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Biographical / Historical
The Pembertons were a distinguished Philadelphia Quaker family, successful merchants and active in the Society of Friends. Phineas Pemberton arrived in America in 1682 and settled in Bucks County, Pa. His son Israel (1684-1754) moved to Philadelphia, began a successful business, and married Rachel Read in 1765. They had ten children, but most didn't survive childhood. The three surviving sons were: Israel Pemberton (1715-1779), James Pemberton (1723-1809), and John (1727-1795). Israel Pemberton expanded the family business and served on the Pennsylvania Assembly. He was active in the Society of Friends, serving as Clerk of the Yearly Meeting. He married first Sarah Kirkbride (1714-1746) and secondly Mary (Stanbury) Jordan. Mary Pemberton served as Clerk of the Womens Meeting of Philadelphia Yearly Meeting.
James Pemberton (1723-1809) also was a successful merchant, philanthropist, and leader in the Society of Friends in Philadelphia. He was a founder of Pennsylvania Hospital and the Pennsylvania Abolition Society and active in other civic and educational organizations. James Pemberton served on the Pennsylvania Assembly for Philadelphia Co. and was elected to the American Philosophical Society in 1768. He married Hannah Lloyd (1734-1764) in 1751. They had four children; Phineas (1753-1778); Rachel (1754-1783) who married Thomas Parke, M.D.; Hannah (1785-1788) who married Robert Morton; and Sarah (1756-1819) After his first wife's death, he married Sarah Smith who died in 1770 after the birth of a daughter, Mary (1770-1808, later wife of Anthony Morris.) In 1775, he married Phebe (Lewis) Morton, the widow of Samuel Morton.
The youngest brother was John Pemberton (1727-1795). He left the family business to devote his life to Quaker ministry, travelling to England and Europe. John Pemberton married Hannah Zane, daughter of Isaac and Sarah Zane, in 1766.
In accordance with the peace testimony of the Society of Friends, the brothers refused to take an oath of allegiance during the American Revolution or to bear arms. Eighteen prominent members of the Quaker community were arrested in August 1777 and imprisoned in Winchester, Va. from September 1777 to early 1778. They included the Pemberton brothers, John Hunt, Henry Drinker, Thomas Fisher, Thomas Gilpin, and Abel James.