Our Pinkerton Family History

Pinkertons, A Family History


Generation 1: Robert Pinkerton

Generation 2: Samuel Pinkerton

Generation 3: Robert R. Pinkerton

Generation 4: Arthur Robert Pinkerton

Generation 5: Ruth E. Pinkerton

Generation No. 2: Samuel Pinkerton

Samuel Pinkerton (Robert1) was born 1 January 18031 in Ballymoney, County Antrim, Ireland, and died 15 October 15 1892 in Waupaca, Wisconsin2.  On 10 April 1841, he married Mary Warnock in Ballymoney, County Antrim, Ireland 1. She was born 10 April 1813 in Ireland 3, and died 19 November 1891 in Waupaca, Wisconsin4. Both Mary and Samuel are buried in Lakeside Memorial Park Cemetery, in Waupaca, Waupaca County, Wisconsin.

In 1847, during the worst of the potato famine Samuel and Mary Pinkerton left their young children with family in Ireland and emigrated from Ireland to New York, settling at Hartford, in Washington County.1 In Hartford, they rented a farm to make their living and put money by and in early 1848, they sent for their children. Three of the adult children of Samuel Pinkerton's brother, John Robert Pinkerton - Samuel W., Mary, and William Pinkerton, accompanied Samuel and Mary's three children (Robert R., Elizabeth, and John L.) to New York. They appear on the passenger manifest of the sailing ship Wolfville, that left Belfast, Ireland on 20 March 1848, and arrived at the port of New York on 9 May 1848 - 51 days at sea.4

With the children safely returned to the family, Samuel and Mary Pinkerton and family settled into New York farm life, living and working on rented farms, but always saving the pennies toward owning their own land. Once again, a nephew led the way. In 1851, Samuel W. Pinkerton, the same nephew who brought the children to America, and his new wife left New York for Wisconsin, with the hopes of taking advantage of the newly opened federal lands in the newly formed Waupaca County. The next year, Samuel and Mary thought that they were ready to take advantage of opportunities and they, too, left for Wisconsin.

Samuel Pinkerton and family's first stop in Wisconsin was in a community now known as Stevens Point, in Portage County Wisconsin. This area is never mentioned in any of the Pinkerton family stories and we know almost nothing about how long the family was there or what there lives in Portage County were like. Indeed, we only know they were there at all because it was in Portage County, Wisconsin, that Samuel Pinkerton filed his First Notice of Intent to become a U.S. Citizen at the local courthouse on 24 August 1852.5

All of the local histories agree, though, that it was 1853 when the family came into Waupapca County where they would live out their lives. In 1854, Samuel Pinkerton began to acquire land. He apparently found it economical to buy up the Federal military bounty warrants from men who had been awarded land in Waupaca County in return for military service in various wars but who chose to sell the warrants rather than move to Wisconsin. Samuel purchased four such warrants in the fall of 1854, giving him rights to 270 acres of U.S. Government land in Waupaca County. It is interesting to note that the warrants he purchased were for widely separated wars - one was for service in the American Revolution, two for the War of 1812, and one for service in the Florida War (also called the 1st Seminole War, it took place from 1835-1842). In 1858, Samuel purchased an additional 80 acres directly from the government land office - he had built up a substantial farm.

Unfortunately, it was at about this time that Samuel's health began to fail and most of the work on the farm fell to his sons, Robert and John. Samuel Pinkerton liven on for another 33 years, not able to personally work his farm, but active enough to keep his hand in on the business side. By the time that he died in 1891, he knew that he had done well by his family. He brought them out of a famine that killed millions and saw most of them settled into prosperous lives during his lifetime.

Children of Samuel Pinkerton and Mary Warnock are:

  1. Robert R. Pinkerton, was born 17 January 1842 in Ballymoney, County Antrim, Ireland and died 28 June 1906 in Waupaca, Wisconsin.

  2. Elizabeth Pinkerton, was born 18 September 1843 and died on 4 March 1898 in Waupaca, Wisconsin6 7. She married Thomas Godfrey on 27 September 1861, in Waupaca and they had children: Robert, Mary Ann, Samuel P., William O., Mary J., Ella Ann, Robert John, Elizabeth B., James T. and George C.[The first son named Robert died before he was one year old and the family later gave a second son the name.] Thomas Godfrey became a very successful farmer and business man6.

  3. John L. Pinkerton was born 4 April 1845 in Balleymoney, County Antrim, Ireland, and died on 27 Feb 1926 in Waupaca County, Wisconsin8 9. In 1884, at age 39, he married his second cousin, Mary Ann Pinkerton in Salem, Washington County, New York. She was the daughter of his cousin Robert Pinkerton and wife Rachel Mcallister9. They has children: John, Sarah, Mar\', Rachel, Belle, Emma and Carrie.

    John was the only one of the Waupaca Pinkertons to serve in the Civil War. He enlisted in the 8th Regiment, Wisconsin Infantry on 13 September 1861 and served with them until he was mustered out at Demopolis, Alabama on 5 September 186510. During his service, the Regiment lost 280 men - 59 killed in action, and 221 killed by disease.

  4. James Loughridge Pinkerton was born on 28 March 1849, in Hartford, Washington County New York, and died 26 September 1928 in Weyaugwega, Wisconsin11. James graduated from Monmouth College in Illinois in 1873. He then studied theology in the Allegheny Theological Seminary, and was licensed by the Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania Presbyterian on 12 April 1876. It was to have a severe and unexpected effect on his life. From History of the Reformed Presbyterian Church in America: "In 1877 while supplying the Mission at Suffolk, Virginia he was prostrated by a severe attack of fever, which affected both his body and mind. He retired to his home near Waupaca, Wisconsin for some time, then made an extended tour through Europe and returned much improved after several years of rest. He was ordained by the Pittsburgh Presbytery and installed Pastor of the congregation New Alexandria, Westmorland Co. PA. on May 17 1881 and served there until 09 October 1883, when he resigned on account of enfeebled health"12.

    James' brother, John L., accompanied James on the trip to Ireland and spent 3 months with him there before leaving James to recuperate and returning home. After his rest in Ireland and Europe, James retired from all active service and came home to live with brother John on the old home place9. He is buried in the family plot in the Lakeside Memorial Park Cemetery, Waupaca, Wisconsin.

  5. Jane L. Pinkerton was born about 1850 in Hartford, New York and died in 1867 in Waupaca County, Wisconsin. Jane is buried in Lakeside Memorial Park Cemetery, Waupaca, Wisconsin. Nothing else is known of her.

  6. Samuel M. Pinkerton was born on 01 Jul 1853 in Waupaca, Waupaca County, Wisconsin and died about 1873 in Waupaca, Wisconsin. The family story is that Samuel M. Pinkerton died of smallpox, but no evidence of a cause of death has been found. He is buried in the family plot at Lakeside Memorial Park Cemetery, Waupaca, Wisconsin14.

  7. William Pinkerton was born about 1858 in Waupaca, Wisconsin died about 1880 in Texas. He was a graduate of Monmouth College and a Reformed Presbyterian Minister. While on a mission in Texas, he drowned during a river crossing.


  1. History of Northern Wisconsin (Chicago, Illinois: The Western Historical Company, 1881), 1086

  2. Lakeside Memorial Park (Waupaca, Wisconsin), Sexton Records, plot 62-O, space 6 Samuel Pinkerton, 1803-1892.

  3. Lakeside Memorial Park (Waupaca, Wisconsin), Sexton Records, plot 62-O, space 4 Mary Pinkerton, 1813-1891

  4. New York. Registers of Vessels Arriving at the Port of New York from Foreign Ports, 1789-1919."Passenger Manifest, Sailing Ship Wolfville;" pages 1-2; citing Washington, D.C.: National Archives and Records Administration. M237,roll 72

  5. Portage County, Wisconsin, Loose Intentions 1844-1866, Box 1, Item 41, Notice of Intent To Become a Citizen, Samuel Pinkerton; 24 August 1852; Clerk of Court; from FHL microfilm 2020894.

  6. Commemorative Biographical Record of the Upper Wisconsin counties: Waupaca, Portage, Wood, Marathon, Oneida, Vilas, Langlade and Shawano by J. H. Beers & Co., Chicago, 1895 page 639.

  7. Sheridan Cemetery (Waupaca County, Wisconsin), Elizabeth Godfrey marker, online images, 1 February 2011.

  8. Lakeside Memorial Park (Waupaca, Wisconsin), Sexton Records, plot 62-O, space 3 John L. Pinkerton, 1845-1926

  9. Commemorative Biographical Record of the Upper Wisconsin counties: Waupaca, Portage, Wood, Marathon, Oneida, Vilas, Langlade and Shawano by J. H. Beers & Co., (Chicago, Illinois: J. H. Beers & Company, 1895), 804.

  10. National Park Service, "Civil War Soldiers and Sailors System," database(http://www.itd.nps.gov/cwss/soldiers.cfm : accessed 1 Feb 2011), John Pinkerton, 8th Regiment Wisconsin Infantry.

  11. Lakeside Memorial Park (Waupaca, Wisconsin), Sexton Records, plot 62-O, space 13 James L. Pinkerton, 1849-1928

  12. William Melancthon Glasgow, History of the Reformed Presbyterian Church in America (Baltimore, Maryland: Hill & Harvey Publishers, 1888), 647.

  13. Lakeside Memorial Park (Waupaca, Wisconsin), Sexton Records, plot 62-O, space 5 Jane L. Pinkerton, 1850-1867

  14. Lakeside Memorial Park (Waupaca, Wisconsin), Sexton Records, plot 62-O, space 1 Samuel Pinkerton, 1853-1873