Peterson - Elizabeth Safford Peterson (1855-1925)


Peterson - Elizabeth Safford Peterson (1855-1925)

Elizabeth S. Peterson was born in about 1855 to Lawrence and Elizabeth Booth Yard Peterson, probably in Philadelphia. She came to live on Gotts Island in Maine in about 1901. She built her house, “Petit Plaisants” [sic.] there. She was a well-known character on the island and was said to be the model for Roxinda Greenwood in Ruth Moore’s novel, “Speak to the Winds,” published in 1956.

Elizabeth’s father, Lawrence Peterson was born to Thomas P. and Elizabeth Snelling Jacobs, on March 30, 1816. He married Elizabeth Booth Yard on December 11, 1838 in Philadelphia. Lawrence’s brother, Charles Jacobs Peterson, was a well-known author of his day and publisher of “Peterson’s Magazine.” Lawrence’s other brothers, Theophilus B. Peterson, George Peterson and Thomas Peterson, were the founders of the “once well-known publishing house of T. B. Peterson and Brothers, of Philadelphia.” Lawrence was “a member of the House of Yard, Gillmore & Co. [silk merchants], [probably the firm of his father-in-law] taking the financial department of their extensive business and managing it with great skill until his death in 1862.” [At the age of 46] – Biographies of Successful Philadelphia Merchants by Stephen Noyes Winslow, p. 206 – Published in 1864 by J.K. Simon - Found online using Google Book Search. Lawrence Peterson died on April 2, 1862 after a long illness.

Elizabeth’s mother, Elizabeth Booth Yard Peterson, was the daughter of John and Sarah Mickerson Yard. She was born on January 2, 1817 and died on August 28, 1910.

“…a few of the village families took in boarders. In the early 1900’s a Miss Peterson and her mother came from Philadelphia to spend the summer. They came several summers, and then, one fall, Mrs. Peterson was too ill to make the trip back to Philadelphia, so they rented a village house for the winter. Mrs. Peterson died during the winter and her daughter decided to make Gotts Island her home. That summer, she had built a house on Gotts Island Head, a promontory of huge rocks jutting out to sea. Her house was rather a city house of two stories and a porch. She had a beautiful rose garden, surrounded by a stone wall to shelter it, and during the winter, she was forced continually to wash her windows because of the spray from the waves breaking on the rocks in front of her house. She had sent, from Philadelphia, her furniture and beautiful china and silver. Here she lived all year around from 1910 to 1925, with occasional trips to Bar Harbor to visit relatives. She often entertained the island people, and is said to have had seven-course dinners which she cooked and served herself. My husband remembers going to her house as a boy with the village children and the younger married set for parties of charades and games….Miss Peterson used to push the wheelbarrow the mile and a half of woods road to the village, to get her mail and groceries, three times a week, on mail days…” – Gotts Island, Maine by Jane M. Holmes, typescript pamphlet, p. 8 – 1953
To read more about Elizabeth Peterson and her life and death on the island, read this delightful memoir.

Elizabeth S. Peterson died when her house on Gotts Island was destroyed by fire on January 30, 1925. She is buried, as is her mother, Elizabeth Booth Yard Peterson, in Laurel Hill Cemetery in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. We are grateful to Emily Romick, Development Coordinator and Program Assistant, Laurel Hill Cemetery and Friends of Laurel Hill for her gracious and untiring assistance in our search for the truth of Elizabeth S. Peterson’s life and death.


“Peterson - Elizabeth Safford Peterson (1855-1925),” Southwest Harbor Public Library Digital Archive, accessed February 17, 2019, 13082