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They Live Again

 

My Louisiana Revolutionary War Soldier and His Wife

are Finally Laid to Rest with Full D.A.R. Honors

 

  The Article

The Shreveport Times, July 2, 1961, page 1-F

 

JAMES PENNY

LOUISIANA'S REVOLUTIONARY SOLDIER

WILL NO LONGER LIE IN NEGLECTED GRAVE

 

When young Sharon Fox, seventh grade student of the Broadmoor Junior High won a history medal. given by the D.A.R. this year, she told the ladies of the Shreveport Chapter that her great grandmother., Mrs. F. E. Morgan of Ruston is the only living granddaughter of an American Revolutionary soldier, and that he is believed to be the only one buried in Louisiana.  Sharon's aunt., Mrs. W. A. McLees, is a member of the Caddo Chapter, and it is through her that Mrs.  Morgan, who will be ninety-five years young in December, was brought to Shreveport to tell the story of her grandfather to Mrs. J. C. O'Neal the Shreveport Chapter's Historian, and to Miss Lilian Polk, its Regent.

 

Mrs. Morgan, a sparkling, spirited and gallant lady, born December 30, 1866 on her father's plantation "Safety Dale" near Zachary, Louisiana, is now the last of the Penny line.

 

The Civil War had only been over a year when she came into the world, and she grow up during Reconstruction days, proud that one of her brothers, James Smiley Penny had joined the Confederate at 13 and served to the end.  Her two fighting brothers, she recalls, were dubbed the "Black Pennies" because of their toughness in pulling through hardships.

 

Zula Penny loves every memory of her childhood, and talks of them with a twinkle.  "I fell in love when I was five or six years old with the son of Judah P. Benjamin, whom I saw in the old Presbyterian church near our home.  My father took us there because he never forgot that we were Scotch Covenanters." He taught her Scottish history and Scottish songs, and her favorite book was "Scottish Chiefs."  She received most of her education from her father who had lost his eye-sight in his later years.  He would take the children into the yard under the large shade trees for their lessons.  She pointed out that there were no public schools after the Civil War, so that through Joseph and his sister-in-law, who used a room in her father's large house for a little schools she obtained an education.  When Zula was only 17 years old, Warren Easton appointed her to teach in Port Hudson.  "I bad to pass a written examination to qualify," she said smiling "but I passed with high marks a credit to my father's teachings."

 

Joseph Penny, her father, was born 1807 in Louisiana and died 1887.  He was a planter and raised, ground and refined his own sugar cane.  He married (1) Annie White, daughter of another south Louisiana sugar planter and (2) Zula's mother, Anne Carroll.  Through her Mrs. Morgan is a direct descendant of the "Carrols of Carrollten," Maryland, one of them the famous signer of the Declaration of Independence.

 

There were eight children in the family -- two boys and six girls.  Her sister, Alice, married Isaac Simpson Taylor.  A very lovely young lady and favorite of the family, Alice found herself mistress of a large plantation just north of Baton Rouge known as "Ashland" so huge that it included the property known as "Cordelia Oakes", on which is located a celebrated oak tree said to be one of the largest living oaks in Louisiana.  Alice died in childbirth and is buried there.  A quaint verse is carved below her dates: January 28th 1840 - December 29, 1859.

 

A nephew wrote the description of the Penny place as it was to be found in his day, a description no longer true for the old 18th century Penny mansion is gone.  But the remarks about James, the Revolutionary soldier, make it interesting:

 

"As you leave Baton Rouge, and drive North on the Scenic Highway, you  pass though the immense holdings of the Standard Oil Company - their refineries, tank farms, etc.  All this land was at one time a large cotton plantation, which I an told was owned and operated by my uncle, Isaac Simpson Taylor.  His residence stood almost where the present town of Scotlandville now stands.  There is nothing now to mark the place, save a single tree that can be seen from the highway.

 

"Driving on some twelve miles, you turn abruptly to the left and follow a diminutive little country dirt road for some half mile.  You come upon an old residence almost hid among the trees and shrubbery.  This is a very old home dating back to the early part of the 18th century, and I was told by those living there that it was more than a hundred years old.  In the yard of this old house there stand what is said to be the "Henry Watkins Allen Oak" enrolled in the Louisiana Live Oak Society.  As history goes this old place was once the home of James Penny, father of Joseph Penny, and that the old gentleman is buried under the spreading shade of this mighty oak.

 

"The Pennys were Scotch, and from all I can glean, James and his father (also named Joseph) were both born in Scotland.  The family immigrated to Pennsylvania, where he resided for some time.  From there they moved to Louisiana, coming by flatboat or covered wagons bringing all their possessions, together with their slaves.  James said that he was a large lad before he could realize that he was living in America.  But he had a vivid memory of a lovely lady and a beautiful park-like place where he had lived and was cared for by servants of some kind.  It seems there was a mystery about it all, somehow, that he never solved.

 

"The Daughters of the American Revolution of Washington, D. C. wrote to Edinburgh, Scotland, and received a statement that the Coat of Arms of the Penny Family was a Ducal Crown on an ermine background with the motto, 'I trust the hostile, but fear the friendly", in Latin,  and referred us back to the days of David Bruce son of Robert Bruce, and to Sir William Wallace, the Scottish hero.

 

(The Long Leaf Pine Chapter of the D.A.R. presented Mrs. Morgan with a beautiful replica of the above coat of arms.  It also carried a greyhound meaning "Swift to do the king's bidding,")

 

According to the official D.A.R. records, Zula Penny Morgan's Revolutionary grandfather, James Penny, was born in Edinburgh, Scotland on July 14, 1762 and came with his father Joseph Penny (born 1732) to the colonies in the spring of 1775, settling in Pennsylvania.  His place of residence during the war was Chester County, Pennsylvania.

 

James Penny had been in the colonies only a year and a half, and was only 14 years and five months old when he enlisted in Captain James Morrison's Company of the 3rd Battalion in the militia of Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, commanded by Colonel Thomas Porter.  His name appears on a company muster roll of that organization covering the period December 17 to 26th, 1776 (as per the Adjutant General Washington, D. C.

 

In 1780, when he was only 18 years old, the name of James Penny now a veteran soldier, appears on the roll of the War of the Revolution as a private in Captain James Clarke's Company, 6th Battalion, Chester County militia, under the command of Colonel James Taylor. (The information obtained from the Pennsylvania State Library and Museum at Harrisburg is found on page 707 of vol. 5, Pennsylvania Archives.)

An excerpt from American State Papers, Vol. 3 by Duff Green, 1834., shows that James Penny was already in Louisiana by 1785, only four years after the surrender of Cornwallis.  For he received and worked land grants given him by two different Spanish governors. (In 1785 Louisiana belonged to Spain.)

 

(1)        Section 89 amounting to 105 acres was granted him by Governor C. de Grandpre and was cultivated 1785 to 1814.

 

(2)        Land described as being located in Section 71 and having 426.15 acres was occupied and cultivated 1785-1811 was surveyed February 14, 1798, and granted James Penny officially by Governor G. de Lomas February 14, 1799.  This land is the exact section on which James Penny who died in 1845, aged 83, and his wife, Lucy, are buried.

 

James and Lucy Kennard were married near New Orleans 1790.  Lucy was born 1769 and died 1839.  She kept 500 snow white chickens says Mrs. Morgan.  Of their nine children (two girls and seven boys), the line of Joseph, the father of Zula Penny Morgan of Ruston alone remains.  The others have died out.

 

In the library at Louisiana Tech in Ruston a copy of the 1840 census records the Penny family, including names of wives, and lists the number of slaves belonging to each.  In those days every horse and mule as well as the land, was taxed.

 

About 1935-6 the Decker family bought the Penny property and removed the old 18th century house, replacing it with a modern residence.  It is some 300 yards to the left of the great old Henry Watkins Allen Oak under whose spreading shade lies James Penny beside the unmarked grave of his beloved Lucy.  Mrs. W. J. Decker now owns the property on which the grave and the oak rest.

 

Mrs. Gilmer C. Reeves of Baton Rouges Regent of the John James Audubon Chapter, D.A.R., which will share with the Shreveport Chapter the placing and dedication of the Markers recently visited the neglected little cemetery.  To Mrs. O'Neal she wrote: "It is truly a lovely spot, but in serious need of fencing, as the animals now roam over the place.  Even with that it has mellow and appealing looks that draw one's attention at once.  The graveyard lies beneath an extremely large and spreading oak, and is grown over with weed, vines and briars.  It will have to be cleared before the dedication of the two markers.  Though the grave is enclosed in a very dilapidated fence, the ground is covered with a thick growth of periwinkle.  The entire area is resplendent with mighty oaks of a very great vintage, and present a cool, comfortable and dignified appearance."

 

The vault of James Penny and his wife Lucy will be provided with white marble markers fitting the grave of Louisiana's only known Revolutionary War dead.  The dedication exercises are being arranged by the Shreveport and John James Audubon Chapters of the D.A.R. and will be announced later.

 

Mrs. Zula Penny Morgan, accompanied by her son Frank and others of her four surviving children plan to attend the ceremonies at the burial ground. Mrs. Morgan hopes that this will be before her ninety-fifth birthday which is only six months away.  The diamond studded D.A.R. pin which she wears in the picture was a gift of her beloved husband who passed away December 23, 1937, a year after their Golden Wedding.

 

Mrs. Morgan lives in her lovely home on Highway 80 East in Ruston and enjoys flowers, watching the birds in her patio, entertaining her friends, and learning to play "sol' without a little cheating.  She is a greatly beloved and distinguished lady known for her hospitality and warmth of character.

 

 

 The Ceremony

Daughters of the American Revolution Magazine, December 1961, page 697

 

 

John James Audubon (Baton Rouge, La.) and Shreveport (Shreveport, La.) held a joint dedicatory service, Saturday, Sept. 9, for a DAR Revolutionary marker to the memory of James Penny (1762-1845).  The program was held at 10 o'clock at the Penny Graveyard, west of Highway 61, about 10 miles north of Baton Rouge on the plantation of J. W. Decker.

 

Mrs. Keller McKowen, vice regent of John James Audubon Chapter, presided over the dedication.  The pastor of the Plains Presbyterian Church, Rev.  C. J. Matthews, gave the invocation and the benediction.  Music was provided by Johnnie Mayfield, Past President, C.A.R., while the marker was unveiled by Mrs. James C. O'Neal, historian of Shreveport Chapter.  The marker was dedicated by Mrs. James B. Shackelford, State Regent, and Mrs. Edward J. Schneider, Vice President General.  Floral presentations were made by Sharon Ann Fox and Judith Lil Morgan, descendants of the Revolutionary soldier, James Penny, and great-granddaughters of Mrs. Frank E. Morgan.

 

The Revolutionary soldier was eulogized by Charles A. Perrileaux, Past Commander, Veterans of Foreign Wars.  Taps, sounded by the bugler, brought the program to an end.

 

Attending the services, to which the public was invited, were the 95-year-old Mrs. Frank E. Morgan of Ruston, granddaughter of the Revolutionary soldier, and members of her family.

 

Following dedication of the DAR marker, John James Audubon Chapter honored Mrs. Morgan with a beautifully appointed luncheon in the Industrial Room of the Capitol House Hotel.  For the occasion the dining room was fragrant and colorful in autumn flowers.  Honor guests included, in addition to Mrs. Morgan, Governor Jimmie H. Davis; Mayor John Christian; Mrs. James B. Shackelford, State DAR Regent; Mrs. R. J. Holzer, State Vice Regent; Mrs. Ralph E. Lewis, Historian; Mrs. Emile A. Carmouche, Chaplain; and Mrs. James H. Galloway, Membership Chairman.

 

The honoree was presented with an orchid corsage by Miss Eugenia Smith, Long Leaf Pine Chapter, Ruston, with keys to the city of Baton Rouge by Mayor John Christian; and with a commission on his staff by Governor Davis.  Dr. T. Harry Williams, Louisiana State University Department of History, gave a witty resume of events in Mrs. Morgan's long and colorful life.  The luncheon was presided over by Mrs. Gilmer C. Reeves, regent of the John James Audubon Chapter who presented Mrs. Morgan with a booklet, tied in DAR colors, containing James Penny's Revolutionary record, his will, and other data on the family. - Mrs. Gilmer C. Reeves.

 

Compiled by Richard N. Fox
They Live Again
Email: 
foxes@gci.net



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