Moving Here From Rochester, Merchant Finds She’s Related To Early Pioneers, Many Others
By LIBBY CUDMORE
ONEONTA – When Jill Morgan-Meek first moved to Oneonta from Rochester, she would often drive down Lower Cross Road. “It relaxed me,” she said. “I was lonely, I didn’t know anybody here, but I always felt compelled to drive down that road.”
Six years later, she discovered that Lower Cross Road, between East Street and Wilber Lake Road, was once the site of her ancestral home.
“John Peet arrived in Stratford, Conn., from Duffield, Derbyshire, England, on the Hopewell in 1635,” she said. “His son, Joshua, moved to Oneonta prior to 1797. He was here for the first vote for the town to become Oneonta.”
Jill began researching her genealogy after a conversation with a cousin inspired her to get on Ancestry.com. “I started typing in info, and when I put in my mother’s name, Gladys Elaine Lybolt, a Wesley Peet came up,” she said. “I emailed him, and when he emailed me back, he confirmed we were cousins.”
Wesley’s findings had referenced Oneonta, and in looking at an old map at Colliersville Antiques, she saw a map detailing the land the Peets owned.
“Isaac was one of the pioneer settlers on Oneonta Creek and resided there for 70 years,” the Oneonta Herald wrote in the edition of Feb. 2, 1871. He was also an elected path master and fence viewer, town offices that have since disappeared.
Jill got in touch with Dawn Oliver, the owner of the former Peet homestead, who took her through the house and woods, including the family graveyard and the home’s original foundation.
Jill’s mom Gladys had grown up in Elmira and later moved to Knoxville, Pa., raising her family in Alden, Erie County, before she died in 1990. “She never mentioned Oneonta,” said Jill. “I know we went to the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown when we were kids, but we went through Herkimer, not Oneonta.”
Jill moved to the area with her husband, Philip, when he took a job at Ioxus in 2013.
Now the owner of Transitions Boutique on Dietz Street, she wasn’t finished finding local connections. The building is owned by Roger and Linda McPhail.
“We got talking, and Jill mentioned how she wondered if Mr. Dietz, who the street is named for, knew her relatives, the Peets,” said Linda. “My great-grandmother was Estella Anne Peet.”
“We’re cousins!” said Jill. “What are the odds of me coming to Oneonta and renting this building from Linda?”
Joshua’s son Isaac Peet had two sons, John Tabor and Henry Peet. Henry is Jill’s great-great-great grandfather; John is Linda’s great-great grandfather, and they are 13th and 12th generation Peets, respectively.
Linda, a Sidney native who moved to Oneonta in 1984, remembered visiting her grandparents on Chamberlain Hill. “My mom was always talking about the Peets,” she said. “I remember them talking about my grandmother Anne. She died in 1930; I wish I had known her.”
Wesley also turned Jill onto a book about the Peet family history that he had co-authored with Terry Charles Peet, and in it, they found Isaac Peet’s will, along with some family lore.
Joshua was known for killing black bears on the family farm, once, the papers reported, with a slug he made himself.
And in November 1886, an unfinished cornice on the Westcott block fell and killed John Peet while he was talking with Dr. Hosea Hamilton at his side door. His brother, Benjamin Shove Peet, as well as another man, were also injured in what the papers called a “curious accident.”
“I remember my mom telling me that story!” said Linda.
And through that history, Jill and Linda found out that the Peet family tree has a lot of leaves on it – including actress Amanda Peet and singer Jimmy Buffett.
Jill also found a copy of Campbell’s History of Oneonta at the Greater Oneonta Historical Society Auction. “I was dropping off some items and I saw the book,” she said. “I knew I had to have it!”
This spring, the two hope to find the second Peet graveyard, and Jill plans to continue going through old family photographs to try and identify as many Peets as possible.
“I thought my sister Lori and I were the last ones,” she said. “But now I have this whole new family.”