About the Peyton Society of Virginia
The John Peyton Memorial Association -

In the middle of the 18th Century, John Peyton (1691-1760) lived a comfortable plantation life at “Stony Hill” in Stafford County. He was one of the leaders of his county, representing it in the House of Burgesses. He was also a Justice and a Vestryman of Overwharton Parish. As a young man he had been one of Governor Spotswood’s intrepid knights of the Golden Horseshoe. He was one of the re-builders of Aquia Church, and his name appears on the plaque in that church naming Vestrymen of the re-building year, 1757. In the private family cemetery on the plantation, John Peyton was buried and on either side of him were his two wives, Anne (Waye) Young and Elizabeth (Rowzee) Waller.
     His sons, John Rowzee Peyton (1754-1798) and Yelverton Peyton (1735-1795) succeeded him at “Stony Hill”, but in time their children scattered to other parts of Virginia and the property passed out of the family.
     In the course of time, vines and undergrowth covered the gravestones and the house became uninhabitable. The Union’s Army of Northern Virginia used the property as a staging area for the Battle of Fredericksburg in the War Between the States, when the bricks of the mansion were used for ovens and the marble grave slabs were used for preparing bread.
     In the spring of 1936, three of John Peyton’s descendants made a pilgrimage to “Stony Hill” and came away saddened by the ruins. They were Harry Peyton (1855-1939), and Robert Eden Peyton (1873-1949), both descendants of John’s son Henry, and Lawrence Washington Howe Peyton (1872-1949), descendant of John Peyton’s son John Rowzee. These cousins obtained permission to move John Peyton’s gravestone and remains to the Aquia Churchyard cemetery where there was a small Peyton section. Gravediggers were arranged for and plans were made for the re-interment. A few Sundays later, Mr. and Mrs. Harry Peyton, their son Tom Lewis Peyton and his wife, Nancy, and two children, Tom and Anne; Mr. and Mrs. Lawrence Peyton and their three children, Robert, Armistead, and Emily, all appeared at Aquia and witnessed the solemn burial of the remains of John Peyton, and those of his two wives, Anne’s on his right and Elizabeth’s on his left. Only one marked slab was recovered, namely that for John Peyton, but the inscription had been severely weathered. This was placed over his grave.
Several years later, Colonel Bernard Peyton, a close kinsman of the aforesaid Harry Peyton, and Bernard Peyton Chamberlain, a near kinsman of the aforesaid Lawrence Peyton, talked of having a memorial service at Aquia Church and the placing of a plaque on the tomb of John Peyton, inasmuch as Bishop Meade in his book on Virginia Churches had listed the inscription on the gravestone. This idea led to a discussion with many Peytons and plans were made to have a meeting at Aquia Church on May 18, 1952, the 192nd anniversary of the death of John Peyton. Notices of the meeting were sent to as many of the descendants of John Peyton as could be located. Unfortunately, the earlier leaders, Harry Peyton, Robert E. Peyton, and Lawrence W. H. Peyton had died in the meanwhile.
     At the 1952 meeting, the plaque containing the original inscription was placed on John Peyton’s marble tombstone in a proper ceremony. At a business meeting following the services it was decided to form an association of John Peyton’s descendants and to call it “The John Peyton Memorial Association.” It was left to future determination by correspondence whether the group should attempt an annual meeting at Aquia, and whether to mark by proper stones and inscriptions the graves of the two wives. Nearly 40 people attending this initial meeting and were recorded as being charter members of the Association.
     In the course of the next few years, the tombstones and inscriptions for the wives were provided and placed. Annual arrangements with the Aquia Church for a Peyton Day in May of each year, on the Sunday nearest John Peyton’s death date of May 18th, were made. Archives of the family for recording births, marriages, and deaths were set up, and genealogical research was instituted to further develop the pedigree lines of the Peytons in this branch of the family. The mailing lists of the Association were increased to about 95 persons. One of our members, Bernard Peyton, made a present to the Alderman Memorial Library of the University of Virginia, of a chart in color of the Peyton Family Pedigree in England, made by the College of Heralds in 1688. Added to the chart was an American extension of the family, made by Bernard Richard Peyton of England, and Herman Bernard Peyton of California (the donor’s uncle). This was placed in the Library where it would always be available for examination by any Peyton, and a copy (not in color) was given to the Association.
The John Peyton Memorial Association was established as a rather informal family organization, having only a chairman, a secretary, no by-laws, and very minimal dues (initially $2.00 per member). Voluntary contributions were solicited from the membership for various projects of the Association. In the beginning these included: financial assistance to the Aquia Association for the upkeep of Aquia Church, for restoration work at St. Andrew’s Church, Isleham, especially St. Catherine’s Chapel where many Peytons were buried, and to a lesser extent, for repairs at the Parish Church at Stoke Lyne, Oxfordshire; also, research work in England and America on the various Peyton lines, seeking to develop history out of tradition and accuracy out of myth.
     Eventually we began welcoming as members descendants of Valentine Peyton (1686-1751), brother of John Peyton, of “Stony Hill”, and still later, Peytons from other branches inasmuch as there was no known other organization of Peyton family members.
In 1958, the Secretary and his daughter Elsie made a trip to England and had the pleasure of meeting a great many British Peytons and in laying the groundwork for a long talk of a family gathering in the British Isles. Among the Peytons who entertained them were Major Derek Charles Wakehurst Peyton (now known to many Peytons as “Cousin Charles”); Harry N. Peyton, of Kent; John Peyton of Lavenham, Suffolk; John W. W. Peyton, then M.P. from Yeovil, Somerset; and Sir Algernon Peyton, Bt., of “Swifts’ House”, Oxfordshire. They were also guests of the Reverend and Mrs. Brian Goodchild, at Isleham, Cambridgeshire, and of Mr. and Mrs. Russell Ross, then owners of “Peyton Hall”, at Boxford in Suffolk.
In March 1959, Colonel Bernard Peyton, our first Chairman, died. The special project of that year was a memorial present to Aquia Church for a Parish House in honor of Colonel Peyton.
Our second Chairman, elected at the 1959 meeting was Commodore Thomas Green Peyton, of the John Rowzee Peyton line, and a charter member of the Association.
     In 1961, the new Parish House at the Aquia Church was opened and dedicated. Lunch following the Association’s Annual Meeting was served. We also developed an informal “gathering of the clan” near the Parish House just before lunch, when over a reviving drink many Peytons could come to know each other better.
On June 28, 1961, our second chairman died. His successor, duly elected at the 1962 Annual Meeting, was Richard Catlett Peyton, a charter member of the Association and eldest son of the late Lawrence W. H. Peyton. Lawrence Peyton was one of the three cousins who met at Aquia in 1936 and arranged for the removal of the remains of John Peyton and his two wives from the “Stony Hill” cemetery to Aquia Churchyard. This Annual Meeting marked the first visit of “Cousin Charles” to one of our meetings and during his stay in this country several members of the Association were happy to have him visit their homes. Also at the 1962 annual meeting, a new office of Treasurer was created.
At the 1964 Annual Meeting, another English cousin attended, namely, Miss Adela M. G. Peyton, of London, a near kinsman of “Cousin Charles,” and later in the year a visit by Lady Peyton (Joan Dugdale Peyton), widow of the late Sir Algernon Peyton, 7th Baronet of Doddington. Lady Peyton’s visit gave the American Peytons another opportunity to rally to the colors and show our hospitality to a charming guest.
     By 1967, an idea was gaining a substantial following, namely that our group should seek a reunion in England with our “cousins” there. In 1968, a plan was formulated for such a trip, and during the year it developed considerable momentum. Finally, on May 6, 1969, a group of about 35 people flew to England for a week’s tour around Peyton areas. The whole trip was enormously successful. “Cousin Charles” was our Grand Marshal and there was little of London, Cambridge, and Suffolk that we did not see. Visits were made to Isleham, Doddlington, and “Peyton Hall” in Suffok, to Bury St. Edmunds, Lavenham, to “Wakehurst Place” (Cousin Charles’ ancestral home, now under the National Trust), and to a great service held in St. Andrew’s Church at Isleham. There we dedicated a new bell, the sixth that Peytons from all over the world helped to provide and which was pealed on this occasion. Our reception by the Lord Mayor of London and our wind-up banquet in a House of Commons private dining room, at which the Rt. Hon. John W. W. Peyton, M.P., was toastmaster, left us all enthusiastic champions of the “hands-across-the-sea” policy. In appreciation of his wonderful work in restoring the Peyton chapel in St. Andrew’s Church at Isleham we gave the Rector, the Reverend Brian Goodchild, and Mrs. Goodchild a trip to America, to arrive in time for our meeting at Aquia.
     In 1970, our Chairman, Richard Catlett Peyton died. As our fourth chairman, we elected Tom Lewis Peyton, a descendant of Henry Peyton, a son of John Peyton of “Stony Hill”.

The Peyton Society of Virginia -

A noteworthy decision was made at the 1971 meeting, namely to enlarge and formalize our group under the name of the Peyton Society of Virginia, to which any descendant of an 18th Century or earlier Virginia Peyton could be admitted as a member. All members of the John Peyton Memorial Association were invited to apply for membership in the new organization by furnishing the required genealogical data. The election of officers and adoption of a constitution were deferred to the next Annual Meeting.
     In 1971, several of our English “cousins” were invited to come over and visit us and see again many of those who had gone over in 1969. “Cousin Charles” alone was able to come, but a large group of the 1969 voyagers were on hand to welcome him and to entertain him in the days following our meeting at Aquia.
In 1972, members took actions which formalized the organization and procedures of the Peyton Society of Virginia. The following officers were authorized: President, Vice-President, Secretary General, Treasurer, and Historian, plus an Executive Committee of the officers and two elected members at large. Also a new procedure for membership application was adopted. A committee was directed to present a recommendation for a Constitution and By-Laws at the 1973 Annual Meeting.
In 1973, the Constitution and By-Laws were duly adopted. Also a new officer was added, namely, that of Genealogist. We then had regular members, life members, honorary members (elected at an Annual Meeting) and associate members (the spouse of a deceased member or a Peyton who could not present acceptable proof of descent from an 18th Century Virginia Peyton). Members of the original John Peyton Memorial Association who did not present their genealogical record on an application for membership in the Peyton Society of Virginia were no longer considered as members of the Society.
In 1975, two plans were approved, namely to publish a family genealogical book in 1976 and to have another reunion in England in 1977.
In early February 1976, the book “The Peytons of Virginia” was subsequently completed, printed, and distributed. In a circular letter to the membership, the book was described as an “interim” publication: “Further, that it is hoped that this first volume will be followed in later years by others, presenting more of the data accumulated on the family.” All copies of the book were sold within several years. Discussions about a new book started almost immediately.
     In 1977, the second family tour of England took place immediately prior to the annual meeting. Fifty family members spent a week touring central England, joined by Peytons from England, Australia, and Belgium. Many new friends were made and old acquaintances renewed during the trip.
In 1978, the 27th Annual Meeting was one of our largest attended, with over 100 present. It was announced that “Cousin Charles” had become Lord of the Manor at Isleham.
     In 1980, the 29th Annual Meeting was again exceptionally well attended. Attendees included 12 visitors from outside the US who also attended the first Society-sponsored tour of places in Virginia of special interest to the family. It started immediately after the annual meeting. There was much enthusiasm from the participants and the tour was judged a great success.
     On June 19, 1983 Bernard Peyton Chamberlain died. He was a founder of our Society and clearly the principal organizing and managing element in developing it over the years. Most of the keystone features of the Society are the result of his developing it over the years.

At our May 1984 Annual Meeting our special visitor again was “Cousin Charles” whose trip included planning discussions for our Society’s third trip to England.
In 1986 after our 35th Annual Meeting, 59 members made the third Society-sponsored trip to England.
In December 1988, the first Society Newsletter was distributed.
The 40th Annual Meeting in May 1991 was shortly followed by the fourth Society sponsored trip to England in June. The trip followed a pattern similar to those conducted previously.
A repeat of our 1980 tour of Virginia sites for Society members and guests from overseas was held as an extension of our 1993, 42nd Annual Meeting. A bus load of members from various parts of the US and three visitors from England was conducted on a week long trip.
     In June 1997, the fifth Society sponsored trip to England was organized. Thirty travelers from the US met with a number of family members in England and were joined at various parts of the visit.
On August 1, 2002, “Cousin Charles” died at his home in Sanderstead, Surrey. A tribute to the esteem with which he was held and to his many contributions to this Society and to the Peyton family at large was expressed in an article in our March 2003 Newsletter.