Family Life

 

In December 1784, Peter married Susannah Anderson of Cumberland County, Virginia. She was the daughter of Captain James Anderson and his wife Elizabeth Tyler Baker Anderson. The Andersons were of social distinction and owned a plantation called “The Mansion.”

Peter gave up his blacksmith shop in Curdsville and moved to Charlotte County as early as March 1785. He purchased 250 acres on Louse Creek where he built a log house. Locals used to tell of a giant named Peter Francisco who built his log house and carried logs fourteen feet long by fourteen inches on his shoulders to make the sills. Nearby, where the log house once stood, is a free-flowing spring that Peter constructed by walling up the sides with large rocks fitted carefully together. Across the top Peter had mounted a huge flat rock weighing about 800 pounds. Tradition holds that Peter carried this rock from a nearby mountain!

Peter and Susannah had two children: a son, James Anderson, born in the log house in 1786; and a daughter, Polly, born in 1788. Peter sold the 250 acres on Louse Creek in 1788. His wife Susannah died in 1790.

Records indicate that Peter served as Surveyor of Roads and on juries in several court cases. Real estate transactions in Cumberland and Prince Edward Counties are also recorded.

In December 1794, Peter married Catherine Fauntleroy Brooke, who was a relative of his first wife’s, and they moved to Peter’s home in Cumberland. Peter and Catherine had four children: Susan Brooke Francisco (born 1796), Benjamin M. Francisco (born 1803), Peter II, and Catherine Fauntleroy Francisco.

Peter’s second wife Catherine died on October 23, 1821 leaving Peter alone again. He then met the acquaintance of the widow of Major West, Mary Grymes West in Richmond while visiting friends. Mary and Peter were married in July 1823. Peter Francisco was survived by Mary at the time of his death on January 16, 1831.

The Virginia Gentleman

Peter was well-known throughout the state and, since Catherine was from a family of social prominence, she felt it her duty to make their home a gathering place for other prominent families. It was not only Peter’s noted friendships, military achievements and feats of strength that attracted people – Peter was kind, courteous, considerate and empathetic toward others. Peter had come a long way – he was a “Virginia Gentleman,” a landowner, and owner of “7 blacks, 6 horses, and 10 head of cattle” according to the tax records of 1788.

In 1803, Peter was granted a license to keep an ordinary in Prince Edward County. He sold his plantation on Dry Creek in Cumberland and, apparently, moved his family to this ordinary (located just west of the intersection of present-day Routes 40 and 15). They did not live there long, however, but moved to another ordinary at New Store where they resided for four years.

Several interesting stories have been recorded about Peter while he lived at New Store. Samuel Shepard III wrote that in December 1805 a Veterans Reunion was held at Maysville (Buckingham Courthouse). ” … some two dozen veterans of the war gathered at the courthouse for a reunion … The hero of the occasion was Peter Francisco, who entertained us with exhibitions of his strength … We sang some songs, talked … ”

Another story took place in 1806 when a man named Pamphlet came from Kentucky to “whip” Peter. “When Francisco learned the object of his visit, he handed him a bunch of willow switches and told him to whip away to his heart’s content. The strong man was taken aback … and asked to feel his weight. He lifted Francisco … and remarked that he was quite heavy. ‘Now, Mr. Pamphlet,’ said Francisco, ‘let me feel your weight,’ and lifting the sportive visitor twice in the air, the third time threw him over a failing fence four feet high into the public road. Pamphlet was mightily surprised … and called out … that Francisco would do him a favor if he would pitch his horse after him … The story goes that Francisco led the horse to the fence, and with his left arm under the horse’s breast and the right one behind him, put him over as requested … Mr. Pamphlet mounted and took his way back to Kentucky.”

When Henry Clay visited Peter at the old Bell Tavern in Richmond in 1826, Peter related the above story to him. Clay laughed and said, “I am glad to know that one of the mischievous Pamphlet family has been conquered.”

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