Rev. James Peeler – The stock from which the subject of this sketch descended came originally from the British isles, his paternal grandfather, Anthony Peeler, being a native of England who emigrated to America in an early day and settled in Georgia. He died in Jasper county, of that State, at the age of eighty-two.
James Peeler was born in Greene county, Georgia, February 13, 1817. His parents were Jacob and Sarah Martin Peeler, both natives of the same county. The father was a planter and miller by occupation and passed his life in the pursuit of these interests, principally planting.
He moved to Alabama about 1839 and resided for a number of years in Randolph county, that State. His death occurred in 1846, in the fiftieth year of his age, at the residence of his son, Dr. Anderson Peeler, then living at Grooverville, Florida.
He had served as a volunteer in the war of 1812, was a patriotic, industrious, useful citizen and devout Christian, being a lifelong member of the Methodist Church, in which he was for years a Class-leader. His widow, the mother of the subject if this sketch, survived him till 1854, dying at the home of her son-in-law, F. N. Carlisle, in Leon county, Florida, in the fifty-second year of her age.
Of their ten children nine became grown, all of whom married and filled useful places in society, three – Anderson Peeler, William Peeler and James Peeler – being ministers of the Methodist Church.
The last named, the subject of the notice, was reared in Georgia and Alabama, his boyhood and youth being passed on a farm and as clerk in a county store to the age of nineteen.
Believing himself called to the ministry of the church he took the first decisive step in August 1836, toward qualifying himself for the discharge of the responsible duties connected with the calling, and in April 1839, he was licensed to preach by authority of a quarterly conference presided over by Rev. S. B. Sawyer, and held in Randolph county, Alabama. He did local auxiliary work from that date till 1841, when he joined the Alabama Conference at Salem and entered actively into the labors of his church. From 1841 to 1849 he was with the Alabama Conference; he was then transferred to the Florida Conference, where he labored for more than ten years at Key West, Brunswick, Madison, Tallahassee and other points, interspersing his ministerial labors with teaching and investigations of theological and secular subjects.
While at Key West he turned his attention to the study of navigation, and in a short time became master of that science.
After moving to Tallassee he invented the “Peeler Plow,” an implement of husbandry which at the time gave promise of great improvement in farming operations, but which, on account of the unsettled condition of things brought on by the breaking out of the late war, never fulfilled these promises. Its inventor did enough with it, however, to demonstrate its merits, and, having patented it, disposed of some territory to good advantage. The principal deal with he made of this kind was the exchange of the unsold territory in Texas for a tract of 9,000 acres of land in Milam county, on account of which trade he finally became a citizen of this State. This tract lay adjacent to a quarter of a league which he had previously bought, and thus gave him a valuable body of land or one that was destined to become valuable, the trade being made early in the 1860s, before Texas soil had attracted the attention of the outside world, as it has done in recent years.
Rev. Mr. Peeler came to Texas in 1866 and settled in Milam county, where, on account of the impaired condition of his health, he followed outdoor pursuits for a few years, taking up surveying as his chief employment. In 1868 he connected himself with the Northwest Texas Conference and again entered upon ministerial work. He was so engaged until 1882, when, on account of his age and failing health, he was placed on the superannuated list, and has not since had any regular charge in the church, although he still preaches occasionally and takes a general interest in church work.
On January 18, 1836, Rev. Peeler married, in Muscogee county, Georgia, the lady whom he wedded being Mary Lawless, a daughter of Jones Lawless and a native of Putnam county, that State. This union has been blessed with the birth of eleven children, seven of whom became grown and five of whom are living. Those who reached maturity were Mrs. M. A. Bates, the widow of Dr. J. C. Bates, residing in Cameron; Anderson J. Peeler, an attorney, who died at Austin, November 3, 1886, having been for a number of years a prominent lawyer of the State and served as Assistant Attorney General of the State; Mrs. Sarah M. Joyce, the widow of A. J. Joyce, residing at Anson, Jones county; James M. Peeler, who died in the Confederate army during the late war; Mallard L. Peeler, living in New Orleans; Mrs. Ida J. Wulfjen of Greeley, Colorado; and John L. Peeler, a lawyer of Austin.
Mr. Peeler’s wise investments have enabled him to make ample provision for all of his children and still have plenty to keep himself in comfort during the remainder of his days. He divided up the bulk of his property as his children became of age and apportioned it among them, selling what he reserved for himself and placing the proceeds in a safe investment.
He has also been liberal with his means toward the church, having given in land and money to the support of the churches and educational institutions conducted under the auspices of the church.
His life has been an active, varied and exceptionally successful one, and in it there are many things worthy of careful study and imitation. One can speak within the bounds of reason and moderation, and say that he has lived much nearer than most men, even of his calling, to the teachings of that gospel which it was his privilege for so many years to proclaim; for not only has his voice been found always earnestly pleading for truth and righteousness, justice, benevolence, charity and all the kindred virtues and graces, but his hands have been swift and untiring in ministering to the pressing needs of those around him and to showing the beauty in practice in common life of these same virtues and graces.
He is an ardent temperance advocate, having been a member of every temperance organization within reach since early boyhood, and preached many sermons on that subject. He is also a Mason, joining that order in 1842 and being an active worker in it for years.
The Rev. Mr. Peeler was a volunteer in the late war, Confederate service, being Chaplain of the Twenty-eighth Georgia Regiment, Colquitt’s brigade, D. H. Hill’s division, Stonewall Jackson’s corps, and served in the valley of Virginia.
Mrs. Peeler, wife of the subject of this notice, died December 5, 1892, in the seventy-third year of her age, after a lingering illness of several months. She was a faithful wife and devoted mother, and truly devout Christian woman.
SOURCE: History of Texas, Together with a Biographical History of Milam, Williamson, Bastrop, Travis, Lee and Burleson Counties. (Chicago, IL: Lewis, 1893), p. 327-329.
We must say a special thank you to Earline Long-Zlotkowski of San Antonio, TX, for typing this biographical sketch for use on the Milam County TXGenWeb site.