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Generation V: Thomas & Millie Penley

The American Revolution

The American Revolution

The first shots of the American Revolution were fired in Massachusetts on April 19, 1775, but there had been widespread unrest in the colonies since the end of the French and Indian War in 1763. Massachusetts was the hotbed of the Revolution with the Boston Massacre in 1765, and the famous Tea Party of 1773, but in many ways Virginia was the intellectual home of the Revolution.

In 1765, Patrick Henry spoke his mind in the Virginia House of Burgesses about the Stamp Act , and ended with the immortal challenge, “If this be treason, make the most of it.”

It was no coincidence that the Second Continental Congress chose George Washington, the level headed veteran and well educated Virginian from Westmoreland County to lead the army instead of someone such as John Hancock from hostile Massachusetts where so much angry blood had already been shed.

When it came time to inform the King of England and the world that we were a new and independent nation, it was the Virginian Thomas Jefferson who so eloquently composed the Declaration of Independence as a great concerto of words and phrases that still ricochet around the world today.

And in 1775, Patrick Henry again spoke for himself, Virginia and all the Patriots when he stood up and said:

“Is life so dear or peace so sweet to be purchased
with the price of chains and slavery?
Forbid it Almighty God.
I know not what course others shall take, but as for me,
give me liberty or give me death.”

When large numbers of British soldiers arrived to put down the Revolution after the Declaration of Independence was published, one of their strategies was to form alliances with the Native Americans. The British presented themselves as the protectors of the Natives against the expansion of the colonists into their lands. The British Army supplied all willing tribes with guns, ammunition and supplies to encourage them to destroy the colonists along the frontier, which would distract the frontiersmen on a local level and prevent them from joining Washington’s Continental Army.

This policy backfired on the British, because many of the poor backwoodsmen would have likely ignored the more urban and coastal issues of taxation without representation, illegal search warrants, smuggling, and the lofty intellectual ideals of the Declaration of Independence. But when the British Army paid and supplied the Indians to attack their homesteads, the Virginian and Carolinian frontiersmen became fervent Patriots. They defended their homesteads and joined the Continental Army. According to Maud Carter Clement, "The inciting of the Indians to their barbarities against defenseless frontiersman is the darkest blot on England's fair name during the Revolutionary War ... ".

It is commonly accepted that when the Revolution began in 1775, about a third of the colonists were Patriots, about a third were Loyalists, and about a third were apathetic, too concerned with daily survival to obsess on political issues. The tactics of the British Army changed those percentages quickly, especially along the frontier.

All of these events occurred in the frontyards and the backyards of the Penley Brothers of Farnham Parish, they were surrounded by it. As it is not believable that any colonist in Virginia could have avoided the turmoil of this era, nor is it believable that the Penley Brothers avoided the conflicts of their day. William, born in 1729, would have been 46 years old when the war began, Thomas, born 1732, would have been 43, and Joshua, born 1736, would have been 39 years old.

There was a fire at the War Department in 1800 which destroyed most veteran records gathered up to that time. The Pension Applications available today were mostly submitted after the fire, such as the John Penley quoted herein who applied in 1831. There have been significant efforts to reconstruct earlier archives from miscellaneous records stored in other locations. Bounty land grants were provided as rewards to soldiers from the French and Indian War, Revolution, War of 1812, and the Mexican War.

Our Cousin, Captain Joshua Stone, a Soldier in the Revolution

Captain Joshua Stone of Pittsylvania County, which split off from Joshua Penley’s Halifax County in 1767, was the first cousin of the Penley Brothers of Farnham. Stone led a Company of militiamen raised from Halifax and Pittsylvania that took part in several campaigns during the American Revolution. The list of the soldiers in his company does not survive, but soldiers from Halifax and Pittsylvania took part in the Battle of Long Island Flats that took place on the Holston, marched 115 miles into the wilderness to the Indian Towns, and fought at Kings Mountain and the Battle at Guilford Court House.  Since Captain Joshua Stone raised a company of militiamen during the Revolution, it is entirely possible that he convinced his cousins and possibly their sons to join his company. If the Penleys Brothers did not go to the Holston River with their cousin Joshua Stone, it is likely that Stone described the area to his cousins upon his return.

Colonel Arthur Campbell, in whose district of Washington County Thomas P[en]tley was listed as tithable, was part of the battle for the Holston, and raised a local militia for the battle at Kings Mountain that included the Kilgores of Russell County. Bounty Land Grants were issued to soldiers in the area of Washington, Russell, and Scott counties after the French & Indian War in 1763, and after the Revolution ended in 1781. According to the official Washington County website, many of the earliest settlers of Washington County came with Land Grants issued to reward their military service during the Revolution.  (

Various sources have referred to the following list of men as Revolutionary War soldiers, but no documented connection to the Penley Brothers of Farnham Parish is yet found, except for John Pendley.

John Pendley, a soldier in the Revolution

John Pen(d)ley's pension application documents his birth in Shenandoah County, Virginia and his move to Burke County, North Carolina circa 1777. It is documented that the oldest Penley brother, William, born 1729 in North Farnham Parish, Richmond County, Virginia moved to the Shenandoah/Page/Dunmore area sometime after 1750. By 1774, William's family included a wife, seven sons, and two daughters (Bird Militia). This William Pinley of Farnham is documented in Rowan/Burke County, North Carolina by the late 1770's. It is believed here that the John Pendley who filed a Revolutionary War pension application, is the son of the William Penley born in Richmond County, Virginia in 1729. Although it is possible that Joshua or Thomas could have fathered "Pension John" Pen(d)ley, at this time there is no found documentation that either of them ever resided in the Shenandoah area referred to on John's pension application. A transcript of his application for pension is included at the end of this chapter.

Pendley, John: documented by pension application
Pindle, Thomas...Monongalia County
Pendrey, Thomas
Pennirey, Thomas: Rockingham County
Pennery 8 CL Continental Line 8th Virginia
Pendley, Alexander
Penley, Jacob:
Penly, William
Pendry, Robert: Penry 8CL Continental Line 9th Virginia
Pendry, Henry, Quaker, Flower Swift's 3rd Undated Militia Roster.
Pendry, James, Quaker, Flower Swift's 3rd Undated Militia Roster.
Penkley, Michael
Pindle, Samuel
Penson, Thomas, On undated list of Cox's Company, prob. ca. 1783.
Ponson, Thomas, Cox's Company, Prob. 1782

John Pendley’s application for a Revolutionary War pension
From Joyce Pendley Comer

This application was obtained from the NC State Archives. Pension No. 27, 904,
inscribed on the Roll of NC at the rate of $20.00 per annum to commence March 4, 1831

"I was born in the State of Virginia, Dunmore Co. (now Shenandoah Co.), the precise time of my birth I am unable to say, my Father having made no record of any birth.
About the age of 17 or 18 years, my Father moved to the Western part of North Carolina, settled in this Burke Co.
Soon after our arrival here,I entered the service as a volunteer under Captain John Russell, Major Joseph White, Colonel Joseph McDowell and General Charles McDowell.

Captain Russell’s Company to which I belonged, marched to a place, now Rutherfordton, NC, known at that day by the name of Gilbert Town... and marched from there to a place on Brow River called Cheerokee Ford where we remained a few days.
From there we marched down the country in the direction of Wilmington to a place called Brick House where we were stationed a short time, and from there to Wilmington where we remained until discharged.
During this time, we had our way down the country several engagements with the Tories, but there no Battle with the British while at Cherokee Ford, our engagement occured between our company and a party of Tories in which Thomas Scott, a man with whom I am well acquainted and who was a resident of Burke Co, and a near neighbor of my Fathers, was killed.
This was my first tour.....>>
I left home about the 15th or the middle of June and served until the later part of September in the year of 1780.
I am now a resident of Burke County and have been residing here for at least 55 years past
- as stated in my Declaration, I have no means of ascertaining precisley my age, but think from the best
information I have been able to get I am 72 years old. “
Dated July 25, 1834."