John Peters’ Home (Court Street)

Phillis Wheatley began living with her husband, John Peters, on Queen Street in 1778. Queen Street was not far from the Wheatley residence on King Street. City officials renamed it Queen Street in 1708, replacing the previous name of Prison Lane. During the Revolutionary War, Queen Street and Court Street were used interchangeably in the Selectmen’s Records from 1776 to 1778; on July 4th, 1788, the name of Queen Street was officially changed to Court Street by the town of Boston.

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This picture of Phillis Wheatley  appeared in the Revue des Colonies, c. 1834-1842. (Image Courtesy of New York Public Library)

 

Phillis Wheatley married John Peters, an African American man who scholars believe was born free. John Peters, like many men during this period, had a variety of occupations. While some public records identify him as a laborer and a lawyer, his primary income was his store on Queen Street. Scholars know little about how Phillis Wheatley met John Peters, though they lived together on Queen Street before they married. In Phillis Wheatley’s letter to Obour Tanner on May 29, 1778, she asks Obour to “Direct your letters under cover to Mr. John Peters in Queen Street,” which is five months before they were married. On November 26th, 1778 at Boston’s Second Congregational Church, Phillis Wheatley married John Peters.

Information about Phillis after her marriage to John Peters is vague. Peters had various financial troubles during his life, which resulted in a brief hiatus from Boston, and a disappearance from public records for a few years. After the death of John and Susannah Wheatley, and her marriage to Peters, Phillis had a difficult time publishing her poetry. Unfortunately for her, with-out the access to the influential people and connections she enjoyed through the Wheatley’s, all of Phillis’ attempts to get her works published ended in failure. In many ways, her home on Queen Street symbolized her freedom from slavery and the struggles that she, and many freed black slaves, faced in colonial New England.

References

A Record of the Streets, Alleys, Places, Etc. in the City of Boston. Boston: City of Boston Printing Dept., 1910.

Carretta, Vincent. Phillis Wheatley: Biography of a Genius in Bondage. Athens, GA: University of Georgia Press, 2011.

“MHS Collections Online: Letter from Phillis Wheatley to Obour Tanner, 29 May 1778.” MHS Collections Online: Letter from Phillis Wheatley to Obour Tanner, 29 May 1778. Accessed March 25, 2016. http://www.masshist.org/database/viewer.php?item_id=777.

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