Tag Archives: Pennypacker

Week 2 (Favorite Photo) – Mary Pennypacker Garner

For the second week of the 52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks Challenge the prompt is “Favorite Photo.” I was not sure I could really pick a favorite photo because each ancestor photo that I have been lucky enough to get is very important to me. But after thinking about it for a little while, I decided to blog about a tombstone photo that I took myself on a visit to Vincent Baptist Cemetery in Chester Springs (Chester County) PA back in 2005. It is a picture of the gravestone of my third great-grandmother Mary Pennypacker Garner, who was born in 1802 and died in 1852.


Grave of Mary Pennypacker Garner, 1802-1852, Vincent Baptist Churchyard, Chester County, PA

Before I talk about the tombstone photo, I first wanted to blog a bit about Mary. She was born 4 Jul 1802, to Henry Pennypacker and his wife Susanna Zublin.1 She had an older sister Elizabeth and younger siblings James, Aaron, Owen, Sarah and Susan.2 Her father Henry was a farmer in Chester Springs. The Pennypackers were an established family that trace their roots back to the immigrant Heinrich Pennebacker, who immigrated from Holland prior to 1700 and eventually settled in what is now Skippack, Montgomery, Pennsylvania.

Mary married John Garner circa 1822.3 Their known children were Samuel, Susan, Sarah, David, James, Mary and John Jr. Census data suggests there may also have been a daughter born prior to Samuel. The young family seems to have moved around quite a bit. In 1830 they are in East Nantmeal, Chester Co., PA, in 1840 they are in Upper Union Township, Berks Co., PA and in 1850 they are in North Coventry, Chester Co., PA.4,5,6 Mary died in 18521 and by 1860, John is a widower living in Phoenixville, Chester Co., PA.7 Mary is buried next to her mother, Susanna Zublin Pennypacker, and step-father, Valentine Pennypacker (a cousin to her father), in the cemetery at Vincent Baptist Church. While I suspect her father’s family was Mennonite, her mother was a member of this church.

There are several reasons why her tombstone photo is so important to me. First, when I visited the Vincent Baptist Cemetery it was for general research. I knew that several of my ancestors and relatives lived in the area and was hoping to find some family members buried there. However, from what I knew of where the Garners lived based on census and land records, I was not expecting that Mary’s grave would be there. Finding it was wonderfully serendipitous!

Second, though her tombstone was in very rough shape, it was very informative. It gives the name of her husband (John Garner) and her parents (Henry and Susan Pennypacker) in addition to her date of death and age at death. It is, in fact, the only record I have been able to find of her vital information. I have not found her birth, death or marriage dates in church records, newspapers, any sort of family records or any other publications.

And the third reason I am so glad to have this photo is that when I returned to the cemetery about a year or so ago, her tombstone was no longer there! She is buried next to her mother and step-father. That area is now just grass. In the intervening years, her tombstone must have been damaged and/or destroyed and removed. Unfortunately, there was no one on-site at the church to ask. Since this is the only record of her birth and death dates, I am so very glad to have gotten a photo of it before it was gone.


  1. Tombstone Photographs – digital images (privately held by Janis Tomko), Vincent Baptist Cemetery, photographed 9/9/2005. Her tombstone inscription states that she was the wife of John Garner and daughter of Henry and Susan Pennypacker, died Sept 10, 1852, aged 50 years, 2 months and 6 days. (Admittedly, the tombstone is difficult to read, but this is my best interpretation.)
  2. “Pennsylvania Probate Records, 1683-1994,” images, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/3:1:3QS7-L99T-NBVZ?cc=1999196&wc=9PMZ-FMZ%3A268496301%2C280294901 : 3 July 2014), Chester > Orphans’ Court records 1822-1831 vol 14-15 > image 259 of 575; county courthouses, Pennsylvania. Petition of Harmon and Matthias Pennypacker, sons of Harmon Pennypacker Sr. names the children of their deceased brother Henry.
  3. Marriage date is based on birth of eldest daughter possibly being circa 1823.
  4. 1830; Census Place: West Nantmeal, Chester, Pennsylvania; Series: M19; Roll: 148; Page: 203; Family History Library Film: 0020622. Household of John Garner
  5. 1840; Census Place: Union, Berks, Pennsylvania; Roll: 438; Page: 395; Family History Library Film: 0020535 Household of John Garner.
  6. 1850 U.S. census, Ancestry.com, Digital images (National Archives and Records Administration, n.d.), Census Place: North Coventry, Chester, Pennsylvania; Roll: M432_765; Page: 171A; Image: 347. Household of John Garner.
  7. 1860; Census Place: Phoenixville, Chester, Pennsylvania; Roll: M653_1092; Page: 697; Family History Library Film: 805092 Household of John Garner

Thriller Thursday – The Accidental Shooting of Walter Pennypacker

Here’s the latest installment for Thriller Thursday, a prompt suggested by members of Geneabloggers.

It was Saturday the fourth of July in 1896 and Walter Pennypacker was anticipating spending a pleasant afternoon taking a carriage ride with his betrothed, Mary Finkbiner. Walter, who lived in Royersford, Pennsylvania, was about 21 years old. He was a son of the late Isaac Pennypacker and nephew of James Pennypacker, a well-known resident of Parkerford, PA. He was employed by Frank Eppehimer at the Royersford sand quarries.

It was about noon when Walter drove his carriage up to the Finkbiner residence which was in near-by East Vincent Township, near Latshaw’s nursery. When Walter arrived Mary’s younger brother, Winfield Finkbiner, was outside target shooting with his revolver. Mr. and Mrs. Finkbiner were not home at the time as they were attending a funeral. Walter entered the Finkbiner residence to let Mary know he was there. He then came back outside to talk to Winfield while he waited for Mary.

At some point, Walter apparently asked Winfield “to shoot off his revolver to see if his horse would scare at it.” But when Winfield tried, the revolver became jammed. As he was trying to fix it, the revolver suddenly discharged. Unfortunately, Walter was standing directly in the line of fire. The bullet hit him in the heart. As he fell, he reportedly said, “you have shot me.” Mary’s older brother, John, caught Walter as he fell. Blood was rushing from his mouth and nose. John and Winfield carried Walter into the Finkbiner home and quickly summoned their uncle, Dr. S. S. Finkbiner. But it was too late as Walter died almost immediately.

Coroner Howell, of Phoenixville, PA, was sent for and he empanelled a jury. The witnesses to the shooting were the three siblings, John, Mary and Winfield Finkiner. The jury questioned them and determined that “Walter J. Pennypacker came to his death by a pistol wound inflicted by Winfield S. Finkbiner accidently.” The Coroner censured Winfield for careless use of a firearm, but he was exonerated from blame in the death.

Walter’s funeral took place on Wednesday, July 8th. Services were held in the Baptist Church at Parkerford and he was buried in the adjoining cemetery. His death cast a pall over the entire region – from Parkerford to Spring City to Royersford – as both the Pennypackers and the Finkbiners were well-known and highly-regarded families. There was much sympathy for all the young people involved in the accident.

I have connections to both the Pennypackers and the Finkbiners. The siblings Mary, Winfield and John Finkbiner, were my 4th cousins, 3 times removed, and Walter Pennypacker was my 5th cousin, 3 times removed. As always, if you have connections to these families, I would love to hear from you!