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The Maryland Peakes
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3. The Maryland Peakes

3A. Walter Peake

The earliest records of a Peake family in the Maryland colony were those of Walter Peake, who moved there with his wife Frances and son Peter around 1646. Peake was born in England2 around 1609. M. L. Donnelly2 states that he was a Catholic and a member of the Catholic congregation at Newtown, near St. Clement's Bay in St. Mary's County. This would appear to be confirmed by the later history of his family and by his associations of the day, particularly with John Jarboe and the Mattingly family. Jarboe was a French Catholic who emigrated first to Virginia, and in 1646 joined the military force organized by Governor Leonard Calvert in Virginia to restore Lord Baltimore's rule following the rebellions of Ingle and Claiborne2. However, a second source3 identifies Walter Peake as non-Catholic.

Walter Peake was an affluent and influential man in early Maryland society. He served in the Lower House of the Provincial Government1 in 1649. He was a planter, miller, and kept an inn at St. Lawrence in Bretton's Bay. He was also a practicing attorney, involved in 121 documented court proceedings3. A legal case of particular interest transpired in the Charles County Court in June of 1668, in which Walter Peake, identified as a resident of St. Mary's County, sued Miles Chaffe for 795 pounds of tobacco for a debt which was not yet due41. He claimed that Chaffe was a "non-resident person" and demanded payment of the debt. Chaffe denied nonresident status and stated that he had agreed, in return for accommodation in the county, to undertake employment to repay the debt. The court found in favor of the defendant, whereupon Peake's attorney entered an appeal to the Provincial Court. This appeal was never heard due to the tragic events which later took place. Of note in this case is the fact that Peake's attorney was William Price41.

As with other successful members of society, Walter Peake was sometimes directed to share in the care of the indigent. At the April, 1667, Provincial Court a poor and crippled Martha Crab was ordered to live at the house of Walter Peake, and a year later the order was continued42.

Financial success did not keep Peake's life from being a troubled one, and the records show that he had an unfortunate proclivity to alcohol. This led to disaster when his colleague William Price visited his inn in October, 1668. Price was a man of notorious reputation, a former indentured servant who married his mistress Hannah Lee, and spent considerable time in Maryland prisons42. He had been forbidden by the Court to interfere in his wife's affairs. Peake had in the past acted as attorney for Price in the St. Mary's County Court, as Price had acted as Peake's attorney in the Charles County Court41, 42. Their meeting at Peake's inn ended in an altercation in which Peake stabbed Price to death with a sword. A graphic description of the murder is contained in the records of the Provincial Court42, which accuse Peake that " force and Armes and of malice forethought, upon William Price, assault did make and with a Certaine drawne Sword ....., which thou, the said Walter Pake, did then and there in thy right hand did hold, the said William Price, did, on the left side of his body, thrust and pierce through to his right side under the souldier, and by the same thrust a certaine mortall wound of the length of seaven inches and the bredth of one inch to the said William Price did give, of which mortall wound the said William Price immediately did dye...."42, 43. For good measure Peake stabbed Price again, this time in the throat. The Court described the wound as being ".... Of the depth of three inches and breadth of one inch, ....soe that the said William Price of the last wound had dyed if he had not dyed of the former wound ...". The Court concludes in its indictment that "...thow, the said Walter Pake of St. Lawrences aforesaid in the county aforesaid in the manner and forme aforesaid feloniously and of malice forethought did Kill and murder, Contrary to the Peace of his lordship, his rule and dignity.42"

Peake pleaded not guilty to the charges, whereupon a jury of twelve men was appointed, with Christopher Rowsby as foreman. The records note that one man was fined for not showing up for jury duty, and a second, presumed to be a Quaker, was fined for refusing to take the juror's oath. Peake was given the opportunity to challenge jurors, but declined. The charges were read to the jury and three witnesses called to give evidence against the prisoner. The jury left to deliberate the charges. When they returned with the verdict, the court clerk order Peake to the bar, where he held up his hand as the jury was ordered to look upon him. When asked for their verdict of guilty or not guilty of murder, the jury foreman submitted their decision in writing. Their verdict appears to turn over primary responsibility to the Court, stating that they find "that Walter Pake is guilty in the death of William Price...., that Walter Pake was drunk and did not know what he did att the time of committing the fact aforesaid, and Therefore if the Court are of the Judgment that it was murder, Then the Jury doe find it murder, But if not then the Jury doe find it manslaughter." The bench then gave their judgment and found Peake guilty of murder. Peake had nothing to say in mitigation, and so was sentenced to death. At Peake's own request, the judge ordered that the hanging be carried out before Peake's house, where the murder took place. Thus the warrant of execution was issued to the sheriff of St. Mary's County " Cause the Body of the said Walter Pake to be Executed att the place aforesaid by the hands of Pope Alvey on Thursday next being the seaventh day of this Instant, between nine and twelve of the Clock in the morning, then and there to hang by the neck untill he shall be dead.42" After his execution, most of Peake's property was forfeited to the Lord Proprietary, whence it was redistributed. Peake's property at New Town was leased to Thomas Cosden less then two months after Peake's execution42.

It is of interest that the executioner, Pope Alvey, had himself been sentenced to death for murder a few years before, but managed to have his sentence commuted42. He was again sentenced to hang soon afterward, this time for livestock theft, but was pardoned. It was at this time that he was appointed executioner, a job sometimes reserved for a pardoned criminal42.

3B. Later Generations

An account of the early Peake families is contained in Mary Louise Donnelly's comprehensive genealogy of the early residents of the St. Clement's Bay area of St. Mary's County2. A family tree constructed on the basis of her information is shown in the Appendix to this work. It emphasizes the male line for the purpose of tracing the surname to the later descendants.

Records at the St. Mary's County Historical Society show two other Peakes whose exact linkage to the Peake family tree has not yet been established. One of these, Edward Peake, is mentioned also by M. L. Donnelly2, but is included under the Wheatley family (by virtue of his marriage to Ann Wheatley) rather than with the Peakes. It is this same Edward Peake who is the direct ancestor of all the Nelson County Peakes with Maryland roots. Both these Peakes are of the age of the fifth generation of settlers, and their existence is documented by the baptismal records of their children. Another four Peake families of the same era are included in the St. Andrew's Church birth records and St. Francis Xavier baptismal records, as published in T. J. O'Rourke's Catholic Families of Southern Maryland37.

Ignatius Peak and wife Frances are listed in the St. Francis Xavier Church records with daughter Ann (bap. Feb. 27, 1787, with Robert Jarboe and Elizabeth Carpenter as sponsors).

Peter Peake and wife Mary are listed in the St. Andrew's records with child Mary (b. Nov. 6, 1755).

William Peake and wife Henrietta are listed in the St. Andrew's and St. Francis Xavier Church records with children Ann (b. Nov. 19, 1761), Raphael (b. Feb. 20, 1765), Eleanor (b. June 5, 1767), Joshua (b. Sept. 28, 1769), William (bap. Oct. 13, 1771, with Luke Heard and Eleanor Hopewell as sponsors), and Joseph (bap. Feb. 27, 1774, with Matthew Heard and Frances Hopewell as sponsors).

John Peake and his wife Susanna are listed in the St. Andrew's Church records with children Robert (b. Nov. 23, 1755), Augustus (b. Jan. 23, 1757), and Joseph (b. Dec. 11, 1772).

John Peak married Susan Yates (or Yets) on Dec. 11, 1769, in Newtown, St. Mary's County37. Their children are known from the St. Francis Xavier Church records: John (bap. Dec. 15, 1771, with James Yets and Mary Brown as sponsors), Edward (bap. Sept. 8, 1773, with Enoch Fenwick and Mary Brown as sponsors), and Catherine (bap. Sept. 15, 1776, with Joshua Millard and Anastasia Brown as sponsors).

Edward Peake was married to Ann Wheatley, daughter of Francis and Ann Wheatley2. They had seven children listed in the St. Andrew's Church records, and one also in the St. Francis Xavier records37: Henry Barton (b. Nov. 7, 1754), Henrietta (b. Feb. 13, 1757), Kenelm (b. Mar. 11, 1760), Mary (b. Apr. 4, 1762), Francis (b. Feb. 4, 1764), Charles (b. Oct. 8, 1767), and John (b. Oct. 8, 1771, bap. Nov. 2, 1771, with Peter Brown and Mary Brown as sponsors). Edward Peake died4 in 1776. Two of Edward's children, Kenelm and Francis, emigrated to Nelson County, Kentucky, around 1785. No other Peakes appear in the lists of Maryland emigrants to Kentucky compiled by R. C. Hammett1.

Although the parentage of Edward Peake has not been established, it appears likely that he was related to the other Peakes of the time in the St. Clement's Bay area, some of whom have been traced back to the original settler, Walter Peake2. He was Catholic, his children were registered at St. Andrew's Church, and the youngest baptized at St. Francis Xavier Church (within a few hundred yards of the old Walter Peake lands2), and he married into a family well known to the other Peakes. It is relevant to note here that most of the St. Mary's County records were destroyed when the courthouse burned in 1831.

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