Robert Mann Parsons

"Expert knowledge of survey"

"...Captain Parson duties have been chiefly confined to surveying operations, in which he has always exhibited great skill and accuracy and I believe him to be a gentleman high scientific attainments and one who in the higher branches of science has rendered good service to the Colony."

--His Excellency, Governor Douglas, 1863

Born 29 September 1829

Parsons and Henry Reynolds Luard enrolled at the Royal Military Academy, Woolwich and were classmates.

Promoted to 2nd Lieutenant 1 Oct. 1847

Promoted to Lieutenant 21 Sept. 1850

Promoted to 2nd Captain 23 Feb. 1856

As a Captain, Parson's Regimental Pay would have been 202 Pounds per Annum plus aColonial Allowance of 350 Pounds per Annum.

Parsons is the only member of the Columbia Detachment who did not volunteer for duty in British Columbia.  Due to his extraordinary skill in surveying and map making, he was ordered by the War Office in the Autumn of 1858 to accompany the Detachment and command the Survey Office.

London, August 31, 1858

Incidental expenses of Captain Parsons RE and party of 20 Royal Engineers proceeding to British Columbia -
500 Pounds Sterling

Colonel RC Moody

London 1st September 1858


     You will proceed to Southampton and take command of the Detachment of RE under orders for British Columbia.

     You will endeavour to embark them tonight but all must be on board the "La Plata" Mail Packet early tomorrow morning.

     Sir Ed. B. Lytton has signified his desire to visit and inspect the party on board immediately previous to the vessel sailing for Colon.

     On your arrival at Colon you will at once communicate with the B. Consul.  I enclose you a letter to him from the Foreign Office.  He will afford you every assistance in his power.  I also enclose a letter I have received from the Colonial Office by which you will perceive the Directors of the Mail Steam Company have also instructed their Agents to afford you assistance.  You will avail yourself of this precisely in the manner indicated in the enclosures to the Colonial Office letter with the exception of paying the expenses.

     You will defray all the expenses of Transit, food and quarters for the party.  Keeping vouchers in triplicate for every Kind of disbursement.  Doubtless the gentlemen above referred to will enable you to simplify your operations in this respect.

     I place in your hands the sum of 500.00 Pounds and you are at liberty to draw on H.M. Treasury to an extent not exceeding a further sum of 500.00 Pounds.  I enclose you blank forms of bills for this purpose.

     You must distinctly understand you are to be guided by the utmost economy and are not to incur any expenses but such as are indispensably necessary to convey you to Victoria in Vancouver's Island.  For all these expenses your receipts and vouchers must be completely explanatory.

     I also enclose Foreign Office letters to the B. Consul at Panama and San Francisco.  These gentlemen will afford you their aid in getting your draughts cashed.

     In crossing the Isthmus by rail it is indispensable the Men do not carry any arms, not even side arms.  You will use your own discretion as to their dress but allow no departure from military discipline in proceeding to the Train-cars and in leaving them for their quarters in Panama.

     Your chief difficulty will probably be in getting forward from Panama.  The Admiralty has sent instructions to the Naval Officers along your route to afford you all aid in their power.

     If any B. Vessel of War be at Panama you will ascertain whether such might not be in a position to convey yourself and party to your destination or en route towards it.  If such arrangement be practicable avail yourself of it, but if not, the naval Officer in command the British Consul and the British Mail Packet Agents and Correspondents will aid you in obtaining a passage to Victoria by a merchant Vessel.  The Naval Officer in command will probably be able to assist you by causing the Merchant Vessel to be inspected as to her sea-worthiness, proper supply of Provisions, water, etc.

     You will state to the Consul at Colon and at Panama that Captain Grant will certainly proceed via Panama and will probably be accompanied by 12 RE's.  Request them to be prepared to aid.

     You will endevour not to call at San Francisco.  It will add to the expenses and may be predudicial to discipline.

     On your arrival at Victoria, Vancouver's Island you will report yourself to the Governor and submit to him instructions your have received personally from the Colonial Minister and from myself that to carry out the objects of the Government as conveyed to me subject to the Governor.  It is essential every facility should be afforded to you to proceed with the party as early as possible to the Fraser River.  To effect this it is of course necessary the Governor furnish you with the means of transport with free rations to which the party are entitled and with some reasonably good Barrack or Building quickly convertible into a Barrack located on the Fraser River.  It is most probable Fort Langley may be the best position temporarily, and it is possible the Governor may be able to rent the Buildings there from the Hudson's Bay Company and appropriate them to the Military Detachment under your command as well as for those about to follow.

     Of course it is impossible for me to give your precise instructions to you on this head.  You will find the Governor has been very fully instructed in the matter and from his well-known character for energy and judgement I have no apprehensions in my own mind that if you frankly place yourself in unreserved communication with him you will find difficulties quickly mastered.

     The main duties you are to Keep in view are these:

1 To "House" and "feed" your party.
2  To prepare for those that are to follow.  When the first duty shall have been effected, and the second be in progress, you will after Captain Grant's arrival, take his orders for a selection from your
3  party, and you will with them proceed up the "Fraser River" to the first rapids or Falls (if time will admit) and return, making a most careful reconnaissance of both banks but more especially the North Bank.  You will certainly proceed as far as Fort Yale.

     I am very anxious you should be prepared with an extremely full and careful reconaissance for me against my arrival devoting your attention chiefly to such distance up the River as ordinary merchant trading vessels can proceed convieniently.

     You will use every endevour to obtain assistance in this matter both from the Governor and from the Naval Officer in Command.  Among other assistance from the first it is necessary you should obtain intelligent guides who know every spot of ground on the banks and if a gentleman among the Hudson's Bay Company's Officers would go with you it would materially advance the Public Service.

     I hope it may be possible for the Naval Officer in command to assist you with the council of an officer (and to give a small party of men) for opinions on points which will readily to occur to you.

     It is possible that among the vessels of war at the Station when you arrive there may be one, such as a Gun boat, of light draft, and that the Naval Officer in Command may be disposed to direct that it ascend the River with you on board in furtherance of this important duty.

     By the time you have returned to Victoria or Fort Langley as the case may be and prepared your Report, I trust I shall have arrived and after placing myself in communication with the Governor would hope he may be able to spare the time to accompany me so that the site of the chief town may be early settled.

     I think it would be well for you to draw the attention of the Governor to the circumstance that military considerations of the very gravest importance (seeing the nearness of the Frontier) enter into the question of determining the site of the chief town and also of the one to be laid out at the entrance of the River.  It it be absolutely necessary to commence some occupation at the latter place it should be confined to the north side and I hope the Governor would be able to make it a temporary tenure.  At all events the spots marked on the accompanying chart should be reserved.

     Should Lt. Colonel Hawkins be present on your arrival you will of course at once report yourself to him and will consult with him on all points of your duty but do not allow anything short of imperative necessity from causes not known here (to) induce you to deviate from the general principles I have above laid down for your guidance.

I have the honor to be,
Sir, your most obedient
humble servant,
RC Moody

Captain Parsons and a party of 20 RE set off in the "La Plata" on route to Colon.

Mail Steamer " J.L Stephens"
1 October 1858

My dear Colonel,

    I arrived here on 25th ultimo and was obliged to quarter in the town for some days but contrived to get my men on board this steamer for California 2 days before the time of sailing by permission of the Agents Captain Mr. Lane and his servant Mr. Connor who have given me great assistance.

    The passage upon the steamer and the tickets for California are far more than was expected, and I have been obliged to write to B.L. detailing circumstances and requesting a proper provision to be made - I have written in duplicate and requested the Consul to send one copy via New York authorities and this by the West Indies.-  I will explain more fully when I see you.-

    By tonight we shall have 1300 passengers on board.-  You will find the transit to Panama being simpler, no expenses or carrying baggage, and perhaps if you have a through California ticket no expenses or subtraction for the [?] which is 3 miles out to sea:-  All charges are excessive on the Pacific Coast, and there appears nothing to gain on bills of exchange, indeed they are rather troublesome than otherwise.-  You will find the Aspinwall House at Panama the best place to stay in if you have any delay there.

    We are all well and the men give me no trouble.-  Waiting is the order of the day in the Tropics.- he said tomorrow and approaching a 2 or 3 day delay in San Francisco, We're to be in Victoria about 22nd instant:- I anticipate no difficulties, but fiscal expenses.- You will understand why I do not write more.-

Yours Obediently

10th October, '58.

We are all well and the Men give me no trouble.  [?] is the order of the day with one in the Tropics - we sail tomorrow and after being 2 or 3 days delay in San Francisco, we are to be in Victoria about 22nd Instant.  I anticipate no difficulties, but usual expenses.  You will understand why I do not write more.

Yours Respectfully,
RM Parsons

Arrived in British Columbia 29 October 1858, in charge of the first part of the Columbia Detachment.  

Pilgrim's Rest, 29 October 1858


 I have the honour to acknowledge your communications and to thank your for sending Mr. Angelo to provide transports for the detachment of Royal Engineers.

    After conferring with Colonel Hawkins, I had on landing, made arrangements to encamp the Detachment for a few days with his men, as I think it will be more conducive to discipline and keep the soldiers out of the temptations of a town for a short period:- and unless your Excellency is desirous that they should immediately proceed to Victoria, I propose authorizing to that arrangement and will send all the Stores that are nor required for the Men's comfort by such conveyance as Mr. Angelo may point out, to the house you have been kind enough to engage for us.

    I beg to send by Mr. Angelo a bag of despatches for your Excellency and will have the honour of waiting upon you personally tomorrow.

I have the honour to 
Your most obedient and humble servant
Captain RE


Royal Engineer Camp
Esquimalt 3 November 1858

My dear Sir.

    Referring to your Instructions to accompany you to Fort Langley with my Detachment and there to remain, I submit it is desirable that I should if possible proceed there before your Excellency for the purpose of ascertaining the exact condition of the buildings you intend placing at my disposal so that I may be prepared to demand such materials as may be necessary for rendering them fit for the occupation of Troops.-  Should the time not admit of my proceeding you and returning to make preparations, I would suggest that my Detachment should not take up permanent Quarters on the occasion of you Excellency's visit to Fort Langley, but return to Vancouver's Island and acting on knowledge gained by personal inspection, prepare the requisite for suitable Quarters, then as early as possible make our residence at Fort Langley.-

    I am induced to think it absolutely necessary that the preliminary inspection should be made, from the accounts brought from Fort Langley by some Officers attached to Colonel Hawkins, who represent the fine weather as quite broken up as at that place, and, state that they did not observe any buildings that are at present fit for the occupation of Her Majesty' Troops;-  I should have great objection to keep the men under Canvas in a wet locality for any period at this late season of the year, unless from pressing necessity, - indeed I hope to house and feed them that their efficiency may not be found impaired, when the season for active employment shall arrive.  Waiting your Excellency's Instructions

I have the honour to remain,
Yours obediently,


RE Camp
5 November 1858


    I beg to inform you that I propose going to Fort Langley in the next trip of the "Otter" Steamer for the purpose of visiting the locality and the houses you suggested should be occupied by my detachment.

    I should feel much obliged if you would be kind enough to give directions to the Officer in Charge at Fort Langley to afford me facilities for inspecting the buildings.

    With regard to the latter portions of your letter of yesterdays' date I am now preparing the sketch of a portable Building.

I have the honour
to be Sir
Your most obedient and humble servant
Captain RE


November 6th 1858, Esquimalt

Passage of Royal Engineers from Panama to San Francisco -
823 Pounds Sterling

Captain RM Parsons

File   Item     Correspondent                                        Date

3      3        Memo of provisions required for two  11 Nov1858
                Captains and 31 men of the Royal
                Engineers at Fort Langley

Yale, James Murray, 1798-1871
Originals    1845-1871    2 cm
Microfilm (neg.)    1845-1871    35 mm    [A001653]BC Archives

December 8th, 1858, Fort Langley

For the service of the Royal Engineers, proceeding to Victoria, Vancouver's Island (From San Francisco) -
40 Pounds Sterling

December 24th, 1858

For the service of the detachment under his command proceeding to Vancouver's Island (from San Francisco) -
187 Pounds 14 shillings

Captain RM Parsons, RE

Colonel Moody, his wife and children land at Esquimalt on the Christmas Day, 1858.

"The Grant's and Captain Parsons are all up the Frazer, the Grant's have one room in Fort Langley. Richard is disappointed neither of them were here to receive him, but they did not look for us for a fortnight later!"

--25th December, 1858,
The Letters of Mary S. Moody

In the first days of the new year of 1859, the "Ned McGowan War" breaks out. Moody is dispatched out to see what is afoot and soon sends a letter to Derby for reinforcements.

HMS "Plumper"
Langley, Fraser River
17th January 1859


I have the honor to acknowledge the receipt of your letter of the 15th Instant from Fort Yale, desiring that the force may be immediately dispatched to you

I therefore send by steamer "Enterprise", a party of 80 Officers, seaman, and Royal Marines, with one Field Piece 12 Pon. the party supplied with 10 days provisions, ammunition etc. 50 men of the "Satellite" are under Lieut. Gooch RN, Mr. Hall, Midshipman, and Lieut. Jones, RM - and 30 men from the "Plumper" under Lieutenant Moriarty, and Mr. Pender of this ship.

Captain Gossett RE doing duty as Commissary Officer to the Force, and Captain Parsons RE accompanying the expedition as Volunteer.

I have much pleasure in placing Lieut. Mayne's services at your personal disposal, according to your desire.

I have the honor to be,
Your Most obedient Servant,

George Henry Richards

Why was Parsons listed as a "Volunteer"?  Why could he not attend as 2nd in command of the RE?

Parsons travels up to Victoria to see to his Commanding Officer.

"Zeffie (Moody's 6 year old daughter) is getting quite accustomed to men now, she will trot off for a walk with anyone, today Captain Parsons was with us and he walked on before holding her hand as oldfashionedly as possible."

--2nd February, 1860,
The Letters of Mary S. Moody

Burnaby, Moody's Secretary commented on the look of Queenborough to his family and mentioned Parsons.

"We are in a log hut on the ban of the Fraser, out of the window we can see Capt. Parsons' tent, he is the officer in charge of the survey, a very scientific fellow and most agreeable.

--10th March, 1859,
The Letters of Robert Burnaby, pg.71

By March of 1859, Parsons had moved from Derby to Queenborough and was settled into his Quarters - only to face eviction.

"...our own house will not be ready for some weeks but we are to have a 4 roomed house which has been put up for Captain Parsons..."

--15th April, 1859,
The Letters of Mary S. Moody

"I saw a view of "Queenborough Camp" today, it looks so pretty, and the house, Captain Parson's, looks quite large!"

--18th April, 1859,
The Letters of Mary S. Moody

While the Camp was being constructed, Robert Burnaby mentions Parsons and it appears that he is still in his marquee.

"On your left a log hut, a little to your right a marquee (tent) (Captain Parsons RE. a delightful scientific man, the head of the survey, delicate and fond of blue pills and henbane)."

--24th April, 1859,
from the Letters of Robert Burnaby, pg. 78

The Survey Office at the Camp made good use of the photographic equipment of the detachment in reductions of maps.  This work was begun in the Spring of 1859.

Victoria, 12th May, 1859


The wife of Francois Cote civilian attached to your Staff having drawn from this Department the sum as per margin, I think it right to apprise you in order to facilitate the checking of his account with your Department.

I have the honor to be,
Your obedient Servant,

R. Burnaby, Secretary


8 February - To HBC order for Sale Shop - $25
23 February - Cash - to John Lemon for wife - $10
8 March - Cash - to John Lemon for wife - $15
8 April - Cash - to W. J. MacDonald - $25
12 May - Cash - to W. J. MacDonald - $25

"Captain Parsons is down here just now, for since Richard has been deprived of Mr. Burnaby, he is always going to bring down an officer with him, as he has no notion of being so "snubbed" and put on one side.  All the Officers agreed in the arrangement, and Captain Parsons volunteered the 1st visit."

--1st September, 1859,
The Letters of Mary S. Moody

Parsons, as the only non-volunteer of the Detachment, left his last posting rather abruptly.  He had been in Ireland at the time of his recall to London.  While he was in Irelan, he asked a young lady to wait for him for 4 years.  By September 1859, it had been 13 months since he had asked her to wait for him.

"Captain Parsons is very Home-sick, most anxious to get away."

-- 1st Sept 1859, Mary S. Moody

Yesterday we dined out!!! in the Town, at the Custom House with Mr. Hamley and the Spauldings, The Governor, Richard, Captains Parsons and Luard and Dr. Seddall, we all went down in the Boat, and really as we told Captain Parsons, he ought to be very glad to have such a good dinner only 9 months after having lived, on the same spot, and having had nothing but salt pork and Blue Jays!"

--11 October 1859, Mary S. Moody

Parsons was also in charge of RE lithographic press in British Columbia.

New Westminster
November 21st 1859

Prints from Negatives

5 - Harrison Lillooet Route (maps)
2 - Boston Bar Trail (bad)
2 - Lt. Mayne's Map
1 - Indian Burial Ground at Hope
3 - RE camp - New Westminster
1 - RE camp (Duplicate)
1 - Hope (bad)
3 - Douglas
2 - Prints from Leaves

A few prints have been expended in reduction of maps.  A few accompanied Lt. Palmer's report.  Copies of meterological diagrams have been given away to illustrate the form in which they are kept.  A few other prints have been given away.

Negative Plates:

5 - Reductions of Harrison Lillooet Route
2 - Reductions of Lt. Mayne's Map
3 - Reductions of Meteorological Diagrams
2 - Reduction of New Westminster
3 - Douglas and Harrison Lake
1 - Indian Burial Ground at Hope
4 - Hope and Boston Bar Trail (bad)
4 - RE Camp
1 - Camp garden
1 - Officer's Quarters
1 - Tsimmana with transparancy
1 - Lt. Blake, R. M.
1 - Colonel Moody and Indian
1 - Dr. Seddall, Mr. Brown, R.M.

Sundry unsuccessful attempts at the Mountains near N.W. and a few spoilt plates.  Very few printed.  Captain Lempriere was the only purchaser of a few prints and his money was advanced to him.

Captain R. M. Parsons, RE


As the first Christmas in the Colony neared, the Camp was filled with activity.


We have had a gay time during Christmas here.  Our Lt. Gov. Col. Moody, gave a dinner on Friday last, to which a large party were invited.  On Saturday, many private parties were given in camp, and the Men employed in cutting various trails came into the city; these, joined the Men employed on the wharves, formed themselves into a band, each armed with a candle, and gave a serenade at nearly every home.  A Christmas Carol in a noisy way.  All the inhabitants received them well, with scarcely any exception, and were only too glad to see the bones and sinew of the country enjoying themselves, and received the honor that was done them in the best of spirit, paying all largesse required.  Christmas Day being Sunday, was of course devoted to its proper use, without festivities.  On Monday, the Non-commissioned officers gave a Ball at the theatre, that they have erected by private subscription amongst themselves, which went off very well, to which most of the inhabitants received an invitation, and on Tuesday the festivities were ended by the Officers giving a grand dinner at their Mess-room, to which several ladies received invitations, and every thing passed off pleasantly.

--7th January, 1860
The Weekly British Colonist

During this time, John Palliser, the explorer, visited the Camp.

"Shortly after this I went myself to visit a part of British Columbia, and was most kindly and hospitably entertained by Captain Parsons, Col. Moody and the officers of the Royal Engineers quartered at New Westminster.  The site, distant on the river about 1 1/2 miles above the town, chosen by Col. Moody and the engineers as the site for the barracks and the officers' houses, is preferable to that chosen for the site of the town.  But it is worth serious consideration, whether it would not be more advisable to proceed about 18 miles up the river and choose the site where Fort Langley now stands, where there is a good deal of naturally cleared land, and the timber not formidable.  The site of Fort Langley for a British town would have this disadvantage, it is on the same side of the river as the American boundary line."

 -- January, 1860,
From Appendix IV, pg. 537
Letters of John Palliser.

Life in the Camp continued to unfold and Social activities increased in the Winter Seasons.

"As a birthday "treat" I must try and give you a full line and particular account of the rise, progress and termination of the ball at the Camp.  I told you that we were intending to have a little party.  Dr. Seddall took the entire management and arranged everything.  We now have the whole house to ourselves, so we have plenty of room, the Drawing Room, Library and Dining Room are all down-stairs, the Library is the only one we have furnished and we use it as a Drawing Room.  The Dining Room was the Doctor's,  the Drawing Room was Captain Luard's .  The Doctor fixed to have the Dancing in the empty drawing room, and he had it all decorated for the occasion, the large recess of the bow window was fitted as an orchestra, the windows curtained with Scarlet blankets, relieved with golden Chinese banners.  The Ceiling was festooned with evergreens and faded leaves, the walls decorated with bayonets festooned, lamps and garlands, Scarlet, blue and white bunting plaited in hanging loops all 'round the ceiling, a J.B. over the mantle piece.  You have no idea how nice the room looked, how I wish you could have seen it!  The library drawing room was used as a Tea room, the dining room decorated as a supper room, flags and banners etc.  We mustered 10 ladies all dressed in ball costume, Mrs. Grant in pink beige with flowers, Mrs. Bacon pink Moire Antique, Mrs. Homer in white, Mrs. Spalding in blue Moire, Mrs. Pritchard in black net, Mrs. Moody in black net decorated with pink ribbons.  I apprise you I felt quite respectable, once more!

They all came at 8, soon after dancing began which was kept up till 3 A.M!  Richard allowed me to dance all night and I assure you I thoroughly enjoyed myself.

We sat down 26 to supper, and about 8 were left without seats.  I took very little trouble in the party, the Doctor did it all his own way.  He laid the Supper, cut the sandwiches etc. Mr. Sheepshanks cut the bread and butter for tea, and superintended the final arrangements for supper.  Everybody in the Camp helped. 3 of the Men performed the music, the officer's Servants helped to wait, we borrowed the Mess table, tablecloth, Napkins, Candle-sticks, Cups, Plates, etc. glasses and candlesticks from Mrs. Grant.  Tea tray from one of the women.  You have no idea how well it all went off, everybody enjoyed themselves.  Certainly the Doctor deserves great credit for all his trouble.  We thought you would all have enjoyed to have taken a peep at our new mode of "roughing it in the bush".  I really was not very very tired after so much dancing.  I feared I should be as stiff as an old horse the next day, however, tho' I was obliged to get up at 6 the next morning I did not feel too tired.  I had not danced since I married before.  Captain Parsons and the Doctor wanted to persuade me to allow Zeffie and Dick to sit up, however I would not listed to that and packed them all off to bed before I went to dress."

-- 15th October, 1860,
from The Letters of Mary S. Moody

The "Camp Family" increased each year, with more and more children and Parsons appears to have been a favorite of the growing Moody family.

"It is a most fortunate event that your niece is not older, or she would grow up a regular little flirt, all the Gentlemen take so much notice of her and played so much with her, that it would never have done were she older - and here where we meet everybody 3 or 4 times a day.  You may suppose we are on very intimate terms.  Yesterday I discovered poor Captain Parsons with Dick on his back, wearing Zeffie's hat!" 

-- 15 October 1860,
Mary S. Moody

The work of laying out, surveying and mapping the Colony continued from Parsons' Survey Office.

"...There are 16 NCO's and Men of the Detachment of Engineers who have been trained on the Ordnance Survey, available for Survey duties in this Colony.

Of this number, 5 are qualified to take angular measurements, level, contour etc.; 5 are draughtsmen; 2 are good engravers; 1 is an Astronomical observer and computer, and the whole 16 are chain surveyors, and men of general intelligence.

I imagine the duties most suited to them are: general surveys, all details connected with laying out towns, settlements, etc., the checking of contracts..."

--1st January, 1861
Letter From Parsons to Moody


RE Camp, New Westminster
4th January, 1861


I beg to accompany these remarks with a few suggestions for the improvements of the existing Survey arrangements.

The present Survey Office consisting of two rooms, one above the other, is too small to afford the lower room to be appropriated as a Land Office, another room is likewise required for the use of the Officer in charge.

The floor of the upper room requires increased stability and both rooms should be pierced for more light.

The drawing Tables generally, require repair, another sloping table is needed together with a commodious Plan Box and Pigeon holes for Field Books etc.,

I submit also that there should be a Brick Fire-proof Safe constructed for the security of Official Plans and Documents, a portion of which may be made available for the safety of the State books and Papers connected with the Land Officer which at present are in danger of destruction in a wooden building.

I have the honor to state that I have no suggestions to offer as to the Regimental interior economy of the Survey Detachment as I do not see how alterations that might be more suitable to their peculiar duties could be effected, while the Men reside in the Camp of their comrades, and so long as they are such, as in the Ordnance Survey Divisions in Great Britain, entirely detached and under the command of the Survey Officer.

One remark may perhaps throw a light on many little difficulties; at home Men consider it a privelege to be employed on the Survey, on account of the many advantages they enjoy; and a disgrace to be sent from it to their ordinary duties: here, the Surveyors enjoying no advantages, no such feeling can exist, not under present circumstances could it be fostered.

I have the honor to be,
Your most obedient Servant,

RM Parsons, Captain RE

"I am getting very cross that both the Governor and the Bishop Continue to come to us whenever they visit the Colony, the Governor calls this "Government House" which it really is not, and comes here as a matter of course which is a nuisance.

I had quite a fright this morning. Walking out with Baby I met Captain Luard who said, "You know the Gun-boat is up and the Governor on board".  Soon I met Captain Parsons and I said "The Governor has come up on board the Gun-boat", he said "I am very sorry for you.".  Presently he came after me to try and persuade me that if the Governor were on board the Vessel would have come up to the camp.  And you can fancy what a reprieve it was when he sent to say it was not the Gunboat nor the Governor.  However the evil day must come sooner or later, I fear."

-- 12th February, 1861,
from The Letters of Mary S. Moody

Parsons, as part of the Camp Family, was a target of humor on the part Dr. Seddall.

"The Sappers have or rather are making a new road from here to the Sea (about 4 or 5 miles).  When it is finished we are going to have a picnic out there, the Gentlemen, Mrs. Bacon and myself.  The Doctor proposes that Captain Parsons should carry the Pie there and he volunteers to bring the Dish home."

--12th February, 1861,
from The Letters of Mary S. Moody

Miss Cracroft, niece of Lady Franklin, wrote of Parsons:

"Captain Parsons is the only person not a Volunteer (in the Detachment). He was on the Ordnance Survey of Ireland, and, an officer of his special acquirements being wanted, he was ordered out at very short notice." 

-- 6 March 1861, Sophia Cracroft.

"Today, Saturday, the Men have a whole Holiday in honour of lady Franklin's visit, it is a glorious day; and the whole Camp is alive, I have left Baby out with Miss Nagle, doubtless she will get assistance from the Doctor, Captain Parsons or Mr. Hankin, RN a Lieutenant who is in attendance on Lady Franklin."

--15th March, 1861,
from The Letters of Mary S. Moody

Colonel Moody, RE, accompanied by Captain Parsons and suite, left by the steamer "Colonel Moody" on Wednesday of last week on a tour through the upper country. We believe it is the Colonel's intention to inspect all the Public Works personally, and make himself better acquainted with the wants and resources of the colony. He will probably be absent about a month.

--5th September, 1861
The British Columbia

"I don't know when I shall hear from Richard again, he has never been away so far away before.  Captain Parsons is with him.  There is a difference of opinion in Camp as to which of the two will knock up first, they are both dyspeptic you know. I think the change will do them both good..." 

-- 12 September 1861,
Mary S. Moody

The box arrived last week...Tell dear Papa that the Bakledries gave us the greatest pleasure not only to the boys but to the Big Babies also.  He would have been much amused if he had seen Richard and Captain Parsons having a game, and then Mrs. Grant and me! while the gentlemen "held the Babies".  Mrs. Grant (who is a dreadful fidget about her Children) would not confide little Emily to Captain Parsons, so Richard had to hold her while Captain Parsons kept Petsie for me.

Gentlemen become experienced Nurses here, for they are obliged to help in holding the Babies.  If you are out walking and meet a gentleman he frequently says "Can't I relieve you of the Baby for a short time?" or if you are very tired and he does not volunteer such aid, it is quite customary to say" Do carry baby for me please."

--4th November, 1861,
From the letters of Mary S. Moody

The Royal Navy often visited the Camp as a Port of Call and invitations were often exchanged.

"HMS Plumper was here last week, and we all dined on board, we had a most elegant dinner, quite English, and a coal Fire which I most thoroughly enjoyed!  They all laughed at me when they came down after dinner, Mr. Sheepshanks said "Now, Mrs. Moody, I am quite sure you have been asleep!!".  It was a terribly wet night, and they all feared we would not go, however Mr. Sheepshanks and the Doctor both said, "I am sure Mrs. Moody will come."

-- 4th November, 1861,
from The Letters of Mary S. Moody

BENTINK INLET - We are indebted to the politeness of Captain Parsons, RE, for a sketch of the route from the head of the above Inlet to Alexandria.  The sketch is gotten up by Captain Venables, and lithographed by W. Oldman, RE, at the Survey Office here, and is artistically, a creditable production.

--12th November, 1861
The British Columbian

CM/13667A             British Columbia / prepared      1862
                               under the direction of Captain
                               Parsons at the Office of Lands
                               and Works ; reduced and drawn
                               by J. Conroy
ANDERSON, James Robert, 1841-1930.  Victoria; accountant, Deputy
Minister of Agriculture.
Originals, 1824, 1858-1927, 2.16 m

BC Archives

Parsons was officially promoted to Captain on 1 April 1862.

"Dearest Richard is still at Victoria, he and Captain Luard are both there, nor do they talk of returning, I am getting very tired of being alone.  The Doctor and Captain Parsons are very good, in doing all they can for us.  They come in 3 or 4 times a day to see how we are getting on. "

-- 3rd April, 1862,
from The Letters of Mary S. Moody

"Mr. and Mrs. Crease (Attorney General) have come up to their new house near us, they arrived before the workmen were out of it, without a Servant of any kind...I really felt so sorry for Mrs. Crease that Captain Parsons (during Richard's absence) advised me to go at once to see her, he went over with me, and we brought her 3 little girls back, Mrs. Crease coming over in the evening to put them to bed, and leaving after breakfast."

-- 20th May, 1862,
from The Letters of Mary S. Moody

"8th August, 1862 - Rode about 13 miles and got a good open and grassy country for the road, in coming home got orders to meet Capt. Parsons at Capt. Martlys , at the Grange, rode up the Mountain and slept at the Hay Ranch.

9th August, 1862 - Started at 5 am. from the Hay ranch and met Capt. Parsons about 9 am , returned in Capt. Parsons company to camp in the evening, and I was well pleased to hear Captain Parsons express himself so well pleased at the Road as we rode along, but when I was told that he was Inspecting Officer, the handsome manner he spoke of my trouble in bringing the  Road thro such a difficult part, and the marked improvement seen on the Road since I joined, made me think that my care and trouble was all as nothing since I got my Officer's Approval.

11th August, 1862 - Fine. Shifted camp about 16 miles from Pavillion Mountain to Brown's Cut Off.  Capt. Parsons shifted at the same time, we are all encamped together.

16th August, 1862 - Fine.  Sent a copy of examination with my report on the road, with length made to Capt. Parsons RE to be forwarded to Col. Mood, RE and at the same time by order of Capt. Parsons gave a copy to Mr. Colbreath for Mr. Wright Contractor.

--from Journal of Serjeant McMurphy RE

"I have not written since the 9th when we had grand rejoicings in honour of the Prince of Wales.  It was a very stormy night however they sent a waggon round for the Company so we got there dry, we had a nice little party of our own I mean from the Camp, 3 young ladies, the Archdeacon's family, the Officers and ourselves, so we got on very nicely.  We intended to have left early, but we really enjoyed it very much, and were much surprised to find it 5 minutes past 4 when we reached home!

The ball was on the 11th, on the 10th the Officers dined with us and the Archdeacon and his daughter, so we were quite gay you see."

--24th November, 1862,
From the Letters of Mary S. Moody

"Captain Parsons is really as "low" as Richard is, but then we fancy he left his heart in Ireland and promised to go back in 4 years, and the time being up I tell him he is afraid the young lady won't wait any longer!"

--24th November, 1862,
From the Letters of Mary S. Moody

"We have had a very quiet Christmas time. The Children spent one day at the Grant's , on New year's day we had the Officers, Grants and Mr. Sheepshanks to lunch - 16 in all."

--7th January, 1863,
from The Letters of Mary S. Moody

Mrs. Moody gives birth to another child in January, 1863, Moody leaves for Victoria  and the Moody household is short staffed.

"The Children have been all so good. The Doctor: so kind and attentive. He and Captain Parsons have been Papa, Mama and Nurse to the bigger ones."

--30th January, 1863
from The Letters of Mary S. Moody

"We have been very gay lately.  Captain Luard and Doctor Seddall are engaged to two sisters, Miss Leggatts, and the ladies have just paid us a visit, nearly 3 weeks.  You can fancy that two such visitors have made the place quite gay -- a dinner party here and at the Mess, Concerts, Theatricals, Riding parties, and a Ball in the Mess Room -- Picnics,  &c &c &c  The Ball was quite a success -- five young ladies, four to engaged to be married -- I enjoyed it very much and danced until 5 am.  Richard got very tired but we were obliged to stay till the end.  The RE Band played beautifully, the room was prettily decorated and the Supper first rate - Mrs. Bonson.

The Ball did us all good, fancy there being want of gentlemen!!!  We were much vexed that Captain Luard would not send down to Victoria for some.  The Ladies were very nicely dressed.  The Miss Leggatts wore white silk plain, with cherry coloured sashes, broad rushings of the same at the top of the lace berthe, and one rose in their hair -- they looked so nice, we all felt quite proud of them, for now of course we feel that they belong to us (the Camp Family)."

--12 May 1863, Mary S Moody

July 16th, 1863.

In the morning, while I was sitting at lunch with Parsons of the Engineers, in came the Archdeacon with the very kind offer of his horse to take with me.  Parsons and I consulted a little and came to the conclusion to accept it, which I did with much gratitude.

--Edmund Hope Verney, Lt., RN,
Commander, HMS Gunboat Grappler

Parsons returns to England, with the other Officers of the Detachment, in November of 1863.

Captain Parsons returned to his work in the Survey of Great Britain and worked at Chatham.  While there in 1867, Parsons was contacted by his old comrade Dr. Seddall to act as witness at his marriage.

Marriage Form #4
Report of Officer's Marriage made for the purpose of its being recorded at the War Office, with the view to fascilitate the Settlement of any Claim that may be made on behalf of the Officer's Family, in the event of his Death.
Officer's name John Vernon Seddall
Age 35 years 5 months
Regiment Royal Engineers
Maiden Names of the Lady at full length

Ellen Golding 

Age 30 years 7 months
Date of marriage 5 Feb 1867

Place where ceremony was performed

St Nicholas Church, Rochester
Names of Officiating Clerymen Rev John E White
Rev C. Basauquet


R.M. Parsons, Capt RE
Clara Golding
Eliza Brooke

An Ordnance Survey unit similar to Parsons' in 1868

Superintendant of Ordnance Survey Office, Southampton, 1869.

Made Fellow of the Royal Society (FRS) 2 June 1870

Promoted to Major 5 July 1872

Promoted to Lieutenant-Colonel 8 March 1873

Promoted to Army Colonel 8 March 1878

Promoted to Army Major-General 29 October 1879

Retired 29 October 1879

Parson's home in 1897 at 21 Hyde-Vale, Greenwich, Kent, England.

Died at Greenwich, 20 May 1897, a bachelor

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