Pennington


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The Pennington surname derives from the place-name Pennington found near Ulverston in Cumbria and in the parish of Leigh in Lancashire.   The root of the name is the Old English word penny and tun meaning "enclosure" or "settlement."  The Cumbrian family who took the name dates from the late 12th century. 

The spelling was first Penington (a form which recurred), but Pennington began to come into use in the 14th century.

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England.  The Pennington family pedigree in Cumbria went back to Gamel de Peninton in the late 12th century.  His family became High Sheriffs of Cumberland, a title and position that was handed down from father to son for centuries.  The home and stronghold of Sir John de Penington and later descendants was Muncaster castle on the mouth of the Esk river.

Lancashire.  Their Pennington descendants spread through the Furness section of north Lancashire towards Preston and Wigan and towards the populous areas of Manchester and Liverpool. 

Another Pennington line in Lancashire came from the Pennington (originally Pininton) place-name near Leigh. The forebear of these Penningtons was said to have been Adam de Pennington who died there in the early 1300ís.  Penningtons of Aston-by-Sutton in Cheshire, some 15 miles from Leigh, have been traced back to 1585.  Sometimes the name here was Pinnington.

At the time of the 1891 census, Lancashire accounted for over 60 percent of the Penningtons in England.

London.  A Pennington line from Muncaster reached London, via Henham in Essex:
  • from William Penington came Sir John Pennington, the Royalist Lord High Admiral, and the Philadelphia Peningtons in America
  • and from his brother Robert, a weathy fishmonger and merchant in London, came Isaac Penington, the Lord Mayor of London in 1642 and a prominent Puritan member of Oliver Cromwell's Government.
However, Isaac Penington lost out after the Restoration and died a prisoner in the Tower of London.  His son Isaac was an early and influential Quaker.  Step-daughter Gulielma became the first wife of WIlliam Penn.

AmericaIt was Edward Penington, born in Buckinghamshire and the youngest of the six children, who came to Philadelphia in 1698 as a Quaker and established his family name in the land of his relative William Penn.  His grandsons Isaac and later Edward Pennington were prominent sugar refiners and merchants in Philadelphia for forty years after the Revolutionary War.

New Jersey.  There was another Pennington line that had arrived earlier in America, with Ephraim Pennington coming to New Haven, Connecticut around 1643.  His son Ephraim was one of the first settlers of Newark, New Jersey in 1667 and later Penningtons became a politically influential family there.  William S. Pennington was Governor of New Jersey in 1813 and a subsequent William was Governor in 1837.   Another line went via Nathan Pennington to Atlantic county, New Jersey. 

Also descended from Ephraim was Elijah Pennington, a Revolutionary War veteran who received land in Virginia as compensation.  His eldest son Elias headed west:

"It was said that Elijah equipped Elias with a horse, saddle, rifle, and dog and a patrimony of $2,100 to begin his adult life."

He and his family migrated first to Tennessee and then to Texas and Arizona.  Larcena Pennington was in fact a member of the first American family to set foot in Arizona, surviving many hair-raising moments:

"She was abducted by Tonto Apaches in 1860.  Unable to keep up with her captors, she was stabbed 18 times and left for dead in Madera Canyon.  Larcena then crawled through the desert for more than 16 days before finding help and being rescued.  The first thing she asked for was a chew of tobacco."

Pennington Street in Tucson, Arizona was named after her.  However, her father and brother both later died at the hands of the Apaches.

Elsewhere.  Other Penningtons migrated west and south:
  • Edward Pennington had moved to the frontier in Kentucky in 1773 and become friends there with Henry Clay.  He then headed further west in 1802 to what was at that time Indiana territory,  His son Dennis was one of the founders of Indiana as a state.  
  • while Thomas Pennington of North Carolina had received a land grant in Georgia as a result of his service in the Revolutionary War.  His son Samuel built his home there in Morgan county.  The house is still owned by the Pennington family and is used as a conference and training center for Pennington Seed Inc. and Pennington Enterprises. 
Canada.   James Pennington from Liverpool was a British soldier taken prisoner during the American Revolutionary War.   On release after the war, he was granted land in New Brunswick and settled there.  One son William, a Baptist minister, made his home in Maine; another son James, a farmer, moved to Minnesota in the 1850's.

Australia. 
Captain Rowland Pennington from Westmorland fought with the British army during the Napoleonic wars and was afterwards stationed in Canada.  His son John, born there, emigrated to Australia in 1850 and settled with his family in Adelaide.  Ten years later John was unfortunately drowned when his boat Unique capsized at the annual port regatta.  His son John, known as Rowley, was a surveyor and the Adelaide suburb of Pennington appears to have been named after him.

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If you would like to read more, click on the miscellany page for further stories and accounts:


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Gamel de Peninton
who lived in the 12th century was the forebear of the Cumbrian Penningtons.
Sir John Pennington was Lord High Admiral of King Charles's fleet in the 1630's.
James Pennington, born James Pembroke in Maryland, was a fugitive slave who became a leading African American orator and abolitionist in the years prior to the Civil War.
Basil Pennington was an American Trappist monk whose best-selling 1980 work Centering Prayer sold more than a million copies.
Michael Pennington, a comedian from Lancashire, is better known by his stage name Johnny Vegas.

Select Penningtons Today
  • 7,000 in the UK (most numerous in Lancashire)
  • 14,000 in America (most numerous in Texas) 
  • 1,000 elsewhere (most numerous in Australia)

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Barry Dickinson Innes O'Reilly Townsend
Beattie Dillon Irvine Oliver Underwood
Beck Dodd Jeffries Payne Unsworth
Bentley Doherty Jennings Penn Vance
Bernstein Duncan Kemp Pennington Venables
Bird East Kerr Pettigrew Walton
Boone Edgar Knight Phelan Watkins
Brady Emerson Lawrence Quigley Waugh
Branson Everett Leary Quirk West
Brooks Faulkner Levine Regan Whelan
Buck Fettiplace Levy Reilly Whitney
Burke Ford Lloyd Rhodes Wolfe
Bush Goldberg McIntosh Sharp Woodward
Carr Goodman McLaren Sheehan Yates
Carson Gordon McMillan Sinclair York

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