Samuel Goodrich, Alias Peter Parley
Few residents of the Jamaica Plain district, if any, can recall the author of children’s histories and of schoolbooks upon an infinite variety of subjects, the publisher of magazines and almanacs, the all-round literary gentleman, Samuel Griswold Goodrich, known as "Peter Parley" at the height of his fame, who built the now vacant stone mansion on Montebello Rd. for his own occupancy in 1833.
Mr. Goodrich came to Boston from Hartford in 1824. He was a native of Ridgefield, a little Connecticut town, the son of a clergyman, and at Hartford, where he published John Trumbull’s political works he had already begun his career.
In 1829 Mr. Goodrich commenced in Boston the publication of a little magazine he called "The Token" which he continued for 12 years, and it was as the editor of "The Token" that he received many anonymous sketches from the suburban village of Concord, which he regarded with much favor. Upon seeking the author of these productions of more than ordinary merit, Mr. Goodrich learned that a gentleman who signed his name "N. Hawthorne" was the responsible party. Hawthorne became a regular contributor to "The Token" and Mr. Goodrich had the honor of being the first publisher of the world-renowned romancer. These "Token" sketches afterward formed the basis of the famous book "Twice-Told Tales," which has such a high place in English literature.
But Mr. Goodrich himself was one of the most prolific writers in the annals of American authorship. He said some time before his death in 1860 that he had written 170 books and that many of them had been translated into other languages. At that time it was estimated that 8,000,000 copies of his books had been sold. Of one book alone, "Peter Parley’s Geography for Children," the reported sale reached 2,000,000 copies.
Mr. Goodrich originally purchased in 1833 about 45 acres of "wilderness land" as he called it, for his West Boylston or Jamaica Plain home, paying $4000, or less than $100 per acre for the property. He secured his deed from the heirs of Dr. John Warren.
In August 1833, he bought of Ex-President J.Q. Adams, as trustee for the estate of Ward Nicholas Boylston, a parcel of adjoining forest. Among the witnesses to this latter transaction were Charles Francis and John Adams.
In 1837 Mr. Goodrich was a member of the State House of Representatives from Roxbury, and in 1838 and 1839 he was the Roxbury Senator.
With the accession of President Fillmore in 1850, Mr. Goodrich was appointed to the lucrative office of Consul General at Paris, a place he managed to hold until 1855, when, in spite of great efforts made to retain him by personal friends, he was succeeded by some good Democrat and supporter of President Pierce. At the same time his old contributor to the little "Token" magazine, Hawthorne, was snugly installed in the Consulate at Liverpool.
Mr. Goodrich never returned to Boston. His Jamaica Plain property passed into other hands and now it is crossed by streets that are entirely lined with houses and cottages.
Very few of the present residents of the district are aware of the significance of the nomenclature of Peter Parley Road, and this brief sketch of the man and of his works may be the means of shedding some light upon what is locally a most interesting subject.
Mr. Goodrich died in New York City, in his 9th Street home, on May 9, 1860. He had just completed his last book, "History of the Animal Kingdom" which was dedicated to Prof. Louis Agassiz.
Originally published in the Boston Daily Globe, September 23, 1906
The Jamaica Plain Historical Society is extremely grateful to Peter O’Brien for his assistance in transcribing this and other articles originally published in the Boston Daily Globe.