The Pitcher Family Name and Crest: Understanding the History of a Name and Decoding the Family Crest
A name is something that is very special indeed. In a very real sense, it defines us — it demonstrates to others who we are and what we represent. When viewed in this way, it becomes a very important part of our identity and of our individuality as people.
However, a name is also something shared. It is a marker, not only for us, but for our family too, and is a symbol of a collective identity. This identity is something we share not only with the nearest and dearest we surround ourselves with on special events and holidays — although this is certainly important too. It is something we share with those who went before us — including those who went long, long before us — and those who will come after us.
It is our identity in the here and now, and it is our connection to the past.
So, let’s examine the history of the name Pitcher, and learn more about the long and fascinating journey this name has taken over the ages, from Dark Ages Europe through Medieval Britain, to the 13 Colonies in the New World, right up to modern United States.
The Lineage of the Pitcher Family Name
The Origin of the Pitcher Name
The name “Pitcher” has a very different derivation to the version of the word we commonly use today. In modern, American English, the word “pitcher” is generally associated with baseball — specifically with the player on a baseball team tasked with delivering the ball to the batter. However, as baseball was not invented until the mid-19th Century, and the Pitcher family has been around for far longer than this, we can see that the name must refer to something else entirely.
“Pitcher” as a name is generally thought to have two derivations. The first comes from Middle English and a variation of the word “pich”. As is common with many names taken from Middle English, this derivation of Pitcher is an occupational name, referring to someone who applied sealant to waterproofed barrels or to the hulls of ships. This sealant was known as “pich” or “pitch”, and was a thick, black substance similar to tar.
In this sense, the name is similar to that of Caulker — a name derived from the process of sealing and waterproofing gaps between pieces of wood, and similar to the “caulk” used in many DIY projects to this day — or that of Cooper; someone who makes barrels and other containers of liquid.
The second possible derivation comes from High German, or Hochdeutsch. In High German, names can be built from the shortened form of verbs, combined with the short form of a personal name. In this case, the Old High German verbs of bitan — to endure — or bittan, to wish or ask for, are combined with -scher to create Bitscher or Pitscher, becoming Pitcher over the years. This is also the possible root of the common English surname Pickard.
So we have two possible routes that bring us to the Pitcher family surname of today — one from Middle English and one from Old High German. It’s difficult to say precisely which derivation gives us the surname of Paul and his family. Old High German was being written down at least as early as the year 750, while Middle English was not spoken and written in England until around 1100, after the first Pitchers and families with similar surnames were recorded as living in Britain. Both derivations have undergone centuries of evolution and alteration to bring us to this point.
In fact, the name itself is defined as a polygenetic surname. This is a name that has been developed in a number of different locations and then adopted by different, unrelated families independently. This makes it difficult to trace the very earliest history of the Pitcher family with any accuracy.
The Earliest Recorded History of the Pitchers
As so often happens in history, it is through events of immense turmoil and suffering that we come to better understand the distant past. William the Conqueror’s arrival in the south of England in 1066, at the head of a Norman Army that would eventually pacify the entire nation, is one example of this. For many people, this event marks the beginning of modern English identity and history. For many others, it represents a dark period of horror and slaughter in that very history. William’s subduing of England was brutal, even by Medieval standards, and his methods were known to be harsh, cruel but ultimately effective in achieving his desired ends. The 1069 campaign known as the Harrying of the North, for example, resulted in the deaths of up to 100,000 people between modern day Yorkshire, County Durham and Northumberland, but did succeed in bringing William’s enemies to heel.
However, it is because of this policy of control and coercion that today’s historians know so much about life in England at this time. In order to catalog and govern his new conquest, William set about creating the Domesday Book, an exhaustive record of landowners and holdings in early Medieval England.
It is in this Domesday Book that the very earliest mention of Pitchers in the United Kingdom is found. A family with the surname Pitcher is recorded as holding a title and a seat in Buckinghamshire, a county that exists to this day on the northwestern outskirts of London.
These early Pitchers, it appears, were granted this seat as a token of appreciation following their assistance in the Battle of Hasting in 1066, where William’s Normans decisively defeated the Saxon army of Harold Godwinson.
The Pitchers in the New World
The history of the Pitcher family in the United States begins almost at the point of the very earliest movements towards an independent America. While colonies had been established under the banner of the English crown for over a decade before the Mayflower arrived in Plymouth, Massachusetts in 1620, the Plymouth colony was the first to be founded with the intention of religious freedom and separatism.
There were no Pitchers onboard the Mayflower, but a member of the family would arrive in Dorchester, Massachusetts in 1641. This was Andrew Pitcher, who became the second recorded Pitcher to settle in the New World after Thomas Pitcher, who had arrived in the colony of Virginia back in 1635 — a colony that was far more aligned with the English crown than the colony at Plymouth. Mary Pitcher and John Pitcher would also land in Virginia in the years 1650 and 1652 respectively.
As the fledgling colonies began to grow in population and economic power, more Pitchers joined them. Meanwhile, other Pitchers would be born within these colonies, becoming some of the first generations of European Americans.
One of those births was that of Moll Pitcher, also known as Mary Diamond, who was born in the 1730s in Marbelhead, MA. Moll found fame as a fortune teller and reader of tea leaves, and her predictions — while at odds with the highly religious climate of the times — held great sway over her followers in the colonies. It was said that even high-value trade voyages would be cancelled if Moll Pitcher predicted disaster. Such was Moll’s renown that poems and plays have been written with her remarkable character as the subject.
Another interesting side in the history of the Pitcher family at this point is the story of Molly Pitcher — a possibly mythical woman who was said to have fought with distinction at the Battle of Monmouth in Jun 1778. Molly Pitcher’s tales of bravery and courage during the Revolutionary War are likely derived from a number of very real, and very fascinating, historical figures, including Mary Ludwig Hays, Margaret Corbin, and Deborah Sampson. However, it is unlikely that a real woman named Pitcher has any association with these tales.
Pitchers in Politics and Governance Throughout the 18th and 19th Centuries
Throughout the 18th Century, there were more arrivals of Pitchers from Europe in the 13 colonies, including Edward Pitcher, who was recorded as arriving at Potomac in 1729, and is one of the earliest references to a Pitcher in Maryland. There are also references to Thomas Pitcher, who arrived in Virginia in 1735, and to a Will Pitcher who is reported as living in Georgia in the same year.
As we move closer to a newly independent American nation, we see more and more Pitchers making their home in America. James Pitcher was a bonded passenger who was recorded as settling in the 13 colonies in 1774, some two years prior to the Declaration of Independence. One of the notable early Pitchers to be born in the newborn nation was Nathaniel Pitcher, the son of Revolutionary War veteran Nathaniel Pitcher Sr. in Litchfield, Connecticut in 1777. The younger Nathaniel would go on to become the governor of New York in 1838, as well as an accomplished lawyer and attorney.
In 1797, twenty years after the birth of Nathaniel, the Connecticut Pitchers — now living in Sandy Hill, New York — were joined by Zina Pitcher, Nathaniel’s half brother. Something of a polymath, Zina Pitcher would become a physician, educator and academic administrator, as well as a politician himself. He served two spells as the Mayor of Detroit in the early 1840s, and was a president of the American Medical Association. He also served on the Board of Regents at the University of Michigan before his death in 1872, aged 74.
Early Links to Paul Pitcher’s Family
In the 19th Century, we can see more arrivals of Pitchers in the northeastern United States, including Carl Pitcher and his family who settled in Philadelphia in 1816, William Pitcher who was recorded as living in Belfast, Maine in 1822, and Frederick Geo Pitcher who arrived in 1887. It is during this century that we begin to see increasing ties between the Pitcher family and the state of Maryland, including Barjew Pitcher who was recorded as having arrived in Maryland in 1830.
It is also during this century that we begin to see the first concrete links between the family of Paul Pitcher and their ancestry. Paul’s great, great grandfather is Reverend John W. Pitcher, who was born in Island Creek, Calvert County, Maryland in 1882, and who would grow up to become a significant figure in the developing Pentecostal Church.
Reverend Pitcher would relocate first to Pasadena in Anne Arundel County, and then to Baltimore where he would become the first chairman of the new International Pentecostal Assemblies (IPA) in 1936. You can read more about the life and work of Reverend John W. Pitcher in our dedicated article, right here [LINK TO ARTICLE].
John and his wife Bertha had two children, a daughter, also called Bertha, and a son, Paul T. Pitcher. Paul T. Pitcher was born in Anne Arundel County in 1925, and would grow to become a circuit court judge and county executive in the county he loved so dearly. One of Paul’s lasting legacies is the Maryland Route 100 that joins Ellicott City in the west with Chesapeake Bay in the east. Paul conceived this highway in the 1950s, and was convinced of the economic and social benefits it would bring to Maryland and to the broader region of the United States. Tragically, Paul would not live to see the completion of the highway, as he passed away in 1968, but, almost half a century after plans were initially laid down, the road network that now bears Paul T. Pitcher’s name would be completed, and Paul’s predictions would be proved correct. Learn more about Paul T. Pitcher and his distinguished life and career by clicking here [LINK TO ARTICLE].
The Modern Pitcher Family
By the 20th Century, the Pitcher family was well-established in the United States and in Canada. The 1911 Canadian census recorded 123 Pitchers across the country, concentrated mainly in Ontario but with populations of varying sizes across Alberta, Saskatchewan, and Quebec. There were also several households living in New Brunswick and in Manitoba.
The 1940 census in United States also recorded a number of Pitchers living in the United States. Records show that 16% of the male Pitchers of working age were employed as farmers at this point, with 15% working as laborers, 9% as Salesmen and 4% as carpenters. The census also demonstrates the gender bias that still existed in 20th century America, and the main female occupation for the Pitcher family in 1940 is listed as housewife.
A year later, the United States would be plunged into war with Japan and the other Axis powers. Many Pitchers would serve in this conflict, including Mr Walter Giles Pitcher, a Gunner’s Mate First Class who is recorded as hailing from California. He was aboard the USS Arizona during the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor in December 1941, and gave his life for his country.
Paul T. Pitcher’s son, J. William Pitcher, would continue his father’s great work, and followed Paul T. Pitcher into law. Also known as Bill, J. William Pitcher is a United States Navy veteran and has been a leading attorney and lobbyist in the Maryland state capital of Annapolis for more than thirty years.
Prior to starting his own firm, J. William was the Principle Legislative Assistant to Senate President Melvin Steinberg, also known as Mickey, from 1983 to ’85, and practiced law with the Blumenthal, Wayson, Downs and Offutt in Annapolis between 1985 and ’91. Since 1991, he has operated his own firm, providing lobbying services for local business interests, as well as working on cases of administrative law and general litigation. To learn more about J. William Pitcher’s career in the armed forces and in the legal and lobbying community here in Maryland, click here to view an article dedicated to his life and work up to this point.
The Pitcher Family Today
As we have seen, J. William Pitcher is still highly active in his lobbying work and in his work as an attorney, and carries on a proud tradition of success and endeavor within the Pitcher family tree. His son, also named Paul after his grandfather and J. William Pitcher’s father, is forging his own path in the world, and working with small businesses and entrepreneurs as they seek out an alternative to the traditionally restrictive lending landscape.
Paul Pitcher and his companies serve business owners across the United States and Canada, and help to drive economic growth and development within communities across North America.
Outside of the immediate family of Paul Pitcher and his relatives here in the northeastern United States, the broader Pitcher family tree is still going strong. Well-known Pitchers across the world include Dixon Pitcher, a former member of the Utah House of Representatives; the academic and fisheries researcher Tony J. Pitcher; historian and writer Harvey Pitcher; children’s author Annabel Pitcher; and a Bermudan cricketing dynasty that features Justin, Azeem, Arthur and Oliver Pitcher, all of whom represent their country internationally.
The name Paul Pitcher is also celebrated each year during a rather unique holiday known as Paul Pitcher Day held in Cornwall in England’s southwest. Traditionally, on January 24th — the Eve of the Conversion of St Paul — people in rural Cornish communities such as Bodmin would gather together and smash pots and jugs against the doors of homes in order to mark the occasion. As the festival was dedicated to St Paul, and as the celebrations involved throwing or “pitching” jugs and other receptacles, participants became known as “Paul Pitchers”.
While the ritual of smashing pottery and earthenware against the doors of buildings has fallen somewhat out of fashion, the modern holiday has instead become a time for those bearing the name Paul Pitcher to celebrate their shared name together.
The Pitcher Family Crest
Today, the Pitcher family is represented by a heraldic crest. Like with other families who can trace their genealogy back across the centuries, the crest is designed as a point of shared identity and understanding between family members, as well as a point of distinct pride.
The crest depicts the helmet of a medieval knight, representing the millennia of history that today’s Pitcher’s share, and also depicts a boat sailing upon the ocean — perhaps a reminder of those perilous journeys to the New World, undertaken many centuries ago.
In fact, there are very deep meanings built into each heraldic crest, and decoding the symbolism involved can tell us a great deal about the ethos and values that each family holds dear. Looking at the Pitcher family crest, we can see that blue is a very dominant color here. This represents truth and loyalty — key values within the Pitcher family.
We can also see a lot of silver or white beneath the blue layer and in the uppermost extremes of the crest. This is also significant, and represents peace and prosperity.
In the banner at the center of the crest, there is an area of white and black patterning, traditionally signifying ermine fur. Ermine fur carries a strong association with European royalty, and perhaps represents the title and land holdings bestowed upon the Pitchers by King William I of England back in the 11th Century.
Upon this background, we can see another pattern — one of oak leaves and acorns. These look like minor pieces of detail, but — like all other components of a crest — they hold significant value. The leaves themselves represent faith and endurance, while the acorns are emblems of independence and free thinking. This is something we have seen time and time again across the numerous stories of different Pitcher family members.
Last, but certainly not least, we have the Pitcher family motto, displayed with pride in a banner across the top of the crest. Rendered in the Latin language conventionally used for heraldic crests, the motto reads perseverentia et labore, which translates into English as “by perseverance and labor.” Again, this is a fitting commemoration of the spirit and determination that the Pitcher family has shown over the years.
A Fascinating, Ongoing Journey
The stories of the Pitcher family name and family crest are fascinating, but it is the human history of the Pitcher family that really makes this name and this emblem standout. The Pitcher family is still going strong as we move through the third decade of the twentieth century. Let’s see what comes next in this tale.