William James Peak was born at Penzance, Cornwall on December 3, 1831. He gathered many farming skills there until, at 26, he and his wife Jane (nee Ladner), migrated to Queensland on the 'Ascendant'. They arrived in Brisbane on June 24, 1858.
Their journey from Brisbane to Drayton was by river steamer from Brisbane to Ipswich and then a mail cart from Ipswich to Drayton.
Mr and Mrs William Peak were hired by William Handcock, a Drayton storekeeper, and paid ₤50 per annum. Afterwards, Peak began a career in the New South Wales Police Force (Queensland was part of NSW at that time).
Following separation from NSW, he worked in the Queensland Police Force. In this capacity, he served as escort to Queensland’s first Governor, Sir George Ferguson Bowen and later, Judge Lutwyche when he arrived to open the Supreme Court in Drayton.
He next took on work as a builder’s assistant with contractor Alexander McPherson. Peak also accepted work sinking wells by hand and fencing on station properties. In 1859, Peak purchased a farmlet of 7 acres in Drayton and added to it over time.
He excelled at agriculture and his first crop of wheat sold well. In keeping with his agricultural interests, Peak was one of the founders of the Drayton and Toowoomba Agricultural and Horticultural Society, as well as a life member.
In 1897, Peak’s maize and barley were exhibited at the Colonial Institute in London. Drayton was constituted a municipality in 1862 and Peak was one of the 6 elected candidates. Later when Drayton Shire Council was established, he was elected its first chairman. He served on Council for 52 years before retiring in 1914.
His chief interests lay in the construction of the Drayton railway deviation, which was opened in 1915. This railway benefited travellers by shortening the journey south by 10 miles.
Peak also took a keen interest in the Drayton State School, serving on its committee for many years, and also the Drayton Cricket Club of which he was President. His political allegiance was in the Liberal interest and as such he consistently supported the Hon. W.H. Groom, and later Sir Littleton Groom.
Peak was an active member of the Methodist Church in Drayton from its inception.
He reared a family of 3 sons and 3 daughters and was widowed at the age of 67. Peak passed away on his 90th birthday on December 3, 1921.
Donges, J. – “Early Drayton History and William James Peak, J.P.”
LH/files – LH/Peak family