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Generation V: Thomas & Millie Penley

Thomas Penley of Farnham

Generation V

The children of Thomas and Sarah (Stone) Penley of North Farnham Parish, Richmond County, Virginia were:
William Penley, born November 15, 1729
Thomas Penley, born June 6, 1732
Alice Penley, born March 7, 1733
Joshua Penley, born June 25, 1736

The fifth generation of Penleys, the children of Thomas and Sarah (Stone) Penley became migrants, leaving the Northern Neck of Virginia around 1754; it appears that they splintered off in different directions for a while, much of the family re-convened in North Carolina, and then separated again with the eventual result of Penleys scattered around the fifty states.

Not only did the Penley brothers leave Northumberland County circa 1754, but several members of their allied families left as well. Notably, the Joshua Stone (Sarah Stone Penley’s brother) family, William Penley Rice (the son of Thomas’s Penley’s sister Elizabeth), Epaphroditus Syndor (whose father witnessed the Hartgroves will) all established homes in Halifax /Pittsylvania County in the 1750’s.

Alice Penley, the only female in this fifth generation has not been documented after her birth in 1733. She may have died young, she may have married and or moved with one of her brothers when they left Richmond County. It is interesting to note that both Epaphroditus Penley, and his cousin John Penley, both raised by Joshua Penley, each named a daughter Alice. This could signify a continuing relationship with Thomas and Joshua’s sister, but it is not certain proof.

Thomas Penley’s trial for murder is described herein. It is known that shortly after Thomas’ release from the Williamsburg jail, the Penley brothers departed from Richmond County. Thomas was cleared of the charges by the higher court in Williamsburg and released from custody, but the Penleys may have believed he was treated unfairly by the “Gentlemen Justices” in Richmond County who never should have charged Thomas with the crime in the first place. It is not known if they wanted to escape the hard feelings in the community caused by the manslaughter of James Harriot, or jealousy caused by Thomas Penley’s release from prison when Bryant and Dew were given extended sentences for manslaughter.

In 1754, George Washington of adjacent Westmoreland County, was recruiting soldiers to fight for the British in the French and Indian War. It is impossible to know at this point if the three Penley brothers left Richmond County to serve the Virginia militia, or to avoid service in Washington’s army. If they were volunteers or draftees in Washington’s army, they may have discovered good farm land in their travels with the army, or they may have received bounty lands as a reward for their loyal service.

Land may have been the crucial factor in the decision to leave Richmond County. It appears that William and Mary Penley farmed the land in Richmond until their deaths in the 1740’s. If they grew tobacco, their hundred acres was surely exhausted after 40 years of crops. During this same era, the Loyal Land Company was heavily advertising cheap land along the Virginia frontier, south toward the North Carolina border and west toward what would be the borders of Kentucky and Tennessee. Literally thousands of of new and well established immigrants headed for cheap land and greener pastures.

The French and Indian War

It is interesting that the Penleys packed up and left Northumberland and Richmond counties just as the French and Indian War began. The conflict between England and France spilled over into the colonies in 1754 in a contest to win control over North America. The colony of Virginia was officially on the side of the British and many Americans joined the conflict, although some Americans avoided or ignored the war when possible and some resented the presence of the domineering British army.

George Washington formed an army of 400 Virginians to build and defend Fort Necessity out beyond the Virginia border in 1754. In 1755, his militia joined British General Braddock in a failed attempt to take Fort Duquesne from the French Washington raised an army of 2,000 Virginia militiamen to join General Forbes in 1758 for the final capture of Fort Duquesne.

Washington profited greatly by his experience with the British army, and used his knowledge of their army against them in the Revolution to come. The future President faced daily challenges brought by battles, budgets, and politics, not to mention managing the often hard-headed, untrained and independent-minded Virginia militiamen under his command. Washington established his authority by drafting militiamen, flogging rebellious soldiers and hanging several deserters.

It is certain that young George Washington recruited soldiers heavily from the counties of Richmond and Northumberland which were adjacent to his home in Westmoreland County. Thomas and Sarah Penley’s three sons would have been between the ages of 18 and 25 years old at the onset of the war, at the prime age for conscription by the colonial army. At the conclusion of the French and Indian War, bounty land grants were handed out to reward loyal soldiers under Washington’s command.

When the war ended in 1763, the victorious British passed the controversial Proclamation of 1763 which prohibited any settlement west of the Appalachian Mountains This policy was loudly protested and widely ignored in the colonies, and confrontations exploded between the Virginians and the Natives along the frontier lines of westward expansion.

Thomas Penley

This research would have lost track of our blood line completely in this fifth generation if not for the death notice of Epaphroditus Penley in Scott County, Virginia from our sixth generation in America. The key piece of evidence that connects the children of Thomas and Sarah (Stone) Penley to the Penleys of Scott County, is the death notice of our ancestor, Epaphroditus (Epp) Penley. When Epp Penley died on March 19, 1868, his daughter Nancy registered the death with officials, and one of Epp’s descendants Harry Penley, Scott County Clerk of Court for over thirty years, found the notice in the old Scott County files.

Epp’s death notice clearly states that Epaphroditus Penley was born in Virginia, the son of Thomas and Millie Penley. Epp gave his birthplace as Virginia, and his age as 61 years on July 15, 1850 to James Shoemaker, the census taker of the 1850 Federal Census, which documented a 1789 birth. On the 1860 Federal Census, he verified the same information. On Epp’s death notice, his age was given by his daughter as 84 years, which would document a 1784 birth. Epp was literate, and gave the same information to the census taker twice, ten years apart, so the 1789 birthdate will be tentatively accepted. This research will work backward from that date to locate Epp’s father, and the other children of Thomas and Sarah (Stone) Penley.

Joshua Penley may have been Epp’s guardian at the time of his 1799 arrival in Russell County. There was a relationship between Epaphroditus Penley and Joshua Penley, but they were not father and son. Epp is either the nephew of Joshua, that is, the actual son of Joshua’s brother Thomas, born June 6, 1732, in North Farnham Parish, Richmond County, Virginia.

Although the Thomas Penley of Farnham parish would have been 57 years old at the time of Epp’s birth, he remains the only viable candidate for father at this point in the research. Three sons were born to Thomas and Sarah (Stone) Penley: William in 1729, Thomas in 1732, and Joshua in 1736. Any of those three sons could have had a son named Thomas in plenty of time for that son to marry someone named Millie and give birth to Epaphroditus Penley by 1789. No such descendant named Thomas has yet been found.

The only Thomas Penley known to this research at this time who could have fathered Epaphroditus Penley was born in Richmond County, North Farnham Parish, on June 6, 1732, the second born son of Thomas and Sarah (Stone) Penley. At this point, the only descendant of Thomas and Sarah (Stone) Penley given the name of Thomas found by this research was their son, born June 6, 1732.

This research will continue on the tentative premise that Epp’s father was the Thomas Penley born in North Farnham Parish in 1732. It is hoped that this research will be of assistance to other descendants who may find records to enhance these sparse details.

The Early Years of Thomas Penley of Farnham

Less is known of Thomas Penley’s life than any ancestor researched. This is partially due to the fact that the Penleys left Northumberland County around 1755 and moved so frequently that this research has dubbed the fifth generation “The Wanderers”. Just in Virginia, the legal footprints of the sons of Thomas and Sarah (Stone) Penley are positively found in Richmond, Northumberland, Shenandoah, Page, Dunmore, Halifax, Pittsylvania, Russsell and Scott counties, with possible footprints found in Washington and Rockingham as well. Due to rapid expansion of land and population, boundary lines changed constantly with each new county created.

The Penley tradition of recycling names in each generation thickens the fog shrouding this generation, and this time frame included great chaos, the French and Indian War, the American Revolution, and the Indian wars along the frontier. Further impediments include the records lost one hundred years later during the Civil War and the Union Army’s “malice toward all” campaign through the South. General Phillip Sheridan’s fiery rampage through the Shenandoah Valley was so devastating that he gloated "even a crow flying over the Valley must take rations with him."

Thomas Penley was born June 6, 1732, the second born son of Thomas and Sarah (Stone) Penley of North Farnham Parish, Richmond County, Virginia. Thomas was named after his father, his older brother William had already been named after his paternal grandfather, and his younger brother Joshua would be named after his maternal grandfather, strictly following the conventional naming patterns of their society. His only sister was named Alice. Thomas’s father, Thomas Penley, Sr. died in 1736 at the young age of 28, leaving our Thomas as an orphan at the age of four. Sarah Stone Penley inherited property from a John Hartgroves in 1741. The inventory of Thomas Penley’s estate was conducted by the court in 1742 with no mention of Sarah or the orphans.

As a young man in 1751, Thomas Penley was called to witness the will of Jeremiah Greenham in Richmond County.

28 May 1751-1 Jan 1753 Richmond Wills, p. 718 Will of Jeremiah GREENHAM: John DURHAM my great bible; wife; Christopher HARE (now in England); Ex: William GLASCOCK and his son, WilliamWits: James BOOTH, John WILLIAMS, Thomas PENLY p. 719: Inv. Order Book 1 Jan 1753.

The family of Greenham is not known to this research, but the names of the executors and witnesses are often seen in Penley research of the Farnham Parish. The Glasscock family was entwined through numerous marriages to the Stone family of Thomas’ mother Sarah, and the name of Alice (Thomas’ only sister) was frequently found in the Glasscock line even before it emerged as a leader in the Stone lineage. It is strongly suspected, but unproven, that Sarah (Stone) Penley’s mother’s maiden name was Mary Glasscock before marriage to Joshua Stone. The two William Glasscocks mentioned in this will as executors would be William Glasscock, Sr. who was married to Esther (unknown), and their son William, whose 1733 birth is recorded in the North Farnham Parish Registers, page 69. A James Booth was born in North Farnham Parish in 1734, he was the son of James and Frances Booth, this witness could have been either the father or the son. The Williams family is also found in documents near the Penleys, including the murder trial in 1754.

The Glasscock, Booth and Williams families were all well documented residents of Richmond County, and at least Booth and Williams were possible neighbors called to witness the will of a dying man, which encourages speculation that Thomas Penley had returned to live in Richmond County again, possibly at the homestead of his grandparents, William and Mary Penley on Marshy Swamp. His mother, Sarah Stone Penley had inherited land from John Hartgroves in Northumberland County in 1741, but may have lost that property in subsequent court action. The children of Thomas and Sarah may have returned to Richmond to live with their paternal grandparents, William and Mary Penley. William died in 1746, and his wife Mary died in 1749, but no record of a will has been found for either of them.

Murder !

It is a documented fact that our Thomas Penley was in Richmond County on December 22, 1753, for on that day he was indicted by a grand jury for murder. Family genealogist Harry Penley received a letter from Patricia Asleson in 1988, informing him of the charges against Thomas Penley in Richmond County, the full text of this court record for indictment was finally located in 2005 by PenleyPearls' daughter Jane at the Law Library at Florida State University, but no full transcript of the final trial in the higher court at Williamsburg has yet been found.

Less than a week after Jerry Penley posted Harry Penley’s letter to the Penley list at in 1999, Karen located a list of the witnesses, and another list member known only as RitaRaeK, thought to be Rita Ryan, relieved us of anxiety about our murdering ancestor. Rita posted an article she found in the May 16, 1754 edition of The Pennsylvania Gazette which summarized the Williamsburg court procedures of the April 19, 1754 session of the court. According to The Gazette, Thomas Penley, Thomas Bryan, and Ishmael Dew were tried for murder, but Bryan and Dew were found guilty of the reduced charge of manslaughter, and OUR Thomas Penley was discharged from custody.

Attempts to find further information about the events leading to the arrest have not met success. Most of the boys involved, both the defendants and the witnesses were born in North Farnham Parish in the late 1720’s and early 1730’s, their births into upstanding families of Richmond County well documented in the church registers. All were aged very close to Thomas, who was 22 years old at the time of his arrest, and most were related as cousins or brothers.

The details provided are scarce, but the killing of James Harriot (Hariot)  was apparently accomplished in front of a large number of witnesses. One could imagine a group of young men gathering at a spot, perhaps some liquor on the premises, when things got out of hand, and James Harriott was killed. The death of James Harriott may have been ruled as an accidental result of bad judgement on the part of Thomas Bryan and Ishmael Dew, since the charges were reduced to manslaughter by the higher court.

There is a remarkable lack of information regarding the victim of the crime, James Harriott. He may have been new to Richmond County, or sent to Richmond to enlist troops for George Washington’s militia being formed at that time in Westmoreland County.

Richmond County Willbook  has an entry  for a noncupative will, meaning that he spoke  his last will and testament to his witnesses.

page 20:  James Harriet, nunc. will;  2 December, 1753
1 Apr 1754 whole est. to George SANDERS and Mary MEEKS:  no ex: wits:  H. MISKELL, William BARBER.

Another entry gives the  inventory of his estate as April 1, 1754.

Thomas Bryan was most likely the Thomas Bryant found in North Farnham Parish registers as born December 8, 1736, the son of Thomas and Elizabeth (Fowler) Bryant. Thomas Bryant, Sr. appears to be the brother of Wilmoth Bryant, who married Joshua Stone, Sarah Stone Penley’s brother. This would make the Thomas Bryant convicted of manslaughter the nephew of Wilmoth (Bryant) Stone, just as co-defendant Thomas Penley was her husband Joshua Stone’s nephew.

Ishmael Dew’s birth was probably the one recorded on November 15, 1734, the son of Thomas and Ann Dew. Anthony Sydnor, who completed William Penley’s inventory in 1744, and whose son witnessed the Hartgrove will to Sarah Stone Penley’s benefit, was married to Elizabeth Dew. This research does not have the stamina to permit a full analysis here of the family background of each witness, but they are mostly related as cousins, or they at least have aunts and uncles in common. Even the “Gentleman Justices”, Thomas Barber and William Brockenbrough have family ties to Ishmael Dew and several of the witnesses.

Most of the witnesses were required to post a twenty pound bond to secure their appearance at the Williamsburg court, but John Williams, Henry Williams and William Barber were not required to give security, probably because of their economic status in the community, or their relationship to the “Gentleman Justices”. George Sanders and Thomas Williams Sanders (Saunders), born in 1737 and 1742 respectively, were both sons of George and Mary Saunders, and Thomas Williams was the youngest in the group, being only 12 years old (his double first name unmistakeable in the Farnham Register).

There is an interesting phrase in the last paragraph of the proceedings. Most of the witnesses were required to post bond that they would attend the trial in Williamsburg, and would not leave Richmond County in the meantime But instead of requiring them to give testimony REGARDING the case, they were required to post bond that they would give evidence on behalf of the King AGAINST Bryan, Penley and Dew. The terminology may have been the common practice of the day, but 250 years later, it seems prejudicial.

“shall make their Personal appearance at the Capitol in the City of Williamsburgh on the 6th of the next General Court then and there to give Evidences on behalf of our said Lord the King against Thomas Bryan, Thomas Penley and Ishmael Dew touching a certain Murder whereof they stand accused, And Shall not depart thence without leave of the said Court, then this Recognizance to be Void. ”

Thomas Bryan, Thomas Penly and Ishmael Dew were charged with “killing and destroying” James Harriot. Thomas Penley, Thomas Bryan, and Ishmael Dew were brought to the bar in the courtroom, and a total of ten witnesses gave testimony about the killing. The three prisoners were allowed to give testimoney in their own defense. The “Gentlemen Justices” decided to send the case to the higher court of “Oyer and Terminer” in the capital of the colony, Williamsburg, as required for all serious felonies.

The three defendants were sent to jail while awaiting trial, and were probably transported to Williamsburg as soon as possible to be available for the next court session.

If you travel to historic Williamsburg today, you can visit the Public Gaol or jail on Nicholson Street, where Thomas Penley spent four months. Part of the original brickwork is still standing. Shackles and leg irons were common, and prisoners of every description were equally provided with one thin blanket and a diet of “salt beef damaged and Indian meal”. However, prisoners with money or outside supporters could purchase food and liquor from one of the nearby taverns, and visitors could bring food, clothing and blankets. Some of the Penleys probably stood by Thomas during his time in jail, and may have provided some extra blankets, but Williamsburg was a far distance from Richmond County, and family visits were probably rare. (Official Guide to Colonial Williamsburg, by Michael Olmert, Colonial Williamsburg Foundation, Williamsburg, Va., 1989)

There is no statement indicating whether the charges against Thomas Penley were dropped by the higher court, or if he was found “not guilty” of manslaughter at the conclusion of the trial, but it is clear that Thomas was released from custody on April 19, 1754, after spending almost four months in the Williamsburg jail awaiting trial.

The entire indictment is provided below in hope that one of the many names included could trigger the location of more information on this crime.

-246- Bryan et als Examination

At a Court Held at Richmond County Court house the 22nd day of December in the xxvii Year of the reign of our Sovereign Lord George the second etcAnno Domini 1753 for the Examination of Thomas Bryan Thomas Penly [and] Ishmael Dew charged with Killing and Destroying James Harriot.
Present: Thomas Barber, Landon Carter, John Tayloe, William Brockenbrough, Gentlemen Justices.

The said Thomas Bryan, Thomas Penley and Ishmael Dew being brot to the bar, Divers Witnesses to wit, Henry Miskell, Daniel Lightfoot, John Williams, Henry Williams, William Harper, John Algood, Isaac Procter, George Sanders, Thomas Williams Sanders and William Barber, were sworn and Examined upon the Premises and the [p. 349] Prisoners heard in their own Defence, And upon Consideration of the Evidence of the said Witnesses And the Circumstance of the Case It is the Opinion of the Court that the Prisoners ought to be tryed for the said Supposed Fact at the next Court of Oyer and Terminer to be held in the City of Williamsburgh on the 6th day of the next General Court. And thereupon they are remanded to Goal.

[Miskell's and others' recognizances]

Be it remember'd that on the 22nd day of December in the xxvii Year of the reign of our Sovereign Lord George the second by the grace of God of great Brittain France and Ireland King Defender of the faith etc. before the Justices of the Couty Court of Richmond of our lord the King, at the Court house comes Henry Miskell Daniel Lightfoot, William Harper, John Algood, Isaac Procter, George Sanders and Thomas Williams Sanders of the said County and Acknowledge Themselves severally indebted unto our said Lord the King in the sum of Twenty pounds each of their Respective Goods and Chattles lands and Tenements to be levied. And to our said lord the King his heirs and Successors -247- render'd. Yet upon this Condition that if the said Henry Miskell, Daniel Lightfoot, William Harper, John Algood, Isaac Procter, George Sanders and Thomas Williams Sanders shall make their Personal appearance at the Capitol in the City of Williamsburgh on the 6th [p. 155] of the next General Court then and there to give Evidences on behalf of our said Lord the King against Thomas Bryan, Thomas Penley and Ishmael Dew touching a certain Murder whereof they stand accused, And Shall not depart thence without leave of the said Court, then this Recognizance to be Void.

Criminal Proceedings in Colonial Virginia: (Records Of) Fines, Examination of Criminals, Trials of Slaves, Etcfrom March 1710/1) to 1754, Richmond County, Virginia. Vol. 10 p. 246- 247

May 16, 1754
The Pennsylvania Gazette
WILLIAMSBURG, April 19, 1754.
On Tuesday and Wednesday last the following Criminals were brought to their Trials, viz. Ishmeal Drew, Thomas Bryan, and Thomas Pendley, from Richmond, for Murder.
Pendley discharged, and the others convicted of Manslaughter.

(as provided to the Penley List at by Rita Ryan)

It is known that shortly after Thomas Penley’s release from the Williamsburg jail, the Penley brothers departed from Richmond County. It is not known if they wanted to escape the hard feelings in the community caused by the manslaughter of James Harriot, or jealousy caused by Thomas Penley’s release from prison when Bryant and Dew were given extended sentences. They may have joined George Washington’s militia for the French and Indian War which was underway by 1754, or they may have moved to escape service. The tobacco land in Richmond County may have simply “worn out” from continuous cultivation, and it may have been impossible for the three of them to eke a living from the hundred acre farm owned by their grandfather, William Penley who died in 1744.

The oldest son of Thomas and Sarah (Stone) Penley, William, headed for Shenandoah/Page/Dunmore County, and then appeared with many other Penleys in Burke County, North Carolina by the late 1770's, where he was declared "overage" for taxation. His assumed son, John Pen(d)ley’s pension application gives valuable footprints for William Penley of North Farnham parish.

The youngest son, Joshua Penley, headed for Halifax County where he is recorded in the Vestry Book of Antrim Parish by the end of 1754. He later left footprints in Guilford County, and possibly Burke County, North Carolina before showing up no later than 1799 in Russell/Scott County, Virginia with our Thomas' son Epaphroditus.

Numerous other old and established families also left Richmond County during this time. Uncle Joshua Stone’s sons moved to Halifax County, as did William Penley Rice and Epaphroditus Sydnor.