Select Peters Miscellany

Here are some Peters stories and accounts over the years:

Sir William Petre's Rise to Power

William Petre came of a family of Devon yeomen, his father being a farmer and tanner assessed at £40 in goods in the subsidy of 1523.  William was probably the second son of John Petre.  The older son John was a Customer of the ports of Dartmouth and Exeter and became the MP for Dartmouth in 1554.  

William was perhaps fortunate to be sent to Oxford where he distinguished himself by his learning.  Educated as a lawyer, he became a public servant in London - probably through the influence of the Boleyn family, one of whom, George Boleyn, he had tutored at Oxford and another of whom was Anne Boleyn, the second wife to Henry VIII.

He rose rapidly in the royal service and was knighted in 1543.  He went on to hold
the confidential post of Secretary of State through the revolutionary changes of Henry VIII, Edward VI, Mary, and Elizabeth.

In 1538 he had taken from the convent of Barking in Essex a lease of the manor of Ging Abbess, which became the nucleus of the Petre large estate there that became Ingatestone.  It is perhaps ironic that the fortunes of the Petre family, who subsequently became staunchly Catholic, were built up on the ruins of Catholic monasteries.

Early Peters of New England

Edmond Peters began his 1903 book Peters of New England with the following statement:

“A tradition causes our history to begin in Boston in 1634 with one William Peters, a merchant educated in Leyden who was a brother of the Rev. Hugh Peters of Salem and of the Rev. Thomas Peters of Saybrook.  He removed to Andover where he built a church and was buried under the pulpit.”

This tradition, as he goes on to say, is not correct.

Hugh and Thomas Peters were not related to William.  Hugh Peter (not Peters) was descended from Flemish ancestors who had fled Antwerp for Devon because of religious persecution in the 1540’s.  Thomas Peters arrived in America with Winthrop in 1639.  But he was only to stay there three years.

William Peters of the Petre family is thought to have been the father of Andrew Peters, the forebear of the main Peters line in New England.  Andrew made his home in later life in Andover, Massachusetts.

Richard Peters and Atlanta

In 1834 young Richard Peters was offered him a job as chief engineer for $1,000 a year to help with construction of the new Georgia Railroad.  Peters paid $100 for a rough paddle-wheeler trip into camp near Charleston, South Carolina in the brutally cold February of 1835.  He worked on the state railroad for the eight years it took to complete it from Augusta to the new town of Marthasville, Georgia. 

When the railroad was completed, Peters was hired as superintendent.  In that position he heard many complaints about the name of Marthasville.  When someone suggested Atlanta instead, Peters began printing up thousands of circulars to distribute from Augusta to Tennessee advertising the new name.  It was officially changed in December 1845.

He built a home in Atlanta, married there, founded Atlanta’s first steam factory, and also operated a stage coach line between Atlanta and Montgomery, Alabama. 

The Civil War brought destruction, with Peters and his family removing themselves to Augusta.  After the war Atlanta boomed and Richard Peters, having returned, left a million-dollar estate.  Of his two sons Edward stayed on the estate and built Ivy Hall; while Ralph moved to New York and became President of the Long Island Railroad.

Peters Arrivals in America

The following passenger data from ship arrivals track the origin of Peters arrivals in America.


Most Peters in America have German roots.

Peters from Germany to Iowa

The Peters family ancestral home had been at Schwarzenborn in Hesse, Germany.  The first traceable ancestral record was that of Johann Henrich Peter who was born there in 1720.

A descendant Christian Peter married in Hesse and come to America with his family in 1868.  They settled in Ottawa, Illinois.  Christian died there six years later.  In 1884 his widow Gertrude moved to Buena Vista county in Iowa with her five children - Conrad, John, Jacob, Margaretha, and Gertrude.

Another Christian Peter descendant was said to have deserted the army in Germany and to have fled to America.  He ended up marrying his second cousin, the above Margaretha Peter.  This Christian had added the ‘s’ to his name shortly after arriving in America in the late 1860’s.

Margaretha’s older brother John married late in life.  He was in his mid-40’s when he married an 18-year old German girl Anna who had been visiting her aunt in Iowa.  They raised twelve children.  After John passed away, Anna lost their property during the Depression due to her inability to pay the property taxes.


Jim Peters' Last Marathon

The English runner Jim Peters from London had broken the world record for the marathon four times in the 1950’s.  At the 1954 Vancouver Commonwealth Games he reached the stadium in first place, 17 minutes ahead of the next runner and 10 minutes ahead of the record.

But he then collapsed repeatedly and failed to finish.  After covering just 200 metres in 11 minutes, he was stretchered away and never raced again.  "I was lucky not to have died that day," he later said.

His games kit, including his running shoes and the special medal which the Duke of Edinburgh had sent to Jim (inscribed "to a most gallant marathon runner"), were given to the Sports Hall of Fame, Vancouver in 1967 for exhibition

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