Chelmsford Historical Society
The Parkhurst Sword

by George Adams Parkhurst

The Parkhurst sword is an excellent example of a presentation sword manufactured by C. Roby & Company in West Chelmsford, Massachusetts in the mid 1800s. The village originally know as Farwell Village and later as Scythe Factory Village, later became known as West Chelmsford, the name it bears today.

Deacon John Farwell moved from Fitchburg, Massachusetts to what would later become West Chelmsford in 1820, where he built a factory on Stony Brook and began the manufacture of scythes. About twenty-five years later, he sold out to Lincoln Drake, who later sold to F.T. Sawyer and Christopher Roby. They ran the business under the name, Roby, Sawyer & Company for several years. With the retirement of Mr. Sawyer in 1853, Christopher Roby renamed the company C. Roby & Company and continued the manufacture of scythes.

The market for these goods was largely in the southern and border states, and when the Civil War broke out in 1861, the company found its trade destroyed and, in addition to that, suffered the loss of most o goods shipped during the previous winter. Because of this, the company converted to the manufacture of swords and sabers, items that were similar to scythe blades. They continued until 1865, when the company closed up its affairs.

In 1864, Christopher Roby applied to the Adjutant-General of Massachusetts for permission to organize a troop of cavalry to be prepared to suppress any anticipated raids from the Canadian border by sympathizers with the Southern Confederacy.

Permission was granted and the troop was raised at Chelmsford center in September of 1864 with squadrons in Chelmsford, Carlisle, Billerica and Westford.

Christopher Roby was chosen Captain and Edgar Sewall Parkhurst was chosen 1st. Lieutenant. Edgar S. Parkhurst resigned in 1866 and moved from the area. Obviously, the Parkhurst sword must date back to the period of 1864 when the cavalry unit was organized and 1866 when Lt. Parkhurst resigned.

The troop became a part of the Massachusetts Volunteer Militia (hence the letters, M.V.M. on the sword blade.) At their first encampment in Westford in 1865, the Troop was presented with a stand of colors by Col. Clark's H. Dalton a grandson of Capt. Noah Spalding of Chelmsford, who in olden times commanded a company of troopers in Chelmsford. The Troop adopted the name of "Spalding Light Cavalry." The name Spalding is spelled with a "u" by some branches of the family and appears on the Parkhurst sword as "Spaulding."

The shiny blade of the Parkhurst sword is engraved with a fancy floral pattern and on one side, bears the words, "Co. F, Spaulding Light Cavalry M.V.M."; on the other side, the name "Parkhurst." The manufacturer's name is just below the hilt of the sword: "C. Roby & Co., W. Chelmsford, Mass."

C. Roby & Co. sold several thousand swords to the U. S. government during the Civil War, as well as those used by the Spaulding Light Cavalry, but only a small number have been uncovered in recent years. As a result, they have become collectors' items and the Parkhurst sword, whose owner requests anonymity, is one of the better examples.

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