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Appleton's Cyclopedia of American Biography, edited by James Grant Wilson, John Fiske and Stanley L. Klos. Six volumes, New York: D. Appleton and Company, 1887-1889 and 1999. Virtualology.com warns that these 19th Century biographies contain errors and bias. We rely on volunteers to edit the historic biographies on a continual basis. If you would like to edit this biography please submit a rewritten biography in text form . If acceptable, the new biography will be published above the 19th Century Appleton's Cyclopedia Biography citing the volunteer editor





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Sir William Pepperrell

PEPPERRELL, Sir William, soldier, born in Kittery, Maine, 27 June, 1696; died there, 6 July, 1759. His father, who was a native of Devon, England, was left an orphan at an early age and apprenticed to the captain of a fishing schooner that sailed to the Banks of Newfoundland. At the age of twenty-two he settled on the Isles of Shoals, where he was engaged in the fishing-trade, and about 1680 he removed to Kittery, Maine, where he married, and where his only son was born. William's boyhood was spent in Kittery, and at an early age he was taken by his father into partnership. At this time the firm was the most important mercantile house in New England, and had a large agency in settling the pecuniary affairs of the province with the mother country. This branch of the business was conducted by young Pepperrell. In this way he made the acquaintance of all the public men {n Boston, which greatly favored his political and military advancement, and at the same time he cultivated the courtly manners and dignified address for which he was afterward distinguished. At the age of twenty-one he was appointed captain of a company of cavalry, soon afterward he was made major and lieutenant-colonel, and at the age of thirty colonel, which gave him the command of all the militia of Maine. In 1726 he was elected representative from Kittery to the Massachusetts legislature, and in 1727 he was appointed a member of the council. Though not bred a lawyer, he had acquired public confidence to such a degree that in 1730 he was appointed by Governor Belcher chief justice of the court of common pleas, which office he held till his death. In colonial days, whenever England was at war with France, New England was at war with Canada, and when hostilities began in Europe in 1745 great preparations were also made in the colonies. In these preparations no man was more forward than William Pepperrell. His influence in procuring volunteers was unequalled, and he advanced £5.000 from his private fortune for necessary supplies. He was chosen commander of the little army of 4,000 men that was intended to reduce Louisburg, on the island of Cape Breton, the strongest fortress on the coast of America. Commander Warren had command of the small squadron of English men-of-war that was sent to the aid of the provincials. On the last day of April, 1745, the first troops were landed at Louisburg, to the great surprise of the garrison. In vain the French garrison, hastily gathered together, endeavored to prevent the landing of the English forces. They were driven back into the town. Meanwhile their comrades, who were stationed at the battery at the northern side of the bay, seeing a small body of soldiers approaching, supposed the whole army must be upon them, and abandoned their guns, which were taken possession of by Colonel William Vaughan and his company. In the morning, when the French discovered their mistake, a hundred men were sent to retake it, but they were held at bay until re-enforcements arrived. Pepperrell at once laid siege to the town. The fleet aided him with cannon and gunners, his batteries gradually approached within 600 feet of the walls, a breach was effect ed, and all was in readiness for an assault, when, on the forty-ninth day of the siege, after 9,000 cannon-balls and 600 shells had been thrown into the place, Louisburg surrendered, and Pepperrell marched in at the head of his army, on 17 June, 1745. When the news reached the colonies the enthusiasm was immense. Every town was blazing with fireworks and illuminations. In the mother country the victory of the provincials was hailed with universal applause, and the general was created a baronet, being the first native of this country on whom such an honor was conferred. He remained at Louisburg till 1746, when he returned to Boston. Thence he journeyed homeward, and was met at a distance of many miles by a troop of horse and entertained at Salem at a banquet at which all the noted men of the colony were present. A short time after the peace he retired from business the richest man in the colonies. He is said to have been worth £200,000 sterling, from which he contributed liberally to the expense of the Louisburg expedition. His estates were so large that he could travel more than thirty miles on his own territory. His style of living was baronial. He entertained hospitably in his house at Kittery, which was elegantly furnished. (See illustration.) He had a retinue of servants, kept a coach-and-six, and had a barge on the river which was manned by a black crew in showy uniform. He dressed in the fashion of the period in a suit of scarlet cloth richly trimmed with gold lace, and wore a large powdered wig. He was always generous, and particularly so in his donations to the Congregational church at Kittery, of which he was for many years a devout member. In 1749 Sir William made a visit to London, where he was cordially received, and marks of distinguished favor were paid to him by George II. and the Prince of Wales. After his return, in 1751, a great sorrow fell on him in the loss of his only son, Andrew, a graduate of Harvard, who died at the age of twenty-four. His only remaining child, Elizabeth, married Colonel Nathaniel Sparhawk, who carried on the business after his father-in-law retired. The baronet was often employed in negotiations with the Indians, and during the French war of 1755 was active in raising and equipping troops for the service. In that year he was commissioned major-general in the British army, and commanded the forces that were charged with the protection of the frontier of Maine and New Hampshire. He was acting governor of Massachusetts in 1756-'8, and in the year of his death he was made a lieutenant-general. The greater names of Washington and the Revolutionary generals have eclipsed that of Pepperrell, but it should not be forgotten that he did more than any other man to prepare the army that was afterward to achieve American independence. Three portraits are known to have been painted of Sir William Pepperrell. Of these, one was destroyed by fire in New York in 1883, of which the artist was unknown. The Essex institute, of Salem, Massachusetts, possesses a full-length painting. The third and most valuable, supposed to have been painted by Smybert, is now owned by a descendant, of New York, and is represented in the accompanying illustration. It is in full court costume, and was taken shortly after he was created baronet. Sir William published an account of a "Conference with the Penobscot Tribe" (Boston, 1753). His life has been written by Usher Parsons (Boston. 1855). See also a sketch by Everett P. Wheeler in the New York " Genealogical and Biographical Record" for July, 1887. --His grandson. Sir William, born in 1746" died in London, England, in December, 1816, the second son of his daughter, Mrs. Sparhawk, was his grandfather's residuary legatee, and inherited a large estate. He dropped the name of Sparhawk by act of legislature on coming of age, and by a subsequent act assumed his grandfather's title. He was graduated at Harvard in 1766, and became a member of the council of Massachusetts. Subsequently he embraced the royal cause, went to England in 1775, and in 1778 was proscribed and banished, and his estates were confiscated. He kept open house for his fellow-exiles, was allowed a stipend by the British government, and in 1779 became president of an association of loyalists in London, which drew up an address to the king, assuring him of the fealty of the majority of his American subjects, and organized a similar board of loyalists in New York. Sir William also extended aid to many American patriots that were held captive in England. He was of irreproachable private life, and one of the founders of the British and foreign Bible society. His only son, William, died in 1809, and the baronetcy thus became extinct.

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