Parrisien traveled the Indian trail on his delivery route that began near Rosy Mound and traversed southeast on what later became the Grandville Road. He made the journey twice a week and the area was essentially wilderness at the time.
Customers relied on this one man to ensure what was placed in his hands would arrive at the intended destination. It was a job where trust was essential.
Perhaps the strangest and most nerve-racking delivery Parrisien ever made was on behalf of Clark Barton Albee around 1839. Albee, a year older than Parrisien, had opened a general store located at what is now 1 N. Harbor Ave., and had a parcel he wanted delivered to secure a business transaction. It was cash.
While delivery of cash by mail man at the time was not unusual, the amount of this parcel and the way it was packaged was alarming.
Jean Parrisien spoke of the event in an interview with a Grand Rapids newspaper shortly before he died at the age of 103 on Sept. 8, 1912.
According to Parrisien, Clark Albee asked him how he intended to carry the cash to the delivery point.
“I will roll it up in a blanket and strap it to my back,” Parrisien replied.
This concerned Albee. “What have you to protect yourself against a foe if you meet any?” he asked Parrisien.
“I have my jackknife and two fists,” Parrisien informed his customer.
This didn’t make Albee feel very secure regarding the delivery, and trust was what this all boiled down to. So, Albee suggested the Indian take a pistol along.
“All right, Mr. Albee — I will to please you,” Parrisien recalled telling him. “But, I have never carried a pistol in my life.”
Packing a gun, the journey took Parrisien two days.
The night before arriving in St. Joseph, Parrisien checked into a small hotel. The office area and bar room was “filled with a rough lot of men,” Parrisien recalled.
Belongings apparently needed to be checked in at the front desk, so Parrisien casually tossed his blanket bundle of cash in a corner near the clerk’s station.
Apparently no one noticed, nor did it raise attention. Parrisien ate dinner and retired to his room around 9 that evening.
“The noise (of the men downstairs) kept me up all night,” Parrisien recalled. “I was worried about the money, so I finally rose (early) and went down to the office. I saw my bag was there still, strapped it upon my back and started on my journey.”
According to Parrisien, his action of tossing the bundle near the clerk’s desk was not an act of carelessness but a clever action to avoid suspicion. Other guests staying at the hotel would just see an old wadded-up Indian blanket placed in a corner. Who would ever think it held anything of value?
Parrisien safely delivered the bundle of cash to the man in St. Joseph, and was back home in Grand Haven four days after the trek began. It was a story he would never forget.
What is astounding is Albee had placed in Parrisien’s trust $6,000 in currency for delivery to the man in St. Joseph. That would be the equivalency of more than $121,000 in today’s money. That’s a lot of trust.
Whether rain, snow, sleet or on foot for 76 miles with a blanket full of cash, Parrisien — the first mail man for Grand Haven — had not failed his mission.