James PARRETT, conducting a successful business as a photographer at Wenona, where he has a well equipped art gallery, was born in Magnolia, Putnam county, Illinois, on the 7th of May, 1857. He is a son of William E. and Emily J. (DENT) PARRETT, natives of Virginia. The mother in writing of early reminiscences said in part: "My grandfather was Captain John DENT, a captain in the Revolutionary war, and his father was John DENT of England, who, with his brother Frederick, came from Yorkshire, England, to Maryland, in the early days of the colony. My mother's father was William BERKSHIRE. My mother was born at Cumberland, on the Potomac, and moved to West Virginia when quite young, living then near the Dent home. Both of my grandfathers owned beautiful homes and large plantations in West Virginia, where the family lived in the customary style of the prosperous planter. It was on the morning of October 5, 1834, that we (Mrs. PARRETT, her parents, brothers and sisters) started overland from West Virginia to Illinois with one large covered wagon called a prairie schooner, drawn by four fine horses." The party traveled after the primitive manner of the times, stopping at night at some tavern in a town or engaging lodgings from a farmer. The mother prepared all the meals while en route, the family enjoying a hot meal in the morning and evening, while dining off of cold victuals at noon. Prior to this time John and Enoch DENT, the father's brothers, had come to Illinois and eventually the party of travelers reached the home of Enoch DENT on the 8th of November, 1834. The family lived in true pioneer style in a log cabin. They had two chairs which they brought with them and the father made three three-legged stools. It was a life of privation and hardships in many ways, but after all a happy life, and thus the DENT family was established in Illinois, Becoming pioneer residents and taking their part in the development of their portion of the state.
William E. PARRETT, father of our subject, was also an early resident of this state and made the first reaper in Illinois. He had a shop at Magnolia and his old sign, bearing date 1848, is still hanging above the shop. He likewise established a foundry at Pontiac, Illinois, which he conducted for some time and subsequently settled in Wenona, where he was engaged in the agricultural implement business. He thus figured in the industrial and commercial interests of central Illinois and was also prominent in public affairs, serving at one time as county judge of Putnam county. In the family were eight children, of whom one died in infancy, while seven are still living, namely: Orange, who resides at Priscilla, Illinois; Mrs. Belle GRAY, of Rutland, this state; William, a locomotive engineer; Emma, the wife of Frank MITCHELL, of Michigan City, Indiana; Mary, the wife of Charles A. WHITNEY, of Lostant, Illinois; James; and Hattie, the wife of T. L. TAYLOR, of Streator, Illinois.
James PARRETT was educated in the public schools and accompanied his parents on their various removals, arriving with them in Wenona in 1867 when he was ten years of age. He learned photography in Streator and on the 1st of December, 1884, established himself in business in Wenona, where he has since conducted a gallery. His studio is well arranged and well equipped for the successful conduct of the business and he does most artistic and satisfactory work, keeping in touch with the advanced ideas and most modern inventions known to the representatives of the art. He is a member of the state and national association of photographers and thus keeps in touch with what is being done by the profession throughout the country.
On the 31st of December, 1885, Mr. PARRETT was united in marriage to Miss May STONER, of Wenona, and they have two sons, Dent and Henry Tullis. The mother is a member of the Presbyterian church. Mr. PARRETT belongs to the Woodmen camp and the Yeomen Society. He has been a member of the school board for several years and also its secretary for a considerable time, and he served for one term as city alderman. He is interested in municipal affairs to the extent of giving hearty aid to many movements for the general good. At the same time he carefully conducts his business interests and is a leading photographer of this part of Illinois.
Extracted July 2011 by Norma Hass from Past and Present of Marshall and Putnam Counties Illinois, 1907.