John Purnell Outten

The subject of this sketch was the only child of William Outten and Sarah Purnell, his wife. He was born about the year 1755, and his father was killed while exercising his authority as Deputy Sheriff of Worcester County, Maryland. His mother was the daughter of John Purnell, and is said to have been a woman of noted wealth and beauty. This Purnell family was originally from Ireland, and they immigrated to the Eastern Shore of Maryland about the time that John Outten, the Pioneer, arrived there.

John Purnell Outten was about four years old when his father was killed, April 9, 1759, in the 28th year of his age. His mother lived several years after the death of his father, but she never married again. Some time before her death she willed all her estate to her only sister, Mrs. Bridget White, saying only that Purnell had enough anyway, and did not need her wealth. This made John Purnell Outten very angry, and he contested the Will, upon the pretext that his mother had been unduly influenced by her sister. The writer has never seen the Court records, and he does not know what the final decision was. He had received all his father’s estate, and he was supposed to be a man of great wealth. He owned several fine race horses, and he was considered to be a society man and a high liver.

But when the Revolutionary War came on, it was supposed by some people that his sympathies were with the British, and some of the Purnell family, probably through envy, caused him to be arrested as a Tory. He was incarcerated in Cambridge jail in 1776, with about twenty other men who were supposed to be Tories, and they were held prisoners for several weeks without a trial. At long last, they appealed to the Governor of the State for a legal trial, and not one of them was found guilty.

John Purnell Outten was married twice. His first wife was a widow, Mrs. Sarah Leatherbury, and she was the mother of two daughters, Sukey and Polly Leatherbury, when she married John Purnell Outten. They were married June 25, 1791. Her maiden name was Sarah Smith, and she was the widow of Charles Leatherbury.

Sukey Leatherbury married Ephraim Outten, son of Isaac Outten Sr. They were married December 8, 1803, and they emigrated to Maysville, Mason County, Kentucky. Here they established their home in almost an unbroken wilderness, and they were the parents of two children. Their son, Hiram Outten, married Margaret Wilkinson, and they were the parents of three children. The daughter Sallie married a Mr. Rickets, and they lived at Maysville, Kentucky. Of the two sons, John and Charles, the writer has no information. Sallie the daughter of Ephraim and Sukey Outten, married and moved to Ohio, but the writer does not know the name of her husband.

Polly Leatherbury, the other stepdaughter of John Purnell Outten, married a Mr. Dykes of Snow Hill, Maryland, and they also moved to Kentucky, where he died leaving two sons. After his death the two boys were sent to the home of their paternal grandfather at Snow Hill, Maryland, but the writer has no information concerning them. But Polly Dykes remained in Kentucky, where she raised the children of Thomas Outten, and she was always known as “Aunt Polly”.

The second wife of John Purnell Outten was Henrietta Layfield, only child of the Rev. George Layfield, a Baptist preacher of Accomac County, Virginia, and they were the parents of three children, a son and two daughters: George Franklin, Fannie who married Seth Bell, December 7, 1825. At the time of her marriage Frannie was an orphan, and was only fourteen years old. The second daughter was Julia. She married a Mr. Hornsby.

The writer has in his possession a letter that was written by Mrs. Maysville Outten Irvine, November 11, 1916. She was the granddaughter of John Purnell Outten of Accomac County, Virginia, and she writes about him as follows: “My grandfather was an only child, and his mother was left a widow. Both were well off, and known in those days as high livers. My father was George Franklin Outten. My grandfather kept fine horses; the Outtens were always fond of horses. Once when a race was about to take place, hearing that his jockey had been bribed, and without saying a word to him, grandfather stepped to the scales, saying, “Weigh me. I ride Selim today.” And he won the race. He was a small man, quick and decisive, and accustomed to rule.”

Cousin Maysville also wrote about her maternal grandfather as follows: “The Layfields were of English descent and wealthy. One day, these children (meaning George F., Fannie, and Julia) found in the Layfield garret a chest containing silk and velvet dresses, coats, cuffs, etc., with which they adorned themselves. Bishop Meade’s History of Old Families of Virginia has a sketch of Rev. George Layfield. He was a Baptist preacher, but he always refused to accept any compensation for his services.”

John Purnell Outten died in 1812, at the age of fifty-seven, and Henrietta also died about the same time. So their children were left orphans, but they were taken at once to the home of their grandfather Layfield, who lived at Onancock, Virginia, and he owned all the land where the town now stands. He was at that time an elderly man, and he intended to raise the children as his own, but his death seemed untimely, for the children were again left orphans, and could no longer be kept together. George F. went with his half-sister, Sukey Outten, to Kentucky, and Fannie was married at the age of fourteen.

The record of John Purnell Outten is one of the most unique in all our family history. His entire family seemed to be wealthy, moral, and religious, but they were extremely unfortunate. His father, William Outten, was murdered when he was a small child. In 1776, he was falsely accused of being a Tory, and put in jail, and he lost his wives, and left his children orphans. Since his death his children and grandchildren have all died, and the only one left is a great granddaughter, Henrietta Layfield Outten, of Norfolk, Virginia.

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Written by Rev. John Perry Outten converted to Hypertext by Karen Stephens