William Pemberton
Stefan Bielinski

William Pemberton was baptized in August 1735. He was the son of Jeremiah and Maria Bradt Pemberton. His father was a city retainer who probably first came to Albany as a garrison soldier.

In 1752, he married Sarah Drury in the Albany Dutch church. Over the next nine years, their five children were baptized in St. Peters Anglican church where both parents were members.

These Pembertons settled in Albany's first ward - probably near the river. William followed the river trade. In 1756, he was identified as a wateman. Over the next two decades, he was well known as a skipper on the Hudson River and probably owned his own sloop. Among his clients was Sir William Johnson for whom he carried a variety of goods and items. During the 1760s and 70s, Pemberton's middling home and additional structures appeared on Albany assessment rolls.

In 1766, he stood with other Albany men in opposition to the Stamp Act when he signed the constitution of the Albany Sons of Liberty. In 1774, he was called the Albany jailor. Although his name does not appear on any of the extant colonial militia rolls, in 1775, the Albany Committee of Correspondence listed him as a first lieutenant in the city's Grenadier Company and paid him several times for services. A year later, he was called "Captain" of the company but refused to sign the test oath required of officers. Later that month, he was denounced for speech "disrespectful of the Whigs in General, and discouraging to our present cause." He was removed as jailer and ordered confined to the Tory jail. Over the next month, he was allowed out during the day to settle his accounts and finish his public business which included turning "the guns" over to the new jailer. In August, he was accused of hoarding barrels of pork to make it available to the British. Formal charges were filed and this American loyalist again was confined then paroled. In February 1777, he was ordered into confinement. In June he was sent to the fleet prison at Kingston where he was to be kept "in irons." During that time, he petitioned for release.

Convincing the authorities that he was not disloyal, Pemberton returned home. At the end of the year, he repented his past offenses and asked the Albany committee for permission to remain in the state. Posting a bond, the captain had lost his sloop but was free in the place of his birth.

In February 1780, he witnessed the baptism of Pemberton Cool at the Albany Dutch church. A few months later, he rebuffed a loyalist seeking help to get to Canada. In August, he was charged with harboring a spy. After each incident, Pemberton was required to post a bond for his good behavior. After that, his name disappeared from city rolls!

Presuming that he left Albany for Canada, we seek information on his fate.



the people of colonial Albany The life of William Pemberton is CAP biography number 420. This profile is derived chiefly from family and community-based resources. He is also profiled in a manuscript article entitled "River People in Early Albany".

He was baptized in the Albany Dutch church - the church of his mother. Seventeen years later, he was married. Perhaps he was baptized some years after his birth!

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first posted: 6/10/02; revised 5/29/09