William Peacock – Bicentennial Biography No. 4

Bicentennial Biographies is a not-for-profit radio project designed to raise awareness and increase interest in local history. It is brought to you as a public service by the Chautauqua County Historical Society throughout 2011 to celebrate the county’s 200th birthday. To learn more, visit www.McClurgMuseum.org or contact your local historical society.

Portrait of William Peacock, from Young's History of Chautauqua County - 1875

Judge William Peacock was born in 1780 near New York City in the midst of the American Revolution. He first came to Chautauqua County in 1804 as a land agent for the Holland Land Company and was charged with surveying the area around present-day Mayville. It’s said that he did such a fine job with this task that no corrections were needed. In 1810, Peacock became resident agent of the Holland Land Company and placed in full charge of its dealings throughout the Chautauqua area. For the next 25 years, Peacock not only worked as a land agent but also served a county court judge, county treasurer, and surveyor for the western portion of the Erie Canal.

In 1836 a group of disgruntled land owners organized a raid on the Land Company office in Mayville. Afterward, the Land Company made the decision to move the office to Westfield and Peacock stepped down as resident agent. In the following years, Peacock continued to live in Mayville and remained involved in various local and state affairs. He passed away on Feb. 21, 1877, a day before his 98th birthday. When he died he left an estate of around $79,000, making him one of the wealthiest men in Chautauqua County.

Ref: Young’s History of Chautauqua County (1875); William J. Doty, former Chautauqua County Treasurer; Jack Ericson, Chautauqua County Historical Society

– J. Sample

Update: Jan 15, 2011 – Additional information on Peacock can be found in the article “History of the Portage Trail” by Herbert F. Hern and originally presented in the Portage Trail Handbook. -j.s.

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