Pelham Genealogy - Peter Pelham of England (1671-1756)
The family tree states that Peter Pelham was from Chichester, Sussex County in England. While this is likely, there is no positive proof that the ancestors of John Pelham were of the famous Sussex Pelhams. The Sussex Pelhams were dukes and barons from the Norman Conquest, and one Henry Pelham was Prime Minister (1743-1754). Laura Perkinson is trying to find a connection between Peter Pelham and the illustrious Pelhams of Sussex County.
Also, the branch of Pelhams who are ancestors of John Pelham may be related to the Pelhams who came to America in 1635. This branch produced Herbert Pelham (1600-1673) who was the first treasurer of Harvard College; whose sister, Penelope, married Gov. Richard Bellingham; and whose daughter, also named Penelope, married Josiah Winslow. However, in the genealogical column, we will confine ourselves to what is known. We know that Peter Pelham (1671-1756) was the great-great-great grandfather of Major John Pelham.
Unfortunately, we know precious little about Peter Pelham of England. He was born in 1671. He had three surviving children -- Peter, Jr., who emigrated to America in 1726; Helena and Mary. Mary married first a Mr. Messenger, and second a Mr. Baker. She died in London, in 1742. Helena died in London, unmarried, in 1782.
From the letters preserved in the Copley-Pelham letters; we know there was a rift between father and son. Writes the father on September 12, 1739: "...but of all the afflictions being slighted and forsaken by my owne flesh and Blood gives me more trouble and vexation than all the other Crosses and Disapointments....but since you make me believe you are sorry for what is Past I Cannot be of that stubborn and unforgiveing Disposition as not to Pardon and wipe of all misdemeaners, and do heartily forgive what Ever is amiss in you on my account, and never in the future I hope shall have any more Cause of Complaint." Unfortunately, the nature of the rift is never specifically alluded to in the letter. After this letter, father and son began to correspond again.
That Peter Pelham was in some financial straits is evident from a letter of February 4, 1741. He complains: "I am very much putt to it to find myself in nesesarys in outward apparrell, for which I cannot free my self from Debt...” On November 30, 1749 we get a glimpse of how he spends his time: "But Could you but Imagin what a fateague it is to me in making so may Pott hooks and hangers you would be good Enough to Excuse me [from writing].” Obviously, this is how he made his living in his old age.
Peter Pelham was a handsome man with a strong constitution. At age 80 he had his portrait done. Wrote his daughter, Helena, to her nephew in America: “...there was never so handsome a man at that age as he was--it was with much ado that I got him to have it done ...for tho’ my dear father was older than I, yet in consitution I was always older than him.” Peter Pelham outlived his son by five years, dying in London on May 23, 1756.
Peter Pelham, “gentleman,” wrote his will on June 30,1755. The will divided everything between his son (apparently he had not heard of his son's death in 1751) and Helena, then to his grandchildren. Helena died unmarried in 1782. In 1790 the will was contested by the grandchildren in America vs. Henry Compton, John Compton (Peter Pelham had been living with a Mr. Compton, "a grocer in South Audley Street," Grosvenor Square, London in 1749) and William Pelham, a grandson in Ireland. Apparently, nothing was resolved, for the following appeared in the New York Herald on February 1, 1888:
“Peter Pelham, who at the beginning of this century, was residing somewhere in Virginia, Charles Pelham, who, at the same period, was living at Newtown, near Boston, Massachusetts, Henry Pelham, who at the same time, was residing in Ireland, and Elizabeth, Penelope, Thomas and Mary Pelham, who were, about the same time, living in Boston, Massachusetts, or their legal representatives, may hear of a fortune by applying to Messrs. Dougal and Co., 67 Strand, London, England.
"The above persons are descended from one Peter Pelham [here referring to the son], who emigrated from England about the middle of the last Century, and settled in or near Boston, Massachusetts. Country papers please copy."
Well, perhaps some of our Pelhams in the Association will inquire to see if they have a fortune. If you find one, please remember the Association generously!
This article first appeared in Volume 1, No. 3 of The Cannoneer.
Publications of the Colonial Society of Massachusetts, article by Denison Rogers Salde, “Henry Pelham, The Half-Brother of John Singleton Copley,” pp. 193-21-1, Vol. V, 1897-98, c. 1902;
Massachusetts Historical Society, Letters and Papers of John Singleton Copley and Henry Pelham, 1739- 1776 (Vol. 7,.C. 1914);
Dictionary of American Biography and Encyclopedia Britannica.