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William E. Parnall

William Edward Parnall, one of the best-known copper-mining superintendents of the Upper Peninsula, Michigan, was born in St. Austell, Cornwall, England on June 2, 1839, the son of Mary Vivian and Christopher Parnall, a stone mason. He attended a boarding school until he was 12 years old, then worked for a while as an apprentice carpenter working in London. After that he worked as a miner at Buckler's tin mine, St. Austell, until 1857, when he had reached the age of age 18 and emigrated to America. He first worked on a railroad tunnel in South Carolina, than in the coal mines of Virginia, Tennessee and Pennsylvania.

In 1860 he moved to Ontonagon County, Michigan, where he found work as a miner in the National mine in Rockland. In two years he became mine captain there and remained in that post for eight more years, then worked for 18 months in the Franklin mine. In 1871 he went to Rhode Island and took charge of a coal mine there, but found he preferred hardrock mining. He returned to the Phoenix mine in Keweenaw County and took charge there as mine captain for the next seven years. In 1880 he took charge of the National mine. From 1890 until his death he was in charge of the Tamarack mine, the Osceola Consolidated mine, the Isle Royale mine, and the North and South Kearsarge mines. His son, William E. Parnall, Jr., was his assistant.

In 1864 he married Isabelle Gregg, who died in 1872. Three years later he married Mary Gregg., who survived him, as did his sons Samuel A.(1865), William E .Jr. (b. 1868), and Christopher Parnall (b. 1880), and a daughter, Isabelle Helen (born May 1882). He died February 4, 1903, in Tamarack, Michigan. According to Canfield (1923), his mineral collection consisted of about 500 Copper Country specimens, many of them of the finest quality. They were divided between his sons.

Since his sons took possession of the collection, they are described below, in the hope that someone can track down the present-day location of the specimens.

SONS of William E. Parnall:

Samuel Alexander Parnall was born in August 1865. He was a graduate of the first class of the Michigan Mining School in 1888; by 1900 he was working as a mine superintendant in Globe, Arizona, and spent his career at mines throughout the western states and Mexico. He married Lauriette C. Coombs in 1898, and they had four children: Margaret (b. 1900; moved to Los Angeles by 1922), Mary (b. 1901; died unmarried in Orange County, California on November 17, 1995), Sam (b. 1904; died in Monterey County, California on November 6, 1963) and Katherine (b. 1908; Katherine Parnall Townsend, died in Monterey County, California on May 4, 1989). By 1910 he had moved to Denver and was working there as a mining engineer. He died in Monterey County, California on June 11, 1950.

William Edward Parnall, Jr. was born November 24, 1868. He married Mabel M. ___ in 1900. Around 1920 he quit mining for a while and tried farming in Blackman, Jackson County, Michigan. In 1930 he was working again as a mining engineer in Los Gatos, Santa Clara County, California. He died January 13, 1946, in San Francisco. He had a son, Mark Parnall, born January 18,1902, who moved to Detroit and went into Automobile advertising (1930); he died in Tucson, Arizona in March 1980.

Christopher Gregg Parnall was born July 2, 1880. In 1898 he was working as an engineer at the Tamarack mine, but had higher aspirations. He attended the University of Michigan Medical School, graduating in 1904, worked in private practice as a gynecologist until 1915, served as Director of Public Health in hospitals from 1915-1918, and from 1918 to 1924 was serving as Director of the University of Michigan hospital in Ann Arbor. He married (1) Erma Hills, and (2) Jean ___. In 1925 he was appointed Medical Director of Rochester General Hospital in Rochester, New York, and served as President of the American Hospital Association; he also served in the military as a Major during World War II. In 1947 he retired to Ann Arbor where he worked as a hospital building consultant. He died November 6, 1960. He had three sons: Christopher Jr. (b. 1908), Edward (1904-1993; who became an orthopedic surgeon; wife Angelina), and Robert (1910-1998), all living in Rochester in the 1930s. Christopher Jr. moved to Ann Arbor in 1938, Robert Moved to New Haven, Connecticut, probably to attend Yale, and Edward settled in Albuquerque.


ANON. (1903) Deaths: Mine Captain William Edward Parnall. The Mining Gazette, Houghton, Michigan, February 5.
ANON. (1903) Obituary: William E. Parnall. Colliery Engineer, April 1903, p. 409.
World War I Draft Registration Cards, 1917-1918.
U.S. Federal Census, 1850-1930.
Rochester City Directory, 1936-
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