We know more about Peter Compton’s family and his life than any other of the ten Compton children—even more than my ancestor, his youngest sister Hannah who started all this. From the records that have survived, Peter seems to be the most outgoing and take-charge person of the siblings. Not surprisingly, his children who survived to adulthood gave every evidence of having been cut from the same fabric. They were talented and industrious and made a clear imprint on those whose lives they touched.

Read below a tribute to him by a descendant of his brother Hezekiah, followed by a snippet about his equally impressive wife. Then check out his five children who lived the longest.


This quote is taken from an article by Hans Meinardus, called “Needle to the Pole” on the website “Frontier Camp.” I think it describes Peter Compton as I've came to understand him.

A compass yields some great object lessons for our lives. One of the (many) campusology quotes that freshman in the Corps at Texas A&M have to memorize includes this great quaint line from Governor Richard Coke’s 1876 address to the student body: “Be as true to a trust reposed as the needle to the pole.”

 In other words, the character of our integrity, honesty, and steadfastness should be as unwavering as a compass pointing north.

If you learn nothing else about Peter Compton, it won't matter.

Peter Compton was born in Orange county, New York, April 25, 1799, and lived there with his growing family until 1819, when he moved west with his brother-in-law Seymour Lockwood and his sister Anna to Steuben County. There he settled on “wild land” and began clearing a farm. A year later, he married a daughter of Samuel Buckbee and started a family. Four or five years later he was commissioned by Governor Marcy as colonel of the Eighty-first New York Militia. Under Governor Bouck and the state senate, he was appointed inspector of the Eighteenth Brigade, a position he held until the state militia was disbanded.

Peter must have really stood out among men, young men as well as old. He had a work ethic as well as an honesty ethic. He was committed to his community as well as his family. He reminds me of Joseph of the Bible. In good times, he set some things aside, and when bad times came, he used his resource—in Peter’s case, to rescue his former boss who had gone bankrupt. Peter and his crew finished the last boat the boss was building and presented it to him free of charge.

Peter was generous to his father. He gave him fifty acres of the 232 acres he purchased and afterward purchased it back when his father could no longer work the land.

Peter lived on his farm during good and bad times. He was able to send his eligible daughters to college and outfit his two eldest sons and a son-in-law to go to the goldfields of California.

Peter was always on the move, making several trips to California. One of them was to take his daughters to Grass Valley where both sons now resided. On another trip, he took another daughter. He didn't earn money by mining gold, however; he earned it with his carpentry skills.

By the time Peter had moved his entire family to Grass Valley, the children already there were pillars in the community. I believe his children were a mirror of himself, except for one thing—they don’t seem to have had his wandering spirit.

When the Rebellion broke out, he headed back to his home roots, and with his own money he raised up men to fight for his beloved Union. Though he intended to join the conflict himself, he was persuaded by his son Andrew that it would be enough that he would go and represent the family. By this time Peter was 62 years of age.

After the war, Peter and Andy made some property investments in the Havana area and at the same time helped friends by cosigning for them. As a result of the friends going under, Peter and Andrew were forced to liquidate their holdings and pay off the debt. Another testimony to Peter's integrity.

Peter returned to California once more and worked for the Central Pacific RR constructing snow sheds to cover the tracks in the higher elevations of the Sierra. Sometime after this he went to visit his daughters—Harriet in Michigan and Maria in South Dakota, where he ended up living out his days.

Peter continued to work until almost the time of his death. In this day and age, this man’s life is one we would do well to emulate.                                                                                                  

   ~Charles Bud Compton


We also have a remarkable and touching picture of Peter’s wife, Maria Buckbee Compton, in this exerpt from her obituary:

“Mrs. Compton was a remarkable woman, in possessing a wonderfully retentive memory, being always accurate in her recollection of events and dates of the most important or ordinary character, and up to her latest moments took a lively interest in her surroundings and in the moments of the great world. She was always an attentive reader, and seemed never to forget, even to the smallest details the information gathered from books and newspapers.

It was vouchsafed to her to live the greater part of the century in which the world has made its greatest progress in the arts, sciences and mechanics, and she could accurately speak of these and give the dates from memory of the special events that marked this progress. She recollected distinctly the trial trip of Robert Fulton’s steamboat, Claremont, on the Hudson [1807], being the first attempt of the kind in America, although a mere child at the time [age 5], being taken to the river bank by her father to witness the effort of Fulton to give practical to his invention, which has soon borne such abundant fruit.”