The First Families Chronicles

The Peaches
by Carin Gordon

This is the second of a five-part series on the founding families of Marblehead. We will take you from the first generations who settled along the "Marble" rocks of Little Harbor to present generations still living in town.

Four generations of Peaches: (left to right) Robert, Gordon (kneeling), Donald, Bill, Dave (with his sons Tommy & Billy), Ted and Dan
(photo by John Fogle)

The Peaches, like all the first families, with their unique qualities, and abilities together, with the fact that they have largely remained in town, have lent much to that something special known today, as the "feeling" of Marblehead. The town owes them much, but mostly they feel it's the other way around. John Peach, from whom Peach's Point gets its name, settled in Marblehead around 1630, according to a later court deposition. There are some Peaches to day, who, with a twinkle in their eye, will say that "we held the boat for the Dolibers to come ashore," while still other Peaches insist that their "forebearers welcomed the Indians when they arrived." In any event, the first mention of Marblehead in the records of Salem was in 1636, showing a grant of land to John Peach.

In 1630, the shareholders of the Massachusetts Bay Company, a commercial company governed by John Winthrop, received title to the company's land holdings. The town of Salem received some of this land and in 1636 gave title of it to some settlers who had begun farming the land and fishing off the coast. The company's land included among its holdings, all the land from Naugus Head east to the end of the point known then as Peach's Neck. It also included much of the land surrounding what is now known as Little Harbor. Among those receiving title to that land are:

"John Peach, fisherman and Nicholas Mariott having fenced about five acres of ground on Marble Neck (though contrarie to the order of the town) yet. It's agreed that they may for the present improve the said place for building and planting provided alwayes that the propiety thereof be reserved by right of the towne of Salem to dispose in the processe of tyme to them or any other fishermen, or others as shalbe thought most neet, yet soe as they may have reasonable consideration for any charge they shal be at."

The Peaches also owned land on what is now referred to as Marblehead Neck. With the exception of a few individual land grants, the Neck was originally held in common by a group of various proprietors. The Neck was subdivided in 1724 by the common owners, some of whom were Peaches. The owners received their share of a parcel of land by pulling a descnption of the land out of a hat. When the land on Peach's Point was eventually sold, most of it went to Robert Harris who sold it to Edward Crowinshield in 1811. Later Crowinshield's family and descendants built large summer estates on the property. Robert Peabody who summered on Peach's Point and wrote a book about it, speculated that John Peach was a fisherman from England (probably Dorset) who originally came to Cape Ann. It is believed that he then joined the permanent settlement in Salem, and Iike so many of Marblehead's first settlers, left Salem when the Puritans' influence in that town became stifling. Originally the name was Peche from Norman French and John Sr.'s ancestors can be traced back to a knight who fought along side William the Conqueror.

There was a second John Peach, known as John Jr., who settled in Marblehead soon after John Sr. They were cousins, not father and son, but together they owned over fifteen lots of land in town, comprising several hundred acres at one point. Both men were very active in early town government and served as selectmen. John, Sr. was among the first seven selectmen elected when Marblehead split from Salem in 1649. Two Peach cousins, George and Donald, have served as selectmen at different times in this century. The two John Peaches served frequently on juries as witnesses, appraisers of estates and arbiters on boundary disputes in town. While a Selectman, John, Sr. served the town in some very delicate and diplomatic matters. In 1672, the town ordered that a "lentoo be built adjoining to the back side of the meeting house." The building of this addition to the town's house of worship caused great disagreement, stemming from the assignment of seats in the new addition. The town had voted for the Selectmen to make the assignments. The worshippers became jealous of where they might be seated and harrassed the Selectmen who were completely frazzled by the situation and almost resigned over it. The situation became so intolerable that a town meeting was called to settle the matter. John, Sr. was one of four men asked to form a committee to resolve the seating dispute. Peach and his fellow committeemen must have succeeded, for the raising of the "lentoo" was the cause of a great party where charges for rum and fish with wine came to over 425 pounds. Needless to say, this was a large sum for 1671.

Often, however, a Peach was a party to a law suit in the 1600's . John, Sr. and several other Marbleheaders sued to prevent the consumption of their lumber by strangers coming over from Salem. John, Jr. sued Trustum Hutson Leveritt for speaking rash words and defaming him. John, Jr. was satisfied with an acknowledgement from Leveritt that he had indeed defamed him. John, Sr. was fined twenty shillings for giving Trustum Dolliver "opprobious provoking words urging to a breach of the peace."

By far the most interesting suit occurred in 1645 when John Bartol and his wife Parnedd sued Alice Peach, John Jr.'s wife, for defamation. It seems that Alice Peach had told others that Mrs. Bartol had committed adultery with the boatswain of the ship "Sampson" in her cabin. Six witnesses were called to the trial, including Tristam Dallebar (probably the same man known as Trustrum in a previously noted case against John, Sr.). One witness came from as far away as Nantasket at a cost of eight shillings for two men and a boat for two days to transport him. By the trial's end, it was clear the Parnell had engaged in certain "miscarriages on the ship "Sampson" for Alice Peach "had proved the truth of her assertion." Alice Peach didn't seem to get along too well with the wives in town, for five years later she was fined for striking Edwin Reade's wife.

In 1769, Cesar, "a negro man servant" owned by William Peach was brought before the Court for stealing a pair of cotton and linen sheets. Cesar confessed and was ordered whipped 10 strikes on his naked back at the Public Post in Marblehead. It was not unusual for Marbleheaders of that time to own black slaves who worked in the home as servants or out on the small farms. Even General John Glover owned slaves.

John, Sr. had no children, but listed among his heirs when he died were his cousins Joseph and Peter Doliber. It is from John, Jr. that the Peaches in town are descended. He had one son William, who had three sons, John, Thomas and William. One sees these names carried down generation after generation to todays generations. There are now many branches of the Peach tree in town.

A William Peach, in 1770, was one of only 10 people in Marblehead who refused to sign an agreement circulated in town against the use of India teas, in a citizen effort to boycott the importation of British goods into the colonies. The nonsigners were punished when the town voted that they should be recorded in the clerk's office and published in the ESSEX GAZETTE as "unfriendly to the community." The selectmen were urged not to "approbate any of them to the sessions for license to sell spirituous liquors."

As with most of the old Marblehead families, the Peaches did not hesitate to serve their country in war, and as a present generation Peach estimates, "have served in probably every war this country has fought, " and even prior to the Revolution. In 1759, Thomas Peach was one of the men recruited by the English to fight the French in Canada in the French and Indian War, serving on board the ship "Squirrel." Unfortunately, he died during the seige of Quebec. Many Peaches served aboard ship and in the regiments during the Revolutionary War, including General Glover's Regiment.

John Jr.'s great grandson William, a housewright, joyner and cabinet maker, who later moved to Vermont, served with a Marblehead Company in Rhode Island. While transporting bread in small boats to bring to the soldiers located across the bay, William was shot at by the British. The bullets missed him, landing safely in the loaves of bread. Living to be over 90, he told that story often, but was quite ill in his later life and fought long for a pension from the government for his military service. It was finally granted five years before he died when he received $204.16 in back pay and $58.33 annually.

Colonel Benjamin Peach Jr. commanded the 8th Regiment during the Civil War, rising through the ranks and eventually retiring with the rank of Major General in 1897. At that time, it was the highest military rank ever attained by a native Marbleheader, an achievement which may still stand today.

Many of the Peaches were fishermen or served as crew on commercial vessels. Several others served as ship masters and owners. Captain John Peach and his son Captain Thomas Peach served on the fishing fleets from 1832 to 1888 and between the two of them, they amassed 85 years of sea duty. During his 50 years at sea, Captain Thomas made 85 trips to the Grand Banks fishing.

The Peaches were always adventuresome, as were most Marbleheaders. Stephen Peach was among the many townsmen who got caught with the gold fever of the "forty-niners." In 1850, Stephen left home for California, where he settled in Stringtown, running a store catering to all the others who had rushed out west. There was a Captain Peach who sailed a schooner around Cape Horn in '49. His great granddaugter still has the gold nugget he brought back as a souvenir.

Perhaps two of the most fondly remembered Peaches were Aunt Ruth and Grandfather William. Aunt Ruth lived to be over 100 years old, going blind later in life. Her great, great niece, Ethel Peach, whose late brother Harold worked for years as a linotype operator for the Marblehead Messenger, remembered her as a "good and strong old Marbleheader." She grew grapes in her back yard, and Ethel always enjoyed picking them whenever she visited her aunt. Ruth Peach worked as a stitcher, making shoes in a shoe shop. She was one of many Peaches who worked in the shoe shops and factories in town. Ethel, like her father and grandfather before her, left school early to work in Humphry's shoe factory ten hours a day, five and a half days a week for six dollars a week.

William Peach was a mason and was the third generation of Peaches to carry on the family masonry business in town. His grandsons, William Peach and the Hawkes' brother Ben, William and Lincoln, and their descendants speak glowingly of this man whose favorite expression was "bully." William Peach's grandfather Richard founded the business, and his grandson William and great grandsons David and Edward carry on the family tradition today. This family built stone and brickwork all over town. Grandfather William, while building the stone walls at Redd's Pond began to carve steps out of the rocks there. He never finished the job, but his great grandson David hopes to complete the job someday. David recently had the chance, with his father William, to repair a foundation his great grandfather built for the John S. Martin summer estate up near Fort Sewall. The blizzard of 1978 had done some damage to that part of the stone work now used as a boatshop. The present owner of the shop still had the original bill for WilIiam's work which she presented to his grandson as he did the same work decades later.

This is a perfect example of what some of the younger generation Peaches sense about their role in town. As David Peach explained, "There is a certain pride in being a descendant of the first Peach, of being part of a chain, belonging to something, so that I can apply what I have learned from my father and grandfather." His cousin Donald, an architectural designer, expressed a similar pride in his ancestors . "One hundred years from now, I would hope someone could say, 'A Peach designed this house.'" Donald also wants the "chain" to continue. This same pride was evident in grand father William years ago when he took his grandson William around the town, pointing out the walls he had built along Crowninshield Road and where Orne Street meets Beacon Street.

Grandfather William was a man of great strength. Ben Hawkes remembered "him shovelling a path from Orne Street over Burial Hill to Norman Street, even as an old man, during every snow storm so he could reach his family who had scattered throughout downtown, and then he would continue around Redd's Pond up to Russel Street."

"He loved children," stated Bill Hawkes about his grandfather. "He would keep General Glover's tomb in repair. He did it on his own, probably never saw a dime from the town for doing it. One year while repairing it, he had his four grandchildren around the tomb watching. He had to take off the lid of the tomb in order to repair the brickwork beneath it. He looked in the tomb to see what was left of Glover, reaching in, he picked up a brass button that had been on Glover's uniform. He placed it in each of our hands, explaining to us about General Glover. After we had all seen it, he put it back in the tomb. He could have kept it, but that was the kind of man he was."

William Peach was a considerate man also. Bill Hawkes tells the story about an old Marblehead woman who had been forced out of her home and went up to North Reading to live. "Grandfather had a great feeling to help people. He was very concerned about this woman after a big snowstorm, so he bought a load of groceries, hitched up the horse and wagon and rode all the way out there to check on her. When he arrived, he found her with no food in the house, weak, He saved her life. "

Lincoln Hawkes, the fourth grandson who had a sign outside his shop "antiques made to order" and who is a great storehouse of Marblehead history and lore, spoke about the time his grandfather had been bitten by a horse when he was just a young boy. "Crowninshield who summered up to Peach's Point had an ugly horse who bit and kicked everyone, and the horse bit my grandfather hard. It was so bad, the doctor wanted to amputate his hand. My grandfather told the doctor that he wouldn't let him do anything until he went to see his grandmother Peach . He went to her, and she applied poultrices made up of her root remedies. His hand healed perfect." His grandson William attributes this incident to his grandfather's great interest in herbs and roots as medication. "He knew how to use them and where to find them." Grandfather William had many talents and could play the piano and accompany himself on a harmonica which he'd put on a frame around his neck.

William's daughter, Mary Peach Hawkes, had an equally strong concern for people. She was very active in civic affairs in town, fighting long hard battles to preserve parks and public ways for the people of Marblehead. Her son Bill Hawkes recalled one incident which he believes sums up the "typical Peach" - tenacious, persevering, hard working and caring. A local family owned the land on either side of a public way leading to Little Harbor. Mary wanted to save the way for the town, and persuaded the town to take the land by eminent domaine. When the town lost the case in court Mary battled until the town purchased the property from the owners. Later generations who enjoy the land she preserved for the town are indebted to her for she "researched her causes and fought like a beaver when she thought she was right."

No matter what branch the Peaches are descended from, they are all extremely talented as masons, farmers and builders.

Family business seems to run in the Peach family. Marblehead Laundry has been in the Peach family since 1901 when Gordon Peach's father George, a former selectman, took it over. His son, Gordon, Jr. is in the business now and almost all the Peach grandchildren in that branch have worked in the laundry at one time or another. Gordon, Jr. his father and his uncle Robert can remember when the laundry was swamped with business from the great yachts that sailed into Marblehead harbor each summer. The laundry would be busy cleaning sails and the uniforms of the crews. Sighed Gordon, Jr., "it's not like that anymore. You don't get the big yachts with the crews. The town has changed."

"The town has changed" is a sentiment expressed by every Peach interviewed. From the oldest to the youngest Peach, they are all concerned with how much the town has changed and how quickly. Gordon stated, "Marblehead was always special, but it's not Marblehead anymore. The people are different now. It used to be no matter what street you went down, you knew everybody, and no matter where you went, you were known. Marbleheaders had more freedom than the rest of the country; if you wanted to build an outhouse on your front lawn, you just did it. Marbleheaders did what they wanted and nobody bothered them. The town has grown too much for its own good. Gordon's brother Robert, a member of the Water and Sewerage Commission and past member of the Energy Conservation Committee believes, recognizing the change that "my generation in mellowing more towards the change." David Peach is very conservation-minded and is aghast at all the waste in town. Many of the older Peaches rued Marblehead's lost independence, evidenced by the fact that the town no longer has its own power supply or water and sewerage systems.

Although concerned for the changes in town, they all agreed that Marblehead is special, and that's why they remain in town, three hundred and fifty years after the first Peach arrived. Ben Hawkes recalled a statement made by Zeke Peach who stated, "talk about a rolling stone gathering no moss; the Peacheslanded here in 1630 and ha ven't moved an inch since." Indeed, many Peaches live in the same homes or on the same street where they were born. Many, like Robert, have built homes often down the street from the house where they were born. "I just saw no reason to move to Clifton," he declared. Most Peaches agreed with Ethel who stated, "I didn't want to move out of town; it never occurred to me. There have been a lot of changes, but I still like it here."

To Gordon, Jr. "the town was our playground growing up. There was the harbor and lots of fields and woods. I didn't give it any thought but that I would always live here."
Lincoln Hawkes perhaps summed it up the best when asked if Marblehead is special, he answered, "sure as Hell is, just compare it to Peabody or Chelsea or Lynn."

While many of the younger generation of Peaches have moved elsewhere or forsaken the family business, counsins David and Donald Peach remain fervently loyal to the town. Donald explained, "every relative I ever had has lived in Marblehead. I'm proud I'm a Peach, and I'm proud I live in Marblehead." David, expressing his feelings about living in town says, "it's in our blood. Tradition directs that I be here. It is an incredible feeling to walk through the town and see my work and the work of my father and grandfathers before me."

The Peaches sense no special status by being descended from a founding family, stated Gordon, "I was too busy trying to make a living to be taken with being a Peach." But all the Peaches share an inherited wealth. Unlike the rich summer residents who built homes on the point settled by John, Sr., the wealth they share is their skill and heritage.

(Carin M. Gordon, when not practicing law in Salem, enjoys the beauty and history of Marblehead.) Sources: Interviews; The History and Traditions of Marblehead, Samuel Roads, Jr. 1897; Marblehead Historical Society files; Peach's Point, Marblehead, Robert E. Peabody, Essex Institute Historical Collection, 1966; Salem Evening News, 1931; Marblehead in the Year 1700, Sidney Perley, Essex Institute Historical Collection, 1911-1912; Records and Files of the Quarterly Courts of Essex County, Massachusetts, Vols. I - VIII.

(Carin G. Gordon grew up in Marblehead and now practices law in Salem.)

Sources: interviews; Marblehead Historical Society; "Marblehead in the Year 1700" by Sidney Perley, Essex Institute Historical Collections; "The History and Traditions of Marblehead" by Samuel Roads, Jr., 1897; Salem Evening News.