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Defining terms

Back some weeks ago, The Legal Genealogist received a reader question … and had no idea what the answer might be. The only suggestion I could give was that the inquirer go back to the author of the source material and see if the author could help. The inquirer did, the author could, and — best of all — the inquirer was willing to share the answer with us all.

The Strange Occupation of Stephen Kinne

By Bruce W. Owens1

Stephen Kinne is a Pender. At least he was a Pender.

Stephen Kinne is a Pender. At least he was a Pender. He was born in 1705,2 the third son of Thomas Kinne, Jr. and Martha Cox,3 in Salem, Massachusetts,4 and spent most of his life in either Preston (now Griswold), New London County, Connecticut,5 or Amenia, Dutchess County, New York,6 part of the Crum Elbow Precinct.

In 1759, according to the town records of Crum Elbow Precinct, “he was elected a Pender.”7

Stephen Kinne is a possible cousin or uncle of mine. My 4th great grandmother was Elizabeth Kenney8 and, according to another potential cousin located through mtDNA testing (we are allegedly a perfect match), we may share relatives going back to the early 1600s in the New England area, including the Kinne/Kenne/Kenney family. I have been unable so far to identify the parents of Elizabeth Kenney, so I decided to try approaching this line from the other side and began researching the descendants of the Kinne family from their early roots in Massachusetts Colony,9 hoping there would be an intersection with my 4th great grandmother.

In genealogy, stories abound of finding princes and prostitutes, bastards and bishops, pirates and presidents, in one’s family line.10 Now, in my case, I may be related to a Pender, but I did not know whether to be elated (and brag) or mortified (and mute).11

So . . . what is a Pender? Should I feel ecstatic and call this fact to the attention of my friends and relatives? Or should I feel embarrassed and do my best to keep this dark family secret hidden? I was determined to find out.

At first I did not think this search would be a big deal. I would just use one of the handy search engines available to today’s researchers, plug in the term, and within seconds know the answer. I called up my favorite search engine, Copernic, and started the search. Guess what? No hits for the occupation of Pender; only a bunch of sites related to people named Pender, or geographical locations. I tried the same approach using Google, which usually produces more potential hits than one can manage. But, same result. Nothing on Pender as an occupation.

How extraordinary, I thought. As a next step, I decided to contact someone more experienced than I am, someone who has been doing genealogy for years and would certainly be able to answer this rather simple question. I sent an email to Judy Russell, author of the blog The Legal Genealogist. Can you imagine my surprise at Judy’s answer? She said, “I haven’t got a clue. It’s not a term I’ve ever come across in any context.”12

Judy suggested, however, that I contact the author(s) of the material containing the reference to pender to see if they could shed some light on the question. The source for the reference was a multi-volume work by Frank J. Doherty, The Settlers of the Beekman Patent.13 In discussing Stephen Kinne (or Kenney), Mr. Doherty cited the Records of Crum Elbow Precinct, Dutchess County, NY, a work written or edited by Franklin D. Roosevelt in 1939.14 I did not reasonably expect to have much luck contacting Mr. Roosevelt about his Pender reference (he died in 1945), so I decided to try Mr. Doherty. And – voila – within minutes of my email Mr. Doherty wrote “on page 196 of FDR’s volume on the Crum Elbow Precinct, there is a description of ‘Appointments to offices of the Precinct and Town’ Under Poundmaster is found (Pound Keeper, Pender). They had pounds (enclosures) in those days for stray animals, just as we do today, but then the animals were cows, sheep, horses, etc. and they were all marked with notches or holes in their ears.”15

At last, mystery solved. Or was it? I now knew that a Pender was another term for Poundmaster or Pound Keeper, but what did that occupation entail in the 17th and 18th centuries in colonial America?

First a visit to Black’s Law Dictionary. Doing a little research in Black’s, I found that a pound is “a place, inclosed by public authority, for the temporary detention of stray animals,” and a Pound Keeper is “an officer charged with the care of a pound, and of animals confined there.”16 The historian for the Town of De Kalb, Bryan Thompson, in “Whither Goest the Pound Master?”, describes it this way:

When the first Town Meeting in De Kalb [New York] was held in 1806, the event was very familiar to the participants. The annual meeting of the town’s citizens to perform the functions of governance was a tradition dating back to the founding of New England and even before to the burgess of the English market towns. Such direct participatory democracy and the officials they elected seem far stranger to us today than they were to our forbearers.

Who among us can recite the official responsibilities of the Path Masters, Fence Viewers, Constables, Collectors, Overseer of the Poor, Commissioners of Highways, Assessors, Justices of the Peace, Pound Master and Commissioner of Excise. . . .

Among these early officials was the Pound Master. He was responsible for the feeding and care of wayward livestock such as hogs, cattle, horses and sheep placed in the town pound by the citizenry. It was also his responsibility to read the wayward animals cattle marks and determine the rightful owner.17

It is a calling that is vastly older than the colonies in the new world, tracing its origins back to medieval times in England,18 where it has managed to find its way into literature and myth. It is said that Robin Hood was once overcome by a pender.19

“In the eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries, almost every country town had a pound built and paid for by the local citizens.20 They were a very important part of the agricultural life of the community because it was in these enclosures that farm animals who had strayed were kept until claimed by their owners for a fee which depended on the type of animal and length of time he had been cared for by the pound keeper or ‘pinder'”.21

Generally speaking, “the pound keeper was in charge of all stray animals. Strays were brought to the town pound where the pound keeper locked them up. Here the pound keeper collected fines from their owners when they came to get them.”22 Indeed, the town pound and its keeper were a very vital element of early colonial life.23 Failure of the pound master to fulfill his duties properly, however, subjected him to fines and penalties.24

The occupation was sometimes a sort of entry-level position, often a stepping stone to higher public office,25 but not always one that was sought after:

Although some pound keepers acquired their job by winning a local election, more often the job was bestowed upon unwilling persons. . . . [T]he draftee usually met certain specifications of stalwartness, but occasionally the newest-wed or least prepared male of the community was selected as a sort of time-honored tradition that must have provided many hours of laughter for village gossipers — until it became their turn for the often dreaded appointment.26

The occupation exists throughout the US, even today. In Manchester-by-the-Sea, Massachusetts, “the town meeting scrupulously fills the offices of Fence Viewers, Pound Keeper, measurers of Wood and Bark, and Field Drivers every year, just as it has for more than two centuries.”27

So, if you are interested in becoming a pender, a fence watcher, a vinegar inspector, or even a hog reeve, an opportunity may exist. Just look around.


  1. Bruce W. Owens, JD, is a mostly retired lawyer, now living near Atlanta, Georgia. His interest in genealogy began a couple of years ago when his wife, who has been researching her family roots for more than 20 years, grew tired of his nagging questions about when she was going to work on his line and said, “If you want it done, than learn to do it yourself!” And so that is what he is doing. He hopes to become a certified genealogist at some point. He can be reached at
  2. Frank J. Doherty, The Settlers of the Beekman Patent, Dutchess County, New York: An Historical and Genealogical Study of All the 18th Century Settlers in the Patent, 10 vols. (Pleasant Valley, NY.: Frank J. Doherty, 1990-2003), 7: 543-545; digital images,, New England Historic Genealogical Society, (, accessed 21 Oct 2012).
  3. Ibid., 541-542.
  4. Nanci Lanni, “Stephen Kinne,” posted on the Nancy Lanni website 9 Jun 2012, (, accessed 28 Oct 2012) (recorded as “Kenny” in the Salem Vital Records).
  5. Doherty, Beekman Patent, 7: 544
  6. Stephen Kinne’s father sold his land in Salem around 1725, when his son Stephen was 20 years old, and moved to Preston, Ct., where he bought 150 acres. Doherty, Beekman Patent, 7: 541. Stephen, Jr. married Priscilla Herrick, of Preston, in 1730, and later bought land of his own in Preston. Around 1740 he settled in Amenia, Dutchess County, NY, where he was listed on the tax rolls from 1748 to 1765, and again in 1775. Lanni, “Stephen Kinne.”
  7. Franklin D. Roosevelt, ed., Records of Crum Elbow Precinct, Dutchess County, New York, 1738-1761 (Poughkeepsie, NY: Collections of The Dutchess County Historical Society, 1940), 30; digital images, HathiTrust Digital Library ( : accessed 2 Nov 2012). JGR note: More about this source tomorrow!
  8. See “Connecticut Town Birth Records, pre-1870 (Barbour Collection),” database,, citing Lorraine Cook White, ed., The Barbour Collection of Connecticut Town Vital Records, Vol. 1-55, (Baltimore, MD: Genealogical Publishing Co., 1994-2002).
  9. The early history of the Kinne family in New England is summarized in Doherty, Beekman Patent, 7: 541. See also Emerson Kinne, History and Genealogy of A Branch of the Family of Kinne (Syracuse, NY: Masters & Stone, 1881); digital images, Internet Archive ( : accessed 30 Oct 2012.)
  10. For instance, the great grandfather of Stephen Kinne, Henry, allegedly testified against Rebecca Nurse in the Salem Witch trials. See “Henry Kinne Signs Warrant in Salem Witch Trials,” 24 Jul 2010, Brown/Wheeler Family History ( : accessed 5 Nov 2012). Also “Salem Witch Trials”, The Jansma Family Website, ( : accessed 5 Nov 2012.)
  11. As an example, when my wife, Sandy, learned that one or two of my relatives may have testified against Rebecca Nurse, see n.10 above, she was not amused; she is distantly related to Rebecca Nurse. I suppose I will get used to the couch in a few days.
  12. Judy G. Russell, The Legal Genealogist , “The Legal Genealogist”, e-mail to the author, sent 25 Oct 2012.
  13. See n.2.
  14. See n.7.
  15. Frank J. Doherty, “Kinne Family – Stephen Kinne,” email to the author, dated 25 Oct 2012. For additional information about Mr. Doherty’s Beekman Patent project, see his website at
  16. Henry Campbell Black, A Dictionary of Law Containing Definitions of the Terms and Phrases of American and English Jurisprudence, Ancient and Modern (St. Paul, Minn.: West Publishing Co., 1891), 919, “pound”, “pound-keeper.”
  17. Bryan Thompson, “Whither Goest the Pound Master?,” The Historian’s Office, Town of De Kalb, NY website, (, accessed 31 Oct 2012.)
  18. “There is no more ancient institution in the country than the Village-Pound. It is far older than the King’s Bench, and probably older than the Kingdom.” Henry Sumner Maine, Lectures on the Early History of Institutions (London: John Murray Ltd., 1875), 243; text available on The University of Tulsa website, (, accessed 26 Oct 2012). See also Chenango County Humane Society v. Percy A. Polmatier, 188 App. Div. 419 (1919).
  19. See, for example, the discussion in Ernest A. Baker, The History of the English Novel: The Elizabethan Age and After, (London: H.F.& G Witherby, 1929), 194.
  20. Reference to the position of pounder or pound master in Duchess County can be found as early as 1747, but probably existed much earlier than that. See Linda Hansen, “The Descendants of John Gee,” Baker Family History and Genealogy: The New York John Gee Line, ( : accessed 31 Oct 2012.) Southport Township, in Chemung County, NY, elected a pound master in 1822. Joyce M. Tice, Tri-Counties Genealogy & History, Joyce Tice website ( : accessed 31 Oct 2012). Manchester, New York did so in 1797. See George S. Conover, ed., History of Manchester, New York, Ch. XVII, “History of the Town of Manchester,” (Syracuse, NY: D. Mason & Co., 1893), on Rays Place website ( : accessed 31 Oct 2012).
  21. “Town Pound of Corinth, Maine,” Historic Places, Corinth Historical Society ( : accessed 29 Oct 2012.)
  22. Rick Church, “The Town Pound,” Nelson, New Hampshire (Welcome to the Center of the Universe) website, published 9 January 2011, ( : accessed 31 Oct 2012).
  23. Rick Church, “The Town Pound,” Nelson, New Hampshire (Welcome to the Center of the Universe) Website, published 9 January 2011 ( : accessed 31 Oct 2012).
  24. For example, Title 20, Chapter 191, § 3412 of the current Vermont Code, “Poundkeeper’s duties and liabilities,” states: “The poundkeeper shall supply (an impounded) beast with food and drink while in the pound, and such keeper shall be liable to pay the owner of such beast damages occasioned by neglecting so to do.” See also John Tappen, The County and Town Officer, or A Concise View of the Duties and Offices of County and Town officers In the State of New-York (Kingston, NY: J. Tappen, 1816).
  25. James S. Leamon, Revolution Downeast: The War for American Independence in Maine (Amherst, MA: University of Massachusetts Press, 1993), 21.
  26. “Town Pound of Corinth, Maine,” Historic Places, Corinth Historical Society.
  27. Linda McK. Stewart, “The Other Cape,” American Heritage, April 2001, Vol. 52, Issue 2, p. 50.
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