Purnell, the son of Robert H. Houston and Mary Purnell, was born on February 1, 1755 in Somerset County, Maryland. Purnell joined a sister, Mary. A year following Purnell’s birth, his mother died. Robert Houston married Priscilla Laws and Purnell and Mary became half siblings to thirteen children.
At the age of twenty, Purnell married Mary Tumlinson or Tomlinson. At that time Purnell traveled to Philadelphia to be an apprentice to Master Young, a saddle maker. In February, 1776, Purnell returned to Sussex County, Delaware having completed his apprenticeship.
After this term, Purnell joined Master Young as a hand on a ship that was going to Boston from Philadelphia by way of Egg Harbor. On the return to Philadelphia, around Rhode Island, the ship was captured by The Unicorn, a hostile vessel. Purnell was held prisoner for eight or nine weeks. After his release, he went to New London and once again joined the Revolution in service on a brig called the Privateer. Purnell never sailed. He became sick with prison ship fever and was left in New London until the ship returned from duty. In September, 1778 he sailed back to Philadelphia, ending his time of service in the American Revolution.
-Johnston, Ross B., Ed., West Virginians in the Revolution, Genealogical Publishing Company, Baltimore, Maryland, 1977, page 138.
-Purnell Houston American Revolution Pension File # S15467
-Tombstone of Purnell Houston, Mt. Union Cemetery, Route 119, Union District, Monongalia County, West Virginia.
-Virdin, Donald O., Houston Family Bible, Delaware Bible Records, Volume I, Heritage Books, page 46.