A photograph of Jane Webb Peache

What are the things that make for a full life? Is it just primarily living to a ripe, old age? Or perhaps it’s the people we meet along the way? Maybe it is also about the experiences (however good, bad or mundane)

A photograph (Portraits & Poses: Album 4, #19) of Jane Peache who was dressed up in Victorian garb during the first Forest Festival in July of 1936.

A photograph (Portraits & Poses: Album 4, #19) of Jane Peache who was dressed up in Victorian garb during the first Forest Festival in July of 1936.

that we take in over our years?

For Jane L. Peache, one could probably surmise that she had lived a full life which in turn made her one of the more recognizable faces in Manistee throughout the late 19th and early 20th centuries.

Several weeks ago, I had the notion to pay homage to Women’s History Month while simultaneously attempting to take a closer look at some of the “lesser known” women of Manistee’s past. Women whose names are not as locally well-known today as say the Ramsdells or the Filers are.

For this third article in the series, I picked a random album from the museum’s collection titled, “Portraits & Poses: Album 4”, closed my eyes and flipped through it with my index finger ready to land on the first photograph of a woman that it willed. As most of the people are named in the albums, I would take whosever picture I landed on and use the museum’s various research resources to find out more about her life.

In performing this action for the third time, my finger landed on a 1936 photograph of Mrs. Jane Peache.

Jane Webb was born on October 25, 1845 in London, Ontario to Mr. and Mrs. William P. Webb. When she was a child her parents moved to Port Huron where she attended local schools. While growing up in Port Huron, one of her fellow classmates was none other than Thomas Edison. It was said that Jane, who often told stories of “poor Tom” (as she referred to him), felt sympathy because as she put it, “…he always seemed stupid and shy and his family were so hard up.”

In addition to Edison, it was said that Jane also met Abraham Lincoln in Detroit when she was a young girl and later would go on to meet Harriet Beecher Stowe.

Shortly after the Civil War, Jane married Port Huron resident named John Wixon. The young couple were only married one year when John passed away from tuberculosis which he had contracted while serving for the Northern Army at Libby Prison.

In the early 1870s, Jane married Thomas J. Peache who was born in London, England. Arriving in the United States in 1863, Thomas eventually found his way to Michigan after spending nearly a decade in Syracuse, New York. Upon learning the trade of a master mechanic, Thomas and Jane would eventually settle in Midland, for a period of time while Thomas worked at the mill of James Peters. By 1875, the couple had made the move to Manistee where they would live out the remainder of their days.

Thomas became the master mechanic for the businesses of local lumber baron, R.G. Peters, brother of James, and together he and Jane would become the parents of four girls with the family residing at 412 Elm St.

The beginning of the next century brought tragedy to the family as in 1901, Thomas was struck ill with a severe attack of grippe and passed away in February of that year. A brief sentence in his obituary describes his his connection to the community: “Though of a retiring nature Mr. Peache possessed such sterling qualities that he won the respect of amity of all those associated with him and his death will mean a very real loss to many.”

Jane never remarried but remained very active in the various organizations and social circles around Manistee. By the 1930s, all four of her daughters were married with only one (Dorothy Jensen) residing locally, with whom Jane lived with. In 1937, she celebrated her 92nd birthday. An article published in the Manistee News Advocate on October 25, 1937 provided well wishes as well as some brief details on the life of one of the city’s most well-known septuagenarians:

“While today was still in its early stages, telegrams and congratulatory messages had begun to arrive wishing Mrs. Thomas J. Peache every happiness on the occasion of her 92nd birthday. And the anniversary had not progressed many hours before the “birthday girl,” who perhaps is Manistee’s oldest and remarkable “young modern,” was walking downtown to do a little shopping and incidentally, impress many of her younger friends, who are years older in spirit, with her extremely youthful attitude and boundless energy.

“Still in complete possession of all of her faculties, Mrs. Peache never owned a pair of glasses until last year, when her constant reading and knitting of mittens and socks for the welfare, proved too great a strain on her eyes. She is keenly interested in people and makes a point of keeping up with political and war news.”

In August of 1938, Jane visited her daughter in L’Anse, Michigan. Her plan to return to Manistee in late September fell short when she suffered a fall which resulted in a fractured hip. After spending several weeks in the hospital she was later moved to her daughter’s house in L’Anse where she passed away from pneumonia on November 16, 1938.

Her obituary, which was published in the Manistee News Advocate on November 18, 1938, is a tribute to her life and her popularity within the community at large. A portion of that tribute follows:

“During her long life here her remarkable personality drew about her a large circle of devoted friends. She was a member of the Lakeside Club and of the Congregational Church, where she was active in all social and charity work. She was a lover of flowers and took much pleasure in her fine garden, but her great interest in life was people. During her later her years she was known not only to her family and intimate friends, but also to many acquaintances as ‘Grandmother Peache’ and her cheery philosophy, her generosity and her unfailing kindness won for her the affection and admiration of the whole community.”

After her funeral services were held at the First Congregational Church, her body was interred alongside her husband Thomas in Oak Grove Cemetery…the final quota to a life well lived.

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Posted by Mark Fedder

Mark Fedder is the executive director of the Manistee County Historical Musuem. He can be reached at (231) 723-5531 ormanisteemuseum@yahoo.com.

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