Edward Peake(1) (2) was born in 1734 in St. Mary's County, Maryland. He died in 1776.


The Peakes and related families trace back to the earliest days of colonization of the New World by English speakers, and the Peakes shared the experiences of the other Maryland Catholic families as they followed the course of American history from the settlement of the Atlantic coast to the westward migrations across the continent.

The first trans-Appalachian region subjected to massive settlement by the newly victorious Americans following the Revolutionary War was Kentucky, as it was largely devoid of permanent Indian settlements. Maryland Catholic settlers, who began arriving in Kentucky in large numbers around 1785, concentrated mainly in the area that now constitutes Nelson, Marion, and Washington Counties. Many of their descendents remained in this and surrounding areas of Kentucky, while for many others Kentucky became the staging point for subsequent westward migrations as new farmlands and other opportunities became available.

Background-The Settlement of Maryland

George Calvert was born in Yorkshire, England, about 1580, of a family of some wealth and social position. His parents were probably Catholic, since there were numerous recorded instances of summonses and fines against the family for non-conformity to the Anglican religion1. The Calverts appeared to abandon Catholicism around 1590, which enabled George Calvert to attend Trinity College, Oxford, and to rise to a position of prominence in the court of James I. He was knighted in 1617, and in 1619 he became principal Secretary of State.

In 1624 Calvert announced that he had become a Catholic, which disallowed him from continuing in public office. However, for his past services King James rewarded him with the title of Baron of Baltimore. Calvert, who had purchased land and financed the dispatch of a group of settlers to Newfoundland in 1620, now turned his full efforts and resources toward the colonization of America.

After receiving encouraging reports from the settlers, Lord Baltimore took his wife and forty more settlers to Newfoundland in 1628. There he saw the hopeless condition of the settlement and the difficulties of farming in such a cold climate, and after spending a brutal winter there he abandoned the project and returned to England in 1629. On the return trip he stopped in Virginia, which had sustained an English settlement since 1607, and where he had hoped to resettle his colony. Although their refusal to submit to Protestant conformity made his group unwelcome there, Calvert was able to explore the Chesapeake bay, where he found an abundance of promising unsettled land. Back in England he petitioned King Charles I for a land grant north of the Virginia settlements.

Permission for the Chesapeake bay settlement came two months after George Calvert's death in 1632, and leadership of the colonization effort passed to his son Cecilius Calvert, the Second Lord Baltimore. The charter granted to Lord Baltimore gave him almost regal powers in the new colony, including the appointment of all officials, control of the courts, militia, feudal manors, trade, taxes and custom duties, and ownership of all the land, which was in turn used to attract colonists and investors. Lots of 100 acres were assigned to individual colonists paying their own way, and for those financing groups of colonists, manor lots of 1000 acres were given for each five men transported and equipped. Annual quitrents were paid to Lord Baltimore for the land. The land grant system continued until 1684, after which land was purchased directly.

Prior to the establishment of the colony, the conditions of colonization were closely laid out by Lord Baltimore, including instructions to the colonists on how to conduct their relations with the Indians and neighboring Virginians, on the planting of corn, the conduct of worship services, and other topics. The instructions were intended to keep peace in the colony, which differed from other American colonies in its insistence on religious tolerance. For example, Catholics were cautioned against making public displays of their religion or discussing religious topics with Protestants.

The first Maryland settlers left England in 1633 on two ships, the Ark and the Dove, led by Governor Leonard Calvert, brother of Lord Baltimore. Passengers included both Catholic and Protestant settlers along with two Jesuit priests and two Brothers. With stops in Barbados and other Caribbean islands and at Point Comfort, Virginia, they sailed up the Chesapeake and landed at St. Clements Island, about 25 miles up the Potomac River. After negotiating with the local Indians, who were friendly, and exploring the area, they decided on the location of their first permanent settlement, St. Mary's City, on the St. George River. They celebrated mass to mark the formal possession of the colony on March 24, 1634. The area originally acquired from the Indians correlated roughly with the present St. Mary's County, Maryland.

Life for the early settlers was difficult and laborious. Most came as young indentured servants, bound in service for a number of years (typically five) in payment for transportation to the colony. Six days per week of 10 to 14 hours work were required. Corporal punishment was allowed, although mistreated servants were entitled to a hearing in court. At completion of the indenture, many of the servants worked on for wages or by sharecropping to acquire additional capital in the form of tools and supplies needed to farm the 50 acres to which they were entitled. By 1642 the taxable-age (12 and over) male population of St. Mary's County had reached 225, of which 173 were free and 53 indentured servants. Males outnumbered females by four to one. Most lived on manors or individual farms spread along the various navigable creeks and rivers emptying eventually into the Potomac. The majority lived in one-room houses, maintained vegetable gardens and livestock for food, and raised a cash crop providing yearly incomes of two to three hogsheads of tobacco, valued at 8 to 15 pounds sterling. A typical estate inventory in 1668 for John Miles1 listed his valuable property as 3 cows with 2 calves, 3 horses, 4 hogs, 1 iron pot, 1 pewter dish, 1 feather bed with furnishings, 4 shillings and 6 pence ready money, and a crop estimated at 2,000 pounds of tobacco. Similar inventories for other farmers typically included an extra shirt or two, a pair of breeches, and a few tools including a hoe and axe. In the early years farm animals were acquired from Virginia, but the Maryland settlers soon became self-sufficient in that regard. With few fences, livestock roamed free, and were identified by clipped earmarks. Livestock theft was a serious offense, possibly punishable by death.

As the settlements spread they were divided into regions called "hundreds", originally intended to incorporate about a hundred families. In the early years the colonists were concentrated mainly in St. George's, St. Michael's, St. Clements’s and Mattapanient hundreds. St. Mary's City, the site of the provincial government, consisted of about 10 residences, a mill, a forge, and a Catholic chapel. Government and court functions were carried out in the Governor or Secretary's residences until the 1660's, when the first state house was built.

             King Charles I                                                 Queen Henrietta  

By 1645 King Charles I, who supported the Maryland Charter, had effectively lost all political power to the Puritan Parliament. Using a recent act of Parliament as a pretext, a merchant sea captain, Richard Ingle, who had previously been arrested in Maryland for treasonous statements against the king, organized an attack on the Maryland colony and subjected it to a two-year occupation referred to by the colonists as the "plundering time". The property of "papists and malignants" was seized and many colonists, including Governor Calvert and several Jesuit priests, fled to Virginia. The Catholic chapel was destroyed and the two leading Jesuits were arrested and transported to England for trial. The houses of many Catholics who refused to take the required oath against Lord Baltimore and the king were looted and vandalized. This situation continued until late 1646, when Governor Calvert raised a force of Virginians and exiled Marylanders and recaptured the colony. A general pardon was extended to all Marylanders who would take the oath of fidelity to Lord Baltimore.

More problems arose in 1649 after Oliver Cromwell came to power in England. Maryland acknowledged the new government, but Virginia remained loyal to the new king Charles II, who inherited the throne after Charles I was beheaded in January 1649. This placed the Puritans in Virginia in a dangerous situation, and the Governor of Maryland invited them to take refuge there, guaranteeing their rights and freedom of religion. In 1650 about 300 Puritans settled near the present Annapolis. Instead of showing gratitude for their salvation by the Marylanders, within four years the Puritans, claiming the support of Parliament, had seized the government of Maryland and reintroduced religious and political persecution to the colony. Catholics were denied protection by the Laws of England and were disenfranchised from the political process. An attempt by Governor Stone in 1655 to retake the colony with 130 men led to a battle in which the Puritans were victorious. Following this the Jesuit missionaries were again expelled to Virginia and their homes plundered, and many of those remaining loyal to Lord Baltimore suffered reprisals.

In the meantime Lord Baltimore appealed directly to Oliver Cromwell, whose government decided in favor of Lord Baltimore, and his proprietary rights were restored. An amnesty was proclaimed for the Puritans, and those who refused to take the oath of fidelity to Lord Baltimore were allowed to leave the colony. Freedom of religion was reinstated and remained in effect for another 28 years.

Resentment of the dictatorial powers of the Lords Baltimore and attempts to transfer power to the legislative body had been evident since the first years of the Maryland colony. These took a serious turn when the Protestant William of Orange and Queen Mary ascended to the throne of England in 1688. Using allegiance to the new monarchs and complaints about Catholic dominance in the Maryland government and political appointments as a pretext, Protestant leaders John Coode, Kenelm Cheseldyne, and Nehemiah Blackston organized a revolt and gathered an army from St. Mary's and surrounding counties to take over the government at St. Mary's City. They formed a new government comprised of Protestants only and removed Catholics from all official positions in the colony. Their government was supported from England, and a new governor reporting directly to the crown was sent to Maryland in 1692. The rule of Lord Baltimore was thus ended along with the policy of religious freedom.

As a result of this revolt Catholics were again disenfranchised, and in fact were even forbidden from entering St.Mary's city when the Assembly was in session. The Anglican Church was declared the official church of the colony, and all inhabitants were required to pay taxes to support the church. Payment of this tax was widely resisted by Catholics, Quakers, and other dissenters. More repressive legislation was passed in 1704, closing all Catholic churches and schools. The Jesuits continued to serve the area, but mass could only be said in private homes. The disenfranchisement of Catholics and other groups was more permanent this time, lasting until the upheavals of the Revolutionary War eighty years later. Another result of the overthrow of Lord Baltimore was the removal of the capitol in 1695 from St. Mary's City to the more centrally located and more Protestant Anne Arundel Town, now the city of Annapolis. With the centers of power removed, St. Mary's County continued on as a basically agrarian community, which it remains today.

In spite of the policy of religious intolerance adopted by the Protestant government, Catholic missionary activity in the area continued. In 1731 a new chapel was built at Newtown to replace the original one built in 1661. The new chapel, St. Francis Xavier, was built with no external adornment indicating its religious intent. As religious intolerance waned in the years approaching the Revolutionary war, a vestibule and choir loft were added to the chapel in 1767. The chapel still stands and serves as a parish church to this day.

St. Francis Xavier Church circa1923                           St. Francis Xavier Today

The Maryland Peakes

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 England around 1609. M. L. Donnelly states that he was a Catholic and a member of the Catholic congregation at Newtown, near St. Clements’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 immigrated 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 source 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 proceedings. 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 due. 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 that later took place. Of note in this case is the fact that Peake's attorney was William Price.

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 continued.

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 prisons. The Court had forbid him 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 Court. 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 Court, which accuse Peake that "...by force and Arms and of malice forethought, upon William Price, ....an assault did make and with a Certain drawn 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 shoulder, and by the same thrust a certain mortal wound of the length of seven inches and the breadth of one inch to the said William Price did give, of which mortal wound the said William Price immediately did dye....". 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,.... so 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. Lawrence’s aforesaid in the county aforesaid in the manner and from aforesaid feloniously and of malice forethought did Kill and murder, Contrary to the Peace of his lordship, his rule and dignity."

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 ordered 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 seventh day of this Instant, between nine and twelve of the Clock in the morning, then and there to hang by the neck until he shall be dead." 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 execution.

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 commuted. 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 criminal.

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. Clements’s Bay area of St. Mary's County. 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. Donnelly, 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 Maryland.

The Kentucky Migration

The first serious explorations of the Kentucky territory by English colonists had begun around 1750, and it was found that the area was not generally inhabited by Indians, but was used primarily as a hunting ground by Indian tribes living along the tributaries north of the Ohio River and by the southern Cherokee tribes. Negotiations with the Indians for white settlement of the area followed close upon the early explorations, resulting in the 1768 treaty concluded at Fort Stanwix, NY, with the Mohawk Six Nations, who claimed rights to the territory by virtue of their conquest of the Shawnees. The Indian participants at the negotiations agreed to white settlement of the land south of the Ohio for the consideration of 10,000 pounds sterling. In 1774 an incursion into Virginia by the Shawnee and Miami tribes led to their defeat, after which they also relinquished their rights to the Kentucky territory. A group of negotiators from the Transylvania Company, which included Daniel Boone, obtained agreement from the Cherokees along the Tennessee River in 1775 to allow white settlement of the area. By 1780 a number of stations had been established by James Harrod, Daniel Boone and others to facilitate the migration into the territory from the eastern states. In spite of the treaties, Indians raids on the settlements were common during the first two decades of the movement into Kentucky. The French first encouraged these during and after the Revolutionary War, by the British from their strongholds in the north. Indian depredations greatly slowed the rate of settlement of the territory until the middle 1780's.

In the meantime, the Revolutionary War brought great hardships and even greater changes to St. Mary's County, Maryland. British warships roamed the Chesapeake and tributary rivers at will, impounding supplies and in many instances looting and sometimes destroying homes, churches and warehouses. A large percentage of the eligible men fought in the war, either marching with the Continental Army or guarding the home front in local militias. The regular army regiments from St. Mary's County fought engagements from New York to South Carolina and were present at the British surrender at Yorktown.

The pursuit and successful conclusion of the war brought both detrimental and beneficial effects to St. Mary's Countians. On the one hand, the great demand on supplies, manpower and money created by the war, combined with the curtailment of trade with Britain, led to a profound decline in the economy in the years immediately following the war. Counterbalancing this was the fact that the vast expanse of land west of the Appalachians that was gained by Britain’s victory in the French and Indian war but closed to settlement by the colonial government now became available to citizens brave enough to relocate there. Some of the land was given out in grants to Revolutionary War veterans in payment for their services, and more was available for purchase at low cost. These circumstances resulted in a massive movement of people to the western lands, particularly Kentucky, in
the decades following the war. Kentucky was populated largely by settlers from Virginia, Maryland, and Pennsylvania. As an example of the extent of the post-war migration1, the population of St. Mary's County decreased from 15,444 to 12,794 between the years 1790 and 1810. Many of these followed earlier St. Mary's County pioneers to Kentucky, especially to Nelson and Washington (then including Marion) counties.

For Marylanders, the usual route to Nelson County started overland to Pittsburgh, then down the Ohio river to Maysville, followed by another overland journey to one of the forts, called "stations", near the area of settlement. Alternate routes were:

(1) Down the Ohio to the Kentucky, inland along the Kentucky, then over the hills into the Salt River basin.
(2) Down the Ohio to the Falls of the Ohio, then in to Bullitt's Lick over buffalo trails; and
(3) Down the Ohio to the Salt River, then upstream into Simpson Creek.

Indian attacks were still common, and dependents were usually left at the nearest station until the settlement area was secured and the land cleared for farming. Militias companies were formed for defense of the settlement. Indian incursions into Nelson County continued
as late a 1792, when a band of Indians marauding along the Rolling Fork fought with a group of settlers, resulting in four Indian and three settler casualties. These raids ended in 1793, and the final defeat and pacification of the Midwestern tribes came in 1795 with the treaty of

When the earliest settlers arrived, Kentucky was still a territory of Virginia, and Nelson County, formed in 1785, included the present Washington, Marion, and nine other counties, plus parts of eleven others. Washington County (including Marion) separated in 1792, and Marion county was formed in 1834. The first large Catholic migration into Nelson County
was begun in 1785 by the League of Catholic Families, most of whom were from St. Mary's County, Maryland. They followed the Maysville route down to Goodwin's Station (near the present Boston), and from there moved into the Pottinger's Creek area of Nelson County, near the present location of Gethsemani Monastery. A list of heads of families, compiled by one of the settlers, was published in 1884 by B. J. Webb and has been reproduced in
various publications since then. The last name on the list is Francis Peake. Many surnames familiar to Central Kentuckians, especially Catholics, are on the list, including Mudd, Mattingly, Cissell (Cecil), Nally, Hagan, French, Edelen, Norris, Spalding and others.

R. C. Hammett1 states that the Pottinger's Creek settlers found the land there to be poor, and quotes the following passage from a reprinted 1897 article by J. E. Coad7

"When I was a boy there was a tradition rife here to the effect that when the old pioneers from this section used to meet Saturday evenings in Bardstown, as soon as they had shaken hands, one would turn his back to the other and beg him for half a dozen kicks under his coat-tail, and when they were duly administered, the other would turn around and ask his
friend for his kicking... Not infrequently, half a dozen pairs have been noticed exchanging civilities of this nature, in the course of an afternoon. Why was this done, you ask? Why, in order to get temporal punishment inflicted, to expiate the grievous sin they had committed in
abandoning the peaceful shores of Maryland for the wild forests and savage Indians of Kentucky. But the plunge had been made, the labor and exposure of going forbade the idea of return, and it was a clear case of "root hog or die'".

Other areas heavily settled by St. Mary's Countians include Hardin Creek (10 Miles east of Pottinger’s Creek), Cartwright's Creek, Scott County, Rolling Fork, Cox's Creek, and Breckinridge County. Most of the settlers, but not all, were Catholic. The Marylanders brought with them the traditional skills of their region, including tobacco farming, distilling, and preparation of Southern Maryland stuffed ham. The first Catholic church, a log building, was built at the foot of Rohan Knob (now Holy Cross) in 1792. Since Catholic education had been banned in colonial Maryland, most of the priests sent to Kentucky had been brought from Europe, particularly from France. The diocese of Bardstown was created in 1808 with Father Benedict Flaget named as the first Bishop. Father J. B. M. David was appointed as the second Bishop in 1832, and Bishop Flaget was reappointed in 1833. With the coming of the priests and the establishment of orders of nuns, Catholic education became available, beginning with St. Thomas Seminary in 1811. However, relatively few of the early settlers received an education, and many were illiterate.

He was married to Ann Wheatley in St. Mary's County, Maryland. Edward Peake and Ann Wheatley had the following children:

child2 i. Henry Barton Peak(1) was born on 7 Nov 1754 in St. Mary's County, Maryland.
child3 ii. Henrietta Peak(2) (1) was born on 13 Feb 1757 in St. Mary's County, Maryland.
child+4 iii. John Kenelm Peake.
child5 iv. Mary Peak(1) was born on 4 Apr 1762 in St. Mary's County, Maryland.
child+6 v. Francis Peake Sr..
child7 vi. Charles Peak(1) was born on 8 Oct 1767 in St. Mary's County, Maryland.
child8 vii. John Peak(1) was born on 8 Oct 1771 in St. Mary's County, Maryland. He was christened on 2 Nov 1771.