Sunday, November 2, 2014

52 Ancestors: #44 - William Pendleton HERNDON

Amy Johnson Crow of No Story Too Small has issued a challenge:  write one blog post each week devoted to a specific ancestor.  It can be a story, a biography, a photograph, an outline of a research problem – anything that focuses on one ancestor.

Scamming old people is nothing new.  My 4X great-grandfather William Pendleton HERNDON was the victim of a scam at the hands of the very people who were supposed to represent his interests.

Until William Herndon applied for a pension for service to his country, he lived a rather ordinary life.  He was born in Albemarle County, Virginia in 1764, one of twelve children born to Edward and Mary Ann Gaines HERNDON
Continental Army
Google Images
labeled for reuse
William was just sixteen when he joined the militia in Culpeper County in the war for independence from England.  He served three tours of three months each.  He saw action early.  Soon after enlisting, he found himself in the Battle of Petersburg under the leadership of Captain Ambrose Bohannon and General Peter Muhlenberg.  The militia was outnumbered 2 to1 but they put up a good fight giving General Lafayette time to entrench the Regulars in Richmond, thus saving the city from another assault.

The militia removed to Chesterfield Court House, and from there William returned home after his three-month obligation was complete.

The second time he was drafted, William spent much of his time near Richmond at Morbin Hills and Camp Holly where he was regularly in the company of Lafayette and Muhlenberg.  The conversations around the campfire must have been charged with emotion and patriotism, so inspiring for young boys like William.  He was only 16 and in the presence of the very leaders who would become our nation’s heroes.

His final tour was in Fredericksburg and Germanna.  In 1781 at age 17, he was discharged and returned to Culpeper County and to farming.

From Herndon Family Bible in William Pendleton Herndon's pension application
From Herndon Family Bible
List of William and Mary's children
part of William's pension application
In 1785, he married Mary RUCKER, daughter of Thomas and Elizabeth Wisdom Rucker, and soon started on their own brood of twelve children.

Fast forward to 1832.  Congress approved the Act of June 7, 1832, which extended pension benefits to those who had served during the Revolutionary War.  The terms provided that officers and enlisted men who served two or more years would get full pay for life; men who served less than two years but at least 6 months were granted pensions of less than full pay.  Benefits were payable regardless of financial need or disability; furthermore, widows and children could collect unpaid benefits. 

William contacted the local pension agent, Charles Gibbs, who told him he did not qualify since he had not served six consecutive months.  So William gave up the idea of applying for a pension. Unfortunately Mr. Gibbs misunderstood the law; it actually did not require that service be continuous.

Twelve years later, the pension agent Coleman Payne in Greene County, where William was then residing, informed William that yes, indeed, his claim for a pension was good.  Payne set himself up as William’s representative to receive payments in his name and then pass the money on to William.

Trust the man in charge – that’s what many people do.  And that’s what William did.  Whether paying Payne HALF the allotted amount was William’s idea of fairness or Payne’s fee is not recorded in the pension file.  But William discovered the deal was not a good one.

from complaint against Coleman Payne
Payne claimed he had drawn $240 for William who then gave him half, thus leaving William with $120 for service to his country.  William did not know until he heard from the state pension agent in Richmond that Payne had actually drawn $420, the full amount William was owed at $30 per year for the previous fourteen years.  In June 1845, William got himself a lawyer and registered a complaint against Coleman Payne. 

Justice did not come quickly if it came at all.  In January 1847, William appointed Thomas S. Thornton to be his agent to do two things:  collect the pension due him and to get his pension certificate back from Coleman Payne who was withholding it illegally.  When Thornton confronted Payne, Payne claimed he had no papers for Herndon because his claim had been rejected. 

It is not clear whether William Herndon actually received the pension due him.  He died seven months later.

Signature of William Pendleton Herndon
Notice the loop on the "W" and on the "d"

William Pendleton HERNDON ( 29 Feb 1764 Albemarle Co, VA – 12 Aug 1847 Greene Co, VA ) & Mary RUCKER  (23 Mar 1763 Culpeper Co, VA – 26 Feb 1835 Orange Co, VA )  28 Nov 1785 Virginia

1. Edward HERNDON ( 13 May 1787 Orange Co, VA – May 1866 Orange, VA ) & Mary BRADLEY  19 Oct 1822  Orange, VA

2. James HERNDON ( 23 Jan 1789 Orange Co, VA – 07 Dec 1857 Madison Co, VA ) & Esther FERNEYHOUGH (1803 – 1892 Madison Co, VA )    30 Dec 1823 Madison Co, VA

3. Ezekial HERNDON ( 07 Dec 1790 Orange Co, VA – About 1845 Rockingham Co, VA ) & Sarah JONES (1794 Virginia – Jul 1869 Oskaloosa, IO)  19 Jan 1821 Orange County, VA

  • Manson W. HERNDON ( 18 Oct 1821 Rockingham Co, VA – 11 Dec 1899 Adair, McDonough, IL)  & m1) Minerva PENCE ( 1828 – 1846 )  1843 Illinois ; & m2) Margaret REXROAT ( 30 Jul 1829 – 28 Nov 1899 McDonough, IL )  12 Aug 1847 Illinois
  • Nancy HERNDON ( 1823 Rockingham Co, VA – )
  • Susannah HERNDON ( 1825 Rockingham Co, VA –  )
  • Mary  J. HERNDON ( 1827 Rockingham Co, VA – ) & John H. HARMAN ( 1828 Virginia – )
  • Allen A. HERNDON ( 09 Sep 1831 Rockingham Co, VA – 20 Feb 1863 Nashville, TN ) & Frances M. CAVE ( 1833 Rockingham Co, VA – 14 Jul 1893 McDonough, IL )
  • Sarah A. HERNDON ( 1832 Rockingham Co, VA – 19 Mar 1893 Rockingham Co, VA ) & Franklin RUCKER  ( 1824 Madison Co, VA – 05 Nov 1880 Rockingham Co, VA )  15 Sep 1851 Rockingham Co, VA
4. Elizabeth HERNDON ( 06 Jun 1792 Orange Co, VA – After 1850 ) & Benjamin CASON  17 Dec 1818  Madison Co, VA

5. Mary Pendleton HERNDON ( 02 May 1794 Orange Co, VA – )

6. Abner HERNDON ( 22 Jan 1796 Orange Co, VA – )

7. Rachel HERNDON ( 25 Aug 1797 Orange Co, VA – )

8. William HERNDON ( 29 Jun 1799 Orange Co, VA – )

9. Patrick Henry HERNDON ( 09 Sep 1800 Orange Co, VA –  10 Mar 1851 Logan, OH ) & Elizabeth LLOYD ( 1807 Virginia – 15 Feb 1878 Logan, OH )

10. Manson HERNDON (29 Jun 1802 Orange Co, VA – After 1880 Albemarle Co, VA ) & Frances Ann RHODES

11. Joel HERNDON ( 27 Jul 1804 Orange Co, VA – )

12. Thomas HERNDON ( 29 Jun 1807 Orange Co, VA – )


NARA M804. Revolutionary War Pension and Bounty-Land Warrant Application Files. Record Group 15. National Archives, Washington DC.  Digital images. Fold3. : 2014.

© 2014, Wendy Mathias.  All rights reserved.


  1. How upsetting that poor William was taken advantage of in that manner, Wendy. At least, you now have a copy of that priceless page from the family bible!

    1. I imagine there were many veterans taken advantage of and they didn't even know it.

  2. This is amazing all the information you are finding.

    How sad for William and his family to be scammed! If he were alive today he would get a call saying he owed money for not attending jury duty! HA!

    1. HA HA HA -- or a call from Microsoft saying there's a problem with his computer.

  3. What a shame. It just shows that unscrupulous people abound in all walks of life.

    1. And in all time periods. The man was in his 80s so he was a likely target.

  4. What a sad sad story. I guess there has always been crooks around, but it sure makes it all real when you see it happened to one of your. own.

    1. I had to read those pages several times to be sure what I was reading -- it was shocking.

  5. William was not treated right at all but it is a very interesting story that you uncovered.

    1. It is an interesting story. Thank-you, Fold3!

  6. My husband, Patrick Herndon is related to you this way,
    through your William Pendleton Herndon-->Ezekial Herndon-->Manson W. Herndon-->Elijah Carver Herndon-->Herbert Jacob Herndon-->Wayne Earl Herndon Sr.-->Wayne Earl Herndon-->Patrick W. Herndon (my husband). My email address is, if you'd like to get in touch. I just started researching family history myself, but have a decent genealogy book that was put together by Roberta Herndon Gordon.

  7. Wendy- I'm not sure if you're still blogging. If you are, I'd like to connect with you. I'm a descendant of child # 9 Patrick Henry Herndon. My email is

    Thanks for the information you've put together.

  8. This is WONDERFUL family history. I have a whole wall in my home with framed SAR and DAR certificates because in the 1960's my dad did genealogy work, tracing our lineage to his service. Now my 7 kids are in awe that they are related to a "Son of Liberty." But we never knew anything of his personal story. So guess what? This little history is going on the wall, typed up nice in a frame, for all to read. Thank you! :)