of IMMIGRANT WILLIAM PEACH, PULASKI, NY
RAGS TO RICHES
thanks to Esther Rancier for sharing her information on the BRACE
family. Esther is researching in Richland and Mexico the Soul/Soule,
Brace and Daniel P. Smith families, and would appreciate
hearing from anyone researching these surnames.
Esther Rancier at: firstname.lastname@example.org
As usual, for further information please contact
the local Town Historians
and Historical Societies
A most enduring American folktale involves the poor immigrant coming to
America to make a fortune. Oswego County, NY had a number of such
people. Wiliam Peach who migrated from England in 1856 created just
one of these happy sagas.
By 1860 William had become a naturalized American citizen. He settled
at Richland, NY for reasons probably having something to do with cows.
The economy of Oswego County then and now to some extent depended on its
diary farmers. Profitable herds made money which the owners used
to buy industrial goods. With the cheap waterpower available in the
area the factories grew needing more workers.
first life for William went poorly. Before 1859, Wiliam married Mary
Willett(?). She may not have been the best choice as she came with
a mother, Ann Willett, born in Ireland, age 47. In the 1860 Richland
census the household contained William, age 25, a day laborer, born in
England; his wife Mary, age 20, born in New York; a son William, age 1
and Ann Willett. William estimated his net worth to be $50.
Most of his day work occurred in a local tannery, an unpleasant job at
the 1870 Richland census things were not much improved. William’s
net worth had doubled to $100. He worked as a plasterer, hard work
for low pay. His household had grown by four persons: William, age
34; Mary, age 29; William J., age 11; Frank W., age 9; Mary, age
7; Ann Willett, age 59 plus, Henry Duel, age 55, a railroad worker, born in Vermont
and his wife, Letitia, age 49, born in Ireland. Wife, Mary declared
that her mother was foreign born, building a stronger case that Ann Willett
was indeed her mother. Ann herself stated that she was “retired,”
not a reasonable remark for a servant. As for the Duel couple, it seemed
highly probable they were Ann’s sister and brother in law. Letitia,
like Ann, was born in Ireland. Two related couples often lived together
to cut costs.
the 1870’s several tragedies struck. Henry Duel died as in 1880
Letitia called herself a widow. She began keeping house for Michael
a sailor, age 23, who was called her son. Letitia apparently had an earlier
marriage before Henry Duel.
Mary (Willett) Peach also died. At which point Ann Willett was asked,
or decided to leave the Peach household. Evidence suggested that
she might be the Ann Willett, age 70, born in Ireland residing at the St.
Joseph Orphan Asylum & House of Providence at Geddes, NY. This
institution run by Sister Rose Garvey from Ireland housed many older widowed
and single Irish women.
Peach, alone with his two youngest children, began a new life by remarrying.
His choice was Fanny J. ____ born in New York State but, with an English
mother. William in 1880 was plying the stonemason trade. His
son, Frank W., age 19, had employment as a blacksmith. Daughter, Mary,
then called Maggie, age 17, like so many of her neighbors worked in a nearby
Earlier in 1873 at age 14, son William
J. Peach dropped out of school. The lad went to work in a Pulaski
cheese factory managed by W. C. Holmen on lower Maple Ave. By age
18, William J. managed four cheese factories. Cheese was a perfect
product to make each summer when there was always an overproduction of
milk. There also was an abundance of icy spring water to cool the milk.
Fifty cheese factories existed in Oswego County by 1871.
1879 the young man married Jeannette Besanson of West Monroe, NY.
They had a daughter Maggie, age 1, in the 1880 West Monroe census which
listed Jeannette as Nellie. She had another child, Arthur F. Peach, born
8 October 1884. However, she died young before 1892. On 29
January 1892, William J. married again Ellen Blanche Richardson, daughter
of Henry Dayton Richardson.
In 1900 William, married 21 years to Fanny J., was 66 years old, living
in Pulaski. He still labored as a mason. Fanny J. had given
birth to two sons: John C., born October 1882 and Harold L., born 22 February
1894. For William, his American dream had come true. He owned
his own home in town without a mortgage.
with longevity in 1920 the 85-year old William still resided with Fanny
J. who was 65. He had changed his life as a poor immigrant to one
of comfort beyond his modest dreams. He had watched his children
prosper and one son had become a rich and powerful figure in Pulaski.
In 1920 William and Fanny’s son, John C., age 37, worked as a watch- maker
for a jewelry store. He had married Emily, age 37. Their son,
John H. was 7 years old. John’s younger brother, Harold
Mildred Campbell. Harold died at Deland, FL in April 1970.
J. became a cheese broker by age 25. William bought cheese from all
the small local cheese makers in Oswego, Jefferson and St. Lawrence Counties.
he sold it in Montreal, New York and Philadelphia.
In 1900 he had been married 8 years to Ellen. They lived next to Brayton
Salisbury, a cheese manufacturer.
Salisbury and Peach formed a partnership in 1902. The team owned
and operated five cheese factories. Beyond the partnership William
J. ran plants at Fulton, Pulaski, Baldwinsville and other locations.
The partners willingly taught cheese making to others. William J.’s
knowledge of the industry and its craft became recognized throughout the
During this period cheese makers sold cheese at 6 to 8 cents per pound.
By 1911 William J.’s business netted nearly $1 million.
In the 1910 Pulaski census William’s 18-year marriage to Ellen had produced
two children, but only Mildred Richardson Peach, age 16, survived.
William had moved his family into what is now called the Peach-Thomas House
built in 1897 by Architect Gordon Wright of Syracuse, NY. The exterior
was painted peach with a cream trim. Inside the salon parlor was
frescoed in salmon pink. The library was covered in satin-finished
paper of an old rose hue. The look of the house remains quite distinctive.
When people go by on Lake St., the tower, bay window and veranda catch
all eyes. Peach eventually sold the home to Robert Thomas.
In 1900 William J. was elected Mayor of Pulaski where he served in 1900-04;
1910-14 and 1917-21. He earned terms as a village trustee for 15
years. For over 10 years he was on the Board of Education.
Historian Hope Marston described
William J. as “one of Pulaski’s most beloved, benevolent citizens.”
The local Pulaski Democrat newspaper
once reported regarding William J. “no one ever went to him in distress
and went away unaided.”
About 1915 son, Arthur F. Peach joined
his father in the cheese business. Later they became business partners
as W. J. Peach & Son.
W. J.’s best remembered contributions to Pulaski are, the
and public drinking fountain is still in South Park. 163 men from Pulaski
served in World War I. The memorial was dedicated with a formal ceremony
on 30 May 1925. Sadly, William J. had died 27 August 1923.
Son, Arthur F. in 1928 merged all
the cheese businesses with Kraft-Phoenix Cheese. Today this corporation
is the well-known Kraft Foods.
Carnrite, Alice L. Our Neighbors
Made Cheese. Pulaski: Pulaski Historical Museum, 1972.
Descendants of Oliver Richardson. Available
[30 June 2003]
Huntington, Metilill. Bits
from Pulaski. Presentation for Pulaski’s Centennial Celebration.
Marston, Hope Irvin. Salmon
River Odyssey; The Town of Richland and Its Hamlets. Syracuse: Pulaski
Historical Society, 2002.
Masonic Directory 1908, Pulaski,
New York. Pulaski: Seamans, 1908.
Peach Family Genealogy Forum. Available
[9 May 2003]
U.S. Census Geddes, Onondaga Co.,
U.S. Census Pulaski, Oswego Co.,
NY 1880, 1900, 1910 & 1920.
U.S. Census Richland, Oswego Co.,
NY 1860 & 1870.
U.S. Census West Monroe, Oswego
Co., NY 1880.
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