||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
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
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
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.