Boatman Billy & the Revolution

The Parker family, as many families still do today, passed names down through the generations. A look at the family tree reveals many Peters, Josephs, Williams, and Roberts. This makes it challenging when searching deeds, newspapers, and other materials to learn about the family.


William Parker, referred to in the family as Rich Billy was born September 7, 1736 in Shrewsbury. (Shrewsbury was a huge area centered in modern Shrewsbury reaching into what is now Ocean County and included what we call Little Silver, Eatontown, Fair Haven, Oceanport and Long Branch.)


William Parker, referred to in the family as Boatman Billy, was born in 1746 in Shrewsbury. Both Williams died in 1818 and so both were potential participants in the Revolutionary War. They were both Quakers, however.


During the time of the Revolutionary War the Rumson peninsula was occupied largely by Quaker farmers. The farmers had little reason to be upset with England, but were not really Tories. They would not be classified as Patriots either. They were peaceful people who minded their farms and probably preferred to stay out of the war raging around them. (Sandy Hook was used by Loyalist as a staging area for raids into northern Monmouth county and, of course, there were many battles inland during the war such as the Battle of Monmouth in Freehold with Molly Pitcher. Troops from both sides undoubtably passed through the peninsula and shots were probably fired.)


Captain William Parker  maintained a large farm and also had an interest in sailing ships used in commerce between Philadelphia, New York and Boston. This business earned him the nickname "Boatman Billy" (and the title "captain"???). During the Revolutionary War, Billy, a Quaker, refused to join the up with the Patriots which upset the local men who were fighting. It is believed that they threatened his life causing him to hide in the woods for several days.


Julia tells the story that these same men planned to burn Christ Church in Shrewsbury. This "Church of England" had a round wooden ball with an iron crown on the top of its spire and Patriots had made unsuccesful attempts to shoot the crown down.  One day when Boatman Billy was in Shrewsbury he saw several men start a fire under one end of the church. He hid until the men left and then smothered out the flames with his coat.


After the end of the War, Boathman Billy added two more buildings to the homestead. The cowbarn, which had stalls for 6 cows, and the wagonhouse. (A woodshed was added to the east side of the wagonhouse later. Much later, in 1925, a shed was added to the wet side for storage of the farm wagon, woodsled and other tools.)

Family History