] of Lockport, N.Y., was selected by the Whig Party in 1848 to be the elector from the state's 34th Congressional District. And Zachary Taylor, the party's candidate, carried the state.

Taylor and Democrat Lewis Cass each carried 15 states; former President Martin Van Buren, running as the Free Soil candidate, failed to win any. Taylor polled 1.36 million votes, or 47.3% to Cass' 1.22 million, or 42.5%, to Van Buren's 292,000, or 10.1%.

Taylor defeated Cass in the Electoral College, 163-127. And Solomon was one of the 163-member majority.

The Dust-Up With T.R.

By 1896, New York City Police Board President Theodore Roosevelt's efforts to clear the Police Department of corruption and politics had come to a standstill, his efforts blocked by member Andrew D. Parker, an ally of the police chief's.

On May 5, things came to a head. Roosevelt arrived at City Hall for a meeting of the Board of Estimate in a new tweed suit whose checks, one newspaper said, were "audible at 20 paces." Across the table, with the mayor, sat City Comptroller Ashbel Parmelee Fitch, who had a habit of rejecting the Police Department's more questionable bills, such as payment for children reporting Sunday liquor law violations.

Fitch said quietly while Roosevelt requested $11,000 of surplus construction funds be transferred to pay for his second annual campaign against saloons. "I doubt that we can do it legally," Fitch said before launching into a speech about the "impropriety" of taxpayers' money being used to bribe stool-pigeons on a Sunday. Roosevelt explained that policemen could not arrest saloonkeepers for illegal sales without buying liquor themselves, and that they were entitled to be reimbursed. "The same old story," Fitch said. "We've heard it before."

"If we are brought to a standstill," Roosevelt said, "if we are to shut down our work, it will be your fault."

"Oh, stop scolding," Fitch said.

"You are the one to blame!" Roosevelt said.

"Tush, Tush. I won't discuss the matter with you in the fashion. You're always looking for a fight."

"I fight when I am attacked!"

"Oh, go on," Fitch said. "I don't want to fight with you."

"I know you won't fight. You'll run away."

"Well, I wouldn't run away from you, at all events."

"You dare not fight!"

"Oh, I don't, hey? Just name your weapons. What do you want -- pistols?"

"Pistols or anything else!" Roosevelt said.

Wrote the reporter for the New York World: "At this point two reporters who were in the line of fire dropped their notes and dodged under the table."

Mayor William L. Strong decided to intervene, slamming his fist on the table and raising his voice: "Gentlemen, gentlemen! I warn you right now that if this thing goes on, I shall call in the police and have you both arrested."

"Oh, this man Roosevelt is always getting into a row," Fitch said. "He had a row with Parker, now he wants a row with me."

The matter was referred to Corporation Counsel. Roosevelt assured the press that there would be no duel. But offers of seconds, and weapons, came in from as far as Philadelphia, and Fitch was reported to have collected a small arsenal of gifts.

--edited from "The Rise of Theodore Roosevelt," by Edmund Morris

It's a Small World

Over the years, Carole A. (Clemens) Parmelee has worked at the state and federal levels, most notably as executive assistant to Secretary of State Edmund Muskie, right, during the Iranian hostage crisis. Husband Ken Arman Parmelee [Kenneth Abner, Abner Augustus, Rufus Electus, Rufus Clark, Ebenezer, Oliver, Jonathan, Joshua, John, John] recalls one humorous event that happened several years later at the White House:

"I was waiting for Carole, and U.N. Ambassador Bill Richardson and Secretary of State Madeleine Albright were on a couch across the room. When Carole came out, Bill got up and was kindly trying to introduce the Parmelees to Madeleine. She interrupted him by saying, "I’ve known Carole and Ken for a very long time. Carole and I started working for Ed Muskie the same week."

In the early 1970s, Carole was the receptionist in Ohio Gov. John J. Gilligan’s office and used to babysit Katie Gilligan -- who grew up to became the governor of Kansas and is now the Secretary of Health and Human Services, Kathleen Sebelias.

Mr. Congressman

Over the years, I've been asked how Ashbel Parmelee Fitch (1848-1904) fits into the family. Well, the New York City lawyer who was four times elected to the House of Representatives was the son of Edward Fitch and his wife, Fanny Parmelee [Ashbel, Simeon, Hezekiah, Joel, John, John]. Ashbel was named for his grandfather, a minister who spent much of his life in Malone, N.Y.

Young Ashbel was born in Moores, N.Y., and studied at the Universities of Jena and Berlin, Germany, and the Columbia College Law School in New York City. After joining the bar in 1869, he set up practice in New York City.

He was elected to Congress as a Republican when he was seated in 1887, but he ran as a Democrat in his next three elections. He served as chairman on the House Committee on Private Land Claims (52nd Congress) and on the Committee on Election of President, Vice President, and Representatives (53rd Congress). He resigned in 1893 to accept Tammany Hall's nomination for New York City comptroller. (See the story above.)

He was elected and served until 1897, when the Democratic political machine refused to renominate him; Ashbel's name was placed in nomination at the Republican convention and he was defeated. He became the founding president of the Trust Company of America in 1899. Ashbel died in New York City in 1904 and was buried at Woodlawn Cemetery.

A Roster of Public Officials

This is the beginning of a list of family members who have been in public office. Know of others? Email me.

White House
  • Carole A. (Clemens) Parmelee (1944- ),
    Chief of staff to Clinton Chief of Staff Erskine Bowles 1996-1998
  • Carole A. (Clemens) Parmelee (1944- ),
    Executive assistant to Sen. Ed Muskie, D-Maine, 1980-1981
  • Kenneth Armand Parmelee (1940- ),
    Chief of staff to Sen. Vance Hartke, D-Ind., 1974-1977
House of Representatives
  • Kenneth Armand Parmelee (1940- )
    Chief of staff to Rep. Jim Florio, D-N.J., 1977-1081
State Department
  • Carole A. (Clemens) Parmelee (1944- ),
    Executive assistant to Secretary Ed Muskie, 1980-1981
  • Michael E. Parmly (1951- )
    Chief of Mission-Designate for the U.S. Interests Section in Havana, Cuba
  • Abner-D (1805-1875)
    Killingworth, representative to the General Assembly, 1857-59
  • Abraham (1717-1795)
    Goshen, deputy to the Colonial Assembly, 1769
  • Alice Emmons-R (1903-1992)
    Hartland, representative to the General Assembly, 1943-44, 1953-54
  • Arthur E.-D (1865-1937)
    Killingworth, representative to the General Assembly, 1901-02, 1909-10
  • Arvington Davis-D (1838-1921)
    Killingworth, representative to the General Assembly, 1891-92
  • Bryan (1732-1817)
    Chatham (now East Hampton), representative to the General Assembly, 1785-86
  • Chauncey-D (ca1793-1869)
    Killingworth, representative to the General Assembly, 1853-55
  • Clayton Abner-D (1864-1942)
    Saybrook, representative to the General Assembly, 1911-12
  • Cleon Lorenzo-R (1884-1958)
    Killingworth, representative to the General Assembly, 1917-19, 1919-20
  • Dan (1748-1825)
    Durham, representative to the General Assembly, 1789-95, 1797-1804, 1806-08, 1813-16
  • Dan Edward-R (1893-1929)
    Durham, representative to the General Assembly, 1923-24
  • Eli-R (1808-1882)
    Guilford, representative to the General Assembly, 1868-69
  • Eliab Harvey-R (1816-1890)
    Killingworth, representative to the General Assembly, 1861-62
  • Frederick Henry-R (1833-1920)
    New London, representative to the General Assembly, 1895-96
  • Henry Elisha-R (1830-1896)
    Guilford, representative to the General Assembly, 1889-90
  • Herbert Eugene-R (1853-1926)
    Guilford, representative to the General Assembly, 1897-98
  • Horace Linsley-D (1819-1898)
    Killingworth, representative to the General Assembly, 1873-75
  • Isaac-R (1801-1878)
    Durham, representative to the General Assembly, 1865-66
  • Jared "Jerry"-D (ca1801-1881)
    Killingworth, representative to the General Assembly, 1855-57
  • Leverett Wilson-D (1833-1914)
    Killingworth, representative to the General Assembly, 1875-77
  • Levi (1745-1819)
    Durham, representative to the General Assembly, 1797-98
  • Lovel Davis-R (1866-1940)
    Killingworth, representative to the General Assembly, 1903-04, 1907-08, 1929-30
  • Monroe E.-D (1848-1890)
    Killingworth, representative to the General Assembly, 1887-88
  • Norman Lewis-R (1839-1923)
    Killingworth, representative to the General Assembly, 1893-94, 1895-96
  • Oliver (1734-1816)
    Bethlehem, representative to the General Assembly, 1792, 1797-98
  • Richard Clarke-R (1913-1986)
    Durham, representative to the General Assembly, 1945-46, 1947-48
  • William Augustus-R (1818-1902)
    Durham, representative to the General Assembly, 1859-60
  • William Hayden-D (1849-1933)
    Essex, representative to the General Assembly, 1891-92
  • Abner Cornelius . (1806-1889)
    Barry County, House of Representatives, 1844-46
  • Deleta (Parmly) Williams-D (1935- )
    District 121 of House of Representatives,1996-2002
  • Daniel S. (1821-1891)
    Territory legislator, 1867; House of Representatives, 1867-71
South Dakota
  • Harry Truman-R (1860-1935)
    House of Representatives, 1901-02
  • Joseph William Lincoln-R (1861-1940)
    House of Representatives, 1905-08
  • Abner Augustus-D (1860-1935)
    House of Representatives, St. Albans, 1921
  • Alanson (1792-1860)
    House of Representatives, Wilmington, 1833-34
  • Charles Henry (1858-ca 1946)
    House of Representatives, Wilmington, 1919
  • Daniel Everett (1776-1864)
    House of Representatives, Bristol, 1825, 1832
  • Fred Leete (1878-1975)
    House of Representatives, Putney, 1921
  • George Washington (1814-1884)
    House of Representatives, Brandon, 1865-66
  • Samuel B. (1757-1828)
    House of Representatives, Fairfax, 1818
  • Thomas Easton (1793-?)
    Territory legislator, House of Representatives, 1840-41

* Unicameral legislature since 1937 - no House of Representatives

  • Nancy (Wellman)
    Sonoma, mayor, 1976, 1980, 1987
  • Dan (1748-1825)
    Durham, justice of the peace, 1791-1817
  • Isaac (1801-1878)
    Durham, justice of the peace, 1846
  • John (1612-1687/88)
    Guilford's sexton/drummer, 1652
  • Nathaniel (1645-ca1676)
    Killingworth's sexton/drummer, 1666
  • William Augustus (1818-1902)
    Durham, town clerk, 1859-60
  • Asaph (1794-1868)
    Boston, alderman, 1842
  • Thomas E.. (1874-1922)
    Plattsmouth, mayor, 1902
  • Abner Augustus. (1857-1924)
    St. Albans, alderman