Biography of IMMIGRANT WILLIAM PEACH, PULASKI, NY
  RAGS TO RICHES 

 Many 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: erase@pacbell.net 

As ususual, for further information please contact the local 
Town Historians and Historical Socities 

        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.  William 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. 
       At first life for William went poorly.  Before 1859 William 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 best.
       By 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.  
       During the 1870’s several tragedies struck.  Henry Duel died as in 1880 Letitia called herself a widow.  She began keeping house for Michael Kelly, 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.  
       William 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 box factory. 
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.  
       Before 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. 
       Blessed 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 L. married Mildred Campbell.  Harold died at Deland, FL in April 1970.
       William 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.
       Then 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 state.
        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 Veteran’s memorial and public drinking fountain 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. 

SOURCES:

Carnrite, Alice L.  Our Neighbors Made Cheese. Pulaski: Pulaski Historical Musem, 1972.
Descendants of Oliver Richardson. Available [online]  [30 June 2003]
 Huntington, Metilill.  Bits from Pulaski.  Presentation for Pulaski’s Centennial Celebration.  1910.
 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 [online] http://genforum.genealogy.com/peach/ [9 May 2003]
 U.S. Census Geddes, Onondaga Co., NY 1880.
 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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