Thornrose Cemetery, Staunton, Virginia

William Madison Peyton was the only surviving child of John Howe Peyton and his first wife, Susanna Smith Madison. He was educated at Staunton Academy, Princeton, and Yale. He married Sarah “Sallie” A. E. Taylor in 1826 and lived in Staunton, Bath County, and for many years at Elmwood (now Elmwood Park) in Roanoke County, Virginia. William Madison Peyton lived in Albemarle County, Virginia from 1862 until his death. His obituary, transcribed below, was published in the Staunton Spectator on February 18, 1868. His brother, John Lewis Peyton, later erected a cenotaph in Thornrose Cemetery in his memory.


Died at the residence of Alex. P. Eskridge, Esq., in Montgomery County, Va., on Saturday, February 15, 1868, Col. William Madison Peyton, in the 64th year of his age.

Col. Peyton resided at Alta Vista in Albemarle County, but having been called to Abingdon by the death of his son-in-law, Hon. Walter Preston, he was returning home, and while on a visit to his brother-in-law, Mr. Eskridge, he was attacked by paralysis, which proved fatal.

Col. P. was the oldest son of the late John Howe Peyton of Staunton, and he left in our community many near relatives and many attached friends to whom he has been known from his boyhood. He married a daughter of Judge Allen Taylor, Chancellor of the Staunton bar.

He was best known in Virginia in connection with Roanoke County, where he lived for many years, and where he was distinguished as an agriculturist and as an able representative in the Virginia Legislature.

He was a pioneer in the development of the Cannel Coal interests of Western Virginia, where a town and extensive mines yet bear his name. This enterprise led him to remove to New York where he soon became well known as the President of the Old Dominion Society, and as such, the leader of Virginia sentiment in that city. He was in New York when the trouble of 1861 began and gained a high reputation as a writer in opposition to the secession of the South. When, however, contrary to his judgment and advice, secession was attempted and war followed, he left his business and his property in New York and came home to share the fortunes of his native State. He was too old and too infirm to render personal service, but he was accompanied by his only son who gallantly fought throughout the war for a cause in which his father could only suffer and endure.

Col. Peyton was well known in Virginia for his genial hospitality, pleasing address, refined tastes, high attainments, vigorous intellect, and clear integrity. He was a fair representative of that class of Virginia gentleman, whose passing away is one of the greatest misfortunes which threaten to overwhelm us.





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John Howe Peyton’s Montgomery Hall will finally be published in late spring, 2015!

The Library on this site has been updated and updates and new additions have been included in the Database. The Database additions represent formerly enslaved African-American members of the Anderson, Lucas, Bird/Byrd, Broady, Rayford, Foster, Jeffers/Jeffries, Campbell, and Davis families in the Virginia counties of Augusta, Bath, Botetourt, Roanoke, Albemarle, Mecklenburg, Washington, Nottoway, Amherst, and Amelia, and Kanawha County, West Virginia.

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Additions are being made to the Database. Probate and chancery records and the birth and death records of several Virginia counties have provided new information pertaining to many of the enslaved people included in the Database.

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New information has been added to Other Families at Montgomery Hall for the Donaghe, Walter, Kennedy, Chidester, Anderson, and Thomas families.

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The July 13 Montgomery Hall Homecoming benefitting the African-American Heritage Festival was a success! The wonderful coverage of the event by Staunton’s News Leader and Charlottesville’s NBC-29 was much appreciated. Thank you to the very talented Cheyenne Kody for working long hours on the graphic design of the timeline and Montgomery Hall history pamphlet. Jennifer Jones, Superintendent of Recreation at Staunton Parks & Recreation, worked impossibly long hours and was directly responsible for the success of the Homecoming. It was her enthusiasm for and interest in the history of Montgomery Hall that led to my researching and writing John Howe Peyton’s Montgomery Hall.

It was an honor to meet Helen Becks. The notebook she kept is the only record of Montgomery Hall as an African-American Park during the time of segregation. The food and beverages provided by the African-American Heritage Festival were enjoyed by all. Thank you to Frank Strassler, Executive Director of Historic Staunton Foundation, for allowing us to dispay copies of the T. J. Collins & Son drawings from the Collins Collection at HSF. I recently learned of a 1903 renovation of Montgomery Hall during the Walter family’s ownership and realized that some of the drawings and plans at HSF were from that time. These drawings and plans represent the only known detailed images of John Howe Peyton’s original Montgomery Hall.

George Sprinkel was so very gracious to travel to Richmond and Staunton to share his family’s history at Montgomery Hall and made my day in providing a photograph of his great-grandfather, Henry Dwight Peck.

We are hoping the Homecoming will become an annual event!


Henry Dwight Peck and his grandson, George Alsop Sprinkel, III, at Twin Oaks, Staunton, Virginia





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Please read the wonderful coverage of Montgomery Hall Park’s Homecoming provided by The News Leader, Staunton, Virginia:



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The Homecoming at Montgomery Hall Park will take place on Saturday, July 13 from 12:00 to 6:00 p.m. with proceeds from the sale of food and beverages at this free event benefitting the African-American Heritage Festival. I look forward to sharing details of Montgomery Hall’s rich and diverse history there from 12:30-1:30. I am also working with Jenny Jones, Superintendent of Recreation at Staunton Parks and Recreation to create a visual timeline of the history of the land, the plantation, the two houses, and all of the people who lived and worked there to be displayed at the Homecoming. Last Wednesday Jenny and I worked together to confirm recent details that have emerged in my research and will now be included when published in August as John Howe Peyton’s Montgomery Hall.

I know of no other park property that can trace its history from a plantation made successful by the efforts of the enslaved African-American people who lived there between 1822 and 1865 to a park created as a haven for and run by the African-American community in Staunton from 1946 to 1978. The nearly 150 acre core tract of land that comprises the present park was formerly known as the Montgomery Hall Farm tract, a portion of the 820 acre Montgomery Hall Plantation, well-known as the seat of the Honorable John Howe Peyton and named as a tribute to his young wife, Ann Montgomery Lewis, a great-granddaughter of John Lewis, founder of Staunton and Augusta County. Peyton and subsequent owners, William J. Shumate, William W. Donaghe, Henry D. Peck, Emma and Frank Walter, Bates Warren, John A. Kennedy, D. D. Chidester, and Alexander C. Thomas each left their mark as owners of the property and all share in Montgomery Hall’s history.

John Howe Peyton’s original Montgomery Hall residence, completed in 1824, was totally destroyed by fire on February 11, 1906 during the Walter family’s ownership. Recently, I discovered documents relating to a previously unknown renovation of and addition to the original house that have provided invaluable information for my book. It was long believed that the present Montgomery Hall was a combination of original and new construction. This is not the case. Both the design for the 1903 renovation and addition and the design of the new house were by T. J. Collins & Son, with the actual work completed by local contractors and sub-contractors under the Collins firm’s supervision. The present Montgomery Hall, completed in the spring of 1907, was built on the site of the former residence and includes features of the original house.

At the Homecoming, I will share the early history of Montgomery Hall as a mostly self-sufficient agricultural community, the crops and livestock raised on the farm, plantation operations, and the database I have created of the previously unknown enslaved African-American people associated with John Howe Peyton and William J. Shumate. There have been many owners and caretakers of the Montgomery Hall property, but the one constant spanning the years from slavery through segregation was the local African-American community’s connection to the land.

For more information about Montgomery Hall Park and the Montgomery Hall Park Homecoming, please visit Staunton’s Queen City Blog: http://bestparksandrecreationblog.com

For more information about the African-American Heritage Festival, please visit: http://www.stauntonafricanamericanfestival.com


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I found quite a few interesting and significant items this week and not too late for some of this new information to be included in John Howe Peyton’s Montgomery Hall:

  • New details about the lives of enslaved individuals (Scipio, Sarah Moore and her daughter, Henrietta, Nancy Moore, Eliza, daughter of Lucy, and Eliza’s child) and have already added some of these details to the Database.
  • T. J. Collins & Son designed a two-story addition and plans for renovation of Montgomery Hall in the spring of 1903 for Mr. and Mrs. Frank Walter. The firm of E. W. Stewart & Co. and other subcontractors completed the addition and other renovations and alterations based on these plans by the end of 1903. Several dependencies original to John Howe Peyton’s ownership were torn down at that time.
  • New information about the sale (in parcels of varying sizes) of Spring Farm by the executor of W. W. Donaghe, Sr.’s estate, including the 90 acres that became John Lewis Peyton’s Steephill in 1877 and the Gum Spring acreage (now Gypsy Hill Park) originally purchased by Staunton for the town water supply.
  • Peyton family correspondence relating to the reinterment of Peyton family members at Aquia Episcopal Church, including a description of the original gravesites at Stony Hill.
  • New details of William Madison Peyton’s life

One item made me smile: The words engraved on the brass collar worn by John Lewis Peyton’s dog, an enormous, but very gentle Mastiff:

“Let knaves, thieves, tramps, and scamps beware of coming near my Steephill lair. My name it simply is Forepaughs, my duty to defend the laws- Yes-sir e bob! I snaps and bites all trenchers on my master’s rights.”


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JOHN HOWE PEYTON: APRIL 27, 1778 – APRIL 3, 1847

John Howe Peyton Obituary

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