The Earle family were well known in the Massachusetts area and in the early 1800s moved next door to the Van Leers in Chester Co PA. This particular county was filled with abolitionists and early anti-slavery movement members. They believed in an honest days work meant an honest days pay which was unique for the time. Similar to the Van Leers, the Earles’ were involved in this movement. While the Earles were prominent lawyers representing fugitive slaves, the Van Leers were recorded actively setting up housing for fugitive slaves. It is no surprised that George Hussey Earle Sr. married Samuel Van Leer’s granddaughter Ellen Frances Van Leer. George knowing about a Van Leer cabin being an underground railroad station would not be surprising, however this is not recorded. This branch went on to see world famous poets, governors, and bankers. In 1892 Ellen passed away and George penned a poem.
“I do not think, where’er thou art,
Thou hast forgotten me;
And I perhaps may soothe this heart,
In thinking still of thee.
Yet there was round thee such a dawn
Of light ne’er seen before,
As Fancy never could have drawn,
And never can restore”
The Earl surname originates about 40 years after the Conquest of England by William the Conqueror (1066), with the Norman “de Erleigh” family of knightly rank who took their name from land in Berkshire. The land called Earley or Erlegh, located near Reading, included two manors. These manors from which they took their name, along with substantial holdings in Somerset were given to this family by King Henry I when he came to power in 1100. The first to take the name de Erleigh was John de Erleigh (John D’Earley) who was born about 1105 and was a knight.
The American Earle surname in all the very earliest records is written with the final e, but the orthography soon begins to vary and runs into the several forms—Earl, Earls, Earles, Earll, Erl and Erle. There are several branches of the Earle family in the United States which have their parent American stem in emigrants from England. The American branch of Earle family that originated from Massachusetts is a notable family of artists, businessmen, and statesmen. This American branch was most prominent in New England, especially Massachusetts, from the 17th century to the 19th century. The various branches of the English Earle family originated from the county of Somerset, with later major family branches in Devon county and throughout England.
The Massachusetts Earle family began with Ralph Earle the immigrant ancestor who arrived in the Massachusetts Bay Colony with his wife Joan (Savage). There is a tradition among his descendants that he came from Exeter in England, in the year 1634. Ralph Earle may have come with a group of puritans led by John Cotton (a Minister) with William and Anne Hutchinson who also arrived in 1634 on the ship ‘Griffen”. The ship brought 200 passengers but the passenger list is not complete so we do not know for sure whether he was on this ship or another. The earliest official trace of Ralph Earle is in the records of Newport, Rhode Island where his name is found under the date of “first of eighth month” (October), 1638, in a list with fifty-eight others, arranged as “A catalogue of such persons who, by the General consent of the company, were admitted to the Inhabitants of the Island now called Aqueedneck, having submitted themselves to the Government that is, or shall be, established according to the word of God therein.” This group left the Massachusetts Bay Colony during the leadership of John Clarke and William Coddington. They left the Boston colony in order to settle elsewhere. They were able to purchase from the Indians the beautiful island of Aquidneck, officially Rhode Island and founded the town of Portsmouth.
In 1888, Pliny Earle a direct descendant, published a comprehensive genealogical record of the family of Ralph and Joan Earle, listing 4,000 descendants of the immigrant settler (The Earle family: Ralph Earle and his descendants). Most of the information in this article and the listed family members is from his work. Below are some of the prominent Earle family members on historical record.
Born in 17th Century
- Ralph Earle (settler)
- Ralph Earle (captain)
Born in 18th Century
- Ralph Earl (artist) 1751 – 1801
- Pliny Earle I (inventor) 1762 – 1832
- Ralph Eleaser Whiteside Earl (artist) 1785 – 1838
- Augustus Earle (artist) 1793 – 1838
- James Earl 1761 – 1796 (painter)
- John Milton Earle (businessman, abolitionist, politician) 1794 – 1874
- Thomas Earle (journalist, lawyer, politician) 1796 – 1849
Born in 19th Century
- Pliny Earle (physician) 1809 – 1892
- Caroline Earle White (animal rights activist) 1833 – 1916)
- George Hussey Earle, Sr. (abolitionist, lawyer) 1823 – 1907
- Florence Van Leer Earle Coates (poet) 1850 – 1927
- George Howard Earle, Jr.. (lawyer, businessman) 1856 – 1928
- George Howard Earle III (30th Governor of Pennsylvania) 1890 – 1974
- Ralph Earle (American naval officer) 1874 – 1939
Born in 20th Century
- Ralph Earle II (ambassador) 1928 – 2020
- Karen Eileen Lile, AKA Karen Earle Lile (producer, designer/art director, Talk Show Host)