Peabody, Francis

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Francis Peabody was born at Boxford, Massachusetts on November 9, 1760. His relatives had come from England to Massachusetts in the 1600’s. Peabody’s father decided to move his family to Maugerville in 1762.

Around 1800, Francis Peabody moved to the Miramichi. At that time the Miramichi was a heavily forest-covered area. There were no roads. The only way to travel was by water. There were no churches, schools or bridges. The land where Chatham stands today was then in the hands of eight men. Each man had a piece of land between one hundred and two hundred acres.

On October 1, 1801, Francis Peabody bought a large piece of land for a small sum of money. The land was near the river’s edge. It was on this piece of land that Chatham was to grow.Today, this piece of land takes in the main business part of downtown Chatham between Water and Duke Streets.

Peabody named his new village Chatham. He did this to honor William Pitt, the Earl of Chatham. Pitt was a famous minister in the Government of England. His family was very important in England at that time. Mr. Peabody’s first wife was Miss Perley from London. After her death, he married for the second time. His second wife was Lydia Brooker. They married in 1808. He was forty-eight years old at the time. He had no children from these two marriages.

During these first years, Peabody’s business on the Miramichi continued to grow. Five ships were built in his shipyard. One of them burned in the Great Miramichi Fire in 1825. His shipyard was at England’s Hollow in the east end of Chatham. Peabody also ran a saw mill on the Cains River. The Cains River is a small river that empties into the Miramichi above Blackville.

Peabody was very well-liked. In business, he was known to be very just and fair. In 1827, his friends got an artist to make a large painting of Peabody. He was seventy-seven years old at the time. This painting was four feet by five feet. It was first put in the Kings Arms Hotel. This was done so the public could see it. Later, it was placed in the Peabody home. Today, this picture is in the Loggie Cultural Center in Chatham.

Francis Peabody died on July 4, 1841, at the age of eighty- one. At the time of his death, he was the most active businessman on the river. He was thought of as a fine gentleman as well.

Francis Peabody was important to Chatham for many reasons. When he first arrived, there was very little here except forest-covered land. Soon, he started shipbuilding, fishing, and mills for the use of the wood from the forest. More importantly, he set an example. Other men interested in these same things later came to Chatham. Truly, Francis Peabody can lay claim to the title, “The Father of Chatham.”


Information for this article was taken from the book "Francis Peabody" by Merle Wilson, Miramichi Literacy Writers, 1985.

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