According to just about every notation that I have read – Mary Pennington was born at the hollow of the Yadkin River on the east side of Blue Ridge and New River in Wilkes Co., NC. Now someone who knows the area fairly well can probably tell me where that is, exactly. I suspect that it is probably near or in what is now known as Ashe Co., NC. Ashe Co., NC was carved out of Wilkes Co., NC in 1799. We know that Mary Pennington’s father, Micajah lived in Ashe Co., NC and probably had land there when she was born.
Mary Pennington was the oldest daughter of 10 children and married her husband when her youngest sibling was only three years old. Jesse Bowling was probably a widower with one son when he married Mary Pennington when she was 19 years old on 6 Jan 1785 in Wilkes Co., NC. He was a veteran of the Revolutionary War having served as a Sergeant from North Carolina and has a recorded pension (#514974). He was the son of Benjamin Bolling and Patsy Phelps. There has been an ongoing discussion for years that Jesse Bowling was a descendant of Pocahontas…I have enough trouble keeping up with Bowlings who are related to the Penningtons without getting into that discussion. So here is Mary, newly married and a new step mother and married to a man who is a military veteran. In the early years of their marriage they are recorded in Wilkes Co., NC, Lee Co., VA and Hawkins Co., TN. Jesse and Mary probably moved to Hawkins Co., TN at least by 1794 and perhaps earlier. Jesse is baptized by Rev. Andrew Baker of the Blackwater Primitive Baptist Church and was himself a Baptist preacher. So that perhaps explains their wanderings in the early years of their marriage.
By 1804, they are probably back in Lee Co., VA according to the birth places of their children and it is likely they were living close to her parents by that time. By 1810, Jesse and Mary are in Clay Co., KY and are recorded in the census there. I find it very interesting that they live in Clay Co., KY because I find traces of several Penningtons there as well as other members of the maternal side of my family. Jesse and Mary are recorded in 1820 in Perry Co., KY. This doesn’t necessarily mean that they moved much because Perry Co., KY was formed from Clay and Floyd Co., KY and when they are recorded as dying in Breathitt Co., KY aft 1840, it is still could be the same area as Breathitt Co., KY was formed out of Clay, Estill & Perry Counties. Since I am not that familiar with where they lived exactly, history and geography tell me that they probably lived in the same area but the county lines might have changed on them.
So, they have traveled from North Carolina, to Virginia, to Tennessee and then back to Virginia and finally have settled in Kentucky. Along the way, Jesse worked as a Preacher and they had 12 children together. Their children were:
- Hannah Bowling b. 28 Apr 1786 Lee Co., VA d. 1841 m. Nelson Gay m. Leonard Huff
- Mary “Polly” Bowling b. 1 Mar 1788 VA/NC d. aft 1880 Perry Co., KY m. Abraham Barger
- John S. Bowling b. 1789 Hawkins Co., TN d. 26 Jul 1838 Krypton, Perry Co., KY m. Mary Lewis
- Justice Tucker Bowling b. 1790 Wilkes Co., NC d. 1880 Perry Co., KY m. Hanna Reed
- Rachel Bowling b. abt 1792 m. Joseph Reason
- Elizabeth Bowling b. 1 Apr 1794 Hawkins Co., TN d. Feb 1866 Jackson Co., KY m. Abel Pennington
- Eliajah “Lige” Bowling b. 22 Jan 1798 Lee Co., VA d. 22 Oct 1883 m. 1 – Susanna Roberts m. 2 – Mary Ann Keen m.3 – Nancy Ann Bryant
- Jesse Bowling, Jr. b. abt 1800 d. bet 1848-1850 Breathitt Co., KY m. 1 - Nancy Dewees m. 2 – Winifred Lewis
- Margaret “Patsy” Bowling b. 1804 Lee Co., VA m. 1 – Joseph Spencer m. 2. - ? Maggard
- William “Priimpy Bill” Bowling b. abt 1806 Lee Co., VA m. Deborah Duff
- Nancy Bowling b. abt 1808 Lee Co., VA or KY m. Edward Begley
- George Bowling b. abt 1810 m. Phoebe Lewis
- Jesse’s oldest son from his first marriage was John E. Bowling b. 1777 Wilkes Co., NC d. aft 1839 m. Susan Sizemore
This is a large family – but the two most intriguing children are Mary Polly Bowling and Elizabeth Bowling. Mary “Polly” Bowling had at least 5 children but they intermarried with their Johnston cousins through their mother’s family (Sarah Pennington m. Samuel Johnson/Johnston) and their children marry into some of the more well-known families in Kentucky such as Gay, Brewer, and Spurlock. Elizabeth marries her possible cousin Abel Pennington and their children also marry into some well-known families including their Johnson/Johnston cousins, Combs, Turner, Moore & McGee. Between these two daughters, I have met the majority of Mary Pennington descendants through my research.
Jesse and Mary Pennington Bowling died with a year of each other. Jesse died 10 Mar 1841 and Mary died 21 Mar 1842 both in Breathitt Co., KY probably around Quicksand creek. For their time period, they both lived to be old people and probably also saw the death of at least three of their children. There is a lot left to be done to fill out the families and probably many puzzles to unravel. These families seem to intermarry enough and used so many similar names that sometimes it is very difficult to figure out which is which…but if you are descendant of Mary Pennington through her daughters Elizabeth or Mary – you could be a member of three different Pennington family groups – which is certainly confusing enough.