Col Abraham “Abram” Penn

Col Abraham “Abram” Penn

Caroline County, Virginia, USA
Death 26 Jun 1801 (aged 57)
Patrick County, Virginia, USA
Burial Patrick County, Virginia, USA
Memorial ID 81487091 · View Source
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Abraham "Abram" Penn, Sr., son of George Penn and Ann (Fleming) Penn, was born December 7, 1743 in Caroline County, Virginia, and he spent his early childhood there. His prosperous uncle, Moses Penn, whose son John Penn signed the Declaration of Independence, also lived in Caroline County. After the settlement of the estate of George Penn, Abrams' mother, Ann Penn moved to Albemarle County (present day Amherst) where Abram grew into manhood.

Abram married Ruth Stovall daughter of George Stovall Jr., and Mary (Cooper) Stovall, on March 3, 1767 in Amherst County, Virginia. Ruth Stovall was born April 27, 1743, in Amhesrt County, Virginia. "The History of Henry County" refers to Ruth Stovall as a descendant of the first Earl of Shaftsbury.

Abram Penn served Virginia as Captain of the Militia in Dunsmores Campaign against the Shawnee Indians. He commanded a fort at Culbertson 5 Bottom and a company in the Battle of Point Pleasant, in which the Indians were defeated October 10th 1774. He enlisted as a Captain in the Continental Army in the Virginia Militia in 1776. (This information is from "The History of Henry County," in which the author did not have access to the digital pension applications of the recruits who served under Col. Abraham "Abram" Penn.)
This letter from Abram Penn to Captain Joseph Martin is dated at "Smithfield," Montgomery County, VA.:

"Dear Sir, I have proceeded on my journey home. As for our discharge, it will not be till November at least. The Col. won't agree that any more of my men shall go home, but I am to get three or four whilst gone, to relieve those few that necessity requires at home.

Philip Cavenaugh must be employed as a spy, and pray keep them all at their constant duty, for the Indians have made four breaks on Holston, and the people are all forting with all dexterity, so that we may expect the next stroke. Be constant on your guard and keep strict in those parts. Let the people know that it is thought they are in danger, so they may be on their defence. I think that Gatliff and Clay had better move their families back again as they are in a back place, for I should be very sorry if any mischief should be done in those parts.

Pray don't let one charge of powder be shot in vain, for I expect we shall be in great want before any supply can be got.
Col. Preston says he will stop Alsups wages for you if it comes in his hands. I expect Col. will send a supply of provisions to you soon. No more, but I am your sincere friend and humble servant. Abram Penn"
To Captain Joseph Martin at Culbertson Bottom, October 7th, 1774.
"Smithfield" was the home of Colonel William Preston, in Montgomery County, VA. In Virginia Magazine of History and Biography, we see- "The first court of Henry County, April 20, 1788, was composed of Edmond Lyne, Abram Penn and Peter Saunders, and George Waller Justices." March, 1799, Abram Penn was appointed Excheator for Henry County. In August, Patrick Henry, Abram Penn and John Dillard were recommended to the Governor as Comissioners of Peace for the county. In 1779 he was appointed "Burser" to receive fines, etc. On March 11, 1781, Abram Penn organized and commanded a regiment "to the Assistance of General Green," from the site of the present town of Martinsville, and served until the surrender at Yorktown. The original roster of his regiment (in his own Handwriting) and his sword, are in the possession of his great-grandson John T. Penn of Martinsville, VA.

Abraham Penn returned to the Continental army 1779. After two years of distinguished service, he was commissioned Colonel. Soon afterward he was granted a furlough and moved his family to that part of Pittsylvania County later to be organized as Henry County, settling on Beaver Creek, three miles north of present Martinsville. After the war ended, Colonel Penn was granted a large tract of land by the state of Virginia in Patrick County in recognition of his valuable services in the Revolutionary War. He moved to Patrick County and built a large home there which was called Poplar Grove as he surrounded the house with Bombardy Poplars and a few cedars.

When Henry County was established, Abraham Penn became active in its affairs. He was one of the "Gentlemen Justices" presiding over the first court of the county. He was a Delegate from Henry County to the General Assembly in 1777 and 1779. One Henry County Record states that Patrick Henry, John Dillard, William Letcher, Archelaus Hughes, and Abraham Penn were recommended tonserve as a Committee of Safety. This was between a gubernatorial term for Patrick Henry and during a time when he resided at his Leatherwood estate in Henry County.

As an officer in the county militias Col. Penn organized a regiment in 1780-81 as the only body of Revolutionary troops from Henry and adjoining counties to march from Beaver Crcek to Hillsborough, North Carolina, where they joined General Nathaniel Greene to fight in the Battle of Guilford Court House in March of 1781. An original document signed on 11 March 1781 by Abraham Penn, Colonel, Henry County is located in the Virginia State Library Archives.

In May 1781, Governor Thomas Jefferson wrote to Penn directing his regiment to join General Greene again in defense of the Carolinas. They fought in the Battle of Eutaw Springs in September 1781. Penn served through the surrender of Cornwallis at Yorktown, 19 Cctober 1781. A sheathed sword and a mahogany lowboy brought back from Yorktown are in the possession of his descendants as is a mahogany sideboard. Col. Penn wrote a letter on October 7, 1774, to Capt. Joseph Martin at Culbertson's Bottom which is in possession of the descendants of Capt. (later made General) Martin.

Colonel Penn was said to be a man of resolute purpose, magnetic, with a vigorous intellect and a commanding presence. Abram Penn was a man of prominence and influence in Henry County, VA. This patriot died 2 June 1801, in Patrick County, VA. and he was buried in the family cemetery at Poplar Grove in Patrick County.

In June 1932 his grave was marked during a memorial service by DAR members of the Col. Abram Penn Chapter, and descendants of Abram Penn. The gravestone was provided by the United States Congress for the grave of this Revolutionary patriot.

The Poplar Grove home was one of the oldest frame houses in Patrick County before its demolition in 1977, leaving only the later brick wing standing to overlook the North Mayo River and the highway given Col. Penns' name by the Virginia General Assembly.

Colonel Penn left many descendants who followed his example of devotion to public service.

(Among Abram Penns descendants internationally known in the field of letters are Phyllis Penn Kohler (Mr.Foy Kohler), U. S. Embassy Moscow translators, Journey for our Time, and Robert Penn Warren, Yale University professor of English and literatures Pulitzer Prize Winner in poetry and novel, All the King's Men.)

The November 1965 issue of the DAR Magazine contained an article, "Colonel Abram Penn, Virginia Patriot," by chapter member, Miss Sydney Penn.
John Malcolm Penn quoted from this article in 1999 when he posted information on Abraham Penn on the Penn Genforum. Other historians and researchers have also quoted from this article.

Dr. C. Leon Harris, retired professor of Zoology and research historian, became interested in researching the Revolutionary War in the South by transcribing the pension applications of many of the men who served from counties in Virginia, including Henry County. In the applications, each participant tells about the details of his service, including geographical details, and the names and ranks of officers. After reviewing the details from each applicant, he concluded that although Col. Abraham “Abram” Penn was the commander of the operation from Virginia at the request of Governor Thomas Jefferson, he sent other officers with the Henry County recruited mounted soldiers on horseback to fulfill Virginia’s obligation to defend the position of Nathanael Greene at the Battle of Guilford Courthouse against the British military forces of General Cornwallis of Great Britain. Nathanael Greene, a brilliant strategist, knew his men were not well equipped to fend off the experienced military might of Great Britain, even though he had more troops. He used the strategy of dividing his troops, so the British troops would have to fight on at least two fronts. Nathanael Greene ordered his troops to retreat, leaving the field to the British, who had lost 25 per cent of their forces.

When the troops from Henry County, Virginia, were en route to NC, Nathanael Greene notified them to return home. To those who actually did try to reach Guilford County, NC, he told them to return home, since there were too many officers and not enough enlisted men. Most of the enlisted recruited soldiers from Henry County only served three months at a time, unless they were called into duty at a later time. Col. Abraham Penn in letters to other officers expresses his concern over the lack of equipment and ammunition to fight the enemy successfully. See and for more information, arranged alphabetically.

Dr. C. Leon Harris, researched the pension applications of men who actually fought in some of the famous battles with Native Americans in Virginia and places that became part of West Virginia. Col. Abraham Penn sent recruits from Henry County, VA to fight in some of the battles involving the Shawnee, led by Chief Cornstalk, with other officers commanding the troops, but he usually stayed in Henry County, VA, directing the operations.

One of the authors often cited in bibliographies about Henry County, VA is Judith Parks (America) Hill, who wrote "A History of Henry County, Virginia," published in 1925 in Martinsville, VA by Bulletin Print and Publishing Company. However, this very enthusiastic historian researcher did not have access to the digital copies of the Revolutionary War pension applications of the participants from Henry County, VA. Her book is one of the most quoted in online historical descriptions of events during the Revolutionary War and citations about participants, including Col. Abraham Penn.

Children of Abraham Penn and Ruth (Stovall) Penn

1. George Penn (October 6, 1771, Amherst County, VA-February 12, 1828, Tammany Parish, LA, who married Sarah Gordon on November 23, 1795 in Chesterfield County, VA and moved to New Orleans, LA
2. Lucinda Penn (September 3, 1771, Stuart, Patrick County, VA-April 9, 1850, Stuart, Patrick County, VA), who married Col. Samuel Staples (March 23, 1762, Rockingham County, VA-March 23, 1825, Stuart, Patrick County, VA)
3. Captain Gabriel Stovall Penn (November 14, 1773, Patrick County, VA-July 18, 1818, Patrick County, VA), who married Jane “Jinsey” Clark (January 14, 1780-January 1864), daughter of Samuel Clark and Penelope Clark of Patrick County, VA on February 6, 1797. He fought in the War of 1812.
4. Horatio Gates Penn, (November 14, 1775, Patrick County, VA- September 27, 1838. Ralls County, MO), who married Jane “Nancy” May Parr (b. about 1777), daughter of Henry Parr, and moved to Ralls County, Missouri in November 1829. Burial: Penn Cemetery in Ralls County, MO
5. Mary Pauline “Polly” Penn (July 1, 1777, Henry County, VA-about 1868), who married Charles Foster (January 15, 1755, Patrick County, VA-1849, Patrick County, VA), on September 8, 1811.
6. Col. Greensville “Green” Penn (May 16,1779, Henry County, VA-June 20, 1844), who first married Nancy Anna Leath, daughter of Peter Leath and his second wife, Barbara Leath of Manchester, VA on May 5, 1808, and second married Martha Reid (March 15, 1791-May 18. 1859), daughter of Major William Reid of Bedford County, VA
7. Captain Thomas Jefferson Penn (June 15, 1781, Henry County, VA-March 29, 1858, Patrick County, VA), who first married Frances Martha Leath (April 15, 1790-August 28, 1816), daughter of Peter Leath and his first wife, Mary Leath of Manchester, VA, and second married Mary Christian Kennerly (November 26, 1803-June 29, 1885), daughter of Joseph Kennerly and Sarah (Christian) Kennerly of Amherst County, VA. He and his wives are buried in Penn Cemetery in Patrick County, VA. He served in the War of 1812 as a Captain.
8. Abraham “Abram” Penn, Jr. (March 1753, Henry County, VA-December 22, 1885, Todd County, KY), who married Sarah “Sally” Critz (born January 1788), daughter of Captain Haman Critz, Jr. and Anne “Nancy” (Dalton) Critz of Henry County, VA, and moved to Tennessee and then to Todd County, Kentucky.
9. James Francis Penn (January 31, 1785-1849), who first married Catherine Leath, daughter of Peter Leath and his second wife, Barbara Leath, of Manchester, VA, and second married Mary Shelton, daughter of William Shelton and Patricia “Pattie” (Dillard) Shelton
10. Luvenia Penn (April 3, 1787-1787), who died young
11. Edmund Penn (January 8, 1789, Henry County, VA-August 11, 1860, Trenton, TN) , who married Mary “Polly” Ferris (February 1, 1796, Patrick County, VA-September 2, 1862, Trenton, TN), daughter of Josiah Ferris and Mary (Stovall) Ferris of Patrick County, VA, on June 11, 1816, in Patrick County, VA.
12. Philip Stovall Penn, (March 5, 1792, Patrick County, VA-November 25, 1851, TN), who married Elie Louise Briscoe (1792-1850), daughter of John Briscoe and Charity (Warren) Briscoe of Bedford County, VA on September 22, 1815 in Pittsylvania County, VA

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  • Maintained by: Patricia Taylor
  • Originally Created by: Elizabeth Reed-Eanes
  • Added: 3 Dec 2011
  • Find A Grave Memorial 81487091
  • Find A Grave, database and images ( : accessed ), memorial page for Col Abraham “Abram” Penn (27 Dec 1743–26 Jun 1801), Find A Grave Memorial no. 81487091, citing Penn Cemetery, Patrick County, Virginia, USA ; Maintained by Patricia Taylor (contributor 47087729) .