Genealogy Research Pertaining to John Verner (c1725-1798/9)

John Verner* (c1725-1798/9) is thought to have been born in Tyrone, Ireland, in about 1725, Family traditions suppose that he emigrated to America, possibly at New Castle DE in about November 1741 at about the age of 15 with the Pettigrew family, according to the genealogy of Clara Verner Wallace, referenced below. His future wife, Mary Cochran Pettigrew*, a daughter of James and Mary Pettigrew, was one of three children; Martha Pettigrew, John Pettigrew, and either James or Mary Cochran Pettigrew; who were all aboard the same ship. According to Clara, John Verner* was apparently also on the same ship, in the custody of James Pettigrew*, who was assumed to be serving as his guardian.

A letter written by James' youngest son, William Pettigrew, in 1825 indicates that James Pettigrew* and his wife wife, Mary Cochran* had four children in Ireland before they left for America, and arrived at New Castle in Nov. 1741. This letter also indicates that their oldest daughter, Rachel stayed home in Ireland, and was invited to join her family in America at a later time, but she died during that later voyage. Penelope Allen's genealogy says that James and Mary Pettigrew had two sons and one daughter with them on the voyage. However, there is no mention in William's letter that John Verner was with the Pettigrew family on the same ship. All three sources state that one oldest daughter, Rachel Pettigrew, was left behind in Ireland with a plan to come over later and that Rachel did board a later ship to come to America, but died during its passage.

As a separate matter, aside from the origins of John Verner, the letter by William Pettigrew is not clear about which of James and Mary's children were on the ship with them. If one interprets the letter as listing the children in their birth sequence, then it would appear that Martha, John, and Mary were on the ship. If however, one interprets the letter as mentioning the first four as those who were married before the family left Virginia (and thus living away from home and didn't go with the family to North Carolina), then Martha, John and James were on the ship. The latter interpretation is consistent with Penelope Allen's rendition, which says that they had two sons and a daughter with them on the ship.

Penelope Allen probably did not see the letter by William Pettigrew, because she used the year 1740 as the date of arrival in New Castle, DE, rather than the more exact date of Nov. 1741 stated in William's letter. Therefore, her accounting of "two sons and one daughter" probably came from another source. The name of the ship on which the Pettigrews arrived, and the exact date of its arrival are yet to be found.

The letter written by William Pettigrew, youngest son of James and Mary Pettigrew, in 1825, is quoted in its entirety in the Birdsong family genealogy.

The pertinent sections of Clara's genealogy, and that of Penelope Allen are copied below:

Clara Verner Wallace's genealogy of the Verner family includes the following paragraph on page 12, where she wrote:

"John Verner Sr. the progenitor of the Southern and Western branch of the family was born in Tyrone Ireland in 1725. He came to America with the Pettigrew family when a lad of fifteen. They arrived at New Castle, Delaware in 1740. It is believed that his father came at an earlier date and settled in Pennsylvania. The Pettigrews and John Verner stayed in Pennsylvania only a short time before migrating to Virginia. They stayed in Virginia until John married Mary Pettigrew because records show that David, their oldest son was born in Virginia in Lunenburg County in 1760. A member of the Colorado family states that John Verner Sr. was the only son of David Verner who came to America in 1710. This was also taken from a family Bible belonging to John Sr's grandson. Mr. A. L. Verner's records taken from the Pennsylvania Archives, second series XIX p. 734 compiled by Albert Cook Myers gives names of some of the men from Ulster who settled in the Philadelphia region in Pennsylvania between 1682 and 1750 included Samuel Verner of Ireland who settled along Pequea Creek, Lancaster County, some years prior to 1725 and that he produced good credentials and asked for a grant of land. At a meeting of the Board of Property in Philadelphia Aug. 25, 1725 Samuel having died, his son David requested the grant. [See References below] This writer believes this to be the same David mentioned in O'Harts' Irish Pedigree under Modern Irish Gentry. Considering these dates and facts Samuel was the father of David who claimed the land grant and John, Sr. was the son of David. Adding further to the summary, John Sr. named his first son David and another son Samuel. Some of the information sent to this compiler give William Verner of Ireland as the father of Samuel. These facts so far have not been positively proven, but it is the hopes of this writer that someone in the future will follow these clues and find positive proof."

The Pettigrew Genealogy, Leaves from the Pettigrew Family Tree, written by Penelope Johnson Allen, contains the following quote:

"James Pettigrew is said to have been wild in his youth and of a forward and daring disposition. While preparing for Trinity College at Dublin, he eloped in 1731 with Mary, a daughter of Capt. George and Rachel (Higginbotham) Cochran, of "The Grange", a beautiful Irish estate. Mary was a famous beauty of her time and was the same age as her young husband. The couple had 13 children, twelve of who -- six boys and six girls -- reached the age of maturity.

After a few years James Pettigrew made up his mind to seek his fortune in the new world, and leaving the eldest of his four children with her grandmother in Ireland, set sail for America, with his wife, a daughter and two sons. They landed in Delaware, at New Castle, in 1740 and pushed on into Pennsylvania, where he secured 300 acres of land on Marsh Creek, near the present location of Chambersburg. In Philadelphia he knew the prominent men of the day, and no less a personage than Dr. Benjamin Franklin, advised him to study medicine, but James Pettigrew was born to adventure, and he followed the start of his fortune south, through Virginia and North Carolina and settled at last in South Carolina, where he spent the closing years of his life. It was while the family was residing in Pennsylvania, that the fifth child, Charles, was born on March 20, 1744. And it is related that about this time James Pettigrew became very religious. So strict was he in his observance of the Sabbath that no cooking was allowed in his house on Sunday, and to this circumstance, he and his family owed their lives, for one Sunday hostile Indians visited his premises, but, seeing no smoke, passed on, as they supposed the house to be unoccupied. In recognition of this providential deliverance from the hands of the redmen, he after named one of his sons, Ebenezer.

After the Pettigrew family was settled in Pennsylvania, James sent to Ireland for his oldest daughter, who set out to join them, but she died during the voyage to America. About this time the French and Indian war broke out and life on the Pennsylvania frontier became a perilous business.

After Braddocks defeat in 1755, James Pettigrew sold his land in Pennsylvania for 80 pounds and moved to Lunenburg County, Virginia, where he rented a farm and remained about three years. Here his thirteenth child, a son, William, was born, January 26, 1758. He then moved to Granville County, North Carolina, where he remained for ten years, and while residing there gave the land for the establishment of a Presbyterian Church. In 1768, hearing favorable reports from Scotch-Irish settlers in South Carolina of the land in that section, James Pettigrew sold his property in Granville County, North Carolina, and after three weeks travelling, reached the "Long Cane Settlement", about seven miles above Abberville court-house. He stayed in this locality for four years."

Commentary on these sources

Apparently, because it provides the month as well as the year, the most accurate date for the arrival of the immigrant ship that brought the Pettigrew family across the Atlantic to New Castle, Delaware, is November, 1741. This is in the 1825 letter by William Pettigrew. Clara and Penelope's date is simply stated as "1740". There are, however, other genealogies that say it was 1743.

Neither Penelope Allen, nor the William Pettigrew letter, suggests that John Verner* emigrated to America with James Pettigrew and his family. Both of these sources merely state that John Verner married James' daughter, Mary Pettigrew, and settled in Anderson County SC. Clara's is the only rendition that has John Verner emigrating on the same ship as the Pettigrew family, and it is inconsistent with itself in that it says John Verner was born in 1725 in Tyrone Ireland, as the son of David Verner who who emigrated in 1710, and was not in Ireland in 1724 or 1725. In her defense, Clara also states that her analysis of John Verner's parentage remains unproven, and the David and Samuel Verner that she found in Lancaster County, PA, are not necessarily the parents of John Verner. Her reference to the Colorado descendant's testimony and the family Bible of John Verner Jr.'s grandson which both state that John Verner came to America to join his father, David who was the son of Samuel seems credible, since they are presumably from separate sources.

The Search for the Immigrant ship and its passengers

A search for the name "John Verner" or "James Pettigrew", using spelling variations, in the data bases for passengers of immigrant ships to any American port, yields no results for the years 1740-1743, with two exceptions. There is a record of a ship named the Samuel which arrived at Philadelphia on Dec 3, 1740, carrying an imigrant from the German Palatine, named Johann Werner, age 20, whom the manifest states used the spelling "Verner". There is also a record of the ship, St. Andrew that arrived at Philadelphia on Oct. 2, 1741, from Rotterdam, Holland, on which there were three Verners from the German Palatine. This ship's passenger list mainly showed immigrants, disembarking at Philadelphia, who spoke German and had German names. The record shows 136 named individuals, probably only those who disembarked at Philadelphia, but the manifest showed that the ship has a total of 103 men, 72 women, and 87.6 children. The Verner immigrants listed by name were: Michl Verner, age 45; Georg Verner, age 20; and Diedrich Verner, age 35. This ship did not have any passengers disembarking at Philadelphia named Pettigrew or Petigru. It may be possible that this ship also landed in New Castle, DE, a month later, and John Verner and the Pettigrew family disembarked at New Castle, and were not recorded among the passengers arriving at Philadelphia. This is an unproven conjecture, but it would make some sense for the Scots-Irish immigrants to depart at New Castle, where there were Presbyterian settlements and overland outfitters and guides to provide a low-cost passage to the Presbyterian Scots-Irish settlements in Leacock Township of Lancaster County, PA, which would by-pass Philadelphia. The name of the ship suggests that it was made in Scotland, and would have had a Scottish crew. There is little question that James Pettigrew and his family were Presbyterians.

The founders of the Caldwell Presbyterian Settlement arrived at New Castle, DE in 1727 on a ship named the Eagle's Wing or the Eagle Wing, and it had apparently been a ship that made regular trips to New Castle aver the period from about 1717 to 1750 or so, carrying mainly Scots-Irish immigrants, however no records of its passenger lists have been found.

The letter of William Pettigrew, containing the Nov., 1741 date of arrival, is more likely to be accurate than the report of Penelope Allen. Penelope, although a professional genealogist, was working to qualify later descendants for entry into the Daughters of the American Revolution (D.A.R.), and may not have been as attentive to the earlier details of the family history.

William Pettigrew's letter written in 1825 says that the ship carrying the Pettigew family arrived at New Castle, in Nov. 1741. However, the month of November is somewhat late in the season for a transatlantic immigrant sailing ship to arrive at New Castle as its first destination port. This can be explained if the ship was scheduled to arrive in Philadelphia in early October, which is when the St. Andrew arrived in Philadelphia, and later came to port in New Castle (if it did so).

It is important to note that immigrants from Ireland or Scotland to the English colonies were not regarded as immigrants from a foreign land, as were the German Palatines. Therefore, there were no papers for them to sign disavowing their loyalty to Continental Rulers and asserting their intention to be become loyal subjects of the English Crown. Accordingly, their names were not as well recorded, and passenger lists may have been less well preserved.

While, the search for the immigrant ship carrying John Verner continues, the Palatine ships are not likely to be correct, even if they stopped at New Castle after Philadelphia. However, since we are not absolutely sure that John Verner, or his parents were from Ireland, it makes sense to research all of the ships one can find. If any evidence can be found that John Verner, may have been born as a Johann Verner, who split from his Mennonite or Amish family of German/Swiss Verners or was shunned. It is possible, although highly unlikely, that there is a germ of truth behind the family folklore that John Verner knew the Pettigrew family prior to his marriage. The shunning process of the Amish Mennonites could explain why we know nothing of John Verner's parentage. While this scenario is possible, it is considered highly unlikely because there is no indication that John Verner ever spoke the German language or had cultural attributes associated with a German origin.

New Castle, DE was a fairly small port of entry for immigrant ships, however it may be important to note that it was one of the earliest ports for the Presbyterian Scots-Irish people who intended to settle in the western frontier of PA and MD. It would also make sense for arriving ships to initially arrive at the larger port of Philadelphia, and then back-track to New Castle, for a number of reasons related to their needs for repairs, supplies, and the logistics of returning with cargo. Scots-Irish immigrants would find it less costly to land at New Castle, and go overland to White Clay Creek on the DE/PA border, where there was an historically significant Presbyterian Church whose congregation could help them find an appropriate settlement farther west.

The story about James Pettigrew meeting with Benjamin Franklin in Philadelphia, may suggest that we should look for The Pettigrews and John Verner arriving on an earlier voyage, perhaps in 1740, and consider the idea that John Verner headed immediatly to Lancaster County to meet his father, while James Pettigrew and his family spent a year in Philadelphia pursuing various opportunities (perhaps to study medicine) unsuccessfully, and then sailed from Philadelphia, and arriving at New Castle in Nov., 1741, which may have provided a shorter route to the Marsh/March Creek area near Chambersburg.

Was John Verner's father, David Verner?

Clara's rendition, which is a composite of family recollections and sources of uncertain reliability, states that John Verner* went with James Pettigrew* through Philadelphia to Lancaster County, where he joined his father, David Verner*. David, thus, must have emigrated from Tyrone sometime after 1724 for John Verner to have been born in Tyrone in 1725. However, Clara's own text contains an inconsistency, in that she says that a member of the Verner family in Colorado stated that John Verner was the only son of David Verner who emigrated from Ireland in 1710 ! Clara notes that his same statement was also recorded in a family Bible that belonged to a grandson of John Verner, Jr. This agreement between presumably separate sources tends to support the authenticity of these records (if they were two separate sources) which together could be regarded as a reliable source. Samuel and his son David lived in a Scots-Irish settlement along the Pequea Creek in what became Leacock Township, which was once in Chester County, but is now in Lancaster County PA.

If David Verner emigrated in 1710 with his father Samuel, then there is a problem. The problem is that unless David went back to Ireland in 1724 or 1725, he cannot be the father of John Verner*, who was allegedly born in Tyrone, Ireland in 1725.

Perhaps the Bible record indicated that Samuel Verner and that his brother, David Verner emigrated to Chester County in 1710, but Samuel's son, David arrived later in 1725. We need to examine this Bible record's exact wording.

More recent research has found a Samuel Verner who may have emigrated from North Ireland in about 1722 or 1723.

Who was David Verner and Samuel Verner of Lancaster County PA? Clara's research unveiled that there was a David Verner who presented his case before the Board of Property in Philadelphia on Aug. 25, 1725, to receive an award of 300 acres (sic - it was actually 200 acres) of property that would have been granted to his late father, Samuel Verner. Another record has been found of a John Verner who bought 310 acres of property in Leacock Township from Mr. Thomas Penn Esq., a son of the famous William Penn a short time before Feb. 9, 1741. This is recorded in a booklet published in Philadelphia by Joseph M. Wilson: "A Discouse delivered in the Leacock Presbyterian Church, Lancaster County, PA on Thanksgiving Day, Nov. 23, 1854" by the Rev. P.J. Timlow, Pastor; hereafter refered to as The discourse. The on-line history of Leacock Township, exerpted from the History of Lancaster County by Dr. Frederick Klein in 1924, shows that there were Verners among the first settlers of Leacock Township in 1724-25. The relevant quote from this source is:

"As a matter of fact, the name Verner appears on the tax-list for the year 1724-25, classified under Pequea township, the boundaries of which were not defined but which probably would include Leacock and Salisbury townships of later erection. In the next year (1725-26) the name is spelled Varner, and in the tax-list for 1726-27 the name Vermon appears. ... Hattil Varman was born in Wexford, Ireland. His part in the functioning of Quaker meetings in Lancaster county is stated in another chapter (q. v.). There were several large holdings in Leacock township, and this may have delayed its settlement somewhat, but in all probability there were many settlers before 1729, when Lancaster county was formed, for Hattil Varmon was a member of the grand inquest at the November sessions of court in 1730, and township officers were named in 1729; therefore, if Varman is accepted as the first settler, he must have settled, one would think, earlier than 1728. The constable appointed in 1729 was Henry Jones; and William Clark was collector in Pequea township in 1721. An argument against the thought that the Varman and Verner families were at least related is in their church affiliation. Hattil Varman was a Quaker; the Verners were Presbyterians. Among the early settlers were John Lyon, who warranted a tract of about 200 acres in 1741; John Verner, who purchased or received patent for 300 acres in the same year; the McCausland family; the Snavely family; Daniel Besore, James Copper, John Hurst, Joseph Rutter, Adam Miller, Eby, Buck- waiter, and Caldwell families.
This is first known mention of a John Verner who was identified as being of a family of Presbyterian Verners in Lancaster County, PA. It is possible that the John Verner mentioned above could be the same as the 15 year old John Verner who supposedly immigrated in 1741. The phrase "purchased or received patent for", allows for a 15 year old to "receive patent for" the land in 1741 from his father, possibly the David Verner, who applied for it from the Philadelphia Board of Property on Aug. 25, 1725. If so, our John Verner's father, David Verner, would have conceived our John Verner in Ireland in 1724 or early 1725, before emigrating leaving (or abandoning?) his pregnant wife to appear before the Board of Property on Sep. 2, 1725. However, if that is true, we need to account for another David Verner to have been in Leacock as early as 1710, and who also had a son named John Verner (older than our John Verner) who bought 310 acres from a son of William Penn.

The facts of the matter.

The following facts pertain to uncertainties that are in want of more research:

To date, the most articulate analysis of the known facts and interpretations of the folklore have been carefully sorted out by Foy Varner, Jr. and were presented in his e-mail letter on Dec. 19, 2005 to a list of interested Verner/Varner descendants , and are reproduced in full under the link.The search for the pedigree of John Verner Sr., born ca1725.


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