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Generation III: William & Mary (Harrison) Penley

William & Mary (Harrison) Penley of Virginia

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Part IV:

William and Mary Penley

of Richmond County, Virginia

“...To have and to hold the tract of land hereby sold with the clear grounds proffitts appurtenances unto WILLIAM PINLEY...”

Finally, 68 years after William Pinley’s 1638 arrival in Maryland, a descendant is found to have clear title to a piece of land. Thousands and thousands of colonists left England for the promise of land in America, but amongst the all the old records studied, no Penley owned land in Virginia or Maryland until 1707. It is plausible that previous land ownership by Penleys is obscured in old blurry records or endless variations in the spelling of the name Penley. And finally, documented descendants of William Pinley show up in North Farnham Parish records of marriages, births, and deaths.

The 1650 birth year of Orphan Thomas Pinley is based on age verification from court documents. Family research estimates his son William Pinley’s birth as 1680, but no found evidence substantiates that birth year. He may have been born in Talbot or Somerset County, Maryland, or Northampton or Northumberland County in Virginia, the counties where records of his father have been found. The Orphan Thomas died in 1698, leaving William as a young man of about eighteen.

The Penley Land
Little is known of the few years after his father’s death until January 27 of 1706/7 when with the intervention of his mother Elizabeth, our William Pinley became the owner of 100 acres of land, sold to him by his step-father Robert Harrison. The deed refers to William as a planter of Northumberland County, which would indicate that he had some access to land before this move to Richmond County, a prior Pinley land deed may be lost in the shuffle here, but William may have leased land before this transaction. He paid Robert Harrison 5,000 pounds of tobacco for this property, indicating some success as a farmer, unless there was a bequest from his father’s estate, or assistance from his mother in buying the land. Elizabeth Pinley Harrison required the use of two separate attorneys in order to prove her approval of the sale. The other part of the original 207 acre tract had been deeded to Alice Harrison, another daughter of Robert.

A one hundred acre farm was not large by standards of the day. If William Pinley was able to eke out a living for his family for forty years from only 100 acres, he must have been a wise and frugal farmer. It is possible that he added to his small plantation through the years, or that land belonging to his wife added acreage.

Marshy Swamp & William Penley's Pond

The land was located in the “Parish of FARNHAM in the County of Richmond at the head of ye branches of Swamp called Marches Swamp”. It was bounded by land owned by Esquire Corbin, Edward and Thomas Lewis, and Teliff Alterson, near Totuskey Ferry Road. An area referred to as Marshy Swamp has been located on modern maps, the swamp forming the boundary between Westmoreland County and Richmond County, just north of Rich Neck, Virginia, State Highway 619 intersecting the swamp area in the vicinity of Hogans Millpond.

Another description of the Penley property was found in a 1735 land transaction between Anthony Linton and Alexander Clark for the land that once was owned by the Lewis family, on the south side of Marshy Swamp, and bounded by “a pond of standing water which is called William Penley's Pond”. It is not certain if the Penley Pond was the same known today as Hogans Millpond, but it is in the same vicinity. The deed of sale is witnessed by Will’m (his mark) Penley.
Court Action Richmond Co., VA Deed Book 9, p. 186, Apr. 20, 1735 from Anthony Linton of Stafford Co. & Parish of Overwharton, to Alexander Clark of R &NF, for 40 pounds sterling money of England, about 100 acres in Richmond & Northfarnham on the south side of the Marshey Swamp near the head of the Swamp, bounded by the head of a small cove issuing out of said Swamp, said Anthony Linton's plantation near his dwelling house, the side of John Alverson's old field, the line called Singer's line, a pond of standing water which is called William Penley's Pond, the line of Henry Corbin Esq. The land was entered for and patented by Edward Lewis dec'd, ..... and the 100 acres descended to me, Anthony Linton, being the next heir at law, "as by the said deed" may appear.
Signed - Anthony Linton. Wit- Will'm (his mark) Penley,
Thos (his mark) Warmouth.
Recorded July 7, 1735. Mary Linton, the wife of the said Anthony Linton, appeared in court & relinquished her right of dower in the land conveyed
(Richmond Co., VA Deed Book 9 p186)

The William Penley Family

William Pinley of Richmond was married to Mary; her maiden name is unknown, but is suspected to be Harrison because Robert Harrison had a daughter named Mary Harrison, and the flurry of land transactions near the time of his marriage would accomodate such a merger between the families, though the deeds indicate that William Pinley paid 5,000 pounds of tobacco for his 100 acres, while the daughters of Robert Harrison were granted their land with no payment due. Elizabeth Pinley Harrison required the use of two separate attorneys to approve the sale, suggesting the possibility of some form of complication or exchange on the transaction.

It is known that William and Mary Penley moved to Richmond County in 1707, the deed of sale on the land there identifies William as being a planter of Northumberland County at the time of the transaction, indicating that he was established enough there to be described by an occupation. The marriage of William and Mary Penley probably took place in Northumberland County, where William resided before buying the land in Richmond County. North Farnham parish records on the Penleys begin with the birth of Thomas in 1709, but obviously would not include any children that William and Mary had before their arrival in Richmond County.

Penley family researchers have long faced a dilemma regarding the parents of Elizabeth Penley Rice in this era and location. She was the wife of Richard Rice of Northumberland County, and they named their first son William Penley Rice, but she was not listed with William and Mary’s other two children in the Register of the North Farnham Parish. Some have assigned her as a child of the Orphan Thomas and Elizabeth Pinley by estimating her birth at 1698. Conventional naming patterns well used by the Penleys would dictate that William’s first daughter would be named after his mother, hence Elizabeth Penley would be a logical name for William’s first daughter.

After careful study of the known facts and consideration of the context of the era, this research concludes that Elizabeth Penley Rice was probably the daughter of William and Mary Penley, and that she was probably born in Northumberland County prior to the family move in 1706/7 to Richmond and the North Farnham Parish, giving her an estimated birthdate of 1705.

The Registers of North Farnham Parish date back to 1663, as compiled by George King and published in 1966, but the first Penley event referenced there is the birth of William and Mary’s only son, Thomas Penly in 1709. This register is the first location of records to consistently record the family name as Penly or Penley instead of Pinley.
Born Penly, Thomas son of William and Mary Penly, 8 June 1709
Born Penly, Mary daughter of William and Mary Penly, 3 January 1712

The Registers of North Farnham Parish, page 146
The register continues on to list the marriages and children of Thomas and Mary, which will be highlighted in the next part of this document. It is notable however, that none of William and Mary’s three children ever named a daughter Mary in her honor, a flagrant break from social conventions of the day. In contrast, all three of the children did name a child William in the traditional pattern, which may be seen as a testament of their loyalties in the difficulties between William and Mary Penley.

All was not well in the Penley household by 1630. Mary Penley was charged with adultery by a Richmond County Grand Jury. (Richmond County Order Book 9:537, 586). The relationship between Mary Penley and William Taylor appears to have continued for about three years. This case was referred to several times, postponed and carried forward through the various court dockets until the charges were dismissed for some reason in 1733.
WILLIAM TAYLOR & MARY PENLEY; c. 5 Nov 1730; Grand Jury presented TAYLOR & PENLEY of North Farnam Parish for living in adultery;
1730 Court Action --
Richmond Court Order Book 1721-1732 November 5, 1730
PENLEY and TAYLOR to be summoned.

Ordered that the Sheriff summon to next Court Mary Penley and William Taylor of Northfarnham Parish to answer the Presentment of the Grandjury against them for being of a lewd character and incontinent behaviour and living in adultery together for six months last past.
1733 Court Action 4th April 1733
Grandjury v PENLEY & TAYLOR
The Presentment of the Grandjury against Mary Penley and William Taylor of Northfarnham Parish for being of a lewd character and incontinent behaviour and liveing in adultery together is dismist, noe prosecution.
Mary remained married to William Penley, and settled his estate at his death in 1745. For unknown reason, the church parish register at North Farnham leaves no record of William Penley’s death. His wife Mary was given administration over his estate in Richmond County in 1745.

Peggy Crane located and interpreted copies of the original appraisal and inventory from 1745 for the deceased William Penley.

Inventory of Estate of William Penley
Richmond County Virginia- 3 March 1745
Pursuant .............. dated the 3rd day of March 1745, we the subscribers being ................. have appraised and inventoried all the Estate of
Wm. Penley which was presented to our.....................
To one ould horse sadle and bridle 0.3.0
ould cow and yearling---one cow and heifer? 2.17.0
............. 5.0.0
one trunk one chese one bore 1.12.0
one spinning wheel one fabric one small box 0.6.0 iron.................. .11.6
some glass bottles some tubs one ould iron 0.93.
one pott one bottle one skillet...wool cards......baskets 1.4.0
one frying pan fire tongs...........forks and some ould lumber 0.7.10
one........iron and spitt some ould knives and forks 0.8.0
five old sifters one looking glass 0.3.6
twenty two pounds of Cotenn.........old............ ................. 1.16.9
salt cullendar and funoll and some spoons
three and a half goods of dzn buttons one ....... ..... 0.15.3
some hogs 1.5.0

............the County of Richmond John Brown
the 7th day of April 1746 John Walker
Wm. Hartley
Estate Settlement August 3, 1747
Account Abstracts of Richmond Co., VA 1724-1751 Recorded amongst the records of Richmond County 5th day October 1747 p. 282

In obedience to an Order of Court dated 3d August 1747
We the Subscribers have settled all the Accot. produced to us by
Mary Penley on Acct. of her Admin. of Wm. Penleys Estate which is as followeth...
The Estate of Wm. Penley to
Clarks Fees paid;
paid Capt. Sydnor;
paid Henry Headley;
paid Lewis Pugh;
paid Coroners fees;
paid Costelo Hill;
paid Wm. Clark;
paid Robt. Middleton;
paid Sam'l Harrison;
paid Richd. Knott;
paid Tealif Alverson...
Signed by:
Anthony Sydnor George Clarke Wm. Hartley

(provided by Jerry Penley

Several of the debts paid by William Penley’s estate were to familiar names; Sydnor, Knott, Harrison and Alverson references are found elsewhere in this document. The buttons and 22 pounds of cotton in the inventory may be an indication of textile work in the home as Penleys in Horsley, England were known as cloth dyers and later, Ep Penley’s family was described as weavers in the 1860 census. (Jerry Penley at

The last Penley entry in the North Farnham Parish record is Mary Penley’s death in 1749. Mary’s age is unknown, but if she had her first child at about the age of twenty, she would have been about sixty years old at the time of her death.
Death of Mary Penley
Penley, Mary
14 January 1749
( North Farnham Parish Registers, p. 146)