5.7.2023 [archived ~ originally published 5.24.2018]
The surname of Peck is familiar to the Deer River community and has been for nearly 130 years! In fact, the 1900 United States census verifies that there were almost 5, 000 head of household Pecks in the nation, and less than 200 Marcottes. And unlike many families that settled in the Deer River area at the turn of the century, the Peck surname goes back to at least 1693, where I found a gravestone in Cohasset, Massachusetts. Incidentally, that is less than 50 miles from Plymouth Rock where the Mayflower landed in 1620.
In the Deer River area, I discovered six different Peck families. Two are brothers, but if they or any others are related, it is many generations back. The brothers settled in Cass, later moving to Itasca. Two others that homesteaded, in northern Itasca County did not stay in the area. Many Pecks were born in Itasca. According to the 1905-1995 Minnesota Birth Index, there were fifty babies registered, some of which still reside in the area.
I am introducing them in the order in which they came to the area.
Warren Welcome Peck 1889
In late fall 1889, Warren Peck filed on an eighty-acre homestead in northern Itasca County. Born in Illinois in 1858, his parents, Hiram and Alminta were initially from Vermont. Warren was working in Stillwater, Minnesota in 1880, and after filing on the homestead, he married Sophia Olstad. Their first two children were born in the state, possibly on the property.
After living on the homestead for the minimal requirement of fourteen months, Warren took the cash option and paid $100 for the land. By 1895 he had moved his family to the North Dakota. Warren’s great-grandfather Welcome Peck (for whom he was named), fought in the Revolutionary War.
Eugene R. Peck 1891
According to the 1905 Minnesota State census, Eugene “Gene” Peck came to northern Minnesota from Wisconsin in about 1891 at the age of 23. His father Arthur H. had been born in Wisconsin, and his mother, Mary was from Scotland. In 1900 Gene was living in Cass County, employed as a day laborer. Probably in the fall of 1903, Gene filed on a 40-acre homestead in Cass County, not far from Mud Lak, and married. His wife Alice had a daughter, Mary, the following year.
In 1918 Gene and family moved from Mud Lake and leased property from Joe Krasky in Ball Club. Shortly after that, they moved to Grand Rapids where Gene was employed by Blandin paper mill, according to the 1920 and 1930 US census. Eugene’s father, Arthur served in the Civil War in the 1st Regiment, WI Infantry Co D, and was mustered out when he was wounded. The 1940 census finds Gene living at the home of the sheriff. He is a widower and identified as a prisoner. I verified with the Itasca County Historical Society that the address he was residing at was the home designated as the sheriff’s residence, and it was used as a jail.
Arthur H. Peck 1902
Arthur H. Peck is the younger (by nine years) brother of Eugene. In 1896 he moved to Minnesota and was living in Duluth by 1900. In April of that year, at the age of 24, he married Gertrude Day, and they filed on a 20-acre homestead in Cass County not far from his brother. After proving up on that homestead in 1909, Art filed on 120 acres in Township 146-26, sec 34, west of Oteneagen, and relocated his growing family. They had three sons and six daughters who lived to adulthood: Gertrude, Arthur, Mary, Ethel, Hazel, Robert, Richard, Fern, and Eva.
The grandparents of Gene and Art were from out east. Rufus was born in New Hampshire and Alameda, New York. Rufus and Alameda married in NY and had two children, before moving west to Wisconsin at the end of the 1830s.
Anna M. Peck 1907
Anna M. Gorenflo had filed on a homestead in the Big Fork Valley on July 5, 1907. It appears that she and her brother, Frank came to Itasca from the Brainerd area. When Anna was ready to prove up on her property the following year, she is listed in the ‘Notice for Publication’ as “Anna M. Peck, formerly Anna M Gorenflo of Bigfork. She named as witnesses: Orwin Van Dolah, Frank Gorenflo, James Pratt and William Kennedy, all of Bigfork.”
I could not locate any additional information on Anna Peck. I have no idea who she married and where she was by the 1910 US census. The property in her name was still listed on the 1916 plat map.
Harold Jay Peck 1911
Harold Jay Peck was born in Scott County in 1879. His father, Horace was from Vermont. Horace attended school in the east, became a lawyer and after his marriage moved to Shakopee. In later years he was county attorney. Harold was the middle child and only son.
Harold came to Itasca County in the early 1910s and filed a homestead on 77-acres near Ball Club. According to family, he also purchased land and started the first herd of registered Guernsey cows in the area. An advertisement in the Itasca News in March 1918 states, “Whose grandam has a record of 720 lbs. of butter in 1 years and whose dam with first calf has made 50 lbs. butter first month in milk. Will sell for a bargain price in order to keep him in the county. Pure white Leghorn Hatching Eggs for sale. H.J. Peck, Deer River, Minn.”
In about 1915, Harold married Grace Johnston, and they had two daughters, Patricia and Virginia. On the 1920 US census the Harold Pecks are enumerated as family number 42 in Township 145, and the Arthur Pecks, who had moved again, are family number 43! The two are also neighbors on the 1940 census, as well as Arthur Jr. and Richard, the grown sons of Art and Gertrude.
Harold was elected State Senator in 1930 and was instrumental in getting many projects critical to Deer River underway. The first was a paved road from Grand Rapids to Deer River instead of from Rapids to the east. He was the postmaster from Deer River from 1935 through WWII.
Neil Ira Peck 1936
The following article sums up how Neil Peck, born in 1910 near Fergus Falls, settled in Deer River.
Poultry Hatchery to be Opened Here
Deer River News 9-24-1936
“Neil I. Peck of Herman, Minnesota, a graduate of the North Dakota Agricultural College in Fargo, is planning to open a hatchery in Deer River next spring, with a new 35,000 egg capacity to start. He has leased the old creamery building for his plant.
Mr. Peck has spent some time here looking over the field and finally decided to locate. Express and post office reports show that many thousand chicks are shipped into Deer River every season. This can be avoided, and the money kept in the community, through the installation of a hatchery.
He is an experienced poultry grower and breeder as well as a hatchery operator. Peck’s birds have taken many first place prizes at county fairs and winter shows, as well as at the ND and Minnesota state fairs last year and this year. He is also a licensed poultry culler and asks owners who wish their flocks culled, to list names and numbers with The News.
In addition to operating his hatchery, Mr. Peck will handle some standard brands of poultry feed and will have the agency for Dr. Saulsbury’s celebrated poultry remedies. He has taken the prescribed courses in poultry disease at Dr. Saulsbury’s school.
Mr. Peck’s business venture will be a valuable asset to this community and has great possibilities of development. Further information will be published from time to time in this paper. Meanwhile, information for Mr. Peck can be left at this office.”
Neil did open the hatchery in the following spring, and it was a very successful family business. He returned to Herman briefly to marry Florence and the pair easily settled into the Deer River community. They had three children: James, Joan, and Jane.
As with all of the other Pecks, except the mysterious husband of Anna, Neil’s ancestors, great grandparents Charles and Lovica were from the east – New York. So, according to the information I compiled, the five families with the paternal surname of Peck, were from Vermont, New Hampshire, New York. I will let the Peck family historians determine at what point they are related!