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William Holmes Peeck
The Descendants of William Holmes Peeck: Ontario Pioneer
As abstracted from "The Peek/Pake/Peck Genealogy," by Ross Pake
William Holmes Peeck was born in New York State on January 17th, 1751. His obituary in "The Toronto Herald" dated November 17th, 1842 stated that he was age 96 years, 9 months and 21 days, which would make his year of birth 1746. His obituary contradicts an April 12th, 1837 Land Petition made and signed by William in which he states his age as 86 and not 91. Because the Land Petition was made just five years prior to his death and was first person testimony and not second or third hand as was the information in his obituary, the author believes Williamís true year of birth to be 1751 which would have made him a still respectable age 91 at his death on November 7th, 1842. This same 1837 Land Petition, establishes many other important facts about William. Firstly, he claims to have been the first settler of three cities! The first of these was York, more commonly known today as the City of Toronto, Canada with a population of almost 650,000. This bold claim is supported by notations made in the diary of Elizabeth Simcoe, wife of Lieutenant Governor John Graves Simcoe, from a report dated May 2, 1793 and contained in, "Elias Smithís List of Settlers," located in the Ontario Archives in the History Section of the Ontario Department of
Planning which states, "Öwhen Governor Simcoe moved the Capitol from Niagra-on-the-Lake to the chosen site of a well protected natural harbour, he sent a surveyor to the east of the Don RoverÖand they found only one English family, that of William Peake (sic Peeck) and three Indian wigwams east of the Don." William stated in the land petition that, "after he had cleared 5 acres he was told he could not have the land, even though Colonel Butler had promised it to him." Colonel John Butler commanded a small corps of Loyalists around the Albany and Schenectady areas of New York during the Revolutionary War. Most of "Butlerís Rangers," as they were known, were men skilled working with the Indians of the area and were generally scouts and guides as opposed to regular militiamen. Early histories of the Ontario area note that William was conversant in the language of the local Indians and was, "a friend to and interpreter for Waubikishko, Chief of the Mississauga, whose sway extended from the Credit River to the Bay of Quinte about the year 1800." Even though most United Empire Loyalists who had fought for England during the Revolutionary were rewarded with land grants of 200 acres in Ontario after the War, William does
not appear to have requested nor received such a grant. Since a complete list of those serving under Col. Butler has not been found, we cannot confirm his service other than what he states in the land petition: "Your petitioner (William) was a native of Schenectady (NY), joined the British Standard in the Revolutionary War, and came into this Province (Ontario) immediately after the Peace of 1783Ö" The only other reference to a William Peek serving during the Revolutionary War is found in, New York in the Revolution as Colony and State (pg. 25) where one, William Peek served in First Regiment, Albany. It is not known whether this regiment was connected to or fought with Col. Butler in Butlerís Rangers.
William also states in the 1837 Land Petition that he was the first settler at Port Hope and also in Pickering Ontario. Again, anecdotal and historical evidence supports these claims. Port Hope was a large tract of land laid out and organized by Elias Smith and Captain Jonathan Walton. Other than their own tracts the oldest grant given in this new township was dated May 22nd, 1798 for Lot 27, Broken Front and First Concession totaling 239 acres (Instrument B, no. 66) and was granted to William Holmes Peake (sic). The Peeck spelling is also used in this record and perhaps more
importantly it is the only reference found giving Williamís middle name as Holmes, most likely his motherís maiden name. The surname Peeck is Dutch and it is strongly believed, but not yet proven, that William was a fifth generation descendant of Jan Peeck (ca. 1624 - ca. 1659) the famous or infamous fur trapper, inn keeper and burgher of New Amsterdam, NY who married Maria Du Trieux on February 20th, 1650. This conclusion is drawn not only from the unusual spelling of this uncommon surname but also because many of Janís other documented descendants were abundantly found in the Schenectady area of New York where Janís son, Jacobus (1655-Aft. 1698), migrated while still a boy with his uncle and guardian, Isaac Du Trieux (also Truax), after Janís death. The city of Peekskill, NY in Westchester County is named after Jan Peeck.
Among the early local histories of Ontario that mention William include, The Pickering Story, by William McKay, Land Settlement in Upper Canada, by Gilbert Patterson, The History of the County of Ontario, by Leo Johnson and, Toronto of Old by Henry Scadding. Generally these histories refer to William using the Peak or Peake spelling. Of approximately 14 land records concerning Williamís property in Pickering, roughly half use the original Peeck spelling with Peek becoming more common by the 1840s after Williamís death. Williamís sons and grandsons have been found to use many variations from time to time, or as represented in marriage, death and census records including; Peeck, Peek, Peak, Peake, Peck, Pack, Peack and Pake. The last variation, and the one that continued in this authorís line is due to the early Dutch influence where the "ee" was pronounced as a long "a" such as in Beethoven. Several marriage records that I have located for the descendants of Jan Peeck have notations made in the margin which say next to the bride or groomís name, "pronounced P-A-K-E."
Williamís primary occupation was as a fur trader in the earliest years in Ontario. He used Duffinís Creek to travel by canoe on his hunting and trading expeditions much like his fifth great-grandfather, Jan Peeck, had 150 years earlier. It was on these early expeditions that William became friendly with the local Mississauga Indians of the area. Later, William became known for selling lime, burnt at Duffinís Creek and used for making the concrete foundations of many of Yorkís earliest structures. Still later, William built and operated a sawmill on his 398 acres in Pickering comprising Lots 13, 14 and 15 on the Broken Front and Concession One. The purpose for the 1837 Land Petition was to ask the Head K.H.C. Lieutenant Governor, Sir Francis Bond Head, to reconsider the sale of Lot 15 comprising 228 acres leased by William from 1806 until it was sold to Charles Fothergill in 1834. Even though William had occupied the land for over 28 years and made many improvements, he was never given an opportunity to bid on the property before it was sold to Fothergill who was politically very well connected. William, sadly, lost in his effort to have Lt. Gov. Bond Head reconsider the sale. After the sale, William retained title to only lots 13 and 14, which
comprised 170 acres. In 1807, William had purchased this property from Timothy Rogers with the proceeds from his sale of the Port Hope property. He had sold the Port Hope property for 175 pounds and paid Rogers 100 pounds for the Pickering property. The balance, it is assumed, went towards building his mill and other improvements to all three properties. In the land petition William states that, "Your petitioner met with many losses, his mills built in Pickering at great expense were burnt. Some years afterwards his dwelling house and all within it was also consumed by fireÖ" William, in his advanced years, appears to have turned to farming and by the 1841 census of Ontario, all three of his sons also state this as their occupation. His property was sold at very favorable terms to his three sons: William Jr., James and Abraham between 1834-1841.
William married Margaret (maiden name unknown) most likely sometime between 1782-90. This is based on the marriage records for their known children. The earliest marriages for William and
Margaretís children occurred for two daughters, Catherine (Christie) and Eunice (Reynolds), both in 1811. In Williamís 1842 obituary it states that he, "left 7 daughters, 3 sons, 57 grandchildren and 19 great-grandchildren." Of the eight daughters, only six have been identified positively (or with high probability) although one of the two unknown is known to have married a man named Vail, as William and Margaret make reference to their granddaughter, Phoebe Vail for whom they are acting guardian in 1841. This would also indicate that they had at least 11 children with at least one daughter (and presumably son-in-law) predeceasing them. Margaret is still living with son James and his family for the 1851 census where her age is stated as 91, placing her birth about the year 1761-62. It was highly unusual to find spouses both living past age 90. Even in the year 2000, 240 years later, the average life expectancy for men is age 76 and for women 82. In 1850, the average life expectancy was closer to age 50 for both men and women. Of William and Margaretís six known daughters and three known sons, and including grand-daughter Phoebe Vail, I have been able to identify only 15 of William and Margaretís 57 grandchildren. Unfortunately, to date, very
little research has been done on the lines of Williamís daughters and their families:
Catherine Peeck m. Robert CHRISTIE on July 18, 1811 in St. Jamesí (Toronto)
Eunice Peeck m. Benjamin REYNOLDS on November 20, 1811 in St. Jamesí (Toronto)
Hannah Peeck m. John MATTHEWS ca. 1800-07; John b. 1784 (St. Jamesí opened in 1807)
Ann Peeck m. John William SNYDER on July 18, 1829 in Youngstown, Niagra Co., NY
Jane Peeck never married (single not widowed in 1851 census age 54, E.D. 12, Line 9)
Mary Ann Peeck married _________ VAIL ca. ? (both daughter and husband apparently dead by
1841 as g.d. Caroline Vail living with Wm., Sr.)
Sara Peeck married James STONER ca. 1825 in Pickering, Ontario (Some Stoners to Sanilac)
Martha Peeck (no further information, name not certain but believed accurate)
The author welcomes any research efforts made into the above individuals.
Of Williamís three sons, much is known on sons William Peek, Jr. and James Peek/Peak. William, Jr., my great-great grandfather was born circa 1796 and came into Michigan by 1852 settling as a pioneer in Deckerville Village, Marion Township, Sanilac Co. with his wife Charlotte Boag or Boger(t)/Peek and many of their adult children. Second son, James, born in 1802 remained on the family farm in Pickering which had been largely divided between William Sr.ís three sons and sold off, having been reduced to just 29 acres by the late 1800s. James Peek/Peak (1802-1882) married "Annie" Stoner (1808-1893) on December 8th, 1825 and his descendants are well researched and remained in the same area for several generations. Some descendants still live in Toronto and Whitby, Ontario. William Sr.ís youngest son, Abraham was born in 1806 and was the youngest of eleven known children. Abraham Peek married Unice Conant, daughter of Roger Conat/Conant on June 10th, 1833. No other information has been located on this couples family. Abraham was still in the Pickering/Toronto area in 1843 when he wrote a letter inquiring about Lot 15, which had been abandoned. He was not, however, found in the 1841 census or the local directories of this area or surrounding areas.
He may have moved to the States with his wife and family, like his older brother William. Some Conants are known to have left Ontario and settled in Goodhue Co., Minnesota.
William H. Peek, Jr., His Wife Charlotte and Their Descendants
By 1848 William H. Peek, Jr. had sold the last of the approximately 50 acres sold to him by his father in Pickering. The terms of the younger Williamís purchase were so exceptional that within one year of his purchase he was able to recoup 100% of his purchase cost by selling just 10 of his 50 acres. It will never be known whether William would have ventured off to Michigan had his father been able to retain the additional 228 acres of Lot 15 in 1837. In any event, he inherited much of his father and namesakes adventure for places no white man had seen before, leaving behind what conveniences and luxuries of life the Village of Pickering had to offer in 1850. In there place he would find much of what his father had encountered over 50 years earlier when only the local Indians traversed the heavily wooded forests of Ontario. William received his grant of 80 acres in Sanilac County, Michigan on May 9th, 1859 signed by J.J. Albright, Secretary for James Buchanan, President of the United States described as;
"the west half of the NW quarter of Section 32 in Township
13 North of Range 15 East in Sanilac County" (Sanilac Co.
Register of Deeds, page 4, certificate # 32531)
In Trodden Pathways, The History of Deckerville, it states on page 2, "From all available records, it is certain that William Peake (sic) was the first white man to settle within the limits of what is now called Deckerville. Mr. Peake homesteaded the 60 acres of land which now extends south of the main corners of town on the east side of the street. Mr. Peake built his shanty where Ben Ogden once lived." Because William had sold his land in Deckerville and moved just south to the Township of Bridgehampton by April 1873, Deckerville was not named for its first settler but instead for Charles Decker who moved to Marion Township in 1865 and operated a lumber and grist mill. In the 1860 census for Sanilac Co., William, age 62, is found in Marion Twsp. (M653, Roll 558, Pg. 148, Line 30, Dwelling house # 1141) with wife Charlotte, age 50, daughter Martha, age 10, and son Robert, age 12. Living next door, in Dwelling house # 1142, which was in all likelihood on Williamís same 60 acre parcel nearby, was oldest son Matthew "Peake," age 35 and his wife Jane (Blair) Peake (1830-1918), then age 27 with sons Cornelius, age 8, John, age 5 and James, age 3. The last record we have for William is the sale of his Bridgehampton Twsp. property on October
5th, 1875, only 2 Ĺ years after buying it for $325 (a profit of $75 or 30% over this period) to Jonathan Clarke. No death record or cemetery listing has been found for William but he would have been about age 79 in 1875 and is probably buried in the Bridgehampton or Deckerville area. Charlotte Peekís Sanilac Co. death record is found in Elk Twsp., on March 14th, 1894 at the age of 93 years, 8 months and 13 days. She was probably living with her daughter, Harriet Allen and her family who lived in Elk Township at this time.
South of Port Sanilac on Lake Huron was the Village and Twsp. of Lexington, where in 1860 was found Williamís third son Henry, age 22 with his wife Mary (Wiltsie) Peake, age 28, daughter Cynthia, (by Maryís first marriage), and sons Henry E. Peake, age 3, and Horace Peake, age 1. Henry and Mary were married in November 1855 in Forester, Michigan. Henry is not found after the 1860 Michigan census and was also not found in Civil War pension files or other resources covering the Civil War as were his four brothers, Matthew, Urias, Robert and William III. A Mary Pake is
found in the 1910 census living in Pontiac Twsp., Oakland Co., age 77 (born ca. 1833) and widowed (E.D. 140). Then in 1920 in Clyde Twsp. in St. Clair County a Mary Peck, age 86 (born ca. 1834) widowed, (Vol. 85, E.D. 99, Sheet 5, Line 84) is found living with Henry Peck, age 56 (born ca. 1864) also widowed. This would match closely with dates of birth for the Mary Peake, age 28 in 1860 (born ca. 1832) and her son Henry who was age 3 in 1860 (born ca. 1857), but this needs to be more closely researched and investigated through St. Clair Co. death and cemetery records. Interestingly, Henryís younger brother Robert who lived in Oakland Co., had a son named George Pake (1876-1951) who married Sarah C. (Mitchell) Pake (1875-1951) ca. 1900 and this couple lived in and died in the Village of Caswell in St. Clair County, not far from where Mary
was living in Clyde Twsp. in 1920. Another cemetery record that may be connected in St. Clair is that of Henry T. Peck who died at age 79 on September 30th, 1942 (born ca. 1863) in Kinney Twsp. Again, more research needs to be done to verify if this Henry T. Peck is tied to the Henry, son of William Peek, Jr. and/or the Mary found in Pontiac in 1910 or the Mary in Clyde Twsp. in 1920. A last connection to this family located in St. Clair County is the death of Cornelius Peak at age 61 on October 27th, 1937. This Cornelius is very likely a great-grandson of William Peek, Jr., a grandson of Matthew, and a son of Matthewís son John T. Peek (1853-1882) and his wife Elizabeth who were married sometime around the year 1871-1872 and had three children; James Peek, born ca. 1873, Cornelius Peek, born ca. 1876, and Clara Peek born ca. 1878. Johnís sons James and Cornelius were named after his two closest brothers both of whom died young, Cornelius in 1873 at age 21 from an accident in the sawmill and James at age 14 from drowning. Clara was Johnís auntís name, his father Matthewís younger sister. I hope that these mysteries can be solved someday.
Matthew Peek/Peake (1827-1903) was William and Charlotteís oldest child. He was born March 5th, 1827 on the family farm in Pickering and appears to have been married en-route from Pickering to Michigan because his marriage to Jane Blair is made on July 27th, 1851 in Goderich, Ontario, over 100 miles west of Pickering in the same direction they would have traveled. Also, the first record found in Michigan for this family is the birth of Matthew and Janeís first child, Cornelius Peek, in China Twsp., St. Clair County, Michigan on June 2nd, 1852. Matthew and Jane, who purchased their own 40 acres just down the road from William in 1875, remained in Deckerville until their deaths, Matthew in 1903 and Jane in 1918. Both are buried in nearby Downing Cemetery in Wheatland Twsp. Matthew fought in Co. K, 22nd Michigan Infantry and participated in the Battle of Chickamauga, GA on September 20th, 1863 in which he was wounded. No other births are recorded in St. Clair Co. for Matthewís children or any of William and Charlotteís other children between 1852 and 1859, the year William received his grant in Sanilac Co., so it is likely that William was already in Sanilac Co., perhaps surveying the town and section that he wanted for his future homestead. In 1860, the
census finds all of Williamís children living within or next to his residence except for sons Urias, Henry (discussed earlier) and William III.
Urias Peek (Pake) (1828-1873), wife Harriet (Scarff), and their first five children; Charlotte, age 11, Clarissa, age 9, Elizabeth, age 7, Lewis, age 4, and Lester, age 2 were living in Forester Twsp., due east from Deckerville on Lake Huron in 1860. The 1870 census confirms Urias is still in this area with the census location described as, "Richmondville, Forester Township." Land records show that Urias purchased from the State of Michigan 120 acres on October 30th, 1857, about a year and a half before his father William purchased his property in nearby Deckerville in Marion Township. Uriasí property in Richmondville, Forester Twsp., Sanilac Co. is described as; "Section 29 in Township 13 North, Range 15 East." In 1857, this property was in Marion Township, approximately 5 miles due
east of the 80 acres purchased by William. This property was later incorporated into what became Forester Township and still later into Richmondville Township.
This land transaction used the PAKE spelling for Urias, in perhaps the first such documented use of this spelling but more likely due to his pronunciation to the registrar of deeds as opposed to his intentional decision to make this the permanent and official adopted spelling. Urias sold 40 acres of his original 120 in 1860 for $160, recouping much of his original purchase cost. He and his family continued to live on the remaining 80 acres in Richmondville/Forester Twsp. area until 1872 when they moved north to E. Tawas in Iosca Co., Michigan. It was here that Urias died on October 13th, 1873.
Urias was also a Sanilac Co. Civil War veteran and fought with Co. E, 10th Michigan Infantry. He was severely wounded on April 10th, 1863 in the thigh and intestine while guarding a train near La Vergne, Tennessee. Uriasí and his company of 46 men were attacked by more than 300 Confederate forces while guarding a train 4 miles from La Vergne, Tennessee on April 10th, 1863. He was discharged in July 1863 but never fully recovered and died on October 13th, 1873 from complications stemming from his injury 11 years earlier. His widow, Harriet, then moved slightly further north to Alpena, in Alpena Co., Michigan, then a promising new logging community, where her oldest son, Lewis (and now primary provider for herself and other children), had moved a few years earlier. Harriet Pake (as the name was now spelled by 1870) died on October 13, 1899 the same day as her late husband Urias, twenty-five years later. My great-grandfather Frank L. Pake was born on June 1st, 1873, only four months before his father Urias died in October of that year. Frankís son, Alfred, born in 1895, moved to the big city of Detroit by 1911 to live with his motherís Aunt, Polly Richardson, his mother Ann having died the year before.
William H. Peek, III, (1842-1923) age 22 in 1860, was found living with his older sister, Harriet Allen, in St. Clair Co., Michigan. At age 20 in 1862, William decides to head off to war, several months before his older brothers, Matthew and Urias and younger brother Robert, age 18. William fought with Battalion B, First Light Artillery of "Merrillís Horses" which was a Missouri unit. He was captured and held prisoner by Confederate troops at Shiloh on April 6th, 1862 (two months after enlisting) and spent three months in the Confederate prison in Macon, Georgia before being exchanged. On January 19th, 1864 he married Elizabeth Hogan in Ypsilante, Washtenaw Co., Michigan. In 1870, William, Elizabeth and their young family are found living temporarily in Evergreen Twsp., in Montcalm Co., Michigan before settling permanently in Jackson, Jackson Co., Michigan. William Peek, III and his offspring were the only descendants of William Peek Jr. to continue to use the PEEK spelling.
Robert Peek (1844-1910) was the youngest son of William and Charlotte. He was only age 18 in 1862 when he enlisted with his brother Urias and was assigned to the same unit, Company E, 10th Michigan Infantry. Perhaps scared senseless at the sight of his brother bleeding on the battlefield during a skirmish in which he also received a minor wound to the foot, Robert, at age 18, went AWOL (absent With Out Leave) and had to spend a brief time in prison. In spite of this, like his brothers, he later received a pension for his service during the Civil War. Robert married Esther Anna Springstead on January 9, 1866 in Adair, St. Clair Co. This couple settled shortly thereafter in Metamora Township in Lapeer Co., Michigan on the border with Oakland County. Like his brother Urias, Robert and his descendants adopted the PAKE spelling.
William Peek Jr. and Charlotte Boag/Boger Peek had five daughters:
Harriet (1834-1908) m. Sidney F. ALLEN on September 14, 1853 in St. Clair Co., Michigan
Mary Ann (1836-1875) m. 1) Martin ALLEN on June 14, 1864 & m. 2) John McCLAIN on
October 5, 1869, both marriages taking place in Sanilac Co., Michigan
Nancy (1840-Aft. 1900) m. 1) William DOYING on September 22, 1858 & m. 2) George
McKNIGHT abt. 1860, both marriages taking place in Sanilac Co., Michigan
Clara Ann "Clary" (1847- ? ) no further information known
Martha (1849-Aft. 1870) m. William H. ROSS on February 13, 1864 in Sanilac Co., Michigan
The line of this author descends from William Sr., to William Jr., to Urias, to Frank L., to Alfred L., to Alan G., to me Ross R. Pake, born in 1960. My wife April and I have three children: Chayse, Justin and Madison. Anyone with information on this line may contact me at the address below or through e-mail, email@example.com.
31545 Peppertree Bend
San Juan Capistrano, CA 92675