........ Conjecture, noun, the formation of judgments or opinions on the basis of incomplete or inconclusive information. Source: Encarta Dictionary

Saturday, December 29, 2012

Penelope Prince, a runaway from Kent Island, Maryland?

The text below is a letter written by Nora James (please identify yourself) to the website WeRelate, where people work to "build a unified family tree containing the best information from all contributors." See  http://www.werelate.org/wiki/Person_talk:Penelope_Kent_(1)

"After many years (approximately 10) of obsessive research about the identity of the person known in legend as Penelope Van Princis/Van Princess/Kent and Thomson before deciding that I needed to get on with actual life on this here Earth, it is my strong opinion that her name was Penelope Prince; that she was English, that she came to Kent Island (note, "Kent" Island) in the Chesapeake under indenture by Robert Vaughan (note the similarily in pronunciation to the "Van" in one version of the legends about her; that she was the same Penelope Prince whom Robert Vaughan testified in court records in about 1656 and who ran away from her indenture in 1646-7 or so during the time of troubles on Kent Island; that she was working out her indenture in the service of William Cox and his wife Frances on Kent Island and that they lived near Richard Thompson/Thomson (note the "Thompson/Thomson" in some versions of her name) on Kent Island who was involved in a big old major way in the "Time of Troubles" that led to her running away; that another version of her surname that pops up in some versions is "Lent" and there was a man named "Lent" living on Kent Island and who figured in that "Time of Troubles." It is also very possible (though by no means proven) that she was the Penelope Prince who was born in 1629 in Stepney and baptized at St. Dunstan's.

"Penelope Prince ran away from Kent Island in 1646-7 (according to the testimony of Robert Vaughan); the Penelope who marries Richard Stout appears in the historical record as "Penelope Prince" in 1648 on Gravesend in Long Island. It is an educated guess on my part, and based on extraordinarily strong circumstantial evidence contained in the legends about her, that the Penelope Prince who married Richard Stout is the same person who was the Penelope Prince living on Kent Island from 1644-6.

"Take this and run with it or ignore it, I don't much care at this point, but anyone who wants to see this for themselves can look at Filby's at the entry for Penelope Prince which references the court testimony of Robert Vaughan in 1656, and read about the history of Kent Island during the time of troubles with William Claiborne, and read the various versions of the legends of Penelope Van Princess in all of those old histories of New Jersey, and consider how it is that legends take shape over time and names become misunderstood, and begin to understand how it might be that those who wrote down the stories of Penelope Prince many years after her death might have misunderstood how a young English girl on "Kent" Island in the 1640's, who was brought to the island by Robert "Vaughan," and who ran away during a war in which her neighbor Richard "Thompson" figured prominently as did her neighbor "_____ Lent," and might have merged all of these names into hers in print, making it almost impossible to determine her identity without careful consideration.

"At another time I will try to explain all of this and source it better, including why I believe there is a strong chance that she was the same Penelope Prince born in England, but at least for now I offer you Filby's for Penelope Prince and the Gravesend Town Records for someone of the same name. And for whatever it's worth, the records of St. Dunstan's in the East where Penelope Prince was baptized in 1629, the child of Mary Kilburn and Lawrence Prince."

unsigned User:Norajames
posted at WeRelate by administrator Jennifer JBS66 19 April 2011

On another page http://www.werelate.org/wiki/Person:Penelope_Prince_(2) of the same website is written:

"Penelope Prince was born in Stepney, in what is now the east end of London, in 1629. Her mother, Mary Kilburn, was a widow when she married Lawrence Prince, a tailor, at St. Dunstan's in the East on 17 May 1629. Penelope was baptized at St. Dunstan's three months later, on 20 Sep 1629. Lawrence died in 1630 and was buried at St. Dunstan's in February of that year. See the records of St. Dunstan's church for the records of all of these, which can be viewed on microfilm at a Family History Center....

"Penelope Prince was an indentured servant at home of William and Frances Cox on Kent Island from 1644 to 1646. The Coxes had a tobacco plantation on Kent Island, and two small children. Penelope ran away during the "time of troubles" on that island, in 1646. See Filby's for the reference to a record of a court proceeding in 1656 wherein Robert Vaughan testifies that Penelope ran away in that year. "

This is Jim writing now. I don't know what to make of this but if an indentured servant were fleeing Kent Island in 1646-7, the logical path would be northeast to the Swedish settlement of Fort Christina (now Wilmington, DE) on the Delaware River, about 40 miles as the crow flies. The economies of both Maryland and Virginia were built on indentured servitude at that time and the authorities in those colonies were sure to enforce the law by returning runaways to the master. New Sweden was a foreign country and, as far as I know, didn't have indentured servants.
I am intrigued because of Nicholas Stillwell, another ancestor of mine. Virginia Protestants settled Kent Island in Cheaspeake Bay, east of Annapolis, and did not take kindly to their king re-assigning their home to Catholic Maryland in the 1630s . The political squabbles and armed assaults led by William Claiborne resulted in Nicholas Stillwell (among others) being banished from both Maryland and Virginia. Stillwell settled in Manhattan and joined the Gravesend group in the original settlement of 1643, did not rejoin in 1645 resettlement but purchased a lot in 1648 and was elected magitrate in 1649.

In my novel Nicholas Stillwell and his wife are major characters who help Penelope.

If anyone has more to contribute to this subject, please let me know.

17 comments:

  1. The Maryland Historical Magazine, Baltimore: 1913, vol. 8 has this paragraph on page 56:

    20 No. 1649. Capt Robrt Vaughan demanded 100 Acres of land for transporting Willm. Loader a Manservant into the Province in the yeare 1642 and 100 acres for transproting James Courtney another Manservant in Anno 1638 and 100 Acres for transproting James Atkinson another Manservant in Anno 1648 and 200 Acres more for transporting 4 women servants into this Province viz: ffrancis Woolhouse in Anno 1640 Penelope Prince in Anno 1644 Mary ffield in Anno 1644 and ffranis Pinke in Anno 1646.
    Warrant to the Surveyor to lay out for Capt Robert Vauhghan 500 Acres of land at Parsons Point and Poplar Neck on the easterne side of he Isle of Kent.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Fascinating, simply fascinating Jim! Remember the old Leonard Nimoy show called "In Search Of...?" Looks like this is a new segment. Those excerpts from the Maryland records are compelling.....simply because all the names associated with the Penelope Stout legend are there and the time periods are all about the same. Good work! Great work!

    ReplyDelete
  3. Hello...love the story of Penelope Van Princess (Stout)...very basically...cant there be more than one person with the name Penelope Prince? There are also many different Nicholas Stillwells. There is Nicholas STillwell of Cape May County, NJ whose daughters Rebecca & Sarah defended the nation during the Rev by firing their canon into the bay to scare off the brits...there is also the Nicolas Stillwell of Long Island.. Sometimes...truth is even stranger than fiction. Would love to read your book. Gotta love the stamina and perseverance of our ancestors. In our tree Penelope Stout from NJ's daughter Penelope Stout married Henry Falkinburg, Jr. Warm regards...

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Of course there could be two Penelope Princes. But if a person with a rare name runs away in one colony and a peson of the same name and age suddenly appears two years later in another colony, it makes one wonder. Especially if the person who suddenly appears claims a history that cannot be verified.

      Delete
  4. (Just checked our tree...It was Penelope's son Richard Stout who had the daughter Penelope who married Henry Falkinburg, Jr...)

    ReplyDelete
  5. I have posted anonymously because I am not to familiar with how to do this and that is a path that worked. That said I am directly descended from Richard and Penelope in the line of their eldest son John. I was born and raised in Monmouth county as was all the generation of Stout's after John. The possibility of Penelope coming from this Maryland colony is interesting. It could very well be true. I am going to take issue with the notion that Penelope's ship was wrecked anywhere other than Sandy Hook New Jersey. I have seen on the internet where this has been said to be unlikely. It would take some serious proof to change my mind on this since that particular detail has been passed down orally in my line as truth for nearly 400 years. Someday I plan to pour through our family records to see what else I can find that has never been brought to light outside of our family line before, however this will be a monumental task

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I am interested to know what has been passed down orally in your family and see how it compares to what has been published since 1765.

      Delete
  6. The oral tradition matches closely to the early written accounts. Probably because they came from our family to begin with. They included the details that she had a husband prior to Richard that she travelled aboard ship with. The identity of him has always been unclear which also makes unclear if Van Princess was a maiden name or first marriage name. Whatever the case the name handed down was definitely Van Princess. The shipwreck occurred off of Sandy Hook N.J. below beacon hill where the twin lights of Navesink stand today. The survivors of the wreck swam ashore and travelled by foot to New Amsterdam. Penelope stayed behind with her husband because he was ill. The story also included the detail that he was ill aboard ship prior to the wreck. Once left alone they were both attacked, he was killed and she was left for dead. She managed to crawl into a hollow tree and survived off of moss, grubs, and rain water. She had a severe gash in her stomach and was said to have held her intestines in with her hand. She stayed in that state for ten days before two indians found her. A young indian and an older male indian. The younger wanted to finish her off to end her misery but the older indian wanted to try to heal her. It was said he was impressed by her will to survive. She was brought back to the Indian community and nursed back to health. Her scars and injuries were visible for the rest of her life. How she met Richard was never too clear but the story told is that he met her there among the Indian community and not in New Amsterdam. The story ends with she lived to be 110 and Richard lived to 103 and they had ten children and she had 502 "living" descendants at her death. Her last residence was in what is now Holmdel N.J. The house was still standing until about 10 years ago, but was bulldozed by developers in the dead of night because it was a protected historic landmark.

    ReplyDelete
  7. I did forget to add that the oral story always maintained that Penelope was dutch born. I had dismissed that myself in recent years, but nevertheless the story was that she was Dutch and not English.

    ReplyDelete
  8. I detect the following differences between your oral traditions and the early written accounts:
    survivors swam ashore
    Penelope survived off of moss, grubs, and rain water
    ten days before two indians found her
    Richard met Penelope among the Indians
    Richard lived to 103

    Interesting details. Thanks.

    ReplyDelete
  9. Two books that have a printed version of the account are kobbe's jersey coast and pines and from indian trails to electric rails. I don't know if they draw from accounts that you are already aware of or not but. Also a defunct newspaper called the keyport weekly from keyport n.j. also printed an account of the story in the early twentieth century. If I remember right it was in the 1930s they ran the article. Again not sure where they drew from. I would have to go back and find these in the family archives but I seem to remember the newspaper story drew from a particular oral source they mentioned in the story. I can't remember now though. It has been twenty years since I have looked at them.

    ReplyDelete
  10. Another valuable resource is "historical and genealogical miscellany" by stillwell. This is a four volume set printed in 1914

    ReplyDelete
  11. The account in Gustav Kobbe's New Jersey Coast and Pines (1889) ( see http://www.unz.org/Pub/KobbeGustav-1889 ) is obviously take from the account in Benedict's History of the Baptists.

    ReplyDelete
  12. I can't see enough of Thomas H. Leonard's From Indian Trails to Electric Rails on Google Books to be sure of its origin but the mention of 1620 as the shipwreck date implies Benedict's History of the Baptists again.

    Tracking down the Newport Weekly newspaper for an unknown date in the 1930s will be a challenge.

    ReplyDelete
  13. If I find that article I can get the precise date. I think the bayshore independent owns the rights to the old keyport weekly but who knows. They stopped in the 1970s. The Leonards are related to the Stouts in my line. They are the family that Leonardo N.J. is named for as they were in that area. Leonardo is near Atlantic Highlands which is near Sandy Hook. Sandy Hook is directly across the water from where the Hudson river empties into the upper bay. Before the new channel was dredged all shipping into New York had to pass near the Hook.

    ReplyDelete
  14. I found the article. It is in a pile of newspaper clippings that were all taken from the keyport weekly in the years 1931 and 1932. Sadly I can't get you any closer in date that that. The article does mention that Richard lived to 103

    ReplyDelete
  15. My theory was that Penelope was born in Holland to separatist parents that fled England to Holland like many of them did in that era. I came to that idea because of her Anabaptist faith. I believe she married a man by the name of Van Princess and they left for the Dutch colony when Holland became less religiously tolerant. Her husband died in the attack and she married Richard. I think she would have known to speak English from her English parents and that helped suit her to her new English husband ie. Richard. The Anabaptist movement was very small at that time and has roots in England and then Holland when it became unsafe to remain in England. To be very clear, this is my own idea and I have no proof that it happened this way. I think the Maryland Penelope Prince is possible but if she had fled and needed to hide her identity why not make a more drastic name change? Penelope Prince is not far enough removed from Penelope Van Princess to fool many people in a time when women in the New World were few.

    ReplyDelete