Tag Archives: Jennie Gay

The Story Behind the Plaque of Parson’s Tavern

Through some valuable information from Springfield Museums, our class found that Ginny Gay was later named Jennie Gay. Due to this discovery, it made things much easier for us to uncover more. We have sources that provided us with the knowledge that Jennie Gay worked at the Parsons Tavern when she was in her teens. Jennie was born in 1777, and worked for Eleazer Williams at the Parsons Tavern. Jennie worked as a cook here, which was a very uncommon job amongst African-American women. Jennie likely worked that this hotel/tavern for over ten years – until the early 1800’s. Our previous hypothetical ideas of Jennie working at the Massasoit House (A hotel for runaway slaves in Springfield), is lacking evidence. Jennie working at this underground railroad hotel is not impossible, but there is a lack of evidence depicting that she worked here as she was not part of the consensus. Jennie would have been in her mid-sixties by the time the Massasoit House was built in 1843 (after the railroad made its way through Springfield). Jennie passed away at the age of 83 due to “lung fever” one January 16th, 1860. This hotel clearly had great significance with its location as it was on route from New York to Boston; it housed president George Washington for a night whilst he was on his way to Boston; a year later, president James Monroe also stayed the night there. Now, we will be looking more into the Parson’s family and try to uncover more information on them as a whole. Also, I personally will be attempting to make a statement to rewrite the plaque written in commemoration of the tavern. I will need to

This is the current plaque in the spot that commemorates the Parson’s Tavern that I will be attempting to rewrite in order to depict more historical significance.

See Below – This is the Twitter conversation we had with multiple historians in order to find more information on Jennie Gay and the Parson’s Tavern.

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Jennie Gay & The Parson’s Tavern

After some crucial weeks of research and networking, twitter provided us with very important and necessary information on Jennie Gay, who we formerly thought was named Ginney. She was an African American cook in a hotel/tavern during the 1800s, which was very rare during that time period. I have been searching for information online and on twitter and finally received an informative response from the Springfield Museums twitter account. The Curator of Library and Archives discovered that Jennie Gay was born in 1777 and worked at the Parsons Tavern, beginning in the 1790s. Owned by Eleazer Williams, the tavern was a well-known establishment in Springfield, Massachusetts, which accommodated George Washington in 1789. It was very rare during this time period to have an African American woman employed as a chef in a tavern, which leads me to the question, who was Eleazer Williams? He had high profile clients staying at the tavern, such as James Monroe and George Washington, and he employed an African American woman to cook for them. Through the Springfield Museums twitter response, I learned that Williams was a very outgoing and energetic man, who was ahead of his time. Everyone who stayed in the tavern loved him because of his humor and kindness. This is most likely the reason why he did not mind hiring Jennie Gay, he was comfortable with his clients and felt that it was acceptable to hire an African American woman. I would, however, like to find out how he met Jennie and what made him choose her over the many other cooks available at the time. I will look deeper into this subject and I hope to receive a response at some point.396_1800sc-2Bocaip.jpg