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 "...by force
and Armes and of malice forethought, upon William Price, ....an 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
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 "....to 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