Monday, February 17, 2014

(ROBERTS) My first slave-owners! (Although I use the term "owners" loosely)

After 13 years of family history research, I have finally found some ancestors who owned slaves. I have long been proud of my Northern roots and my family's lack of involvement in slavery. And, after discovering this couple, I am still proud.
Rev. Simon Peter

Simon Peter married Elizabeth Hannah Hughes in 1822. They were both born and raised in "slave states": he in Kentucky, she in Tennessee. Simon was a minister for the Methodist Episcopal Church. After their marriage, he preached in the area for six additional years, at which point the couple "removed..., with a view of locating somewhere on the free soil of Illinois."1 According to one source, Simon left the South "because of his bitter opposition to slavery"2.

And so we come to the slave "ownership." A book documenting prominent Tennessee families includes this comment:  “Elizabeth Hughes, who married Rev. Simon Peter... removed to Illinois, carrying with them several valuable slaves and emancipating them because they were convinced the institution of slavery was wrong. It need not be added that the courage to do right under such
Elizabeth Hannah Hughes Peter
temptations sustained them in a life of usefulness and great prosperity.”

Elizabeth's third cousin was also opposed to slavery, famously so. In 1864 he wrote, "If slavery is not wrong, nothing is wrong."4 Shortly thereafter, he worked with Congress to pass the 13th Amendment, abolishing slavery. His name? Abraham Lincoln.5 [Incidentally, we are also distant cousins of Mitt Romney through the same line.] 

Simon and Elizabeth had closer relatives also involved in the Civil War. Two of their sons "yielded to the voice of conscience, and their country's call"6 and served on the Union side. Both gave their lives fighting for the country they loved, and for the freedom of millions. Sadly, one died in battle in his mother's own home state--Tennessee.

In every article I have read, Simon, Elizabeth, and their children, are praised for their uprightness, their community service, and their devotion to doing right. They are among my noblest ancestors, and I am proud to be descended from Simon and Elizabeth Peter.

Line of descent:
Simon Peter (1792-1877) [my 4th-great grandfather]
Simon J Peter (1836-1923)
William H Peter (1868-1923)
Earl Raymond Peter(s) (1893-1963)
Dolores Mae Peters Roberts (1927-1992)

1) "The Story of the Peter Family in America," compiled by Stephen B. Peter, p. 21, Carlinville obituary. Available from the Family History Library as a PDF download, see [Hereafter cited as "Peter Family"]
2) "Peter Family", p. 23, quoting "There the Heart Is, A History of Brighton, Illinois," by Martha A. Bentley, 1965, p. 53
3) Sketches of Prominent Tennesseans: Containing Biographies and Records of Many of the Families who Have Attained Prominence in Tennessee (Google eBook), p. 231 [I am well aware that this implies that Elizabeth's parents owned slaves, and I still love them and think they're wonderful. I certainly don't have any living relatives who are perfect, so I don't expect that from the dead ones either. :) ]
5) This chart, showing the relationship between Elizabeth Hughes Peter and Abraham Lincoln is from "Peter Family," p. 27

6) "Peter Family," p. 44, "Letter to the Editor"

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