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Penley Pearls

My Penleys: Brief Summary First Six Generations

Generation 1:  William Pinley & Elizabeth Hill

William Sanders alias Pinley, son of Thomas Pinley & Dorrothie, was baptized on April 7, 1618 at St. Mary & All Saints Church in Bradeley, Staffordshire, England. The Pinley records in the Bradeley Parish Register alternate using Saunders, Sanders and Pinley as the alias. Aliases distinguished specific family lines from others using the same name. There must have been a Pinley/Saunders marriage before 1547. William’s grandparents married in Bradeley in 1573, his father born there in 1579. Their burial records are marked abode: Shredicote, a forested hamlet near Bradeley. Leaving parents and siblings behind at Shredicote, William sailed off to Maryland, arriving aboard The Charity on November 22, 1638. William was literate, did legal work for other colonists and left many court records. No record has been found for his use of the Saunders alias in America. William soon moved to Virginia and married Elizabeth Hill.

Elizabeth Hill was born in Virginia, 1621. Her parents, Edward and Hannah Hill arrived 1620 aboard The Bona Nova. Edward died in 1623, Hannah married Thomas Spelman, and had a daughter Mary, who married Nicholas Porquér. After Spelman’s death, Hannah married Alexander Mountney, and had children Alexander Jr., and Francis, who married Will Crompe. The Mountneys left voluminous records as court clerk and Community Store keepers, which Hannah continued many years after his death. William Pinley and Elizabeth were dead by 1650, leaving Will Jr., Thomas, Dorthy as orphans.


Generation 2:  Thomas Pinley & Elizabeth

Grandmother Hannah raised the three orphans in Northampton & Lancaster County until her death in 1659, when custody went to Hannah’s nasty sons-in-law. After Crompe abused Will Jr., “in the face of this court” custody went to Porquér, and then back to Crompe after abuse by Porquér. In 1662, Crompe moved the orphans to Talbot, Maryland. In 1670, Dorthy prosecuted Crompe for more abuse.

Except abuse, there is no positive data found on the orphans, only misspelled possibilities in Maryland and Virginia. Orphan Thomas eventually returned to Northumberland, Virginia, married Elizabeth (possibly Woffendale). Widow Elizabeth Pinley settled Thomas’ estate in 1698, and then married Robert Harrison. Orphan Thomas’s only documented child was William Pinley, born about 1680.


Generation III:  William Pinley & Mary Harrison

William Pinley was born about 1680 and married Mary about 1708.  Land deals and notes between Harrisons and Pinleys suggest that William Pinley married Robert Harrison’s daughter Mary. It is documented that William Pinley’s mother married Robert Harrison after the death of Thomas Pinley:January 27,1706: “I ELIZABETH HARRISON, Wife of ROBERT HARRISON...acknowledge...parcel of land wch my husband sold to my son, WILLIAM PINLEY”. William’s farm was along Marshy Swamp near the Westmoreland County border, today near Rich Neck. The family births, marriages, deaths, estates are recorded, as well as Mary’s 1730 adultery.  William and Mary had at least two children in Richmond County, Thomas and Mary.


Generation 4:  Thomas Penley & Sarah Stone

Thomas Penley, only known son of William and Mary Penley, was  born June 8, 1709 in Richmond County, Virginia. His sister Mary, born 1712, married Clark Short March 2, 1731.  This generation appeared relatively stable. They owned land, their parents lived nearby, their marriages, births, deaths, deeds and estates were recorded in North Farnham Parish and Richmond County records, with consistent PENLEY spelling.

Thomas Penley married Sarah Stone, January 30, 1729.  Sarah was destined to raise four children alone, husband Thomas Penley died at age 27 on March 22, 1736. After her husband’s death, Sarah Penley struggled to care for the children, eventually lost the farm to debt collectors, and moved her family to Northumberland County.  The four known children born to them were: William-1732, our Thomas-1732, Alice-1733, and Joshua-1736.


Generation 5: Thomas Penley & Millie

Our Thomas Penley was born in Richmond County, Virginia on June 6, 1732. In 1753, Thomas and two others were convicted in Richmond of murdering James Harriet, and sent to Williamsburg for prison.  The local witnesses against Thomas were mostly related, some even related to the “gentlemen judges” who decided the case. Details are sketchy, ten witnesses and three participants and, all in their twenties.  After four months in jail, the case was appealed to Virginia’s highest court, and our Thomas Penley was cleared and set free. The two others were sentenced for manslaughter instead of murder.  By the 1750s, tobacco crops had depleted the soil in Virginia’s Northern Neck, thousands fled in search of fresh fields.  Facing both animosity and failed crops, the Penley brothers left Virginia’s Northern Neck soon after Thomas was released from jail.

William first headed west to Shenandoah, then to Burke, North Carolina by the 1770s.  Joshua first bought land in lower Virginia, but by 1779 he and brother William bought land on Upper Creek in Burke, NC by 1779.  Joshua appeared in Scott County, Virginia, twenty years later in 1799.

Our Papa was a rolling stone, with an obvious preference for backwoods.  Thomas’s right hand may have been branded after his conviction and acquittal.  He was not trackable with deeds, wills and censuses.  Several records along the Carolina frontier may be our Thomas, but they are in such random locations and lack data for a solid link to Joshua or Epp.

The only positive record found on Thomas after his acquittal was his son Epp’s death record in 1868, Scott County which states that Epp was born in Virginia circa 1784, and his parents were Thomas & Millie Penley.

Our Thomas was probably the one listed on the 1782 Washington County, Virginia Tax List as “P. . . tley, THoams”.  Briefly, Uncle Joshua sold more land than he bought in the Scott County area, and some of it was land purchased before Joshua’s arrival.  It appears that Thomas Penley owned land in the Washington area that became Scott County before Uncle Joshua arrived in 1799. Uncle Joshua died in 1814, but it took 15 years to fully settle his complicated estate.  Immediately after executor John sold a  tract of Joshua’s property in 1817, Epp bought his first land for $200 ‘cash in hand’ and John was forced to post a $1,000 bond until he settled the remaining estate.  In 1829, John surveyed another tract in his name with no purchase recorded-seemingly an inheritance from Joshua.  John sold the property to David Nelson immediately after recording the survey.  Even though the litigants and property were in Scott County, John somehow settled the estate in Russell, and was finally released from his bond in 1829.   

Amelia Penley, thought to be the widow of Thomas Penley, has been located in Burke, NC on February 26, 1787:  “William Penley, Jr. gave court testimony that Amelia Penley absconded from Burke with a man named John Stillwell while owing money to a neighbor...”

  Epp’s mother ‘absconded’ with another man, our Thomas was dead or lost on the frontier:  Joshua may have moved to Scott County to take over Thomas’ land or Epp joined Uncle Joshua who arrived in Scott County by 1799.


Generation 6:  Epaphroditus Penley & Temperance

‘Epp’ Penley was born in Virginia circa 1784, the son of Thomas and Millie Penley. Epp was a young orphan and raised by his Uncle Joshua Penley in Scott County, Virginia from at least 1799.  Epp married Tempy circa 1804. Expert Jerry Penley had cause to believe her maiden name was Lane.  Epp & Tempie gave birth to twelve children who survived to adulthood.  In 1817, Epp purchased 100 acres from Samuel Lane.  In 1837, Epp purchased the same 86 acres from David Nelson that had previously been inherited by John from Joshua.  When Epp’s estate was settled in 1868, his 155 acre farm was divided equally between his children:  Jane Penley, Nancy Penley, Hiram Penley, Ira Penley, John Penley, Samuel J. Penley Sr. , Anna Penley, Alice Ally Penley, Thompson Martin Penley , Lovina Sarilda Penley, James Newton Penley, Thomas Eldridge Penley.