My name is
Frank Parrish. I was born a slave in
Davidson County in 1804. But I was
lucky. My mother’s name was Cleracy. She was a slave of the Parrish family. When Mr. Parrish died, he left directions
that his wife was to pay special attention to me. Even though I was still a slave, I was allowed
to live and work in town.
lucky thing for me was that my master allowed me to officially marry Fanny
Dismukes, who was also a slave. The
undersigned Masters of Frank Parrish and Fanny Dismukes do agree to their
marriage and request the clerk of the county court to issue license.”
Fanny and I
were married on November 26, 1829, by the Justice of the Peace. Take a look at
this license – you may never see another slave marriage license.
Just a few
years after we were married, I opened my first barbershopon Deaderick Street
near the Courthouse. And in 1836, I
opened a Bathing House next door. I ran an advertisement on the front page of
the newspaper, inviting the public to enjoy “the
luxury of the falling spray” or “a cold shower” or “a tepid bath.”We told
Ladies that separate apartments had been prepared for them and that “female
servants will always in readiness to attend them.” The Bath House was open every day from 6 in
the morning to 10 at night. Gentlemen
were encouraged to purchase collars, suspenders, fancy soaps, perfumes as well
as cigars and tobacco at the Barber Shop.
Fanny and I
were blessed with a son James. The City
of Nashville was a sickly place to live. Typhoid, diphtheria and cholera reached epidemics every few years. My dear wife Fanny was carried off in 1846. I
had carved on her tombstone, “Fanny Fond Wife of Frank Parrish.” And my son James, only 19 years old, died
three years later. I buried them both in
the City Cemetery.
In 1850 U.S.
Census, I am proud to tell you that I am listed as a “Free Inhabitant of
Davidson County. ”My mother Cleracy came to live at my house that year.
invitation came along which I just could not refuse. I was invited to travel abroad as Mr. Ewing’s servant.In 1851, Randal McGavock, Edwin H. Ewing and
I travelled in Europe and then to the Middle East. I rather wish we had not gone to Egypt. Angry peasants attacked our boat in the Nile
River. I helped to save Mr. Ewing’s life
but I got shot in the neck during the fracas.
opportunity for marriage came my way. In
his 1854will, David M. Harding wrote “I emancipate and set free from bondage
forever Priscilla and her children.” One
of her children was my second wife, Sarah Jane Harding. Mr. Harding made it clear that “The share
given to Frank Parrish’s wife Sarah Jane was not liable to Frank’s debts.” Well, that was all right by me. Sarah Jane did not have long to enjoy her new
freedom and our marriage.She died in 1856.
In her will she left all her property to “my beloved husband Frank
died the same year. I was lonely. I met a pretty young girl Priscilla and she
agreed to marry me. She was really
young, only 18. And I was 56.
if you were a “free man of color” and you were in trade in the City of
Nashville at the outbreak of the Civil War, you were in luck. The City of Nashville was surrendered and
occupied by Federal troops in February 1862.
Little boys watched thesoldiers parade from the steamboat wharf to the
Public Square and they shouted out “Blue Man’s Coming.” And these soldiers needed everything that we
could provide for them: shaves & haircuts,
baths, laundry, cooking and entertainments.
I had just opened my fourth barber shop in the St. Cloud Hotel on Church
Street, catty cornered from the Presbyterian Church. And what do you know, that hotel would become
the Federal Army Headquarters. I was
When the war
was over, I knew all the former slaves and free men of color needed to get busy
and make money. I helped to organize the Freedman’s Bank in Nashville and to
set up the Colored Barbers Association. You know that a good living can be made
as a Barber. I can prove it. By the way, the Colored Barbers Association
promised to close all the barber shops in Nashville on the day of my funeral.
But I am only 61 years old so that important occasion will have to wait.
Addenda for Frank Parrish
of City of Nashville in 1850.
white people, 2,028 slaves and 511 free
Frank Parrish bought a lot in City Cemetery.
There he buried his mother and there he would be buried in 1867.
A Replacement Tombstone for Frank Parrish and
Cleracy Parrish was installed at City Cemetery in 2013.
This was project of the Nashville City
Parrish died, he had three obituaries in the local newspapers.
And the Barber Shops did close on the day of
Union & American. June 4, 1867
Frank Parrish on Sunday was largely attended.
All the barbershops were closed
and the Barber’s Society turned out to the number of 100.
The body was interred in City Cemetery.”