Penningtons of St Clair County, Illinois I: Absalom, Margery, Mary
Copyright Aug 2011 by LaRae Free Kerr, M ED
Mary Pennington [Polly is the standard nickname for Mary, so Mary or Polly or even Molly are the same name] was born 1778 in North Carolina to Absalom Pennington and his wife Margery Perkins Pennington. She was their only child. She died in 1839 probably in St Clair County, Illinois.
Mary Pennington married Andrew Free about 1796 in North Carolina and became the mother of 10 children: Absalom P Free, Elizabeth Free, Joshua Perkins Free, Joseph Allen Free, Mildred Free, John Page Free, William Hart Free, Leroy W Free, Isaac Free and Margery Free.
Sources for the above:
1908 Absalom Pennington Free reunion brochure: “"[Andrew Free] married Mary Pennington, only child of Absalom Pennington..." several copies of this program are in my possession. DAR lineage of Mary Susan Free Reader, copy in poss Helen LaRae Free VanderBeek Kerr. Daniel Hanmer Wells Family Record Book GSf 1036993: "Mary Pennington Free dead US 1839"
VanderBeek, Helen Free. Free Census Research Report. Jan, 1975, p 3. That this family is made up of only Absalom, Margery and Mary is supported indisputably by censuses even though there is another Absalom Pennington [born before 1779] of an age to be their son who ends up in Louisiana. But that man never, even as a child, appeared in the Absalom, Margery, Mary Pennington family:
Census Year Place Surname Spelling Family composition
1790 Morgan, Burke, NC Peniton 1 male over 16, 2 females
1800 Burke Co NC Penitent 1 m +45, 1 f 10-15, 1 f 26-45
1810 Rutherford Co TN Penelton 1 m -10, 1 m +45, 1 f 16-26, 1 f +45, 1 slave
1818 St Clair Co IL Pennington 1 m +21, 1 f
1820 St Clair Co IL Pennington 1 m -21, 1 m 45+, 1 f 45+
1830 St Clair Co IL Joseph Free this family has one male 70-80
Will of Absalom Pennington from Clerk of Circuit Court Belleville, ILL. Book B pp 202-3 Jan 12, 1838. "In the name of God Amen I Absalom Pennington in the County of St Clair and State of Illinois I being mindful of my mortality do this lst day of October One Thousand Eight Hundred and Thirty Seven make and publish this my last will and testament in manner following first I desire my body to be decently buried after all expenses and debts are paid what is then left of moneys or debts due me shall be divided equally between my daughter Polly and her children. I do hereby constitute and appoint Absalom P Free my grandson sole executor of this my last will and testament. In witness whereof I have hereunto set my hand and seal the day and year first written. In presence of David Angle, Isaac Rainy. Absalom Pennington His mark LaRae Free Kerr corr bk I #18 133L on shelf
As is usually the case, the censuses support much of the family data provided above, but they also raise questions. Censuses support the family as consisting of three people: Absalom, Margery and Mary Pennington. The 1790 and 1800 censuses support a place of origin as Burke County, North Carolina. The will of Absalom Pennington shows that Polly was alive when it was written in 1838 and that she did marry a man named Free as that is the surname of Mary’s grandson, Absalom Pennington Free. Margery was apparently dead when Absalom wrote his will. And he did not appear in the 1840 census. Neither did his daughter Polly which substantiates her death date as between 12 Jan 1838 when the will was written and the 1840 census when neither Absalom Pennington nor his daughter Polly Free appeared by herself or as a mark in a family member’s household.
The 1810 census of Rutherford County, TN includes a boy under 10 and a young woman between 16 and 26 living with Absalom and Margery Pennington. Their identities are unknown; however, many family members lived near them on the Stone River in Rutherford County, where several of them, including Absalom Pennington, Andrew Free and Leroy Perkins shared a well. These two young people could be grandchildren, servants [though they would not have been slaves as they were not marked as such as one person was], or perhaps a young widowed relative with a small boy. When the Perkins and Frees moved to St Clair County, Absalom and Margery trudged along.
1778 land grant in Wilkes Co GA for 250 acres 3 Jun 1778. Hageness, M. B. Georgia Genealogical Sources, Series Land Grants 1775 and 1778. 1998. This is our first known Absalom Pennington entry in public records. It is too early for the LA AP. There are NO other A P entries in this place, nor are there others this early. He cannot be the father of the others including the LA AP because he had only one child. So why land in Wilkes Co GA? PS 101 Other Penningtons in Wilkes Co GA include Benajah, Micajah, Benjamin, William and Abel about 1770. PS 52.
So, questions regarding Mary Pennington and her parents follow. Can you help?
1. Who are the small boy and young woman of the 1810 census in TN?
2. Where was Mary actually born? NC? Or GA? Why was Absalom Pennington’s first public record in Wilkes Co GA? Does he belong in the Benajah Pennington family? And as for Mary, since Absalom’s first known land acquisition was in Wilkes Co in 1778 when Mary was born, was she born in GA? Instead of NC? So where did Absalom Pennington meet Margery Perkins who lived on the Catawba River in NC with her parents Joshua Perkins and Mary Sherrill apparently all her life.
Here are some interesting scenarios:
a. A Joshua Perkins was in Wilkes Co GA in the early 1770s, but these entries have pretty much been claimed by the Joshua Perkins b 1732 who md Mary Black descendants. This may need to be revisited.
b. Some places where Absalom Pennington had land or was found in some kind of official record nearest 1778 are:
1783: Absalom Pennington was taxed on land in Greene Co TN.
17 August 1789: Deed: From Joseph Hartie to Absolum Penington, 100 acres, on the north side of the Catawba River (Burke Co., North Carolina). Proven by John Perkins. Dated 17 August 1789. Deeds Recorded in Court Minutes, 1791-1796, Page 78. Burke County, North Carolina, Records, 1755-1821 (Including Wills Index 1784-1900) Volume IV, Edith Warren Huggins, Southern Historical Press, Inc. 1987, page 14.
Almost certainly, Absalom Pennington was a Revolutionary War Soldier since his granddaughter Hannah remembers him receiving a lump sum pension. Plus the land in Greene Co TN was designated for Revolutionary War Soldiers apparently. He may never have seen the TN land or lived on it. He was NOT in the [very short] 1787 tax list of Greene Co TN.
So it is possible Absalom Pennington had land in Wilkes Co, GA in 1778, served sometime between 1770 and 1783 as a Revolutionary War Soldier [though that war was officially 1776-1780 or so, there were many skirmishes such as King’s Mountain many years earlier, etc]. Perhaps as a result of soldiering or just exploring he found himself at Sherrill’s Ford, met and married Margery Perkins and settled down. Or maybe he went back to soldiering, not getting back until 1783 or so when the family settled in Burke Co NC. Remember that the dates on land grants and deeds had much to do with the laws at the time rather than when people claimed the land or lived on it. So for the moment, the North Carolina birth place for Mary seems to have the edge.
- Where did Mary actually die? Mary’s death place is also uncertain. Mary’s granddaughter‘s obituary [very secondary source] says her grandmother died in Missouri. But that same granddaughter’s reminiscences [less secondary source] seem to indicate she died in St Clair Co IL.
That Mary Pennington Free was a well-loved grandmother is sure, for the granddaughter relates her joy in seeing her grandmother, Mary Pennington Free, after a short absence.
While in St Clair and Washington Counties, I’ve looked for a burial for Mary Pennington Free without success. I did find mention of her mother-in-law’s burial in the 1881 History of St Clair Co where it said the first burial was that of Mrs. Free in 1827 near Darmstadt. This would be Andrew Free’s mother.
- In almost all of my research, I’ve been able to find mention of my ancestors in their contemporaries’ letters, journals, diaries, histories, etc. But for some reason I have not been able to find mention of the Penningtons, Perkins and Frees in early contemporary accounts [except for the county histories]. Are there early St Clair County accounts? [I’ve searched in St Clair, Washington and Randolph Counties and in the State Archives in the capitol as well as in the satellite archives.] Maybe they were so busy staying alive they didn’t take time to write. If you have early historical accounts, will you share that information with me?
Please remember spelling is irrelevant. As you have seen, Pennington is Peniton, Penelton, Penintent, etc. Perkins may be Pirkins or Parkings, etc. Free is Ferree, Feree, Frey, Fee, Fruh. One St Clair County record even spelled it Tree.
Which of all known Absalom Penningtons could possibly be the one with the land grant in Wilkes Co GA in or around 1778? He would have to meet these requirements: His name would be Absalom Pennington by any spelling; he would have to have been born about 21 years or more before 1778, so by or before 1757 [most legal transactions required the man to be 21 or older, though certainly not all]; he would likely have lived in or near Wilkes Co, GA, so there should either be other transactions in or near the same time period in that place, or there could have been parents or siblings with the same surname in the area, or there could be extenuating circumstances such as land provided by the American government in return for Revolutionary War Service [to my knowledge, no land was granted for such service until the war was over and then usually some years after the war was over, probably not 1778 which was right in the thick of the war].
*Both of these entries belong to the Absalom Pennington who married Margery Perkins who are the parents of Mary Pennington who married Andrew Free.
See also the 2006 doc entitled Who Is Absalom Pennington’s Father?