Summary: The Penley Heritage
The Penley Heritage
I've been asking questions and scribbling notes for a long time now. Aunt Georgia will be 100 years old this week. I only wish I had asked her more and written more.
Our ancestors were such fascinating characters, they dragged me into their lives.
I know so much more about myself because I studied them. The Penley Heritage carries forth under different names now, but the wisdom of the ages moves on with them.
This book is written for Joey and Jane Zack, but others may enjoy some of the stories.
January 15, 2009
Heritage: something that comes or belongs to one by reason of birth. Heritage has no value until you take ownership. We were born rich. We were blessed by God into a family with a rich heritage of goodness, wisdom, stamina and perseverance. I do believe that if you don't know where you came from, you don't know who you are.
Twenty years ago, I wanted to tell Joey and Jane a few things about our family. I thought I might write a little "golden book" about their history. I asked questions and jotted down notes. But our ancestors were such fascinating characters, they dragged me into their lives. For every generation I learned, I wanted to know another. The notes piled up. Joey built a website to store the files, and it grew beyond 500 pages in no time. My normal relatives didn't want to read that much to find their story, and neither did Joey and Jane. Only genealogists want the explanation for each conclusion, original documents, and citations of sources. All that documentation is available there now at www.PenleyPearls.com. I hope to refine and organize the information at the website better over the next 20 years, and keep searching for new information. But it's time to write up what I know.
I want a historical record for my children and their children. And I want it all in one place, not strewn about. I want later generations to know who brought them around. This is my best effort to write a brief summary of our family's history. Take it easy on me, it was tough to reduce 500 pages to this. There were difficult choices on photographs and stories to include for the later generations. I'm sure I've combined and twisted some stories, and every cousin has at least one more tale that should be included. Their memories are as valuable as mine. I apologize for the omissions and the errors I will see as soon as this is printed. I just reached a point where I had to stop searching and print what was available. I look forward to the corrections.
Mitch and Helen moved to Florida in 1956, but in many ways "home" to them was still the area between Nickelsville, Virginia and Kingsport, Tennessee. They made sure we didn't lose our family, just the mountains. Maybe our ties are stronger because we were alone down here, and our visits back home were more special because we didn't see our cousins every day. We ended up with sand in our shoes, so we remain in windy Florida, though we treasure our family back home in the mountains.
I learned so much about myself by studying their lives. Jackie Kennedy said that if you bungle your children, nothing else really matters. No bungling here, this family cherished their children, and the children returned that devotion in the later years. Family was and is the Penley priority. A child's experience becomes his definition of normal, often only the exceptions to that are recognized. Those ordinary values are our foundation, the soil beneath our feet. It is who and what we are, and not negotiable.
New knowledge of the past was enriching and exciting to me. Conjuring up old memories and sorting faded photos was a roller coaster of laughter and tears, a manic depressive journey. We lost too many too soon, we needed more time with Junior, Jamey, Johnny, David and Kay, and all the others who have left us. I wish Dad and Uncle Luther could see this book, but Dad would make me take out all the adjectives and tone down his character. He always wanted facts to speak for themselves. David was the glue that kept the cousins in touch. We have to work harder at that now.
Sadly, Rufus and Stella's line of the Penley name comes to an end with this generation. From here on, our heritage goes on under different names. Their descendants will not carry the name, but the family values, strength and the wisdom of the ages moves through their veins. This book is dedicated to Joey and Jane Zack and their cousins, our future.
January 15, 2009
Penley Generation I: The Immigrant
William Pinley ( 1620 - 1650 ) & Elizabeth Hill Pinley ( 1621 - 1650 )
William Pinley was born by 1620 probably near Birmingham, England. At the age of 19 in 1639, he sailed to Maryland aboard The Charity, listed as a manservant to Walter Broadhurst, also aged 19 from Shropshire. Pinley was literate, well educated, and was apparently employed at times by three Maryland governors. He was also trusted to write legal documents for illiterate businessmen and friends. He had a library of books notable for that day. During the upheaval in Maryland, he allied with the rebel Virginians on Kent Island, which led him to the Mountneys and Elizabeth Hill on the Eastern Shore of Virginia.
By 1643, William Pinley married Elizabeth Hill in Northampton County, Virginia. Elizabeth was the daughter of Edward and Hannah Hill, cited as “Elizabeth Hill, borne in Virginia” on the Virginia Muster, 1625. William Pinley traveled often between Virginia and Maryland, but there is no found indication that he moved his family to chaotic Maryland. Together they bore three children before their untimely deaths.
Will Penley, Jr., born 1643 Dorothy Penley, born 1647 Thomas Pinley, born 1650
Almost no footprints have been found for Elizabeth Hill Pinley. They called her Betty. She was raised by her mother Hannah and step-father Alexander Mountney. Life at Northampton was probably lively, they were at the Town Center. Her mother Hannah ran the Tavern on Kings Creek, and hosted monthly court sessions, and the church was adjacent. The Mountneys had stature in the community; both were called to court frequently to appraise values and settle disputes.
In 1642, Mountney sold the Kecoughtan land inherited from her father Edward Hill and used the money to buy cattle for Elizabeth. She was given another cow by a family friend in 1643, near the time of her marriage. William Pinley bought cattle in Maryland in 1644. William and Betty were probably building up a cattle farm at Chickacoan before death. Betty may have died in childbirth in 1650; William Pinley Sr. may have died even before Thomas' birth. By August of 1650, both William and Elizabeth were dead. The court assigned Grandmother Hannah Mountney as guardian to the three orphans and executrix of William Pinley’s estate.
William Pinley was a legal agent for Broadhurst, Thomas Gerrard, John Hallowes, Thomas Sturman and Maryland Governors Leonard Calvert, Edward Hill and William Stone. Maryland's government was struggling, and Pinley’s friends, particularly Sturman, Hallowes and Andrew Munroe, were involved in the Kent Island and Ingle Rebellions. In 1645, the rebels evicted Governor Calvert and elected Elizabeth Pinley's first cousin from Virginia, Edward Hill as their new governor.
Pinley’s rebellious friends continued to support Edward Hill after Calvert returned; they sailed across the Chesapeake and settled in the Chickacoan Indian District. Clues indicate that William Pinley was in the process of moving his family to Chickacoan. Pinley’s allies were charged with crimes against Calvert after the upheavals, but William was not arrested with them. On April 29, 1646 in Northampton Court, William Pinley was accused of having Governor Calvert's gray horse. The local court sent the case to Jamestown, but ordered Pinley to keep the horse in Northampton until the case was settled. Later documents indicate the horse belonged to Edward Hill.
When Northampton businessman William Stone was elected Governor of Maryland, William Pinley returned to Maryland as Stone’s employee. William Pinley spent Christmas of 1649 at home with his family in Northampton, Virginia; the next day he wrote a will for family friend Edward Drew, then soon returned to work in Maryland. On Sunday, January 13, 1650, William Pinley managed to offend Acting Governor Thomas Greene:
"The Court being informed of certain revileing Speeches of Wm Pinley uttered this present day in the house of John Hallowes viz , that he Should Say unto Robert Douglass a messenger Sent thither from the Governor upon business: that he had an honest face it was pitty he Should be hanged, and that he wished the Virgineans that came up in Service of the Governor had Estates in Virginea, and that rather than he would have come up upon Such employment as they did [in Maryland ]
he would have [rather] gathered Oysters for his liveing.
And thereupon was adjudged by the Court to be whipped with 20 lashes
and to be imprisoned till the Sentence be Executed."
Pinley was arrested at John Hallowes’ house, across the Potomac River at Chickacoan, now Westmoreland, Virginia. Acting Governor Thomas Greene ordered his arrest and beating. When Governor Stone returned to Maryland by January 24 Pinley was released. On February 4, 1650, with Governor Stone presiding over court, William Pinley was again arrested, for a supposed debt to ex-Acting Governor Thomas Greene. Later on the same day, Governor Stone released Pinley from jail and gave both Pinley and Thomas Sturman permission to go to Virginia. It is unknown if William Pinley went to Chickacoan or back to Northampton, but Sturman was back in the Maryland courtroom on February 15. No further legal entries are found for William Pinley. By August of 1650 he was dead; his estate and orphans were handled by the Northampton, Virginia court.
Elizabeth Hill's Parents
Edward Hill (1587 - 1624) & Hannah Boyle Hill (1599-1659)
Gentleman and "Ancient Planter" Edward Hill arrived in Virginia by 1616, the probable son of George Hill of Shropshire who had arrived in Jamestown in 1608. Edward Hill returned to England and married Hannah Boyle at Chirbury, Shropshire on August 17, 1619. Hannah was the daughter of Richard Boyle and Eleanor Brayne, of Shropshire.
Edward Hill brought his bride to Virginia aboard The Bona Nova on June 21, 1620. Their 100 acre riverfront home was at present day Hampton Roads. Before February 16, 1624, their only child, Elizabeth Hill was our first to be “born in Virginia”. She married William Pinley circa 1643. The family survived the 1622 Good Friday Massacre but faced starvation in the aftermath, according to the letters sent by Edward Hill to his brother John and father-in-law, Richard Boyle.
Edward Hill to his Brother, Mr. Jo. Hill, mercer in Lumbar Street [London]: dat’ 14 Ap. 1623. Idem to his father-in-law Mr. Richard Boyle in Blackfryars [London]: dat’ from Elizabeth City vt supra }
So the truth is we lyve in the fearfullest age that ever Christians lyved in...
Yet if we save but o [our] lives God willing the next year I will see you...
we dare scarce stepp out of o’ dores [doors] neither for wood nor water...
For my part I care not for any proffitt, indeed it is as much as we can doe to save o’ lives.
I have a great many people to keep and if I can but save their lives I hope I doe not amiss.
Edward Hill was cited as a hero by John Smith and others for saving many lives during and after the 1622 Massacre. Probably weakened by the conditions described in his letters, he was buried at Elizabeth City, Virginia on May 15, 1624. Shortly after Hill’s death, Hannah married her westward neighbor, Thomas Spelman, Gentleman. They gave birth to a daughter, Mary while residing along the Hampton River. Mary Spelman married Nicholas Porquér and moved to England in 1663. Thomas Spelman died in 1627 while on a trip back to England.
Henry Spelman was Thomas Spelman's famous brother. He lived with Pocahontas' tribe, the Powhatan for long periods, and was an interpreter for the colony.
By December of 1628, Hannah married her eastward neighbor, “Ancient Planter” Alexander Mountney. Six years later, they moved from the 250 acre Hampton River plantation, across the Chesapeake Bay to the Eastern Shore at Northampton, Virginia. The Mountneys gave birth to two more children, daughter Francis Mountney, who married Will Crump and Alexander Mountney, Jr., who became one of the first residents of Baltimore in 1661. Hannah was married to Alexander for sixteen years until his 1644 death.
Don't judge Hannah harshly because she married three husbands so quickly. A single woman could not raise two infants, plant crops, chop wood and fight off Natives by herself. We wouldn't be here if she hadn't found a partner. The mortality rate was 70% in Virginia in the 1620's.
Hannah Mountney lived 17 years after Alexander’s death, but never married again. She continued to operate the Community Store and Tavern at Accomack until the lease expired in 1654. She was literate, and served the Accomack court as banker, accountant and tax collector, appearing in over 90 court documents, but never as the defendant. Though it is now proven that she referred to her deceased son-in-law instead of her son, she left evidence of our descent and close family ties in 1651 when she testified in court to validate Edward Drew’s will.
“...I asked my sonn William Pinley whether Mr. Drew had a will or not & hee answrd hee had for I William Pinley writt it...”
Hannah was in poor health in 1652, too “sick and lame” for one court appearance, but she moved William Pinley’s orphans to the Chickacoan District around 1654. In 1657, Hannah bought 1,650 acres in Lancaster County, and died there in 1659, near the age of 60. Her son-in-law Will Crump inventoried a meager estate in Northumberland County, and soon liquidated her holdings and moved with the orphans to Maryland.
Hannah’s move to Lancaster was more than coincidence. William Pinley had signed off on business deals in the area, and appeared to be moving his family there, though no land deed is found. Pinley’s friends from Maryland were all nearby, including Gerard, Monroe, Broadhurst, Hallowes and Sturman. In 1652, Northampton court records document that Hannah was still holding Sturman assets. That William Pinley Sr. was known in Lancaster would explain why the court still referred to his son as Will, Jr. twelve years after his death.
Hannah outlived three husbands, raised four children and three grandchildren in a desolate wilderness fending off starvation, disease, marauding Natives, greed, and natural disasters. The mortality rate ranged up to 70% at times, yet she passed countless opportunities to surrender and forfeit our existence. Few details of daughter Elizabeth Hill Pinley’s life survived, but Hannah left strong and abundant footprints of one tough woman. It is empowering to know her tenacity and perseverance ebb and flow through our veins 400 years later.
Penley Generation II: The Orphans
Thomas (1650 - 1698) and Elizabeth Pinley
At their deaths in 1650 William and Elizabeth (Hill) Pinley left three orphans in Northampton County, Virginia.
Will Penley, Jr., born 1643 Dorothy Penley, born 1647 Thomas Pinley, born 1650
The court assigned Grandmother Hannah Mountney as guardian to the orphans and executrix of William Pinley’s estate. Hannah moved the entire family moved to Lancaster County by 1655. The children suffered no legal difficulties under Hannah’s care, but after her death in 1659 the children struggled with abuse and hard times, and shuffled back and forth between abusive uncles.
In 1659, the orphans were too young to choose a guardian. The court chose Will Crump, the bad tempered local sheriff and husband of their Aunt Frances Mountney. Within two years, the orphans told the court of “hard refuge” by Crump. Uncle Will Crump flew into a rage in the courtroom and “did assault Will Jnr. in the face of this court.” Crump was arrested, fined and fired as sheriff for his tantrum. Thomas Maddison, Jr. was a court justice. Will Jr. and Dorothy chose Nicholas Porquér, husband of their Aunt Mary Spelman as their new guardian. Their cattle and other property were transferred to Porquér.
There was a legal complaint in 1662 against our Thomas “for hiding a Hogg”, then he hid from the court for awhile. Thomas complained to the court of Porquér’s abuse, and returned to Crump’s custody for a 1663 move to Talbot County, Maryland with Dorothy. Their cattle stayed in Lancaster, and were “turned in” to the court by Porquér in 1665. The last found record on Dorothy is a July 14, 1670 power of attorney signed by Dorothy Pynty to prosecute William Crump in Maryland. After the day Will Crump abused Will Pinley, Jr. in the courtroom, Will, Jr. is not found again, although he could be the William Panley listed as creditor on a 1701 Maryland document.
Our Orphan Thomas and Elizabeth Pinley
Our orphan, Thomas Pinley died in Northumberland County, Virginia by 1698. He was survived by a wife and at least one son, William. His wife, Elizabeth Pinley filed to execute his estate, but records were destroyed in a courthouse fire. After Thomas Pinley’s 1698 death, his widow Elizabeth married Robert Harrison. In a 1707 deed, Elizabeth Pinley Harrison declared William Pinley as her son.
“Know all men by these presents that I, Elizabeth Harrison, Wife of Robert Harrison
of the Parrish of St. Stephens in county of Northumberland in Virginia
do by these presents appoint my well beloved friend Samll Churchill
of North Farrnum in county of Richmond to be my lawful Attorney
to acknowledge all my right and title of a parcel of land
wch my husband sold to my Son, William Pinley. it being 100 acres... Janry ye 27 1706.”
In Virginia, a Thomas Penry gave testimony in a 1680 Northumberland County court and again in 1681, but recorded as Thomas Pennly, and a Thomas Pedley, was deposed in a Somerset County, Maryland court in 1683. No more is known about our Thomas Pinley, or his wife Elizabeth. His immigrant father William Pinley and grandmother Hannah were literate and well educated. The Orphan Thomas was deprived of those gifts by their early deaths. Two hundred years passed before our Penleys regained the capabilities and stature that came with literacy.
Both Hannah Hill Mountney and the original immigrant William Pinley frequently crafted legal documents with the name consistently spelled with the I. William’s orphan Thomas was illiterate, and so were the succeeding four generations. Five generations no doubt pronounced the name for others to write, hence the many variations of the name.
Penley Generation III: The Planters
William (1680’s - 1745) and Mary (1680’s - 1749) Penley
This William Pinley had to be born by 1686 to legally buy land in 1707. Younger children could receive bequests, but until age 21 could not buy, sell, or sign a contract. On January 27, 1707, with dowers consent from his declared mother Elizabeth, he purchased 100 acres in Richmond County from Robert Harrison for £5,000 tobacco “in hand”. Young William signed with his mark, paid cash and was described as a “planter of Northumberland” indicating his prior establishment as a farmer, or an inheritance from his father.
Penley’s land was “at the head of ye branches of Swamp called Marches Swamp” near the Richmond and Westmoreland county lines. A deed witnessed for a neighbor by “Will’m Penley, his marke” cited a "pond of standing water called William Penley's Pond." On modern maps you can find a small pond near a place still called Marshy Swamp in Richmond County, eight miles from Warsaw, Virginia. This was Farnham Parish tobacco country in Richmond County.
Although not documented, it appears that William Pinley married Mary Harrison, the oldest daughter of his widowed mother’s husband, Robert Harrison and a previous wife. A flurry of Harrison/Pinley land transactions near their marriage affords a merger between the families. It is only positive that William Penley’s wife’s name was Mary.
All was not well in the Penley household by 1730. A Grand Jury indicted Mary for adultery, but the charges were dismissed in 1733. None of William and Mary’s three children or grandchildren ever named a daughter Mary, a flagrant break from tradition. In contrast, all three of the children did name a child William in the traditional pattern.
Mary remained married to William, and after his 1745 death, settled his estate. William Penley’s inventory included typical household items, but also 22 pounds of “Cotenn”, a dozen buttons, fabric and wool cards, indicating some textile work.
After William Pinley’s 1707 purchase of land, this family consistently used the letter E in Penley instead of the letter I as in Pinley. The change is more attributed to illiteracy than heritage. The Registers of North Farnham Parish in Richmond County, Virginia officially record the births of their children.
Born Penly, Thomas son of William and Mary Penly, 8 June 1709
Born Penly, Mary daughter of William and Mary Penly, 3 January 1712
Church records do not record William Penley’s death, but our last entry in the North Farnham Parish record is Mary Penley’s death on January 14, 1749. William and Mary may have had other children born outside of the North Farnham records. An Elizabeth Penly married Richard Rice, and named her first son William Pinley Rice, born about 1725. Daughter Mary married Clark Short on March 2, 1731.
Penley Generation IV: Farnham Parish
Thomas Penley (1712 - 1736) and Sarah Stone
On January 30, 1729, Thomas Penley married Sarah Stone, the daughter of Joshua and Mary Stone. Their marriage, births of four children and death of Thomas are registered in North Farnham Parish, Richmond County, Virginia.
Sarah Stone Penley bore four children before his untimely death. Following the conventions of the day, they named their first son after his father, their second after Thomas himself, and their third son after Sarah Stone’s father and brother, both named Joshua.
The known children of Thomas and Sarah Penley:
William Penley, born November 15, 1729
Thomas Penley, born June 6, 1732
Alice Penley, born March 7, 1733
Joshua Penley, born June 25, 1736
Sarah Penley was destined to raise the children alone, as her husband Thomas Penley died at the age of 28, on March 22, 1736, just before the birth of his fourth child, Joshua. Sarah’s father and grandfather were deceased, and at the age of 25 she became a widow with four small children. She may have taken the children to live at Marshy Swamp with William and Mary Penley, or received assistance from her family. There is no record of a second marriage for Sarah.
Mysterious assistance did come in 1741. A John Hartgroves left his land and estate in St. Stephen’s Parish, Northumberland County to Sarah Penley, and to one of her children at her death. Hartgroves may have been related to Sarah’s unknown mother.
Sarah’s troubles did not end with the Hartgroves' gift. No inventory of Thomas Penley’s estate was not conducted until six years after his death when a creditor was granted administration. Immediately after the Hartgroves bequest, land baron John King was granted administration in Northumberland County, even though Thomas’ birth, marriage, children and death are all recorded in Richmond County. King returned a meager inventory, with neither land nor orphans mentioned. John King seized Sarah Penley’s bequest from John Hartgroves, granted in a county where Thomas Penley owned no property.
The Penley brothers of Farnham dispersed along the western frontiers of Virginia and North Carolina in the 1750’s. It is not known if Sarah stayed in Northumberland County or left with one of her three sons. It would not be like Penley sons to leave their mother behind.
Penley Generation V: Life on the Frontier
Thomas Penley (1732 - 1780’s) and Millie
Life was difficult for the children of Thomas and Sarah Penley, another orphaned generation. Our Thomas was only four years old when his father died. His widowed mother Sarah probably raised the children on the William Penley farm at Marshy Swamp, or with her family, the Stones. In 1751, young Thomas was called to witness a will for a neighbor in Richmond, Jeremiah Greenham.
On December 22, 1753 Thomas Penley and two others were indicted by a Richmond grand jury for the murder of Thomas Hariot. With multiple defendants and witnesses, the scant details indicate negligence or bad judgment contributed to an unintended death. Thomas Penley, Thomas Bryan, and Ishmael Dew were tried for murder at Williamsburg. On May 16, 1754, The Pennsylvania Gazette reported that the court dropped all charges against our Thomas Penley, but Bryan and Dew were guilty of manslaughter and given prison terms. Our Thomas Pinley was immediately released from custody. The family probably stood by Thomas until he was exonerated, but the death and ordeal of four months at the distant Public Gaol on Nicholson Street in Williamsburg surely created strain for the family. The restored jail in Williamsburg where our Thomas awaited trial can be toured today.
After spending 100 years at Virginia’s Northern Neck, the Penleys left Richmond County and headed for new land along the frontier. English law required branding a defendant’s right thumb after granting leniency, to mark them for future courts. The requirement to raise an ungloved right hand to the judge in court continues today, though branding ended in 1779. If his thumb was branded, life in the backwoods would have been preferred.
From 1754 to 1763 the French and Indian War was fought in the colonies. The protests against the British began soon after, and the American Revolution was fought 1775 - 1776. In the settled areas, much of the land was “worn out” by tobacco, thousands moved toward new lands along the frontier. During the Revolution, the British paid Natives to attack the frontier settlers to keep the men away from the Continental Army. Life was chaotic for this generation of Penleys, they moved frequently, but some sporadic footprints have been found.
Eldest son William first headed west to Dunmore, then by 1774 to North Carolina. William’s son John Penley gave information about the family on his application approved for a Revolutionary War pension. The youngest brother Joshua was near the North Carolina border in Halifax and Guilford counties by 1754, but still in Virginia. Brothers Joshua and William reunited in Burke County, North Carolina by the 1770s; their names are found on tax lists. On the first ever United States of America Federal Census in 1790, William and Joshua Penley are found with large families in the Third Company of Burke County, North Carolina.
Our Thomas was the most elusive of the brothers. Old documents, bad spelling and burned courthouses get in the way of tracking him. Thousands of records are not yet on the internet and remain in individual counties. His lack of a paper trail could be evidence of a life out on the far fringes of civilization, a place like Washington County, Virginia. Russell County broke away from Washington County in 1786. Scott County broke away from Russell County in 1815.
At Epp Penley's death in 1868, his daughter Nancy filed the notice of his passing with the Scott County court. If not for this document, all connection to Thomas would have been lost. Since Epp lived with his Uncle Joshua, it might have been assumed he was Joshua's son. Epp's death notice is the only positive footprint for Thomas Penley after his 1754 release from prison.
Epp Penley, Born: Virginia, died March 19, 1868, age 84
Parents: Thomas and Millie Penley
Epp's birth in Virginia around 1784 places Thomas and Millie Penley somewhere in Virginia in 1784. The most credible document found for our Thomas is a smudged entry of Thomas P...tley on Washington County, Virginia’s 1782 Tax List. Efforts to look at the original document in Abingdon have failed.
P[en?]tley, Thoams 1 tithable 1 horse 2 cattle
While there is no proof that our Thomas Penley ever lived in North Carolina, Penleys have been known to stick together in tough times. And most importantly, his wife was there with the other Penleys in 1787. Millie may have been a second wife, as Thomas was over 50 years old at Epp’s birth. There were a lot of Penleys in North Carolina by 1790, and some of them may have been older children of Thomas Penley. These Penleys all named sons William, Thomas and Joshua, the lines in North Carolina are snarled. Thomas’ only documented son is our Epaphroditus, born in Virginia circa 1784.
It appears that Thomas Penley’s widow Millie took their son Epp to live near the Penley brothers in North Carolina after Thomas’ death, and deserted her young son there with his brothers. On February 27, 1787, court records show Amelia Penley “obsconded” from Burke with aid from John Stillwell while owing money to a neighbor, Lazarus Phillips. William Penley, Thomas’ brother testified against Amelia Penley in the case.
Aunt Dot remembers hearing that the Penleys moved in from North Carolina. By 1799, 63 year old Uncle Joshua left Burke and took his son John and Thomas’ orphan Epp to Russell/Scott County, Virginia where his brother probably owned land before his death. Joshua was tithable in Russell County for seven years before he bought land. Joshua owned 30 acres, but it strangely took 15 years to settle his complicated estate.
Joshua's son John later sold more land than records indicate he had ever purchased. In 1829, Joshua’s son John surveyed a 72 acre deed on the south side of Copper Creek in his name, probably inherited land since there is no record of purchase. Immediately after recording the deed, he sold the land to David Nelson. Epp Penley bought the same land from Nelson in 1837, it was probably the original homestead of Thomas Penley.
Vague variations of our name are found near Daniel Boone and Longhunter legends in North Carolina, including a Thomas Pendley found briefly in Rutherford County, North Carolina. Some of the thousands who traveled the old Wilderness Road in the 1780s through Weber City grew weary and settled nearby. Most just rested for a bit before meandering on west. Some like our Epp Penley and his descendants lingered another hundred years or so, and many remain there today.
Penley Generation VI:
Epaphroditus (1784 - 1868) & Temperance (1784 - 1865) Penley
Repeated census documents indicate both Epp Penley and his wife Tempy were born circa 1784, Epp in Virginia, Tempy in North Carolina. Again, all evidence indicates the presence of Epp’s father Thomas Penley in the southwest corner of Virginia by the 1780s. North Carolina at one time included the entire state of Tennessee, so Tempy could have been born a few miles away from Epp, just south of the Scott County line. Perhaps Tempy’s family moved to Scott County after her birth. Tempy died in the 1860s; Epp died in 1868, both in Scott County. At Epp’s death, his daughter Nancy filed the court record of his passing. If not for this document, all connection to the previous generations would have been lost.
Born: Virginia, White Male, Occupation: Farmer
Cause of Death: Consumption.
died March 19, 1868, age 84, Parents Thomas and Millie Penley
That Epp’s father was the Thomas Penley born June 6, 1732 in Farnham Parish is proven by Epp’s death notice and the 1799 presence of elderly Uncle Joshua Penley at the Virginia homestead. Joshua’s son, John Penley was born in North Carolina, which connects the Joshua on the 1790 Burke County Census, living with three males under age 16. The three young males in his 1790 household were probably his sons John and Joshua and his nephew Epp. It appears that Thomas Penley died near the time of Epp’s birth, and that his mother Amelia / Millie took Epp to join Thomas’s brothers in North Carolina, and deserted her child Epp there.
Scott County was a dangerous place during Epp’s childhood. Indian troubles, his father’s death, and desertion by his mother may have caused Epp to live in North Carolina with his uncles Joshua and William Penley until 1798. Until Chief Benge was beheaded in 1794, Clinch Mountain was fraught with Indian troubles. Dragging Canoe told settlers they were buying "dark and bloody land". Families were often taken to safe areas; men went back in militia units to plant crops. Some pioneer homes were abandoned for years at a time. Before 1776, private individuals, land companies, Natives, and British and American authorities sold fraudulent deeds. After the Revolution, Virginia, North Carolina, Tennessee and the fledgling state of Franklin argued over jurisdiction. After Benge’s death, settlers flooded back to their homes and faced squatters and faked deeds.
Sometime after the 1790 census, Joshua took Epp back to Thomas’ homestead in Russell County, Virginia. Uncle Joshua was on the Russell tax list in 1799 as one tithable. From 1800 to 1802 he paid for two tithables, himself and either his son John or our Epp. In 1803 Joshua paid 36¢ tax for three tithables, indicating that Epp and John were both tithable. Note that taxes did not inspire the best memory on age.
The 1804 - 1808 tax rolls are not available, but Epp is listed as taxable and head of his own household beginning in 1809. Uncle Joshua died in 1814. Epp and John Penley both signed the petition to form Scott County in 1814. Epp bought his first land in 1817 from Samuel Lane for $200 “cash in hand” just after Joshua’s land was sold by his son John.
Epp purchased 100 acres “upon the waters of Copper Creek” in 1817. Josh’s son John Penley surveyed a 72 acre deed in his name in 1829, on the south side of Copper Creek. No purchase was recorded by Joshua or John. Prior ownership is implied, which indicates inheritance from Epp’s father, Thomas. In 1830, John Penley sold that land to David Nelson and moved to Kentucky. In 1837, Epp purchased the same land from Nelson that John Penley sold to Nelson in 1830. After Epp’s death, his 155 acre farm was divided among heirs.
Tempy’s maiden name was not recorded, but noted genealogist Jerry Penley was convinced that Tempy was a member of the Lane family. They married young, but their union lasted about sixty years. Epp was listed as a farmer and Tempy as a weaver on the 1860 census, as were some of her daughters. She died before Epp in the 1860s. Because Epp and Tempy’s oldest surviving child was Jane, born in 1805 at Scott County Virginia, their marriage is estimated to have occurred in 1804. By 1805, Epp and Tempy were positively residents of Russell/Scott County, as every single one of their TWELVE surviving adult children listed their birthplace as Scott County, Virginia, several cited the specific community of Estillville.
Between 1804 and 1834, Epp and Tempy gave birth to FOURTEEN children in Scott County, but ONLY twelve survived to adulthood. There may have been other infant deaths before 1820, as there is a long gap between Nancy, born 1806, and Hiram, born 1816. That gap caused researchers to question if Jane and Nancy were Epp's sisters, but found documents prove both to be Epp's daughters. Possibly the standard Penley names of William and Joshua were given to children who did not survive.
Penley Generation VII:
Epp and Tempy's Children
By the 1850 Census, the mountains were alive with Penleys. Epp and Tempy’s 12 children and 33 grandchildren were recorded. Epp and Tempy had 79 descendants by 1870. On the 1860 census, most of the Penley sons are listed as literate, though Hiram stated that illiteracy was a problem in settling Epp’s estate. Their daughters were listed as illiterate, but 16 of their grandchildren were enrolled in school during the previous year.
Though many families splintered off to greener pastures in this era, ours remained close. Most of Epp and Tempy’s children remained in Scott County for over 100 years, clustered around Manville, Copper Creek and Clinch Mountain. Many descendants are nearby today. Daughter Nancy never married, lived at home and cared for her parents in later years. Also living at home were daughter Jane and two children, Angeline and Andrew. Two known children preceded Epp in death, Jane in 1858, and Ally Foster circa 1862.
The census enumerator's path illustrates a tightly knit family. Epp and Tempy, both aged 61, lived in household #14 with Jane, Nancy, James, Thomas Eldridge, and grandchildren Andrew and Angeline. With a Hammond family between, the Samuel and Thompson Martin families were at #16 and #17. Daughter Sarilda and Thomas Shoemaker lived in #29. John Penley is listed as the owner of land at #38, but Ally’s husband Anthony Foster is listed as head of that household. Anna and Ruban Bellamy lived at #146. Hiram and Ira lived the furthest, but were close to each other in households #1081 and #1090. Ira's family eventually lived near Duncan Mill, about 12 miles from Manville by car, but rest assured our Penleys knew some shortcuts through the mountains.
In 1850, Epp, Hiram, John and sons-in-law Shoemaker and Bellamy owned land, by 1860 Epp was the only land owner. The 1860 Census reveals the same closeness. Daughter Ally Foster’s family was at #1018, Hiram at #1019, Thompson Martin at #1020, Epp near the center at #1021, and Sam next door at #1022. James and Sarilda lived at #1036 and #1037, and John at #1150 with Ira a few miles away at #1200. Jane passed away in 1858, the Bellamys headed for Kentucky, and Thomas E. Penley moved by 1857 to raise a large family 50 miles away in Greene County, Tennessee.
James Newton Penley was a circuit riding Methodist Minister. He preached in Scott and Lee Counties, Virginia and Estell and Wolfe Counties in Kentucky. James and Louisa's great grandchild, another Helen Penley was the mother Richard Scherer of Kansas, noted Penley genealogist, treasured mentor, and wood carver.
The sage of Penley genealogy, the late Jerry Allen Penley was a great-grandson of Epp down through Ira's line. Jerry had Epp's kids and their history engraved on his heart. He led many a stray Penley back to his or her roots via the internet or a trip to the backwoods. His brother Charles, a Vietnam and Iraq Army veteran, and dear wife Carrie were accomplices on his great adventures. Jerry has been sorely missed since his passing in 2006, but never more than when trying to piece together the history of Epp and Tempy's descendants.
Jerry talked at length with the current owner of Epp Penley's property. The gentleman pointed out the previous location of the old cabin, and showed Epp and Tempy’s presumed graves. Jerry provided a tour of the Penley homesteads in Red Hill and Manville and would have given this research more specific facts. Regrettably, the scenery and lively conversation deterred notes, and we lost Jerry in 2006. It is hoped that Jerry's brother, Charles Penley, can tell me where we were that day. Jerry provided countless documents and hours of energetic debate on obscure points of Penley history of little interest to most mortals. Fortunately many of his files remain available at PenjaccPhoto.com.
Five mountain ridges cut through Scott County, but moonshine did not rule the backwoods here to the legendary extent. Even today, few live near Epp’s rugged land by Copper and Moccasin Ridges, a few more near streams and on the uplands. Wherever nature contributes a gentle roll of land between ridges, the soil is fertile. Families grew their own food, kept a milk cow and chickens, and slaughtered pigs. A meandering drive today on Route 627 along Copper Creek hints that the legendary barrels of whiskey and tobacco casks could not be transported out in large quantities.
Tobacco ruled many of the rolling hills in Scott County in the 1800s, but historians also see the importance of the bountiful chestnut trees as the economic spine of the backwoods. Tanners bought the bark, and lumber was used for cabins, fences, furniture and caskets. Most important to the farmer, every fall the backwoods were blanketed with millions of chestnuts. Families boiled and roasted chestnuts for food and raked wagonfuls for market. They notched and slashed the ears of livestock to identify their brands, and set them free in the woods to fatten on roots, vines, acorns and chestnuts. Dogs helped round up wild pigs in time for drovers to come through, purchasing from the locals as they passed. The hogs transported themselves to market and fed off the land as they went. Early settlers did not build pig pens; instead, they built fences around their crops and other livestock to keep the hogs out. The 1920s chestnut blight changed more than landscape; it altered the backwoods' economy and lifestyle forever.
There were no slaveowners in the family, but the Civil War hurt everyone. Anna’s husband Reuban Bellamy moved the family to Kentucky to avoid a Confederate draft of their son Robert. The Bellamys were staunch opponents of slavery. Father and son eventually joined the Union Army in Tennessee Cavalry Regiments. Most of the Bellamys stayed 150 miles away in Estill County, Kentucky after the war. Ira's sons Robert and Thomas Penley fought for the Union Army with a Kentucky unit. Hiram’s son, William T. Penley, fought in the 64th Mounted Infantry of the Confederate Army. His daughter Nancy Clinton Penley married Charles Wagner. Their son was the infamous outlaw Kinnie Wagner. The Civil War allegiances of the other Penley children is not known.
Hiram and Sam went to court in 1869 to divide up Epp’s 155 acre estate. Much of what is known of this generation comes from that court date, furnished by the late Jerry Penley. Hiram and Sam’s depositions mentioned the upheaval of the Civil War (1861 -1865) and illiteracy as causes for delay of the legal division.
“being illiterate and not able to write themselves did not wish to incur the expense of employing a willing man to draw writings when they were all ready and-willing...and the war coming on and raging as it did throwing the country into confusion and scattering the parties and stopping & checking the courts as it did in the discharge... when the war closed they being scattered to and fro have failed to meet ... but for the war which began soon after the transaction and threw the country into confusion and prevented...the ordinary transaction of business...”
It seems property divisions began with Epp’s blessing before his death. Nancy kept her share at Epp's homestead. Sam purchased Jane and Thompson Martin's shares. Hiram purchased Thomas Eldridge, James Newton, and John's shares.
In the custom of the day, Epp and Tempy's sons and unmarried daughter received shares of the estate. The married daughters received no share of the estate, and their husbands spoke for them in court. Angeline spoke for herself because her mother and husband were dead. Single women had substantial legal powers, but yielded property rights when they married.
The court summoned oaths from Nancy and the brothers, as well as sisters Anna and Relda's husbands, Jane's surviving daughter Angeline Shoemaker, and a guardian who spoke for Ally Foster's surviving children. Jane's son Andrew was deceased. Such a complicated case would destroy many family reunions, but none of Epp's children contested the plea brought by Sam and Hiram, and the court ordered:
“The said Commissioners shall be directed to lay off to Hiram Penley with his own the shares of those of whom he has purchased, so that the same may adjoin and form one body and tract. Also that said Commissioners may be directed to lay off Samuel Penley's share with and adjoining the shares he has bought and paid for, so that it may adjoin and form one tract entire.”
New deeds were recorded for Hiram, Sam and Nancy Penley in 1869. Ira was not mentioned in the document available. At one time Epp owned two pieces of land. Ira may have cordoned off the other piece of land for himself in separate court action.
Penley Generation VII: Epp and Tempy's Kids
Hiram Penley (1816 - 1878) married Rachel Bays (1810 - 1880s)
Ira Penley (1817 - 1872) married Anna Bays (1819 - 1880s)
Our line of Penleys actually descends from two of Epp and Tempy’s children, Hiram, born 1816, and Ira, born 1817. Over a hundred years later, Ira’s great granddaughter, Stella Lowe would marry Hiram’s grandson, Rufus Penley. The Federal Census spelled our name Pendly in 1850, Penly and Penley in 1860. After that, it was exclusively spelled PENLEY on all official documents found, this consistency coincided with family literacy.
Three of Epp and Tempy’s sons married three of Charles and Susannah (Kilgore) Bays’ eight daughters. Ira Penley and Anna Bays were the first to marry in 1839, Hiram and Rachel married later the same year. Samuel married a younger daughter, Elizabeth Bays, around 1847. There were several related Bays families in Scott County at the time, but it appears that all three of the Penley brides were the daughters of Charles and Susannah. Like the early Penleys, the Bays descendants recycled the given names in succeeding generations and the lines are snarled. Bays Mountain was named for this family. The legendary Carter Family singers descended from the same line, A.P. Carter’s mother was Mollie Bays.
Charles Bays ( 1785 - 1859) was the son of William (1760-1827) and Rachel (Barker) Bays. Rachel died sometime after the 1820 census. William Bays was the son of Peter Bays, whose first land warrant in the area was 1783. Peter’s will was recorded in 1801 Russell County, and in 1806 it was “Certified to the Register of the Land that John, William, James, Joel, Peter, Mary, Joseph & Susanna Bays are all the heirs of Peter Bays, decd”.
The Charles Bays family lived near the Penleys, but the census did not number households until 1850. In 1823, Charles Bays was granted 156 acres on the north waters of Copper Creek. Sometime during the 1840s, Charles and Susannah moved on to Floyd County, Kentucky with the younger children. The only other Bays daughter known to have stayed in Scott County was Jane, she married William B. Flannary in 1834.
Charles’ wife, Susannah Kilgore’s family is also highly regarded in the area. Susannah Kilgore (1788-1850s) was the daughter of the Reverend Robert “Robin” and Jane Porter Green Kilgore. Robin Kilgore’s parents were Robert Kilgore Sr. and Winnie Clayton. Jane’s parents were Patrick Porter and Susannah Walker Porter, who arrived near Clinch around 1770. Jane’s first husband, James Green and Robert Kilgore Sr. were killed by Natives by the Pound River in 1782, and stuffed into the hollow of a chestnut tree. Widowed Jane soon married Reverend Robert “Robin” Kilgore Jr. was a well-known Primitive Baptist minister, preached at the Nickelsville church for over 40 years and married hundreds of Scott County couples. In 1786, Jane and Robin Kilgore built the Kilgore Fort House, still standing at Copper Creek near Nickelsville. They raised a large family there, including our Susannah, born at the Kilgore Fort on June 2, 1788. Robin and Jane Kilgore are buried at the Nickelsville Church.
Penley Generation VIII: Epp's Grandchildren
Literacy returned to our family line at last! Beginning in 1870, Samuel Penley, and all of Hiram's children were designated as literate. We were reading again, only 220 years after the death of our well educated literate immigrant, William Pinley. The first free schools in Scott County were opened in 1870, but "subscription schools" taught the basics before that to paying customers, and Hiram or Aunt Nancy made the investment for us. Priscilla was not recorded as literate. By 1880, Ira's widow was living near Duncan Mill with her youngest son, Isaac, sons James Monroe and Melvin's families were nearby. Samuel's family was in the DeKalb district, by Ft. Blackmore.
Samuel Penley (1856 - 1921) married Priscilla Price (1865 - 1951)
Hiram's family was still at Estillville, closer to Gate City. At Epp's old homestead, Samuel and Charles were at home with Hiram's widow, Rachael. Enoch lived next door, alongside Epp's daughter Aunt Nancy, age 71. These were hard times, and by 1900, Hiram's sons owned no land. William, Enoch, Sam and Charles' widow are listed as renters in Estillville district. Hiram's acreage was not enough to support the families of four sons.
Our Samuel Penley (May 14, 1856 - December 4, 1921) was the son of Hiram and Rachel Penley. He married Ann Shoemaker, who died after giving birth to one child. William Manuel Penley (1875 - 1941) married Letha Rhoten. Widower Sam Penley then married our grandmother, Priscilla Price on July 15, 1882 in Scott County. Priscilla (October 5, 1865 - April 4, 1951) was the daughter of John and Fanny (Aldridge) Price, the granddaughter of Drury and Margaret Price. John and Fanny Price, aged 23 and 24 are on the 1850 census at house #7, Drury Price is nearby, at house #11. Most of the Prices were of Scot Irish descent.
Together Sam and Priscilla Price Penley gave birth to FIFTEEN children between 1883 and 1912.
1. Sarah Lydia Penley (1883-1972)
2. Cora Lee Penley (January 5, 1884 - October 15, 1885)
3. John M. Penley (1885 - 1920) married Ida Lane
4. Lula Penley (1888 - 1970) married William Henry
5. Lillie Penley (1888 - 1939) married Carson Strong
6. Lona Penley (1890 - 1943) married Worley Clayton Lane
7. James Worley Penley (1895 - after 1970) married Eliza Henry
8. Hiram Thomas Penley (July 15, 1896 - June 6, 1927 )
9. Rufus Asbury Penley (October 12, 1896 - July 14, 1981 ) married Stella Mae Lowe on April 19, 1919.
10. Mary Buena Penley (1898 - 1960) married Kelly Lane
11. Enoch Penley (1901 - 1965) married Monnie Lane
12. Nancy (Nannie)Penley (April 20, 1905 - April 12, 1988) married Ira Luster
13. Malcolm Barney Penley (April 28, 1908 - April 2, 1988) married February 24, 1940 Georgia Marie Freeman
14. Monnie Penley (1908 - 1918)
15. Kelly Horton Penley (June 27, 1910 - Jan 16, 1982) married Bernice Freeman
The exact location of their home is not clear after 1880, but the small Taylor cemetery by Blairs Chapel at the intersection of State Roads 71 and 72 between Slabtown and Snowflake reveals much about Hiram's descendants. Enoch's wife Nancy was buried in 1911. Later Enoch, their son Charles and three grandchildren were buried there. One of the oldest markers there is for Mary Penley, 1826 - 1908, the probable wife of Epp's son, Thomason Martin Penley. Sam and his brother Enoch probably lived near here at the time the first burials took place.
There are many unmarked graves. Death took Sam and Priscilla's daughter Cora in 1885. When their daughter Monnie died at age ten in 1918, she was buried by Blairs Chapel. Samuel followed in 1921, son Hiram Thomas in 1927, and Priscilla in 1951. Years later their daughters Sarah and Lula (Henry) were buried. A very small unmarked grave next to Sam's marker may be Georgia Marie Penley who died circa 1920, the first child of Rufus and Stella.
When Hiram Thomas and Rufus registered for the draft in 1918, both listed Gate City as home, Thomas said he was born near Gate City. Rufus signed his name; Thomas made a mark. Sometime before 1920, Sam and Priscilla moved across the state line to Kingsport, perhaps to take advantage of jobs created by World War I. The exact location of Sam and Priscilla's home is not determined, but the Morrison City area is strongly suggested. Items about the Penleys appeared in the Morrison Chapel section of the newspaper in the 1920s. They were found in Sullivan County, outside the city limits of Kingsport, 12th Civil District, section #168, page 20.
Sam and Priscilla were found on Sullivan County's 1920 census in house #415 with children Sarah, Thomas, Enoch, Nannie, Malcolm and Horton Kelly. Their married sons Worley and John were nearby with young families in houses #412 and #413. Jobs probably took them to Tennessee, though Sam and Worley are listed as renting farms. Enoch worked at the pulp mill, and Thomas at construction, all for wages. John was working at wholesale grocery, perhaps the Kingsport Grocery Company that opened in 1916.
Rufus married Stella Lowe on April 4, 1920 or 1921. They have not been located on the 1920 census, but they were possibly living near Gate City. We have no pictures of Grandpa Sam Penley, but he wrote a wonderful letter from Kingsport to his son Rufus that conveys his beliefs, values and fatherly pride. Cousin Jennifer interpreted the old writing.
March 23, 1920
Dear son and daughter,
I will try to write you a few lines to let you know we are all alive. We have all been sick. I hain't much better. John and all of his family has been down with the flu. All are better I think.
Well dear one good boy, I heard you and Stell had professed religion. Oh what good news to me Rufus. Watch and pray. Go to your work and pray. Keep Satan off.
Well come over as soon as you can. Well I heard you sold your pup. I will give you one of mine if you want it. Send me word. Well I would like to see you all. Worley's baby is sick. They have had the doctor with her. Be a good boy.
Jesus Jesus Stand by me and keep the devil away from me.
From your papa
Circa 1921, Sam also took a job at a grocery. Soon after, he became ill with Brights disease and died of kidney failure on December 4, 1921 in Kingsport. He was survived by his wife Priscilla and fourteen children.
Their son Hiram Thomas Penley was a World War I soldier. Because he returned from the war in poor health, Thomas kept his serviceman's life insurance paid up with his sister Sarah, and brothers Malcolm and Kelly as beneficiaries. He left specific instructions for them to buy a small farm for his mother Priscilla where she could live out her days in peace. Upon Thomas' death, his wishes were carried out poetically. For $1,250 the
Penleys bought 85 acres on Clinch Mountain from James Willis. Malcolm later bought 30 acres more for a total of 115 acres. Between Slabtown and Snowflake on State Road 71, the land rises up behind the Woods Cemetery and the old Mountain View School, about four miles from Gate City.
It was about a 3/4 mile walk to the house from the road, across a creek. In the summer a car could get a good way up, but in the winter it was a hike all the way, unless you turned an ankle, then Granddaddy Rufus carried you up on his back. Uncle Luther bought a Scout that could maneuver the entire route to their front door in good weather. Kinnie Wagner was born there, and is buried at the foot of the mountain, at Woods Cemetery by Mountain View School. Flint and Indian arrowheads were found there. Signal Knob was a bit further up at 3,217 feet. It was a distance Mitch Penley loved to run; he said they never walked anywhere, they always ran. In his later years he regretted not taking one more hike up there. Uncle Malcolm's house was only up about 2600 feet above sea level.
As soon as Priscilla gained her mountaintop home in 1927, it became a safe haven and hub of activity for her children, and grandchildren. When her kids hit hard times in the 1920s and 1930s, they brought their families to Priscilla's mountain while they worked through rough patches. Mitch Penley lived there with Luther, Dolphine and Jeanette for a few years around 1927 - 1930. Rufus and Stella came on days off to see the kids.
Through good times and bad, on weekends the mountain came alive with children. Mitch fondly remembered running with throngs of cousins and begging to stay over through the summer, or at least the next weekend. There were some tall tales about Alpha, Ginny and Don Strong, Jack and Benny Collings, Janie Lane, Uncle Malcolm's boy Tommy and some other favorites, but mostly just fond reflections on the bygone days. When Mitch's grandson Joey Zack interviewed him for a school paper, he concluded:
“Cousin to my grandfather means best friend. He grew up in a very tight-knit family cluster and spent most of his time with his cousins. My grandfather regrets nothing about his life, as he is grateful for all he has been given."
The good times lasted through the years. Don Strong, Jack and Benny Collings would come to our home on Long Street or Dora Street to play Rook until the wee hours. Whenever any of Mitch's cousins visited, there were always big smiles, pranks, and talking long into the night. Helen kept the coffee pot going and usually had to make a cake for Don. When Helen was pregnant, Benny always threatened to call a Vet for delivery. Linda and Karen fell asleep many a night to the voices and melodious laughter coming from the kitchen. Janie (Lane) Mann and her daughter Coantha Mann lived near us in Florida for a few years. We spent a lot of time together, and endured Hurricane Donna at their house in 1960. Jack and Benny Collings might pop up anywhere for a quick visit. These are just memories of Dad's memories; if he were here now there would be more colorful stories about these folks.
After hearing the now legendary tales of the Penley cousins on that mountain, imagine the surprise at finding it reported on the society page of The Kingsport Times. But it was no surprise to see that the Misses Georgia and Bernice Freeman were visitors. My Aunt Georgia married Uncle Malcolm, and Berniece married Uncle Kelly, and they kept the farm through the 1980s when age forced them off the mountain. There are many more newspaper entries like these in the 1920s; these were chosen because Mitch, Luther, Dolphine and Jeanette were surely there those days, such visits spawned many a Penley legend. These must have been some of the days that Dad talked about for the rest of his life. Priscilla's daughter Lillie married Carson Strong, referred to here as C.E. Strong.
January 29, 1929: Mr. Malcolm Penley and Miss Fannie Strong called to see Miss Georgia Freeman Tuesday night. Mr. Malcolm Penley returned to his home near Gate City Friday after spending the week with Mr. and Mrs. C.E. Strong.
October 24, 1929: Mr. and Mrs. C. E. Strong and family, Misses Georgia and Berniece Freeman, Messrrs. Robert McKinzie, Clarence Bruner and Malcolm Penley spent the day with Mrs. Samuel Penley, near Gate City. Mr. K. H. Penley spent Sunday night with Mr. Alfred Strong.
December 19, 1929: The C.E. Strong family spent Sunday with Mrs. Priscilla Penly near Gate City.
Grandma Priscilla's remained a favorite spot on earth for those who came, not just because of the calm and majestic beauty of the mountain, not just because of the table where there was always food for one more, or the beds that were never too full for one more cousin. It reminded you of who you were, where you'd been, and told you where to go next.
Relationships forged on the mountain sustained the family for generations to come, and built character that would see them through tribulations to come. If World War II adults were The Greatest Generation it was the love of people like Sam and Priscilla who forged them.
Grandma Priscilla died in 1951. It was "Uncle Malcolm's Mountain" to the next generation. The farm was neat as a pin inside and out. He was a giant of a man who made every little visitor feel incredibly important. He took Aunt Georgia down the mountain on a sled to meet an ambulance after a copperhead snakebite. Aunt Georgia was a powerful woman with a razor sharp mind for every detail of family history. Uncle Kelly and Aunt Bernice lived nearby. Their son, Sammy Penley has added some memories to this book.
As this is written, Aunt Georgia is celebrating her 100th birthday, on January 15, 2009 with her son Tommy in Georgia. If she lived closer this book would have flowed easily into one big wonderful story. The Penley name lives on in Thomas Wayne Penley, the son of Malcolm and Georgia, born December 4, 1940. Tommy's children are Cynthia (Chilton) born in 1960 and son Tommy Wayne Penley, Jr. born in 1965. Cynthia and Rudy Chilton have Austin Thomas Penley born October 1, 1996. Tommy Jr. has Matthew Wayne Penley, born Sept. 10, 1990 and Ashley Nicole, November 6, 1991.
I Never Knew Another (That Was A Finer Man)
written by Steve Barber
In Memory of
He wore overalls on Sunday,
They seemed to suit him fine.
He never was pretentious,
He wasn't that kind.
He seldom went to church,
But he was a righteous man.
I never knew another
That was a better man.
His face was all weathered,
From working in the sun.
It seemed he never stopped,
The work was never done.
He never took vacation,
It wasn't in his plans.
I never knew another
That was a better man.
He always found the time,
To help a friend in need.
He'd work in the fields
Until his hands would bleed.
If you searched this world over,
And went across this land,
You'd never find another
That was a better man.
It wasn't just the local newspaper that noticed the gatherings at Priscilla's home. The single most ludicrous documents ever found came from the F.B.I., provided by cousin Charles Penley. When Charles filed for the Wagner papers, he never expected 800 pages! Notorious desperado Kinnie Wagner escaped from a Mississippi prison in 1942. J. Edgar Hoover ordered agents to apprehend him in Scott County. They put Priscilla's mountain under surveillance, and told Hoover that they couldn't climb up to get Wagner because our Grandma Priscilla Penley was armed, dangerous and had an army of lawless sons defending Wagner. They named Rufus, Malcolm and Mitchell Penley, and repeatedly blamed our tiny Priscilla for ruling the fortress with an iron fist. They also sat in a living room across the street from the Rufus Penley home on Flannery Street in Morrison City waiting for Kinnie's visits, and probably watched Aunt Jeet polish her nails on the porch. This was 1942; there was a war going on. For these agents, Scott County was safer than the beaches of Normandy or Iwo Jima. They avoided the real war by painting Priscilla and her sons as hardened criminals, risks to national security. The 800 pages are worthy of a comic book, and someday must be transcribed.
There was some fire behind the smoke, but not the flames the federal agents described to Hoover. Kinnie was a second cousin, Hiram Penley's grandson. Rufus and Malcolm, and Stella's Uncles Jerry and Jimmy and other Penleys were friends with Kinnie Wagner. They believed that Kinnie was set up for an ambush by a crooked sheriff, back in 1925, during prohibition. The sheriff wanted to get rid of Kinnie to keep him from turning the sheriff into the revenuers. The deputies at the river were just following orders from higher up, probably unaware of the background. When ambushed, Kinnie was the better shot and killed two deputies.
Much of the family was appalled by the unfair trial and lies told on the witness stand. Amy Lou Penley, Priscilla's niece through Sam's brother Enoch gave eyewitness testimony in Kinnie's defense. Mitch grew up knowing the story so well, he was shocked years later to find out he was only a few months old at the time. Rufus and Stella may well have taken Mitch with them to court that day, but he realized his memories came from the repetition of the story through the years. Kinnie was found guilty and sentenced to electrocution. Family legend is that Rufus, Jerry and other Penleys arranged Kinnie's escape from jail. The truth will never be known.
When Kinnie escaped from jail or came home on furloughs, he lived off the land in the backwoods and sneaked visits with friends and family. He was a moving target, and never stayed anywhere long. He did visit Grandma Priscilla’s farm, and would shoot targets with the boys on Sunday afternoons. Mitch watched Kinnie drive nails into fence posts with a 22 rifle from fifty feet across the yard. He would name items, then hit them in that order, as fast as he could pull the trigger, never missing a target. After Luther left for the war, Rufus sent Mitch out in Luther's 1937 Plymouth to take Kinnie places. Mitch once asked Kinnie how many men he had killed. Kinnie Wagner looked him straight in the eyes and said, “Mitch, I never fired on a man who wasn’t already firing at me.” Mitch believed him.
Like many people, Mitch was amazed by Wagner's silken nerves, physical strength, and sharpshooting. He believed Wagner had a tough childhood, and got a raw deal in 1925. After that, things spun out of control; no side was all good or all bad; there was no victory to be had. Mitch raised his daughters to believe that Kinnie Wagner created much of his own bad luck, as well as heartbreak and hardship for many others.
Wagner was charismatic; his saga remains interesting to many 50 years after his death. The story is too complicated and sensitive to be dealt with in these pages. Mitch said that the people who knew the most talked the least, and now they are gone. There is more of Mitch's story at PenleyPearls.com. Other valid and conflicting points of view have been published.
Priscilla was not a national threat, but would probably feed Sam's hungry nephew who grew up hard. If the feds heard gunfire from the mountain, the boys were hunting or target shooting. And those bungling F.B.I. agents would have made lousy soldiers anyway, and would never have made it as Marines.
Penley Generation IX: The Tennesseans
Rufus Asbury Penley (October 12, 1896 - July 14, 1981)
Stella Mae Lowe (May 1, 1898 - December 12, 1955)
Rufus was the son of Samuel and Priscilla Penley, the grandson of Hiram and Rachael Penley, and the great-grandson of Epp and Tempy Penley. He is found on the 1900 and 1910 census of Scott County, living with his parents near Gate City. He was the ninth of fifteen children and adored his big family. His early life is described with Sam and Priscilla.
Stella was the daughter of Anna Martha Penley (1881 - January 13, 1947) and Charles Hagan Lowe (1880 - February 12, 1962) of Manville and later Mabe, Scott County. Grandpa Charles Lowe was the son of John Wesley Lowe and Biddie Stowe. Grandpa Lowe was a kind and gentle man who took great joy from life. Mitch was "Big Chief," Grandpa was "Little Chief". When he visited Florida he was gleeful at the sight of the "big pond" that others called the Atlantic Ocean. He romped in the waves with the kids till his longjohns gave out. At the age of 82, he was killed by a truck as he walked along the road.
Anna's father was James Monroe Penley, who went by the name Monroe, the son of Ira and Anna Bays Penley. Grandmother Anna was the second child of Monroe and Eliza Williams Penley of Manville. Our line of Penleys actually descends from two of Epp and Tempy’s children, Hiram, born 1816, and Ira, born 1817. Over a hundred years later, Ira’s great granddaughter, Stella Lowe would marry Hiram’s grandson, Rufus Penley. Eliza died in 1916, Monroe lived until 1936. Monroe was literate, and owned a farm near Manville by 1900.
Monroe and Eliza's Penley's Children:
1. Lydia Elizabeth Penley (1878 - 1948) married William T. Lowe
2. Anna Martha Penley (1880 - 1947) married Charles H. Lowe
3. Barbara Penley (1882 - 1883)
4. Jincy Ellen Penley (1884 - after 1945) married Early Moore
5. Flora E. Penley (1885 - 1967) married Worley Moore
6. Isaac Hayden Penley (1890 - 1891)
7. James Harvey Penley (1892 - 1978) married Elizabeth Gilly
8. Jerry Milburn Penley (1894 - 1965) married Clara Ivy Penley
Anna Lowe was only sixteen when Stella was born, and Stella was raised more at her grandparents' home. Stella is listed on the 1900 and 1910 Census living with Monroe and Eliza Penley in Manville. Monroe and Eliza's sons, Jimmy and Jerry were barely older than Stella, and she grew up very attached to both. All of Monroe's family attended the nearby school.
A favorite on Stella's side was Uncle Jerry. He became extremely close friends with Stella's husband. Rufus and Jerry had many adventures together, even more so after Stella died. Both loved to fish, they traveled to Florida a few times to visit us. Uncle Jerry learned to love oysters at Mitch and Helen's table. Uncle Jerry's son Charles went down on The Hornet in 1942, sunk by the Japanese in the Pacific in World War II.
Later on we spent less time with Grandmother Stella's side of the family, perhaps because of her death in 1955. Uncle Jimmy's son Harry was the Clerk of Court in Scott County for many years, and has shared much information about the Penley history from his records. Mitch and Helen lived near Aunt Flora at times between 1946 and 1950 in Neon, Kentucky.
When Mitch was stationed as a Marine in California, he often visited his nearby Aunt Jincy Moore when he had liberty. She welcomed him and his buddies with open arms and a full table of good familiar food. A whole gang of Penleys showed up at the base in California to bring Mitch Sunday dinner during the war. You know how happy he was to see them. He wrote about the visit in another letter to Alpha (Strong) Collings.
June 25, 1944
...Uncle Jerry Penley, Ann, Glen, Eliza Ethel, Uncle Early Moore, Aunt Jincy, Lillian and Leon were to see me last Sunday. They brought dinner. I really enjoyed seeing all of them and had a swell dinner.We had fried chicken, green beans, potato salad and pies and cake. That potato salad was good...
Rufus and Stella Penley
The writing of our history changes for this generation, adequate words are suddenly scarce. Our earlier ancestors had to be discovered, clues of their culture and values had to be interpreted from old documents. Core values are seldom considered in a current generation. A child's experience becomes his definition of normal, only the exceptions to that are notable. But those ordinary values are our foundation, the soil beneath our feet. It is who and what we are, not negotiable, no need for discussion.
At least three of our previous generations were orphaned at an early age and fended for themselves. Since Epp we have been raised by strong parents who stayed with us to support and guide us to maturity and exerted powerful influence on our children. The strides made since by our family exhibit that treasure.
Rufus worked on Sam and Priscilla's farm, attended school near Gate City and played some baseball. He registered for the World War I draft, but he may have been late coming off the mountain to do that. He registered on September 12, 1918, just one month before his 22nd birthday, but he gave his birthdate as July 5, 1900. Rufus surely knew his birthdate was actually October 12, 1896. Either the clerk made a big mistake, or Rufus confused the dates to avoid a penalty. He had red hair and gray eyes.
Stella did well in her studies. When she finished school in Manville, the family arranged for her to board in Gate City to attend the Shoemaker School and become a teacher. Fate intervened when she met Rufus in there. They were distantly related but did not know each other growing until Stella moved to Gate City. The mountains across the county isolated people between the ridges.
Stella quit school and married Rufus around 1920, and they made their own history of the Roaring Twenties. Neither Rufus nor Stella have been found anywhere on the 1920 Federal Census. They lived in Gate City for a while, then took jobs in Kingsport. They lost their first child, Georgia Marie before 1922. Their four other children were born at home in Kingsport; Mitch was born on Dorothy Street. On the 1930 Census they lived at 1023 Globe Street in the Gibson Mill section. Rufus was listed as a carpenter at the Mead Paper Mill, Stella was a housewife.
By the time Mitch started school at Bell Ridge around 1932, they lived around Morrison City, and at Saw Mill Hill. Thanks to the F.B.I., we know they lived on Flannery Street in 1942. Rufus found steady work as a carpenter and brick layer. Granny Stella took a job as housekeeper for the King family on Catawba Street, and later at Kenchlow's Poultry Store. Late in 1942 or early 1943, they bought the house at the corner of Long Street and East Carters Valley Road for $2500.
In his early years Rufus was known to be a bit feisty, certainly not one to be picked on because of his small stature. Mitch was whipped hard at school one day, so Rufus whipped him again. Shorty Burton had hooked the strap of his overalls to his seat. When Dad stood up, the entire row of chairs had turned over. After Rufus got the full story and some other details, he confronted the teacher, and the teacher left the county.
Granddaddy Rufus Penley knew something about everything, but he was most known in later years for his finesse as a brick mason. His work was known for precision, durability and tidiness. His basement was as clean as his house. Ruf kept a bountiful garden in the side yard until his last few years, and helped can the harvest. His strawberry preserves remain unequaled, but Lyla's come close. After work he was equally meticulous about himself; he shaved and put a fresh shine on his shoes before leaving the house. Rufus was the only known musician in the family, he played a fine harmonica and enjoyed music on the radio.
Mitch said his Mom worried herself sick about the boys when they were away at war, and never got her strength back even after they were home. She spent a lot of time in the hospital at Abingdon, and wrote letters which Alpha also saved.
May 2, 1945
.....Tell Gardner to have those mules ready, I'm coming out of here before long....Yesterday was my birthday and I felt the best since I've been here, I don't smother anymore, but I better not brag. My children were up yesterday...I was tickled to hear from that sweet Mitch and we heard from Luther too...
May 11, 1945
.....I really did cry when I read your card. I know Rufus misses me, he looks so pitiful when he starts to leave me, he almost cried a time or two. I'm really wanting to come home, but Alpha I feel worse than when I came...I told Rufus Sunday when I came back home that I was going to church. I've been so tired on Sunday from my Saturday's work, that I just laid around all day on Sunday.
She was known to spoil her grandchildren a bit. The oldest have more fond memories, Linda, Reta and Michael. She taught us her phone number: CI6-6890, and made us promise to call her anytime we didn't like what Mom made for dinner. She had a new electric fryer, and would make french fries for us. She sewed and bought us pretty clothes. When we lived just up at the top of Long Street, the girls got in trouble because we would run dangerously down the street whenever we spied her in the yard.
Granny Stella Penley loved her children and was equally revered by them. She was a charter member of Morrison City Christian Church, just up on the corner from their house. Her early death in 1955 at the age of 57 was a crushing blow to the family.
Penley Generation X: Rufus and Stella's Children
Sufficient words were scarce for Rufus and Stella's generation, for this generation adequate words don't exist. They loved us dearly and made us who and what we are.
1. Georgia Marie Penley (died before 1922)
2. Luther Alvin Penley (July 5, 1921 ~ January 25, 1982)
3. Evelyn Dolphine Penley (born February 17, 19XX)
4. Mitchell Clayton Penley (February 7, 1925 ~ November 16, 2001)
5. Billie Jeanette Penley (born October 28, 19XX )
Uncle Luther married our beloved Aunt June, Julia June Fields on July 29, 1942. Aunt June was born on November 25, 19XX, she was the daughter of John Wesley Fields and Mary Belle Stapleton. They built a home adjoining Rufus and Stella's property on Long Street. They tragically lost three young sons, but somehow found the inner strength to raise their loving family. Luther was as an Army Medic in World War II, 12th Armored Division, 82nd Battalion, Company C and worked at the Eastman for 41 years.
Our Aunt Dot is Evelyn Dolphine Penley, she married Uncle Paul on August 11, 1944. Paul Thomas Lyon was born April 1, 19XX, the son of Henry Rufus Lyon and Bertie Caroline Bailee. They built their home nearby on Dora Street on land where Mitch and Helen began building before they moved to Florida. Uncle Paul was in the service during World War II, and retired from Eastman after more than 30 years.
Our Dad, Mitchell Clayton Penley married our dear and beloved Mother, Helen Frankie Horne on December 21, 1946. Helen was the daughter of Jesse Frank Horne and Bessie Jane Ramey of Nickelsville, Virginia. Mitch was a World War II Marine, and you know there's more information to come on those two.
Our Aunt Jeet, Billie Jeannette Penley still resides in the family home on East Carters Valley Road. She cared mightily for Rufus in his later years. In every way imaginable she contributed to the upbringing of her sixteen nieces and nephews. In fact, she's still working on us! She worked at Tennessee Eastman until retirement. She never met a jewel she didn't like, that must be because she is the family jewel.
The beat goes on. When Jane's bank sent her to Kingsport in 2007, she became especially good buddies with Aunt Jeet and David. She learned just why Aunt June, Aunt Dot and Aunt Jeet were always so special to us. Mike, Jennifer, David, Travis and Lyla moved her in, Jill gave her furniture, and Claudi and Reta made sure she knew she was under the family wing. You know Mitch was smiling down.
Mitchell and Helen Horne Penley
Mitch and Helen met when she went with a boyfriend to check about Luther's car which was up for sale. When Luther left for the Army, he left the keys with Mitch so he could transport the family. He did that and more, but in 1943, Mitch was leaving for the Marines, and he was told to sell the car for Luther. Just as friends, Mitch and Helen wrote flirtatious letters during the war. He returned home in December of 1945, and they began dating not long afterwards.
When Mitch proposed, he told Helen to marry him so they could see the world together. Mitch and Helen married on December 21, 1946. They took a taxi to the preacher's house in a blinding snowstorm and sang "Let It Snow". On most of their vacations they went back to their families in Tennessee and Virginia, but Mitch kept his promise. They managed trips across the country and on to Hawaii, England, Japan, Canada and numerous places along the way. Through all kinds of weather and other ordeals, they were a united force for 55 years.
On November 5, 1922, Helen Frankie Horne was born on Copper Creek near Nickelsville. She graduated from Nickelsville High School in 1940. A local doctor wanted to send her to nursing school, but her parents wouldn't let her leave home. During the war, she moved to Kingsport and worked at Kingsport Press and the hospital. In 1957, Helen was a founder and charter member of First Christian Church in Titusville. Mitch became a member in 1963, both served the church in many capacities. Helen stayed home with the girls until the late 1960s when she worked as a substitute teacher and reading tutor.
Mitch was born at Rufus and Stella's home in Kingsport on February 7, 1925. He attended Bell Ridge School in Morrison City through eighth grade, and later earned a GED in night school. His Bell Ridge basketball team won the county championship in 1941. Mitch was a World War II Marine, Fourth Marine Division, 4th Service Battalion, 23rd Regiment, Company S. All that target shooting on Priscilla's mountain fared well for him. He was classified a Marine Sharpshooter.
He fought for the islands of Roi Namur, Tinian, Saipan, and Iwo Jima. He was injured by shrapnel on Saipan, and bore the scar proudly. The closest he came to death was a horrible bout with dengue fever after Tinian, he spent two weeks on a hospital ship in the Pacific. Because of Kamikaze attacks he hated being aboard Navy ships, especially below deck. Always on his mind was that his cousin, Uncle Jerry's boy Charles went down with The Hornet in 1942. Marines were ordered below deck during transit, to give the sailors room to work. Mitch was disciplined a few times for hiding out in various places topside, once he was caught sleeping in a raft. It wasn't a case of claustrophobia, it was the need to be able to see his enemy and fend for himself. He never got over his displeasure with the swabbies, nor their tin can taxi service.
Mitchell saw the famous flag go up on Mount Suribachi on Iwo Jima, February 23, 1945. He was fighting his way out of a valley below Suribachi. Marines reacted mightily to the signal that the top was theirs, but their hoopla exposed their positions and the worst gunfire Mitch experienced throughout the entire war was in the hours after that flag went up. The battle raged on for another month after the photo. Mitch's battalion took Yellow Beach #2 at Iwo. Even after the island was declared "secure" on March 25, it wasn't safe.
In a funny war story later relayed to Joey for a homework assignment, he told about accidentally running into Henry Powers on Iwo Jima after the battle ended there. Henry grew up near Priscilla's farm, coincidentally he was a close friend of Helen. Dad was thrilled to see a familiar face. They walked along the black sand beach sharpening their knives, talking about home and comparing their battles. Suddenly Japanese planes flew over and began strafing the beach. The boys ran for the nearest foxhole. When the attack ended, the beach was riddled with spent shells next to their footprints, and blood was everywhere.
Mitch had been hit. In a panic, Henry and the others carried Mitch to safety and grabbed tourniquets to save his life. But they couldn't find the wound in the bloody mess. Finally, one of them noticed blood gushing from Mitch's hand. He had cut his own thumb with the knife he was sharpening. They got up and had the best laugh of the war. Mitch didn't mind the ribbing, and even enjoyed the pain in his thumb, he was just glad to be alive. He crossed the international date line on the perfect day in 1944 and earned Thanksgiving feasts on both Thursdays.
Most of his war memories were not amusing. He talked about disguised Japanese soldiers who sneaked into a group of civilians surrendering and threw grenades at the women and children to punish them for giving up. The suicides he witnessed on Saipan where old men and women clutching babies jumped over cliffs rather than be taken prisoner haunted him. Nightmares came for years. Helen awakened to find herself being lifted in the air as a rocket shell to be loaded. When heavily medicated at the end, he relived memories deeply buried for fifty years. He hushed us so the Japs wouldn't hear us, told us to duck down in the hospital room. He would suddenly sit up and begin cleaning a weapon, folding supplies.
During the war, Stella made scrap books and tried to decipher where Mitch and Luther were located from clues in their letters and the newspapers. Granny also wanted a historical record. In 1945 she summarized her notes in the back of his Red Marine Book. In Stella's own words:
Mitchell left us to be examined at Fort Oglethorpe April 28, went on to Nashville to be examined for Marines. Came back home May 2nd and left May 13. He took boot training at San Diego, Calif., came home July 14, 1943, went back July 16 at 3 o'clock A.M.
Left in smiles both times. He spent Christmas Day 1943 loading his ship. Sailed the 11th of Jan 1944. We heard over the radio that the 4th Marine Div had landed in the Marshall Islands, Feb. 1944. Mitchell said the excitement was all over by Feb. 7 which was his birthday, he spent in a foxhole.
The 4th & 2nd Div and the 27th Inf. landed on Saipan June 14th captured it after 25 days of fierce fighting. The 4th captured Tinian in July 1944. Iwo Jima was the toughest of them all to date. The Third, Fourth and Fifth Div landed Feb. 1945.
Mitch wrote letters home to his mother often during the war. This one was published in the Kingsport Times. He promised his mother he wasn't there to die for his country, and he kept his promise.
"Mom, we are going there for further training. We will not be in combat areas for a long time so don't worry Mom. You know me, I can take care of myself Mom. I am strong enough to take anything they dish out....
I am still liking the Marine Corps and I am not sorry for my choice. I am proud I can say I am a Marine. And Mom, this is one Marine that is coming back in good shape too. It will be a happy day when we come marching home, Mom, and we will too. It just seems that somebody keeps saying to me, you'll see this thing through.
Mom, they tell us the orders may be changed and we may be going over there, but I will be on guard duty someplace .... I don't mind going over. There is a feeling I have always had--someone has to do it and why not me be part of it? Someone has to die, but that's going to be Japs and Germans, anyway, not me. I'm going to see that some Jap and German dies for his country, not me dying for mine. Dying won't help any--but dying for your country is an honor just the same. But Mom, let's skip that."
Mitch also wrote letters back to his cousins that convey the strong family ties in his own words. Cousin Alpha saved hers through the years, and Jack and Benny returned the treasure to us.
May 20, 1943
"Dear Alpha, ....I already have my uniform, and boy it's the stuff, I think anyway. I'm proud of it. ... We get our rifles next weekend and they are the best rifles in the world. That's not hay neither. That's facts. The Marine gets the best of all equipment put out."
June 25, 1944
"...We have pretty good chow here, but the cooks are not so hot. If the stuff was fixed right we could really have good chow.
September 11, 1944
Dear Alpha, ...I received your letter a few days ago after getting back from Saipan and Tinian....I bet Jack and Benny are growing fast. Sometime we will go fishing again. I had a swell time the last time we went. I remember breaking the lock to the boat, Ruth losing her hat and then eating the fish we caught. And Jeet got mad because we fried the fish she caught....I owed Virginia a letter for quite sometime.
After the war, Mitch was still in the Marine Reserves, which ironically hampered his finding the good job he wanted. They lived in Kentucky for a while before 1950, Mitch drove a coal truck there. Around 1950 he hired on at Holston Defense. But defense jobs fluctuated in the 1950s, and they grew tired of the layoffs.
In 1956 they found their future with the space program in Florida, where Mitch worked the same job for 30 years without a single layoff. We first moved near Orsino on Merritt Island, as close as we could get to Dad's work at Cape Canaveral. In 1962, Congress bought our home, and thousands of acres to expand for the Apollo moon launch. The VAB now stands about a mile from our old home.
Mitch worked security for the astronaut quarters in the Mercury launches, and had many conversations with Alan Shepard, Gus Grissom and John Glenn. Glenn was his favorite. In 1962 Helen and Mitch moved the family, and our house to 3980 Cushman Drive, just north of Titusville, near Mims. They could still step outside and watch the missiles fly, and the windows still rattled for moon launches and shuttles.
Linda, Karen, and Priscilla were born in Kingsport, Michelle was their Florida girl. They raised the girls in the church and focused keenly on education. "Education is the one thing that nobody or no thing can ever take away from you" was the family mantra. They seamlessly merged the priorities of family, church and school into one big mission to learn more and be more everyday. They both took pride in their work; their careers were the means to achieve their goals but never the main event.
If Mitch ever had a chauvinist bone in his body, it disappeared the day Linda was born, if Helen hadn't already removed it. Their children's dignity and dreams would never be diminished because they were not sons. They wanted every opportunity for their girls. Friends at work tried to ridicule Mitch for sending girls to college, but he laughed back. They just didn't understand that education was more important for females. Everyone had to be ready to stand on their own in respectable careers and care for others. The world and the men in our lives needed be aware of that capability.
Helen had a certain look that could freeze a child 50 yards away. If we wanted to get out of line, bicker with a sister or skip chores, Mom was usually the first obstacle. Their fort was cloaked against divide and conquer strategies, we had to make our peace with Mom before Dad got home. When we disappointed Mitch, there was a certain hurt look on his face, followed by the chat. If you dared justify an error by citing someone else's example, the big guns came out. "That was the best they could do in those families. They aren't Penleys. You're a Penley, and you can do better." Or, "find a rose to compare yourself to, don't waste time telling me about the thorns." That's where cousins came in handy, if you could quote a Penley or a Horne, you might get somewhere.
After work, they did everything together, they buddied each other to the grocery store, lumber yard and everything between. If there was a solo event, the other would sit in the car waiting for the finish. The evening news, voting and politics were always important, and they raised four politicians to inquire about all sides of a story before deciding anything. Together they cleared the land, produced a bountiful garden and sometimes raised their own beef. They never argued. They listened to each other, discussed controversy, and with deep seated mutual respect chose their path. There was no better half in this marriage, just two strong and wonderful people who adored each other. The devotion and faith gave their union incredible strength and created a safe haven where many leaned during rough patches. They both joined Mims Volunteer Fire Department and Titusville Coin Club, but their priority was always the church, and Helen and Mitch's labor there was monumental. Sufficient words to describe their goodness and our fortune do not exist.
While driving to work on April 15, 1986 a truck hit Mitch's car, he never worked again. He struggled heroically against the injuries until 2001. Dad said if he was going to hurt anyway, he might as well hurt while doing something. They sold their place and moved to a home on Caradoc Circle, closer to their daughters. As soon as he heard they were looking, grandson Joey got on his bike and found every "For Sale" sign in the neighborhood. Joey picked out his favorite, and sold Grandpa on the deal. The realtor should have split the commission with Joey, but he and Jane got the best of the deal anyway. For ten very important years, Grandpa and Granny were just around the corner. Granny's kitchen and Grandpa's wood shop were always open. Mitch and Helen nursed sick kids, delivered science projects, picked up puny kids from school, and watched dance and chorus recitals, soccer and baseball games. Upon every meeting there was the endless transfer of wisdom and high expectations to their grandchildren.
They also bought another house "back home" a mile from Aunt Jeet, just across the line in Virginia. Eventually, it became physically impossible to travel to and fro to keep both homes going. When forced to choose, they gave up the house "back home" and stayed in Florida near their daughters. Helen rarely left his side during those last 15 years, she hovered a few feet away. There was so much he could not do without immense pain. She anticipated and catered to his every need. No greater love and devotion has ever been shown than in Helen's care for Mitch during those years.
After Mitch's passing in 2001, Helen was weak and broken for a long while. Slowly she regained her strength, and in 2009 she is quite healthy for a lady of 86 years. The thriving First Christian Church of Titusville, of which she was a founder, celebrated it's 50th Anniversary in 2007 and she was greatly honored for her leadership and contributions, and interviewed by the local press. She is an active force in the church and the community, and still drives her car when she wants. She roots for her favorites in basketball and politics, she even worked at election headquarters in the 2008 races for Congress and President. Most important to us, she is still raising her family to ever higher levels of expectations. Her greatest energy is found whenever one of us needs her, and she goes into overdrive when Joey or Jane calls with a question. No matter how full the house, she's still lonely for Mitch.
From the newspaper:
Mitchell Clayton Penley of Titusville died at his home on November 16, 2001, surrounded by his family. He was an active and devoted member of First Christian Church of Titusville, serving as Deacon, Elder, Trustee and Building Committee Chairman. In 1956, he joined the space pioneers in Florida, providing security at Cape Canaveral with Pan American World Airways for 30 years. Throughout his life, he remained devoted to his family, his church, and his country. An incredible source of strength to family and friends, he is revered for his honorable character, genuine compassion, and tireless efforts. His legacy includes a strong and loving family, a thriving church, and a free nation. Mitch was taken home to Tennessee for burial at East Lawn Memorial Park in Kingsport.
Mitchell Penley’s Eulogy Delivered By Herman Wattwood in Kingsport
At a funeral service, we seem to always zero in on our loss, but for just a few minutes, I would like to talk about our gains as we think of Mitch Penley’s life on this earth. First, there is Helen’s gain of a strong, loving, faithful husband for well over fifty years. Then there is Linda, Karen, Priscilla and Michelle’s gain of a loving, concerned, responsible father all their lives to this point. There has been our nation’s gain of a courageous Marine who fought in the South Pacific and was wounded there, defending you and me.
There is the church’s gain of a faithful leader who served Christ’s church as a deacon, as an elder and as a major mover in four building programs. The space program gained the services of a very good employee for many years and all those who knew Mitch gained a lot from knowing and associating with a man of his caliber. I could follow this line of thought much further, but I hope you can see the point I am making. Mitch was a very special person and touched our lives in very special ways.
I personally could speak for hours of my relationship with Mitch. I remember his great interaction with his girls. I remember my son, when he was very young, telling me that he felt sorry for Mr. Penley because he had to put up with all those girls at his house. I remember the two of us helping Helen and my wife Betty as they worked to start the First Christian Church in Titusville.
I will miss our discussions on unions, politics, religion, which branch of the service was best, what make of car was best, and many other topics. I must admit that I never succeeded in changing Mitch’s mind in 45 years, but I sure enjoyed trying. It has been a tremendous gain in my life to have served with Mitch as an Elder for many years and to have had the privilege of being very, very close to him and his family.
Yes, there is a loss, but look at the gain. Mitch has gained freedom from his pain and his disability, he has gained peace and a home in a place that is better than we can possibly imagine. We have gained the promise, that as Mitch’s brothers and sisters in Christ, we will be with Mitch again for all eternity. That is our hope and that is our faith.
Penley Generation XI: The Cousins and our Future
This generation won't be pinned down in print. They are the cavalry when one is in need, they still know how to circle the wagons. Sadly, Rufus and Stella's line of the Penley name comes to an end with this generation. From here, our heritage goes on under different names. Their descendants will not carry the name, but our values, strength and the wisdom of the ages moves through their veins.
Just after Mitch and Helen moved to Florida, all vacations went home to the family, a 17 hour journey. We sang to keep Daddy awake. Upon arrival, Dad would pull right into the back yard between Luther and Granddaddy's house, honking wildly. We rolled out of the back seat into the arms of waiting aunts, uncles and cousins. Such joy! We sat in the trees and ran with our cousins until time was up, then begged to stay with Aunt Jeet. Often Linda and Karen would stay through the summer. Aunts June, Dot and Jeet would tolerate the noise, feed and care for us. Rufus made the world's best breakfast. Like the previous generation, we slept on the floor, talked and played cards into the night. The bonds are still there.
We lost Uncle Luther's three sons too soon. In 2007 we lost David's wife Kay, and in 2008 we lost David, both too early. David was the glue that kept all our cousins in touch. Travis has big shoes to fill, but he was given the big feet to do it.
Luther and June's Children:
Luther Alvin Penley, Jr. (November 9, 1943 - January 3, 1946).
Jamey Stephen Penley (February 28, 1951 - February 9, 1957).
Jennifer Jeanette Penley
Jill Elaine Penley
Julia Marie Penley married George Arnold Williamson II.
Jonathan Clark Penley (October 11, 1960 - April 21, 1964).
Julia and George have:
George Arnold III, "Tee"
Dolphine and Paul Lyon's Children:
Reta Faye Lyon, married Don William Cooper
Michael Thomas Lyon, married Suzanne Parris
Lawanda Claudette Lyon,
Lyla Jean Lyon, married Warren Anthony Anderson.
Cindy Lou Lyon, married Donald K. Fluce.
David Anthony Lyon, married Charlotte Kay Cooper.
Reta and Don have:
Melissa Faye married John Memoli.
Mike and Suzanne have:
Melissa Faye and John have Dominic.
Amy Michelle married Bryant Pickney.
Amy and Bryant have Harper and Sarah.
Kelly Cheyanne married Mike Hill.
Lyla and Warren have:
Cheyanne and Mike have Anna and Jackson.
Rachel Leah Anderson
Cindy and Don have:
David and Kay have:
Travis David Lyon
Mitchell and Helen's Children:
Linda Kay Penley, married John Nicholas Novick.
Brenda Karen Penley, married Joseph William Zack, Jr.
Karen and Joe have:
Priscilla Ann Penley, married Thomas Leonard Frazee.
Joseph Mitchell Zack
Jane Elizabeth Zack
Stephanie Michelle Penley, married David Leon Kennedy.