By Judy Deeter

Peterson has long been a familiar and important name in Miami County. On March 4th, sisters Marilyn Peterson Moore and Nancy Peterson Schumacher and Nancy’s husband Robert Schumacher met with Troy Historical Society and Miami County Barn Survey Group members Wes and Rosemary Jones and Judy Deeter to tell their family history. Two family lines have lived in Miami County nearly 200 years. The ladies are the children of Harry and Kathryn Heck Peterson.

Ancestor Ralph Peterson came to Miami County from Hamilton County in 1827 and settled at Staunton Township. He had previously married Sarah Hardenbrook in 1822.

Peterson secured land from the government (what was then wilderness land), cut down trees, built a log cabin and started a farm. He was also a barrel maker, an agent for the Dayton-Michigan Railroad, a Miami County Commissioner and he supervised the building of the first bridges and jail in the County.

As years went by, both his farm and his family expanded. Eventually, they were the parents of eleven children. Their son, John G. who was born in 1831, was the ancestor of the Marilyn Moore and Nancy Schumacher.

During the Civil War, John and brothers William and Jacob served with the Union Army. William was a prisoner at the infamous Libby and Andersonville prisons and is said to have gone from 130 pounds to 45 pounds during that time. Although his recovery was difficult, he eventually he became a storekeeper of the Ferrington Distillery and one of the first free rural mail carriers in Piqua.

John was both a stone-cutter and farmer. He used his stone-cutting skills on the first Piqua High School building. He married Catherine P. Brooks on December 31, 1856. The family believes she was a cousin to Dr. Phillips Brooks, who wrote the song “O Little Town of Bethlehem”. They had four children.

Their son Willis married Ida Houser in November 1833. Her ancestors were also early Miami County residents. Ida Houser’s ancestor Martin Houser came to Miami County in the early 1800s—sometime prior to the War of 1812. The family had come to Ohio from Virginia. At first they settled on land north of Dayton then moved to Spring Creek Township in Miami County. Their son Fred Roy Peterson was the grandfather of Marilyn Moore and Nancy Schumacher and Fred’s son Harry their father.

The Peterson family currently owns three farms in Staunton Township. The home of Robert and Nancy Peterson Schumacher was inherited through the Peterson family. It was the home of their ancestor John Peterson.

Long ago, the farmhouse was located at the back of the property. In the mid-1890s, sparks from a passing train set the house on fire. Part of the house burned, but part was saved and moved to the front of the property where it would be safe from train sparks. Today, the house on the property is a combination of the “saved” part of the house and additions made over the years. The sisters do not know exactly when the house was moved, but they have a fire arbitration paper between their ancestor John G. Peterson and the Dayton and Michigan Railroad dated 1895. This paper outlines the settlement for damages by the railroad for the damaged house.

Until recently, the farm has been a dairy farm. Family members recall, however, that their Grandfather (Fred) Roy Peterson raised and tomatoes sold from the house. Other crops grown by the family include: corn, beans, alfalfa, wheat, oats, and soybeans.

When times were hard, tramps from the trains used to ask for food. The tramps did not work for food but were simply people “passing through”.

During the interview stories of good times and bad times were told—a look at nearly two centuries of family life in Miami County. At the end of the Barn Survey Group Project, photographs, a barn survey, and a tape of the interview will be given to the Troy Historical Society; documenting long ago times and a long ago way of life.

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