According to his pension record, Peleg Peck was born at Scituate near Providence, RI on 24 September 1760. Genealogical sources indicate his parents were Thomas Peck (1727-1810) and second wife Dorothy Millard. Peleg was one of seven children including older siblings by Thomas’ first wife: Nathaniel, Abigail and Thomas and natural-born younger siblings Jacob, Peter and Dorothy. Seventy-two year old Peleg Peck’s 1832 pension application states “that he has a record of his age in his Family Bible, which he transcribed from his Father’s old Family Bible when a young man”. Sometime during his youth, the Peck family moved to Smithfield, RI where Peleg lived “during the war & after its close 10 years”. According to his 1832 testimony, at the onset of the American Revolution, fifteen year old Peleg Peck volunteered as a private attached to a company of minutemen and was called into service in January 1776 under Captain Andrew Waterman of Smithfield. Waterman commanded the 5th Company of Col. Henry Babcock’s “Regiment for Defense”. He marched to Providence Island where he was stationed about one month. The troops were then marched to Rhode Island “where he was stationed in different places to guard against the enemy, Col. Babcock having the general superintendence of the Troops”. After serving two months, Peck was “dismissed & Returned home”. Early in the fall of that year, Peleg Peck next enlisted at Smithfield and was “attached to Capt. David Gifford’s [Portsmouth] Company of Rhode Island State troops, Col. [John] Cook commanding”. According to the pension testimony, he “marched to and was stationed at Rhode Island where having remained for some time was driven off by the British troops and crossed over to Tivertown where he remained stationed until the expiration of his term of three months & was dismissed”.
Peleg Peck continues, “In the winter of 1777 [76-77] drafts were made on the Militia at Smithfield” and he took the place of a soldier who was drafted and served in his place as a substitute for one month. Unable to recall the soldier’s name, Peck recollects he “was marched to Warwick Neck, thence to North Kingston and different places along the shore”. At the end of his commitment, the seventeen year old again volunteered as a substitute for another long forgotten unnamed soldier for the term of one month and “continued in service at the same place” meaning Warwick Neck. Peck adds that he “also served at various other times not mentioned” as a substitute or volunteer for two or three weeks at a time. During the winter of 1777-78, Peleg Peck enlisted again at Smithfield for fifteen months under Lieutenant Randall and marched to Obdike New Town where he joined the company. Peck had served previously under Lieutenant Nehemiah Randall who was second in company command under Captain Andrew Waterman in 1776. Peck mentions that during his time there, he was “engaged for a considerable time collecting boats”. According to the pension record, Capt. Goodwin took command of Lt. Randall’s men at Tiverton where Peck was stationed until August of 1778. The aged veteran is probably referring to Captain Nathaniel Goodwin who served in Col. Theophilus Cotton’s Regiment. At some point about this time, Lt. Randall and his men were attached to Col. Archibald Crary’s Regiment of Rhode Island State Troops. Peleg Peck testifies he “was in Sullivan’s Battle on Rhode Island that year and was in the rear guard on the retreat off the island”. Peck adds he, “was soon after detailed into General Sullivan’s Life guard under Capt. Mann” at Providence where he served until the expiration of his term in the spring of 1779.
The rear guard action in which Peleg Peck participated was crucial to the successful retreat of American troops and it’s details are well documented by Benjamin Cowell in “Spirit of ’76 in Rhode Island” (1850). He writes “In the battle on the 29th [August 1778], many officers distinguished themselves by their coolness and courage,- Gen. Lovell, Gen. Glover, and Col. Jackson, of the Massachusetts troops, and Major Talbot of the Rhode Island forces. But there was one corps of Rhode Island troops called “Sullivan’s Life Guards,” who particularly distinguished themselves. This company was selected by LaFayette to cover the “rear guard” in the retreat, and was exposed to an incessant fire of the enemy. – Aaron Mann, of Providence, was then Sergeant and Commander, and distinguished himself by his spirited conduct and his bravery on this occasion; while in the act of flourishing his sword, he had one of his fingers shot away, but the only remark he made, said an eye witness, was “the d____ eternal souls shoot pretty close. Don’t mind, my boys, stick to ’em.” This eye witness was Levi Lee, of Cumberland, a member of the same corps. This Company suffered pretty badly in the retreat,—one of them was killed, (Obadiah Brown) and a number were seriously wounded, and one Charles Scott, was shot in the hip, and made a cripple for life.” Less than two weeks later, for his leadership and the bravery of soldiers under his command, Sergeant Mann was promoted in the field to the rank of Captain by General John Sullivan. “A Paye Abstract of Major Gen. Sullivan’s Life Guards, Commanded by Aaron Man Captaine from the 16th of December 1778 Untill the 16 March 1779 Three Months Aaron Man Capt, Levi Hoppin Lieut, George Potter Lieut, John Westcott Ensign, Whipple”, the only known muster roll for this company and formerly in the possession of Fred A. Arnold, Esq. of Providence, is published in “State of Rhode Island and Providence Plantations at the End of the Century, Vol 1” (1902) by Edward Field. It includes the name of Peleg Peck.
According to Peleg Peck’s pension testimony, “The year the American Vessels were burnt at Penobscot (July of 1779), he went to Boston and enlisted on board an American Vessel called the ‘Queen of France’ Commanded by Capt. Rathburn”. Departing Boston on 18 June 1779 under John Peck Rathbun, the Queen of France sailed in company with the Providence and Ranger cruising off the “Banks of Newfoundland in search of the British West Indies fleet”. Peck remembers that after remaining there awhile, the Continental Navy squadron “bore off towards England” but “fell in with a Danish ship & received information” leading them to return to the Grand Banks. About mid-July they encountered the Jamaican merchant fleet in dense fog. Under the nose of British warships protecting the fleet, the Americans took eleven prizes in secrecy before making their escape. Eight of the eleven vessels taken made Boston with the three Continental ships in August, the prize ships and cargoes selling for more than a million dollars. After making port and presumably collecting his prize share, Peleg Peck was “dismissed and returned home,” his wartime service completed.
Immediately upon his return from sea, nineteen year old Peleg Peck was married to Betsey Sweet, teenaged daughter of Freelove Wright and yeoman Jeremiah Sweet of Glocester, RI. Although one genealogical source suggests the marriage was held in Rhode Island on 13 August 1779, based on the timing of the frigate’s return, this date is suspected to be the first publication of their intentions of marriage. Making their home at Smithfield for the next fourteen years, Betsey Sweet Peck likely bore seven of their thirteen children in Rhode Island including: Abner born on 24 October 1780 who married Joanna Dewery and died on 2 May 1810; Joab born on 12 March 1782 and died 30 December 1841; Pardon born on 11 February 1784 who married Sophia Burnham and died on 4 July 1829; Freelove born on 13 November 1785 who married Ezra Cary, Lydia born on 7 June 1787 who married Eleazer Whipple; Thomas Peck born on 10 August 1789 who married Naomi Green and died 8 March 1862 and Betsey born 4 May 1791 who married Thomas Leonard and died in 1860. About the same time Betsey was born her maternal grandfather Jeremiah Sweet passed away. Sweet’s will dated 10 May 1788 and proved just three days after the birth of Betsey on 7 March 1791, mentions among others- both his daughter “Betty” and her husband, son-in-law Peleg Peck. According to the “History of the town of Smithfield” (1881), the following year in 1792 Peleg Peck was appointed Second Lieutenant of the Federal Protectors, a company of militia formed by the inhabitants of Smithfield.
After leaving his hometown of Smithfield about 1793, thirty-three year old Peleg Peck moved his family to Cooperstown in Otsego County, NY where he reportedly settled near Fly Creek. One genealogical source suggests a later 1795 move in contradiction to the pension testimony. This same source indicates the Peck family migrated to Otsego County with Jeremiah Dyer, son of Betsey Sweet Peck’s sister Patience, as well as other relatives including Peleg’s brother Jacob Peck; sister Dorothy with her husband William Rutenber and Silas Williams, husband of Betsey Sweet Peck’s mother’s sister Hannah. While in residence near Cooperstown, Betsey and Peleg likely had their next three oldest children: Alfred born on 20 February 1793 who died in 1860; twin sister Alfredia born on the same day and tenth child Augustus born on 14 September 1796 who died in 1816. After just three years there in about 1796, thirty-six year old Peck again moved to Richfield, NY where he resided for the next twenty-two years. The last three Peck children would be born at Richfield including: Hannah born 4 January 1799 who died in 1870; Peleg W. born on 25 May 1801 who married Mary Bradley and Dorastus born on 23 August 1803 who died on 18 June 1868. The 1800 Federal Census lists three boys (Thomas, Alfred and Augustus) under the age of ten, one boy (Pardon) between ten and fifteen and two young men (Abner and Joab) between sixteen and twenty-five years old residing in the Richfield household of Peleg Peck and his wife Betsey. In addition are three young girls under ten (Betsey, Alfreda and Hannah), one young woman (Lydia) between ten and fifteen years old. Fifteen year old Freelove is probably married and not living in her father’s household by this time.
About 1818, fifty-eight or so year old Peleg Peck moved yet again to Middlebury in Genesee County, NY where he resided until at least 1832. Near to their fifty-ninth wedding anniversary, Betsey Sweet Peck died at Richfield, NY on 14 August 1838, probably at the home of one of her children. Just shy of nine months later, seventy-eight year old Peleg Peck was married a second time to Susanna Howard, widow of John Howard who died four years earlier on 10 February 1834. The marriage was solemnized on 5 May 1839 by Justice of the Peace Orlando Kelly, Esq. at Attica, NY. The 1840 Federal Census records just two other persons living in the Attica household of Peleg Peck aside from himself, a female between the ages of 70 and 79 presumed to be his new bride Susanna and one male between thirty and thirty-nine years old, probably an unmarried son. Shortly after the couple’s tenth wedding anniversary, Continental Navy veteran Peleg Peck died at Attica, NY on 4 November 1849 at the age of eighty-nine. Based on data originally collected in 1964, Peck is reported by Patricia Law Hatcher in “Abstract of Graves of Revolutionary Patriots, Vol. 1-4” (1987) to be buried in the Attica Center Cemetery. However, a list of interments published in the March 1949 issue of “Historical Wyoming” does not include his name and a 1998 search of the cemetery by Deputy County Historian Doris Bannister apparently did not confirm his grave there. Peck’s mortuary notice appears in the Wyoming County Mirror. The 1850 Census sheds no light on the place of residence for the newly widowed wife of Peleg Peck as she is not to be found in the Middlebury households of either son- Jacob or Elias- both of whom appear in the pension records.
Susanna Peck first testifies in March of 1853 seeking a Revolutionary War Widow’s Pension based on her second husband’s Continental service on both land and sea. The pension application #W2426 includes a second affidavit filed two years later in April 1855. Mrs. Peck’s age in both sworn statements are inconsistent with her 7 December 1762 birthdate reported in the newspaper and supported by the Federal Census records of 1840 and 1860. The 1860 Federal Census reveals ninety-seven year old Susanna Peck is living in the Middlebury household of farmer Jacob Howard- the sixty-six year old son of her first husband- his wife Polly, two adult sons and three grandchildren. Her centennial birthday celebration is reported in the 17 December 1862 edition of the Wyoming County Mirror. “A centenarian – Mrs Susannah Peck, widow of Peleg Peck of Middlebury, reached her 100th birthday on the 7th inst. She was born in Greenbush, Albany County, and came to Middlebury about 27 years ago. John Howard, her first husband, died at the age of 84. Her second husband, Peleg Peck, died at the age of 90 years. He was a Revolutionary War soldier and she has drawn a pension of $80.00 since his death. She has seven children living, the oldest being 73. There were five generations of her family together on her birthday. She is now living with her son, Jacob Howard, near Dale, and retains all her faculties remarkably. Her memory, eye sight and hearing are all good. Her mode of living has always been plain, and she has performed a great deal of out-door labor. Mrs. Peck is of German origin, is small, compactly built, and apparently has a good chance to live a number of years yet. She is probably the oldest person in the county.” Mrs. Peleg Peck died just three months later at Middlebury, NY on 14 March 1863. Her resting place has not yet been located.