N.R. Parvin – Like Father, Like Son.

On July 5, 1851, Newton Ray Parvin was born in Muscatine, Iowa – the son of Theodore Sutton (T.S.) (left) and Agnes McCully Parvin (right).

In 1850, the town of Bloomington – located on the Mississippi River – changed its name to Muscatine. Read more here.

Growing up as the middle child of T.S. Parvin and his wife, Agnes, might have been a bit intimidating, since the Parvin family had become pretty well-known around the state of Iowa by the mid-1850’s.

We have the full story here, but quickly I’ll review. Theodore S. Parvin came to Iowa in 1838, traveling here by steamboat with his new employer – Governor Robert Lucas. As a young 21-year old, looking to fulfill a long-time dream, Parvin hooked up with Lucas, serving as his private secretary when he was appointed by President Martin Van Buren to be Iowa Territory’s first governor in 1838. Arriving in Burlington on August 15, 1838, Parvin soon became an intricate part of Iowa history – setting up Iowa’s first library (1839), and playing an integral part in the creation of the State University of Iowa (1847). In the late 1850’s, when Newton was still a young boy, the Parvin’s moved from Muscatine to Iowa City, where his father, T.S., was invited to serve on the staff of SUI, appointed to the board of trustees, and elected curator of the cabinet of natural history and librarian.

Click here to read about South Hall – the home of SUI in the early days.

In that capacity, T.S. was asked to prepare space at the university for a library and to procure books from the State Library that had been donated to the school. He also devoted a portion of his time to collecting and classifying specimens of geology and natural history, and in 1859, was named professor of chemistry and geology, being named chair of the Department of Natural History in 1861, and serving as a professor until 1870.

Read the full T.S. Parvin story here – one of Iowa’s earliest historians.

(JP-010) While in Iowa City, T.S. Parvin became one of the earliest organizers of the State Historical Society of Iowa, serving several years as its secretary (1864-1866) and as editor of the Annals of Iowa, a historical magazine published by the society.

An extremely active Mason, T.S. became a Mason in Cincinnati in 1838. After arriving in Iowa, he helped found several of the early Masonic lodges in Iowa, including those in Burlington and Bloomington (Muscatine). He was involved with the formation of the Grand Lodge of Iowa in 1844 and was elected Grand Secretary, a position he kept until his death in 1901. In 1844, he recommended that the Grand Lodge of Iowa form a Masonic library. The resolution was approved, and a small allocation was provided in 1845. During its early years, the library was a nomadic institution remaining with T.S, wherever he lived. Which, now, brings us to T.S.’ middle son…

Growing up Iowa City, young Newton R. Parvin learned the trade of wood-working. In his obituary (see below), it’s mentioned that many had forgotten this side of Parvin’s life.

By 1872, N.R. joined his father in the office of the Masonic Grand Secretary in Iowa City, where he remained as a clerk and Deputy Grand Secretary until the death of T. S. Parvin in 1901. Newton was then elected Grand Secretary, where he served until his death in 1925 – keeping Masonic traditions going in Iowa for 80 years!

(JP-071) Above is a rare postcard sent by N.R. Parvin from the Grand Lodge office in Iowa City on January 13, 1876. Below is a rare postal cover and letter from Parvin in Iowa City to Philadelphia on September 30, 1882. On both occasions, N.R. is working as Deputy Secretary to his father – T.S. Parvin – who is Grand Secretary, living in Iowa City.

In 1877, Newton married his Iowa City childhood sweetheart – Emma Middleton. Together, they had three children – Alma Louise (1878-1958), Nellie Middleton (1880-1911) and Charles Middleton Parvin (1882-1949). Sadly, Emma died, at age 38, in 1894. You can read her amazing story below…

Helping his father move the Grand Lodge to Cedar Rapids in 1885, N.R. Parvin become Grand Secretary in 1901 following T.S.’ death. As the group’s leader, Newton became one of the founders of the National Masonic Research Society, of which he was a Steward and First Vice-President. From his obituary, we learn more about his 24 years as Grand Secretary…

Amazingly, Newton R. Parvin goes on to finish an 80-year Parvin-family run – overseeing one of the largest Masonic Libraries & Museums in the world.

Throughout Iowa, the top news story on January 17, 1925 was the factory collapse in Clinton, but if that disaster had not occurred, the head story in most Iowa newspapers would have been the death of Newton R. Parvin

Below is the AP Press story that was carried in most newspapers across the state, followed by another report (January 19, 1925) from The Iowa City Press-Citizen

Newton R. Parvin died in Cedar Rapids on January 16, 1925, at age 73, and funeral services were held January 20th, in the charge of the Grand Lodge of Cedar Rapids. N.R. and his wife, Emma, are both buried with T.S. & Agnes Parvin in Oakland Cemetery in Iowa City.

T.S. Parvin & H.R. Parvin – truly, a deep father-son connection that impacted so many across Iowa. Godspeed.

Kudos to the amazing resources below for the many quotes, photographs, etc. used on this page.

Parvin, Newton Ray, Masonic Encyclopedia

Parvin, Newton R., September 30, 1882 (Deputy Grand Secretary, Grand Lodge of Iowa, Iowa City, Iowa), Internet Archive

Muscatine History, City of Muscatine

At The Old Home – Emma Parvin, Cedar Rapids Gazette, September 4, 1894, p 2

Iowa Masonic Library & Museum, Cedar Rapids, GrandLodgeofIowa.org

N.R. Parvin Mourned By Iowa Masons, Davenport-Rock Island-Moline Daily Times, January 17, 1925, p 1, 2

Newton R. Parvin Dies Here, The Evening Gazette, January 17, 1925, p 1

Masons Bury State Secretary Tuesday, Iowa City Press Citizen, January 17, 1925, p 1

Newton Parvin Burial Is Set For Tomorrow, Iowa City Press Citizen, January 19, 1925, p 5

Agnes Olive McCully Parvin, Find-A-Grave

Theodore Sutton Parvin, Find-A-Grave

Emma Middleton Parvin, Find-A-Grave

Newton Ray Parvin, Find-A-Grave

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