William "Uncle Billy" Peyton (1792-1919)
By Henry Robert Burke
Copyright 1999. Henry Robert Burke - Marietta, Ohio
An early slave in the Mid-Ohio River Valley of "western" Virginia, was Mr. William "Uncle Billy" Peyton . Uncle Billy was born a slave in Prince William County, Virginia in 1792 while George Washington was President of the United States, and he died in Decatur Township, Washington County, Ohio, in 1919, during Woodrow Wilson's second term as President of the United States. William Peyton lived an incredible life span of 128 years! The World's oldest age on record is the130 year life span of Khfaf Lausuria a Russian in Abkhanzia, Georgia, in the Soviet Union.
Affectionately called "Uncle Billy", William Peyton was bought for $333.00 as a child, by George Creel, who owned a large plantation in Prince William County, Virginia. Billy was never sold again, but instead was handed down from generation to generation as a slave for the Creel family. He ended the slavery part of his life at the David Creel Plantation near the village of Davisville, Virginia, east of Parkersburg, West Virginia. Uncle Billy continued to live and work at the Creel Plantation after emancipation, until 1868, before moving to Decatur Township in Washington County, Ohio, where he bought a small farm and cleared it by himself at the age of 76 years.
Uncle Billy was not a temperate man, he moderately used liquor and tobacco most of his life. He had a passion for walking. Each year he walked about fifteen miles, to attend the Emancipation Day Celebration in Marietta, Ohio and each year he made a pilgrimage of forty miles back to the Creel Plantation to visit the family of his former master. Throughout his life he held the Creel family in high esteem, and often claimed that his back had never felt the lash.
Uncle Billy lived through the first one and one quarter century of United State's history; beginning with our first President George Washington, then successive Presidents John Adams, Thomas Jefferson, James Madison, James Monroe, John Quincy Adams, Andrew Jackson, Martin Van Buren, William H. Harrison, John Tyler, James K. Polk, Zachary Taylor, Millard Fillmore, Franklin Pierce, James Buchanan, Abraham Lincoln, Andrew Johnson, U.S. Grant, Rutherford B. Hays, James A. Garfield, Chester A. Arthur, Grover Cleveland (1st term), Benjamin Harrison, Grover Cleveland (2nd term), William McKinley, Theodore Roosevelt, William H. Taft, and the first term of Woodrow Wilson. He died during Wilson's second term as President!
Uncle Billy was a huge man who could out work any two ordinary men for most of his life. On his eightieth birthday Uncle Billy set a local record by splitting 320 fence rails in one day! He was 40 years older than his wife and out lived her by 28 years. When he was 119 years old he walked fifteen miles to catch the train to Davisville, West Virginia to visit the great great grandson of his original master for the last time. He stated, "I just want to tend the Creel's horses one more time".
The Creel family kept a record of William Peyton's birth date, and had it verified by Judge L.N. Tavenner at Parkersburg, West Virginia, in 1912, at which time Uncle Billy, at the age of 120 years, was proclaimed the oldest living person in the United States! William Peyton was survived by one son, J.E.C. Peyton and lived out his last few years with his granddaughter, Mrs. Eva Dalton of Torch, Washington County, Ohio. He is interred at the Antioch Church Cemetery in Decatur Township, Washington County, Ohio.
Henry Robert Burke,
The General Benjamin D. Fearing Sons of Union Civil War Veterans Camp #2, and the
OHIO BICENTENNIAL COMMISSION'S Underground Railroad and Civil War Advisory Councils
Phone: (740) 373-3125