Willis Aleney Peck
source : 1903 Denison City Directory
Peck was born in Johnsville, Montgomery County, Ohio, on May 6, 1856.
parents were Henry Clay Peck (1826–1907)
and Ellen Eliza Sandford Peck
(1833–1897). In 1870, when Will was 14, the father, Henry,
the Civil War, was a grocer in Waverly, Bremer County, Iowa. Ten years
he was a music dealer there. By that time, according to the Census of
Will, now 24, had become a jeweler in Grundy Center, Grundy County,
he had married Mary O. Connell on
January 24, 1878. Soon they had two children: Leslie
Willis Peck (1879–1964) and Eunice
Eliza "Emmie" Peck Crockett (1881–1970).
1883, the Peck
family moved to Denison, Texas. In 1887, Will was working as watchmaker
Benjamin W. Merrill's store, dealing in "watches, clocks,
jewelry, pawn broker and jeweler, 216 West Main." Ben was boarding with
the Pecks at 508 West Owings Street. In 1887, Ben was living upstairs
of W. A. Peck, Jeweler, 508 West Owing Street."
Source: Robinson, Frank M., comp. Industrial Denison.
[N.p.]: Means-Moore Co., [ca. 1909]. Page 47.
508 West Owings housed the
Peck family through 1911. In 1900,
the Census showed five roomers there, in addition to the four Pecks.
In 1891, Will and Ben were
listed as partners in the jewelry
store at 216 West Main. By 1898, L.
B. Moore had taken over
the store, which was billed as "jeweler and broker in jewelry,
watches, etc., watch repairing a specialty." Will "the
Watchmaker" was store manager, while Miss Luella J. Moore was a
of the century, Will Peck's wife Mary became an optician. She was
such in the 1901 Denison City Directory. That year Will and Mary had
jewelry store at 228 West Main: "Watchmaker, jeweler, engraver,
clocks, jewelry, diamonds, silverware." At the same time, son Leslie W.
Peck was listed as a stenographer. In 1907, things remained much the
the store, except that Will advertised his position as "watch
on the Houston and Texas Central Railway.
Peck & Garring Jewelers,
Interior, 228 West Main Street, Denison Texas
courtesy of Carol Shaffer.
Source of photo: "Industrial Denison" (1909), p. 97.
extremely important to railroads in the nineteenth and early twentieth
centuries. Railroads went to great lengths to insure that clocks,
other timing devices operated with great precision. Peck was not the
Denison jeweler to contract with a railroad to inspect and adjust
a regular basis.
a book published in the
early 1900s, contained a photo of the interior of "Peck &
Jewelers, 228 West Main Street." The 1901 Denison City Directory listed
"Charles K. Garring, Jeweler.
Rooms at 311 West Gandy Street." The next City Directory, for 1907, did
not list Charles. The only Garring listed there was "George Garring,
foreman, MK&T Railway; boards at 314 West Texas Street."
the exact chronology is murky, it seems
clear that the Peck & Garring partnership was short-lived. As
it happens, we
know something of what transpired. Laura James, in her book, The Love Pirate and the
Murder, Sin, and Scandal in the Shadow of Jesse James (2009),
tells how Charles Kittredge Garring came from Ohio to Denison and
Garring befriended a doctor
of osteopathy, D. D. Crawford, who
roomed above his
jewelry store. According to James, Dr. Crawford's enthusiastic
the basic theories of osteopathy, the success he had treating clients,
evident prosperity—all these impressed Garring. Ultimately the jeweler
to change careers and enrolled in Dr. A. T. Still's American School of
Osteopathy (ASO) at Kirksville, Missouri, in 1902. In 1904, he
course of study and set up a practice in Durant, Indian Territory,
Red River from Denison.
Meanwhile, Charles had
married a beautiful fellow ASO student, Zeo
Zoe Wilkins. They wed in Cleveland, Ohio, on July 16, 1904.
He was 36; she
was 18. She returned to Kirksville to complete her own training,
then joined Garring in his lucrative medical practice in
Durant. The new
wife turned out to be a cold-hearted, promiscuous gold-digger.
became bored and began affairs with clients; she ended up shooting her
claiming she thought he was an intruder. He survived and got a divorce.
rest of her remarkable life is recounted in James's book. Garring left
around 1907 and continued his career in various Texas cities.
and Mary Peck
seem to have had their own store, with no further partners, after about
when city directories began listing his store as "jeweler and
optician." The store's location moved from 312 West Main (1909) to 319
West Main (1911) to 412 West Main (1917). In 1913, the couple was
1131 West Woodard Street. In 1917, Will lived at 731 West Owings, but
not listed in the City Directory that year. In 1920, the Census listed
both living above the store at 418 West Main. Will passed away on
W. A. Peck: The Watchmaker. Watches,
Diamonds, and Jewelry; High-Grade Repairing a Specialty. [312 West Main
Of the jewelers
and watchmakers of this city there is no establishment which bears a
character among the people for honest, fair dealing and first-class
than the subject of this sketch. Mr. Peck has been in business here for
twenty-five years. He is thoroughly practical and reliable, having
trade many years ago, at a time when it was necessary to learn every
of the business, instead of just one branch, as is commonly the case
He therefore stands above the average jeweler in knowledge and
timepiece is too complicated for him to adjust. He also carries a
of watches, diamonds, and fashionable jewelry, and all goods are
turn out exactly as represented. Is he your jeweler? If not, why not?
“Denison, the Texas Gateway: A Busy, Progressive City with Golden
Opportunities.” 16pp. Brochure. N.p.: N.d. [ca. 1908].