Biography of Peter Truitt
Cass County, MI Biographies



Cass County

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Also see [Railway Officials in America 1906]

The name of Peter Truitt has been so long associated with the town of Milton, which he named, that its history would be incomplete without a sketch of his life.

He was born in Slatter Neck, Sussex County, Del., February 7, 1801, and was a son of Langford and Esther A. (Shockley). His father being a farmer, he was reared on a farm, and had little opportunity for self culture. February 25, 1819, he was married to Mary Simpler, whose father, Milby, was a soldier in the Revolutionary war, also the war of 1812. She died in April, 1828, and some two years later he married Isabell, daughter of James and Mary McKnitt. Learning of them any attractions in the then Territory of Michigan, he moved here in 1831, arriving June 17, the journey, which was by team, occupying forty-four days.

Having entered 80 acres of land near the center of the present town of Milton, he erected a.double log house on what some three years later proved to be the wrong description of land, and learning that a Mr. O'Dell had started for the land office at White Pigeon to enter it, he started in the night for the land office, and had the satisfaction of outstripping his competitor and securing the coveted prize.

Being located on the "old Detroit & Chicago road," he soon commenced keeping a tavern, which became famous for the comforts to be found therein, and thousands of weary emigrants and travelers have reposed under his roof, their number often being so great that the floor would be strewn with beds to acconimodate them. It became known as the "White Oak Tavern," because of an immense white oak tree that threw out its grateful branches over the house, as if inviting all to partake of the cheer to be found therein. After a time, a black oak tree was cut off some twenty feet from the ground, on the top of which for over thirty years could have been seen the sign, "Truitt's Tavern," while he continued to keep tavern after the sign was taken down, and no man was ever turned from his door because he was penniless.

He helped lay out the road to Niles and built the first frame house between the prairie and Niles. He was the first and only Postmaster in the township, the name of the post office being Dover.

In an early day he opened a store at Bertrand and sold goods for a time, and then moved his stock to Milton Township, and continued business for two years longer. This proved a very disastrous enterprise, for he lost so heavily by the decline of goods and "wild cat" money, then in circulation, that all his property except his land was swept away. This however, did not discourage him, and he bravely set about repairing his fortune, and at his death, which occurred December 29, 1881; he possessed 1,500 acres of rich farming lands, which was divided up among his seven heirs. He was a shrewd business man, and his large accumulation of property was the result of his own industry and keen foresight.' As a neighbor, he was kind and charitable, and none in need were turned from his door empty handed; his generosity was proverbial.

He lived for half a century on the farm he first selected, and not only witnessed, but assisted in transforming an almost unbroken wilderness into one of the finest and most beautiful agricultural districts in the West.

Politically he was a Whig, and then a Republican, and held several township offices, including that of Justice of the Peace. He became a convert to the Methodist faith when fourteen years of age, and he and his wife, after cpming to this county, united with the Methodist Church, when it numbered but ten members. He was a zealous Christian, and before a church building was erected, religious services were frequently held in his house, which was the home of the ministers. When old age and disease bad blinded his intellect, so that all things sublunary had faded from his mind, on the subject of religion it was bright and clear as an oasis in a sandy desert, and so remained until his death. He also took an active interest in educational affairs.

By his first wife he had five children, John M., proprietor of the "Truitt House" in Edwardsburg; Elizabeth C., now Mrs. C. Tittle, in Milton; Henry P. and David T., prominent and prosperous farmers also in Milton.

By his second wife, who died in 1884 or 1835, he had two children-Mary J, now Mrs. J. Butts, in Milton; Esther A., now Mrs. J. W. Griffith, in Greenville, Mich. By his third wife, Deborah (McKnitt), sister of Isabell, who departed this life in 1841, he became the father of one child, James M., also a farmer in Milton. His fourth wife, Sarah (McKnitt) Lane, survives her husband, they having no children.

History of Cass Couny, Michigan
With Illistrations and Biographical Sketches
of some of it's Prominent Men and Pioneers.
Waterman, Watkins & Co., Chicago 1882.

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