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John Pelham Historical Association

Pelham Genealogy - Major Charles Pelham (1748-1829)

Major Charles Pelham, the grandfather of John Pelham, was born in Boston, July 11, 1747. He was the second son of Peter and Ann Creese Pelham. While a child his family moved to Williamsburg, Virginia, where he grew up. Nothing is known about his early career.

Charles was 27 years old and living in Staunton, Virginia, when the Revolution broke out. He entered the service as a first lieutenant in the 1st Virginia on February 25, 1776. On November 11th he was promoted to Captain. He then transferred to the 2nd Virginia and was promoted to Major. He was captured at Charleston on May 12, 1780. After his release from prison, he transferred to the 7th Virginia. In his military career he was at the battles of White Plains, Brandywine, Germantown, and Monmouth. He retired on January 1, 1781.

Sometime during the Southern Campaign, Pelham's regiment encamped near the farm of John Atkinson in Caswell County, North Carolina. There he met Atkinson's daughter, Isabella. After he retired from the Army, he came back to marry her. They married on September 22, 1784 -- the groom was aged 36; the bride, 19.

In 1785 Pelham left Virginia for Kentucky, having been granted 6,222 acres of land for his war service. The Pelhams settled in Maysville, Kentucky, on the banks of the Ohio River, near "Pelham's Ripple," where he farmed.

Apparently Pelham was not always a successful planter. In 1800 for 450 pounds he sold nearly everything he owned to one Thomas Marshall, Jr. The Bill of Sale lists everything from cattle and hogs to household furniture to a small, but impressive library (the library shows Pelham to have been very well-educated). His land, while being over 6,000 acres, was only worth about 33 cents per acre. With such a large family to support, with one son going to medical college, Pelham was quite poor in his old age.

The Pelhams had eleven children. They were: Peter (1785-1826); Elizabeth (1786-?); Sarah (1788-?); Charles Holles (1790-1880); Martha (1794-?) William (1798-1870); Atkinson (John Pelham's father, 1799-1880); Penelope (1800-1894); Richard Henry (1802-?); John (1805-?); and Ann Creese (1808-?). Pelham's wife, Isabella, survived him, dying at Maysville in 1851.

Undoubtedly, one of the great moments of Charles Pelham's life was when he greeted the Marquis de Lafayette on his American tour. Lafayette visited Maysville, his last stop in Kentucky, in 1825. In 1957 the French government, in a reenactment of Lafayette's tour, honored Pelham at his grave in Maysville. Charles Pelham died on August 29, 1829. He was a member of the Society of the Cincinnati. Today the Limestone Chapter, D.A.R., maintains his grave.

-- by Peggy Vogtsberger

This article first appeared in Volume 2, No. 2 of The Cannoneer.

Notes, Visit to Colonial Williamsburg Collections, Oct. 14, 1982.
"Revolutionary Army Orders for the Main Army under Washington, 1778-1779," Virginia Magazine of History and Biography, Vol. XVII, No.4, Oct. 1909.
Copy of Bill of Sale, January 7, 1800, provided by Mason County, Kentucky Museum.
"O. B.'s Reminiscences" from Mason County Museum.
Newspaper clipping, "Maysville Turns Out to Welcome Lafayette," from Mason County Museum.
Gaius M. Brumbaugh, Revolutionary War Records, Virginia, Volume I, Wasington, D.C., 1936.
Louis A. Burgess, Virginia Soldiers of 1776 (Reprint Co., Spartanburg, S.C., 1973)

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