The UNC Herbarium has found about half a dozen
specimens collected by Dr. Peters, all collected between 1870 and 1874, from
Alabama. Of particular interest are several specimens of Trichomanes petersii Gray collected by Dr. Peters
in Winston County, Alabama in 1870, 1874 and 1875.
As NCU proceeds with cataloguing additional
specimens collected by Dr. Peters may be found.
The University of Alabama Herbarium (UNA) has 10
mounted specimens collected by Peters that were in Charles Mohr’s Geological
Survey herbarium. According to Dr.
Steve Ginzbarg, UNA Curator, “Peters also donated
his collections of lichens, fungi, and Carex to the University of
Alabama. These are not mounted on
separate sheets, but rather glued onto the pages of collection books. [UNA
has] 6 books of lichen specimens, 7 books of fungi, and 3 books or Carex from
Thomas Minott Peters, image from Charles Mohr’s PLANT LIFE OF
Thanks to Meredith McLemore, Archivist, Alabama
Department of Archives & History
for assistance in obtaining this image.
Dr. Peters was a lawyer by profession, a botanist by
avocation. According to the Alabama
“Thomas Minott Peters was born on
December 4, 1810 in Clarksville, Tennessee. He moved with his parents to
Lawrence County, Alabama in 1819, locating at a farm near Leighton. He
attended LaGrange College and graduated from the University of Alabama with a
Bachelor’s Degree in 1834 and a Master’s Degree in 1836. He read law at
Moulton and was admitted to the Bar in 1836. He had a successful litigation
practice in the area. Peters became involved in politics and served in the
Alabama House from 1845 to 1846 and the Alabama Senate from 1847 to 1848.
Thomas Minott Peters was a staunch Unionist. With
the outbreak of the War Between the States, he left Alabama because of his
Union sympathies despite the fact that he was a pre-war slaveholder. Perhaps
because he was not a supporter of the Confederacy, his reputation in Alabama
is obscure today.
However, in 1868 he was elected to a six year term on the Alabama Supreme
Court as a Republican and he became Chief Justice in 1873. He promoted equal
rights for African Americans and he was one of the first prominent Alabamians
who publicly advocated equal rights for women, a position which was unpopular
in both male-dominated political parties of his era. He was defeated for
re-election in 1874 but continued to practice law in Moulton until his death
Thomas Minott Peters was an advocate for public education, a promoter of
industrial development, a nationally recognized naturalist, and an activist
for equal rights. For his lifetime of achievement, the lawyers of Alabama
induct Thomas Minott Peters into the Alabama Lawyers’ Hall of Fame.” (1)
addition to practicing law, Thomas Peters was the editor and owner of a
newspaper (“The Union” and “The Moulton Advertiser”) in Moulton, Alabama.(8) He left the
Whig Party in 1844 “because of the annexation [of Texas] question.” (7, 8) However, he apparently re-joined the Whig
Party in 1845 when elected as the Representative for Lawrence County in the
Alabama General Assembly. “In 1860, on
the Union issue, he supported Stephen A. Douglas, and during the secession
contest proved himself to be an ardent and uncompromising friend of the
Union. During the War of Secession he
went into the Federal lines. He was a
member of the constitutional convention of Alabama in 1867 from Lawrence
County.” (7) Peters’ son, William,
served in the Confederate Army. (8)
Mohr extolled Peters’ virtues in the Introduction to Plant Life of Alabama. “In
his love for botany [Thomas Minott Peters] found
recreation from his professional duties, and his greatest enjoyment was to
wander through the adjacent mountains in search of plants. The study of lichens and fungi attracted
him particularly, and he was one of the few mycologists working in the
Southern field along with Curtis and Ravenel. Of his zeal and activity in this line the
long list of Southern fungi of his contribution, published by M.A. Curtis and
Berkeley, bears ample testimony. He
was also a close observer and accurate student of the higher orders. He first brought to light the delicate and
extremely rare fern Trichomanes petersii,
described by Gray, with others like it hidden in the dark recesses of rocky
defiles and the so-called "rock houses." He gave close attention to the species of Carex,
furnishing the investigators of this difficult genus with material from a
region unknown to botanists. In
acknowledgement of the services rendered him, Boott, of London, one of the first authors on these
plants, presented him with a copy of his magnificent work, Illustrations of the Genus Carex. These classical and valuable volumes Judge
Peters bequeathed to the University of Alabama, his alma mater, together with
his mycological herbarium and collection of Carices,
all mounted and labeled. In 1880 the
writer had the privilege of enjoying the company of this venerable botanist
during his investigations of the forests in Lawrence and Winston counties,
and also received from him much valuable information on the mountain flora of
the State, made use of in the present work.” (2)
photograph by Alan Cressler, 2009 (3)
Minott Peters was married to Naomi Sophia Leetch (20 September 1820 – 18 June 1880) of Moulton,
Alabama, and they had six children: Sarah
Naomi (27 July 1839 – 14 July 1963), William Lemuel
(23 March 1842 – ca. January 1907), Martha Leigh (18 December 1844 – d. after
1911), Anna Maria (“Mariah A.” in the 1860 census; 18 March 1846 – d. between
1895-1907), Mary Minott (11 March 1850 – d. between
1895-1907) and Lutie (“Lucy” in some references)
Alice (23 April 1853 – d. after 1911) (4,5,6,7, 8). Thomas Minott
Peters died at age 78 at his home in Moulton, Alabama on 14 June 1888.
(1) Thomas Minott Peters
(1810-1888). [Internet]. 2011. Montgomery, Alabama, United States of America:
Alabama State Bar. [cited 2011 Dec 20] Available from: http://www.alabar.org/members/hallfame/2006/peters.cfm.
(2) Mohr C. 1901. Plant Life of Alabama. Montgomery,
Alabama, United States of America: Brown Printing Company. 921 p.
(3) <a href="http://www.discoverlife.org"> Alan Cressler / Discover Life </a>
(4) Alabama's Supreme Court Chief Justices: Thomas M.
Peters. [Internet]. 2011. Montgomery, Alabama, United States of America:
Alabama Department of Archives and History. [cited 2011 Dec 20] Available
(5) 1850 Census “SCHEDULE 1. – Free Inhabitants in The 8th District in the County of Lawrence
State of Alabama enumerated by me, on the 12th day of December
1850. J.B. Speare
Ass’t Marshall 418.”
(6) 1860 Census “SCHEDULE 1. – Free Inhabitants in The
Southern Division in the County of Lawrence State of Alabama enumerated by
me, on the second day of June 1860. C.
C. [illegible] Asst. Marshall Post Office Moulton, page 4.”
Thomas McAdory and Marie Bankhead Owen (1921) History of
Alabama and dictionary of Alabama biography, Volume 4. “Peters, Thomas Minott,” page 1349. Chicago: S.J. Clarke Publishing Company.
(8) Cagle, Hoyt. “Re: Leetch/Peters Famil.” GenForum.
Geneology.com, 08 Aug 2004.
Web. 25 Jan 2012. <http://genforum.genealogy.com/al/lawrence/messages/586.html>.