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History of Early American Landscape Design

William Peters

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William Peters (1702-1789) was an English lawyer who emigrated from Liverpool, England to Chester County, Pennsylvania, and built Belmont Mansion on the banks of the Schuylkill River, outside of Philadelphia.

The date of Peters's arrival in America is unknown, but he had established a law practice by 1739. He later served as a judge and held a number of public offices. Soon after his arrival in Philadelphia, Peters allied himself through marriage with a respected Philadelphia family. [1] 1742 he purchased a tract of land on the west bank of the Schuylkill River where he designed and built Belmont , a Palladian -style villa surrounded by extensive formal gardens. While serving as secretary of the Pennsylvania Land Office (1760-69), he supplemented his income and expanded his property holdings by raising warrant and patent fees and purchasing land under false names. A loyalist, Peters fled for England as war approached, having made a deed of trust placing his Pennsylvania properties in the name of his eldest son, Richard Peters. In 1777 Richard sought Benjamin Franklin ’s assistance in locating his father and providing him with desperately needed funds. Peters eventually settled in Knutsford, Cheshire, where he continued to pursue his interest in horticulture. In his 84th year, he sent parcels of flower seeds to his son and daughter in Philadelphia, informing them in a letter of January 8, 1787: “The seeds consist of an amazing variety of sorts, and if you are as fond of flowers as I am, they will afford you a great deal of pleasure and I shall be glad to hear from you how they succeed.” [2]


<Nellie Peters Black, Richard Peters, His Ancestors and Descendents: 1810-1889 (Atlanta: Foote & Davies, 1904): https://archive.org/details/richardpetershis00blac> References http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/William_Peters_(lawyer)

Donna B. Munger, Pennsylvania Land Records: A History and Guide for Research (Wilmington, Del.: Scholarly Resources, Inc.: 1991), 95-96: http://books.google.com/books?id=wy0Zzal8AzUC&pg=PA95&source=gbs_toc_r&cad=4#v=onepage&q&f=false J. Smith Futhey and Gilbert Cope, History of Chester County, Pennsylvania, with Genealogical and Biographical Sketches (Philadelphia: Louis H. Everts, 1881): https://archive.org/details/cu31924005813518 Evidence for Benj. Franklin episode: http://founders.archives.gov/?q=%22william%20peters%22&s=1111311111&sa=&r=9&sr=; http://founders.archives.gov/documents/Franklin/01-30-02-0165; etc.

--Robyn Asleson

  1. Royce Shingleton, Richard Peters: Champion of the New South (Macon, Ga.: Mercer University Press, 1985), 5, view on Zotero.
  2. Black, Nellie Peters, .1904.Richard Peters, His Ancestors and Descendents: 1810-1889 .Atlanta: Foote & Davies, 1904, 36.

Retrieved from "https://heald.nga.gov/mediawiki/index.php?title=William_Peters&oldid=7466"

History of Early American Landscape Design contributors, "William Peters," History of Early American Landscape Design, , https://heald.nga.gov/mediawiki/index.php?title=William_Peters&oldid=7466 (accessed December 11, 2023).

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