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THE SHARPLES FAMILY

Pages 41-50

The Sharples (or Sharpless) family takes its name from the hamlet of Sharples in the county of Lancaster, England, where Adam de Sharples was living in the year 1320. The English family apparently belonged to the landed gentry, one branch owning Sharples Hall until late in the nineteenth century. Sharples Hall was built in the reign of Queen Elizabeth.

The Sharples family has definitely established its right to display a coat-of-arms. This right was recognized by the Heralds in a visitation in the year 1664, and was based on the family having borne the arms "from time immemorial", the record of the first grant having disappeared in antiquity.

The descent of John Sharples, the emigrant, was investigated by a prominent British genealogist, Dr. James Lemuel Chester, for publication in the family genealogy of 1882, but the results are less conclusive than in the case of the Heacock and Till families, as the original records are less complete.

The father of John Sharples, Jeffrey Sharples, appears to have been a man of modest means, who called himself a yeoman. This same term is used to characterize the Tills, and presumably applies as well to the Heacocks, who were doubtless all members of the same economic strata. The dictionary definition of a yeoman is "anciently, a man who owned free land of forty shillings yearly, being thereby qualified to vote, serve on juries, etc., as a free and lawful man." Jeffrey Sharples by virtue of his descent might have claimed membership in the category of "gentleman", according to Dr. Chester.

The will of John Sharples, made in England before his emigration, indicates that he retained a house and lands in England, which he held under a 99 year lease. His caution in retaining his home in England shows that he had some doubt as, to his future in Pennsylvania, as well as the fact that he was in comfortable circumstances at the time of his emigration and was not forced to liquidate all his assets to pay the expenses of travel and resettlement. In accordance with English custom, his property in England was bequeathed to his eldest son.

John Sharples was an early convert to Quakerism, and was active in its affairs in England, as indicated by this passage from "The Light Unchangeable" by R. Smith, printed 1677 in London: "My friends in this country have, every month, a meeting where commonly two or three or more from every particular meeting get together about such affairs as are requisite to keep and preserve societies in peace and unity, and they who commonly meet at these places are these and more, viz: Thomas Janney . . . John Sharples, Thomas Brassey, John Symock. . . ."

He did not escape persecution for his activity. Besse "Sufferings" (Vol. 1, pp. 105 and 108) contains these passages: "CHESHIRE

"Anno 1674 and 1675

"In these Years for their religious Assemblies held at Willison, the following Distresses were made, viz:


 

 

l. s. d.

 

Taken from Thomas Brassey, for preaching there, Goods worth.

26 0 0

 

Henry Fletcher

16 3 4

 

John Sharplace

9 6 0

 

Randal Elliott, for suffering a Meeting in His House

20 0 0

 

And from several others, to the Value of

9 10 10

 

 

-- -- --

 

In all

81 0 2



Anno 1679

"About twenty-three others, convicted at the Quarter Sessions of one Month's Absence from their Parish Church on the Act of 23 Q. Eliz, were fined 20 I. each, and returned into the Court of Exchequer, as Delinquents, indebted to the King, namely John Wrench, Richard Picton, Alice Jackson, Anne Wrench, Thomas Norcott, John Hall, Thomas Powel, Mary Norcott, Peter Dix, Samuel Tovie, John Jackson, James Dix, William Woodcock, Mary Stretch, John Peckow, Helen Peckow, Thomas Vernon, Thomas Peckow, Gilbert Woolam, Thomas Brassey, Joseph Powel, John Sharples, and Henry Fletcher."

A brief account of the first Sharples generation in America, written by John Sharples, the son, who was 15 at the time of the emigration, has been preserved, and is quoted in the Sharples Genealogy: "For my own satisfaction I take this account as follows: Jane Moor, who is my mother, was born 1638 and John Sharples, my father, and she was married 27th 2d month, 1662, and Phebe Sharples, his eldest child, was born 20th, 10th month, 1663. I, John Sharples, was born 16th, 11th month, 1666. Thomas Sharples was born the 2d, 11th month, 1668. James Sharples was born the 5th, 1st month, 1671. Jane Sharples, my sister, was born 13th, 6th month, 1676. Joseph Sharples was born 28th, 9th month, 1678.

"And my father and mother with these, their children, left old England, their native country, and came on shore in Pennsylvania on the 14th day of 6th month, 1682, all but my brother Thomas, who died upon the seas 17th, 5th month, 1682.

"John Sharples, my father, died 11th 4th month, 1685, being about the age of sixty and one years.

"Phebe, my sister, died 2d 4th month 1685.

"Jane, my sister, died 28th 3rd month, 1685.

"Caleb, my brother, died 17th 7th month, 1686.

"Jane Sharples, my mother, died 1st of 9th month, 1722, being the age of eighty-five years and three months. Rebecca Caudwell and Mary Ellis, my father's sisters, died the 25th and the 26th 2d month, 1703, Rebecca being past the age of 72, and Mary past the age of 75 years and

six months". (The spelling of this has been modernized. In the original it was "Ould England" and "Shour").

In 6 mo. 13 1682, the "Lion" of Liverpool, John Compton, master, is known to have arrived in Pennsylvania, and the Sharples family may have been on board. This supposition has been strengthened by a letter, written by Dr. Edward Jones, a passenger on the "Lion", mentioning the death of a child:

"Skool Kill River, ye 26th day of ye 6 mo. 1682,"

"This shall lett thee know that we have been aboard eleaven weeks before we made the land (it was not for want of art, but contrary winds) and one we were in coming to Upland, ye town is to be buylded 15 or 16 miles up ye River. And in all this time we wanted neither meate, drink or water though several hogsheds of water run out. * * * The passengers are all living save one child ye died of a surfeit * * * * We are short of our expectation by reason that ye town is not to be builded at Upland, neither would ye Master bring us any further, though it is navigable for ships of greater burthen than ours."

The author of the Sharples Genealogy, however, quotes records of deaths of other children on shipboard at about the same date, and points out that Thomas Sharples, in his fourteenth year, would hardly have been referred to as a child. The question as to the exact ship which brought the family to this country has therefore not been answered.

For six weeks after their arrival, the Sharples family had no shelter but the limbs of a tree. The following account is taken from the original Sharpless Genealogy, published in 1816, a copy of which may be seen in the Rare Book Collection of the Library of Congress:

They took up part of the Land, purchased by William Penn, on Ridley Creek, about two miles, N. W. from Chester aforesaid, where they fell a large tree, and took shelter among the boughs thereof, about six weeks; in which time they built a cabin, against a rock, which answered for their chimney back; and now contains the date of the year when the cabin was built, viz. 1682, in which they dwelt about twenty years, and where they all died, except the mother and three sons, in which time Joseph learnt the trade of house carpenter; and when of age, built their first dwelling house; which is now standing, and occupied by one of their descendants. Part of the original floors are still in use, being fastened down with wooden pins, of about an inch diameter, instead of nails. It is a sizeable twostory dwelling, the walls of stone.

The one thousand acres before mentioned, was taken up in three tracts, or plantations; the one on which they first settled, and one in Middletown, still remain in the family; the other was in Providence.

Of the family of nine which left England in 1682, only the mother and three sons were living four years later. The circumstances of the deaths of the father and the two daughters within three weeks of one another, have not been recorded, but the 1816 book states that Caleb's death was occasioned by the bite of a snake. The mother enjoyed good health to the last, and when 80 continued to walk to meeting and back regularly, a distance of two miles.

Before leaving England, John Sharples had purchased from William Penn 1000 acres of unsurveyed land in Pennsylvania, for which he paid twenty pounds, or about $100. Upon arrival, however, he bought another 200 acres from Thomas Nossiter, for which he paid forty pounds. It was on these two hundred acres that the Sharples family first settled. This tract was already surveyed, cleared and ready for occupancy, whereas some time was consumed in obtaining and preparing the lands purchased from Penn.

An account of the arrival and life of the Sharples family, written by Enos Sharples in 1857, is published in the Sharples Genealogy. It has more than ordinary interest, and gives a brief but vivid picture of early life in Pennsylvania:

I have also the marriage certificate of my grandfather, John Sharples, and Hannah Pennell, daughter of Robert Pennell of Middletown, dated 1692. Then follows an account of their children, ending with Daniel Sharples, born 1711.

The last mentioned Daniel Sharples was my grandfather. My grandmother, Sarah Sharples, daughter of Bartholomew Coppock, was born in the year 1712, and they were married in 1736.

From what I can collect of the above named couple they lived in the same house with their father, John Sharples--who was about sixteen years of age when he came from England--until his decease, which was eleven years after my father was married, and as my grandmother lived in the same house I did until I was sixteen years of age, she had a good opportunity of collecting information from her father-in-law and handing it down to us, such as their coming to this country, settling here, etc., etc., some of which I shall proceed to relate. Well! -- they landed at Chester, as we have seen, on the fourteenth day of the sixth month, 1682, and loaded upon their backs such things as they could carry, and set off, wending their way up through the woods, and got this far, about two miles, and just crossed the creek, when they thought they were far enough back in the forest. Here they cut down a large tree, and made themselves a shelter among the boughs of it, and remained there for the night, and they could hear the wolves howling about them.

In this booth they lived about six weeks and within that time they built a cabin, with a large perpendicular rock for a chimney back, which is still there, having the date 1682, as well as other inscriptions, cut in it.

There they lived about twenty years, until they built a good substantial stone house near by, which is still standing and occupied by my brother Isaac and family.

The rock spoken of is also on his ground. Many anecdotes I have heard her relate which were interesting to us, though not much to the historian; such as the pigeons being so abundant that they used to go on moonlight nights with long poles and knock them off the roost and kill as many in that way as they wanted.

Another circumstance I have heard my grandmother relate: A young girl, a daughter of one of their neighbors, came in one day in a state of great excitement to tell what a pretty thing she had been in chase of. She said it was the prettiest thing she had ever seen. She thought she would catch it, and seized hold of it, but it slipped through her hands, and got away into the briars, 'and see here,' she exclaimed, what I got off it,' showing the rattles of a rattlesnake which she had stripped off with her hands, and, from the number of rattles, it must have been a large snake.

The old patriarch being comfortably settled in his cabin alongside of the Rock, and having obtained a warrant while in England from William Penn for one thousand acres of land, for which he paid him twenty pounds and agreed to pay a shilling a year quit-rent for every one hundred acres (a low price for those times), proceeded to take up the land in three different tracts: one here, one in Nether Providence, and one in Middletown. The portion of it taken up here, as well as that in Middletown, in great measure remains in their descendants' possession to this time; the one in Providence has all gone out of the family.

The tract at this place was occupied by John Sharples, the eldest brother; that in Nether Providence by James, the next brother; while Joseph, the younger, went back into the woods, to that in Middletown. * * * *

Thus things remained with very little exception for two generations. There was a saw-mill built on the creek, either by my great-grandfather or grandfather, I do not know which, but it had gone down before my time. It was left to my father and his successors to develop the advantages of the water-power, and having more energy and enterprise than his ancestors, and as the Hessian fly had lately destroyed the wheat crop, so that it was not so easy for the farmers to make a living as it had been, he came to the conclusion to improve the water power. Accordingly, about the year 1787, he built a saw mill, * * * *

Like most accounts based on family tradition, the above contains at least one inaccuracy. The "old patriarch" did not settle comfortably in his log cabin and take up his 1000 acres, even if it be granted that a log cabin could have been considered comfortable to a family recently arrived from a civilized country. John Sharples' land was taken up by his widow and children after his death.

The quotation from the 1816 genealogy mentions the house which Joseph Sharples built for the family in 1700. The house has two stories, two rooms and a kitchen on the first, and two bedrooms on the second, with a room in the atttic. The stone walls are heavy, and the original oak floors were still in use in 1882 almost two hundred years after the house was built. It contains many curious old cupboards and closets, and gives evidence of great skill on the part of its builder. The 1882 genealogy publishes this story, told by a descendant, David Simpson:

I will say here in regard to family heirlooms the first John Sharples brought with him a small Roman vase that was dug up in London fourteen feet below the present surface of the streets. Just how he became owner of it I don't know, but he hid it beneath that famous Rock full of money in gold and there it staid for twenty years and his youngest son Joseph took that money and built that house for his mother which is called this day the first Sharpless House in America. The vase descended to Phebe Sharpless, the mother of my mother, and on her death was given to my mother, being the youngest child, with many other things belonging to the family, which were all lost at the death of my mother. I being here in Blairsville and my sister having her own family to attend to at that time, strangers carried every thing off they could lay hands on. I wanted my mother to give me that vase some years before she died but she told me she would not part with it while she lived: at her death it would be mine.

 

 

 

SECOND SHARPLES GENERATION

JOSEPH SHARPLES THE LEWIS FAMILY

John Sharples, the father, died three years after his arrival in America, and his 1000 acre purchase from William Penn was surveyed and patented for his widow and three surviving sons. Joseph Sharpless, the grandfather of Esther Pyle Heacock, being the youngest moved to the interior, fifteen miles away, and eventually settled in Middletown Township. This was then virgin wilderness.

At Chester Monthly Meeting, I mo. 27, 1704, Joseph Sharples proposed his intention to marry Lydia Lewis, daughter of Ralph Lewis of Haverford Monthly Meeting. Thomas Minshall and Randall Malin were appointed to make inquiry concerning him. At the next meeting, 2 mo. 24, 1704, a certificate of clearness was granted him. The following is a copy of his marriage certificate, as recorded by Haverford Monthly Meeting:

Whereas, Joseph Sharples, of neather Providence in ye county of Chester, yeoman, & Lidya Lewis of haverford in ye county aforesd, Spinster, having declared their Intentions of taking each other as husband & wife before severall Publick meetings of ye People called Quakers, according to ye good order used amongst them, whose Pceedings therin, after deliberate consideration thereof and consent of parties and Relations concerned, being approved by ye meetings: Now these are to certifie, all whom it may concern, that for ye full determination of their sd Intentions, this 30th day of ye 3d month in ye year 1704, They, ye sd Joseph Sharples & Lydia Lewis, appeared in a Publicke & solemn assembly of ye aforesaid People, mett together for yt end and purpose, at the meeting house at Haverford, afores, according to ye Example of the holy men of god Recorded in ye Scriptures of trueth; he the said Joseph Sharples, taking ye sd Lydia Lewis by the hand, did openly declare as followeth, viz., In the fear of the Lord and in this Assembly, I take this my frind, Lydia Lewis, to be my wife, Pmising to be to her, by god's (assistance), a faithfull loving husband untill it shall please ye Lord by death to part us: and then and there in ye sd Assembly ye sd Lydia Lewis did in Like manner declare as followeth, viz., In ye fear of ye Ld and in this assembly, I take this my frd, Joseph Sharples, to be my husband, Pmising yt by ye Lord's assistance to be to him a faithfull & Loving wife till it may please ye Lord by death to separate us.

And they ye sd Joseph Sharples & Lydia Lewis, as a further confirmation therof, did then & there to these Psents sett their hands; and we whose names are hereunto subscribed, being present, amongst others, at ye solemnizing of their said marriage and subscription, as Witnesses thereunto have allsoe subscribed our names ye day & year above written.

(Here follow signatures of bride, groom and 39 witnesses).

Following his marriage, Joseph settled in Nether Providence Township. He was appointed constable for Nether Providence 12 mo. 23, 1702-3. At Chester Monthly Meeting, 10 mo. 30, 1706: "This meeting appoints Thomas

Minshall and Joseph Sharples to be overseers for Providence meeting until further orders." Thomas Minshall was his next neighbor, on the north, upon whose land the meeting-house had been built. They were succeeded, I mo. 29, 1708, by Robert Vernon and Isaac Minshall. Joseph frequently represented his meeting at the monthly meeting, the last time from Providence being 6 mo. 27, 1712, and the first time from Middletown, 10 mo. 28, 1713, from which it may be concluded that he removed to the Middletown tract in the spring of 1713. This tract was deeded to him by his mother and eldest brother, in 1696, a year after his father's death, and was probably his share of the original purchase of his father.

Joseph Sharples was active in the affairs of the Middletown Friends' Meeting. He became overseer in 1715, and was an Elder from 7 mo. 25, 1732 until 1737. Lydia, his wife was also overseer in 1715. He turned his Middletown property over to his sens in 1736 and moved into West Caln Township, twenty miles away. He was then 58 years old, and was again moving into the wilderness. Since his new home was under the jurisdiction of the Bradford Monthly Meeting, he obtained a certificate from Chester Monthly Meeting, which had jurisdiction over Middletown:

"From Chester Monthly Meeting, held att Providence meeting house, the 26th Day of 7 month, 1737, to Bradford Monthly Meeting, These,--

"Dear ffriends: after the sallutation of Brotherly Love this comes to acquaint you that our well Esteemed friends Joseph Sharpless and Lydia his Wife, being Removed and Settled within the verge of your meeting, have Requested of us a Certificate in order to be joyned as members with you. Now these may Certifie on their Behalf, that needfull inquirey hath been made Concerning them, by Persons appointed for that Purpose, and we find that they are of a sober and orderly Conversation, have been of service among us, and are in unity wtih us; and also they have four sons with them, viz., Nathan, Abraham, Jacob and William, which are sober, hopefull children, and worthy of your Care and notice: and as such we Recommend them with their tender Pareance to you, Desireing their growth and Preservation in the Blessed way of Truth; to whose Divine Protection we commit them, and Remain your friends Brethren and sisters in the Best Relation."

(Here follow signatures of 37 friends).

The marriage of Jane Sharpless and Jacob Pyle had apparently taken place before her parents moved to West Caln, and the older sisters may also be presumed to have married, as they do not appear in their parents' certificate. In 1744 Joseph Sharpless and his wife returned to Middletown, and obtained a certificate to the Chester Monthly Meeting. Their sons had married and removed before this date. He died in 1757, and the widow apparently went to live with one of her children.

Joseph Sharples' wife was Lydia, daughter of Ralph Lewis. Ralph Lewis and his wife Mary came from Treverig, Glamorganshire, Wales, bringing a certificate dated 7 mo. 10, 1683. It followed one issued to a certain John ap Bevan, and read:

In like maner doe we hereby certifie unto those concerned herin, That Ralph Lewis, wth his family, passing ye same time with our frind John ap Bevan, for Pennsylvania, belonging to our meeting nere Trevrigg, Is such a man knowne unto us to be of an Innocent life & conversation, walking amo'gst us as become one phrophessing the trueth; not knowing by him, sinc we had acquaintance together in the Gospell, any failing or Infirmitie wherby ye trueth did in the least suffer by him; and that is much to our comfort wherever we find honestie in the Inward, the token ot a right Speritt, though the prsent Atainmt might be but small. And thus of him can we truly Judge, and wth all this much can we Certifie, yt in the outward, when passing from us, he was a freeman and (clear of) Ingagments with any, And that we are certaine noe man Could demand aught from him, & that he owed to any nothing but love, in the wch the Lord pserve him; as together soe asunder.

(Here follows twelve signatures).

(Records of Radnor Mo. Mtg.)

William Lewis of Eglwy Ilan, Glamorganshire, a brother of Ralph, with his wife, Ann, and family, came over about the year 1686, and settled in the northeastern part of Haverford township, afterward removing to Newtown township, Chester (now Delaware) County. The following copy of a letter is from a somewhat indistinct photograph of the original, said to have been in possession of the late Dr. George Smith, of Upper Darby, whose widow is a descendant from Ralph Lewis:

"Dear Brother Ralph Lewis:

My love unto thee and all thy family, hoping yt thou art in good health as I am at the prsent writing: thy Brothers and thy to sisters and all their familyes are in very good health and doe remember their loves unto thee and thy wife. I have received thy letter and wee Are all very glad to heare of thy wellfare and prospertiy. I am of ye same Intentions as I was before but yt ye hindrance is still, as thou dost know, as was before, I desire to heare from thee as soon thou hast opportunity and how doth thy affairs Therive. I pray writ to me what is wanting to thee and what Commodities is most needfull for thee, if thou dost want any, yt I may send them to thee, for thy Lefter was soe short yt thou didst send yt it did not mention nothing how ye Squeaces (?) went. I did expect heare from thee concerning ye Lands, whether thou hast it or not, how thou camest into possession of it, and concerning ye money whether thou hast them or not. I have Receved a letter from henry Lewis yt did mention yt thou wert not willing to content him for ye paines he tooke in my businesse, and yt was a great vexation of Spirit. I doe intrate thee to doe him Satisfaction and to send me notice how, & soe doeing thou wilt unlade me great truble; soe nothing at present but yt thou remember me to all my frends in thy parts and I shall Rejoice greatly in ye Lord to heare of thy wellfare and prosperity. I Rest this ye *nteenth day of July, 1684.

                                         Thy ever Loveing Brother 
                                         William Lewis, from Ilan. 

Thy Brother David doth Remember himselfe to thee under the token yt didest promise to send him a cople of Skines if thou cast come to them.

And thy Loveing frnd Howell thomas and Edward Howell and William thomas and all ye Rest of thy frinds, 1684.

Remember me to my Loveing frind John ab Evan, for his Chilldren were Sike and now they are well, youre unkel thomas prichard were ded and mary william."

Ralph Lewis and his wife settled in the north-east part of Haverford township, in the Welsh settlement, but later moved to Upper Darby. They are known to have had nine children, of which Lydia was the fifth, and was born 8 mo. 3, 1683, or 3 mo. 8, 1683, both dates being given through error. The eldest daughter, Mary, married James Sharpless, brother of Joseph.