Freling S. Peck was born on May 22, 1844, in Monroe County, New York, the son of William R. (1807-1876) and Lucy (Bathrick).
By 1850 Freling’s family was living in Paris, Kent County, Michigan, where his father, who had apparently remarried a Canadian woman named Julia (b. in Canada in 1824) was working as a carpenter and Freling and his siblings, including his older brother Dayton who would also join the Third Michigan, were attending school. By 1860 Freling (“Freeland”) was working as a farm laborer for the Charles Rathbun family in Paris, Kent County.
Freling stood 5’8” with blue eyes, light hair and a light complexion and was a 17-year-old farmer living in Paris when he enlisted in Company B, joining his older brother Dayton, on November 18, 1861, at Grand Rapids for 3 years, crediting Grand Rapids, and was mustered on December 23 at Detroit. He was wounded in the body on July 2, 1863. at Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, and subsequently hospitalized through December, probably in Philadelphia. He remained absent sick in January of 1864, but apparently recovered and reenlisted on February 4, 1864, near Culpeper, Virginia. He was absent on veterans’ furlough through early March of 1864, probably at home in Michigan and returned to the Regiment in late March.
In April Freling was reported absent in the hospital, was still absent sick when he was transferred to Company E, Fifth Michigan infantry upon consolidation of the Third and Fifth Michigan Regiments on June 10, 1864, and he remained absent until October when he returned to duty with the Fifth Michigan. He was missing in action on October 27, 1864, presumably at Boydton Plank road, near Petersburg, Virginia, and was absent sick from November through January of 1865.
Freling had apparently been shot by a minie ball which “struck the right shoulder in front, passed under the should joint and passed out at the top and back of the shoulder injurying he should joint by fracturing it producing a severe wound.” He was promoted to Corporal on May 1, and was mustered out on July 5, 1865, at Jeffersonville, Indiana.
After the war Freling returned to the Grand Rapids area where he lived the rest of his life. According to one report “After returning from the army his health was shattered, and he was unable to engage in active life.” By 1870 he was working as a clerk in a store and living with hus older brother Manser in Paris, Kent County.
In 1874 he was working as Turnkey under Sheriff S. S. Bailey, and he served in that capacity for a number of years. The Grand Rapids Eagle described Peck as the “gentlemanly turnkey,” and reported in June of 1874 that Peck, who had just returned from a trip to Traverse and Mackinaw counties, said “ that an unusually large number of tourists are visiting those regions at this season of the year.”
In September of 1876, Peck, who was Republican candidate for Sheriff of Kent County, was charged by someone calling himself “Half Bushel” with malfeasance while working as turnkey.
I have noticed published in your paper one or two references o the connection of Mr. Peck, present republican candidate for sheriff, with a certain bill presented to the board of supervisors by Mr. Bailey, while sheriff, for services rendered by Mr. Peck as night watchman of the jail. I recollect something about that bill, and if my memory serves me right the circumstances were these: Mr. peck was hired by Bailey to watch the jail and was to receive $16 per month while on duty. This pay he received, but when Bailey presented the bill to the board of supervisors for payment by the people of the County, it bore the sworn statement of Peck that the bill was correct, which bill, instead of being $16 per month was for $45 per month. I do not remember what became of the bill, but I believe it was paid; nor do I known who pocketed the surplus over the $16 per month.
As Mr. Peck has been a hanger-on of place for so long, as deputy sheriff, night watchman, etc., and so many incidents crowding upon him in the meantime, his memory, like Hayes’, may be a little defective, but there are many republicans who would like to known just how much of the transaction he does remember anyhow.
The next day a second anonymous writer who described himself as just “Republican” wrote the Democrat noting
In your issue of August 30th, one of your correspondents asks Mr. Peck, the Republican candidate for sheriff, to explain in regard to certain overcharges made by him against the County for labor performed. Being a Republican myself I had hoped to see Mr. Peck clear himself, and I therefore set to work and went to investigate myself. Other charges appeared against him, one of which is Mr. Peck charging Kent County for attending the Circuit Court. Having myself been drawn as one of the jurors for the Circuit Court and served as such juror within the last two years, I think about fifty or sixty days, I determined to find out by going to Mr. Peck’s own bills as made out against the County, and I must own that my investigation did not suit, for the charge proved true. I found that for the last one and a half years (that being Peck’s time as Deputy Sheriff) he has got charged to Kent County for attending Circuit Court for 118 days, for which he has received the sum of $177, or at the rate of more than $100 per year, for doing nothing. I must here say that in all my time in the Circuit Court I never saw Mr. Peck in attendance for a single half day. And upon further inquiry on this subject I found that Mr. Peck never did attend court at all. By the same bills I find many other things worth looking at and worth explaining. One item, hotel bills while on the road, I find all the other officers charge “dinner 50c.” Peck charges “dinner 75c.” And the item of bus and hack fare largely all through Mr. Peck’s bill charges from 50c up to $1.50, while that item is not found in the other officers’ bills at all, save in rare cases -- having prisoners in charge, etc. Also the item of conveying prisoners from jail to court house. Peck charges 50 cents, the other officers 18 cents; the last being the legal fee, and many other wrong charges that I will not now mention. After Mr. Peck shall have explained all the charges made against him, I will give him some more of the same sort.
Having thus satisfied myself in regard to Mr. Peck’s overcharges, it becomes our duty to let the tax-payers of this County know who to vote for, and who not to vote for, and from now henceforth I say to all: Gentleman vote for General [Israel] Smith. He is at least a free-holder and tax-payer, and more than all he is an honest man, You can depend upon it, that he will not charge for 188 days work never performed.
Less than a week later Peck wrote an open letter to the editor of the Eagle, responding to the charges raised by the Democrat that Peck and Sheriff Bailey had padded his bill for services as turnkey.
In an article in your paper of the 3rd ult. [Peck wrote] you call upon me to explain in regard to certain matters charged upon me by anonymous writers in one of our daily papers, and you very properly suggested the reason why I have hitherto paid no attention to them, viz: They are very anonymous signatures. But since you have called upon me for an explanation I hasten to make it. And first it is not true and I hereby deny it and charge the same to be false, that “while Mr. Bailey was Sheriff of this County I was hired for night watch around the jail and was to receive $1.50 per night for my services; and that when Mr. Bailey presented his account to the Board of Supervisors he presented a bill for $3 a night for my services and that I swore to the same,” as charged in the article signed “Republican” in the Democrat of August 20.
I also deny and charge as false the statement that I was hired by Mr. Bailey to watch the jail and was to receive $16 per month while on duty, and that when Bailey presented the bill to the Board of Supervisors for payment by the people of the County it bore the sworn statement of myself that the bill was correct, which bill, instead of being $16 per month, as charged in the article signed “Half Bushel,” and published in the Daily Democrat of September 1st.
I also deny and charge false the statement or pretended charge that I ever charged in my bills as Deputy Sheriff 118 days, or any other number of days, for attending the Circuit Court of Kent County, except when I was engaged in that business by order of the Sheriff.
And I also deny and charge as false, that I had charged for dinners while on the road 75 cents per meal, while all the other officers charged 50 cents per meal, and hereby assert that there is no charge for the same in any of my bills unless the actual disbursements had been made, or that any other charge for buss [sic] or hack hire was ever charged in my bills from 50 cents up to $1.50 without the actual disbursements had been made, and the actual necessity of the case required such disbursement.
I also deny the charge, and assert the same as false, that I charged 50 cents, and the other officers 13 cents, for conveying prisoners from the jail to the court house; or that there are any other wrong charges in my bills, as charged and stated in the article signed “Republican, published in the Daily Democrat of September 2. I believe that the above charges are all that have been made against me so far. They are at least all I have seen.
A word in regard to the 50 cents for bringing prisoners from jail to court. Prior to the October session in 1875, the Board had always allowed fees at 50 cents for bringing prisoners from jail to court. But at the October session, 1875, the Board put the fees down to 13 cents. and kept them there until the June session of 1876, when Mr. Parkman and myself, who had been engaged in handling a dangerous class of prisoners, made out our bills at the old rate of 50 cents. and the bills were allowed at those figures, not for me alone, as stated in the Democrat but also for Mr. Parkman. I will only say, in addition to what I have already said: That the truth or falsity of the charges made against me are susceptible of proof, and I challenge any person to an examination of the books and the record in regard thereto.
Anonymous correspondents, who are too cowardly to sign their names, and back their statements I shall hereafter refuse to notice. My bills of all kinds since I have been connected with the Sheriff’s office of Kent County are accessible and have passed through the hands of the proper committees, and have been open for inspection and inquiry at any and all times.
Hoping that, if the writer of the articles in the Democrat wishes to pursue the matter further, he will be kind enough to give some name, that I may known who he is, and that he will not be so much engaged in Milwaukee that he will have have no time to examine the record now on file in the clerk’s office of this County; and to the end that there can be no error committed in the matter, I make the gentleman this proposition -- that I will submit the truth of his charges to James N. Davis, Esq., or any other fair and impartial man in Kent County, if this author will come forward personally to stand his claims. Yours respectfully, F. W. Peck.
The Eagle came to his support, writing that the “manner of the insinuation” made by an anonymous writer to the Democrat “was of itself cowardly and sneaking, but it is according to the usual methods of that paper in cases where it dare not squarely utter falsehoods. Mr. Peck denies each of them specifically and challenges proof which the Confederates will do well to put forward or shut up. Of course no one expects that paper to do so fair a thing as to correct any of its misrepresentations. Voters will please bear in mind, however, that the official accounts of Mr. Peck as well as others, have been passed upon by Democratic Boards of Supervisors after close scrutiny by Committees with Democratic chairmen, and allowed as just and legal and proper.”
The Democrat continued its attack on Peck hoping to undermine his candidacy for sheriff of Kent County and it carried lengthy articles attempting to subvert his character and integrity, and indeed brought about an official investigation into his work record while serving as deputy sheriff and turnkey for the jail. “Taking it all in,” the paper wrote on October 29, “Mr. Peck is . . . in a very unfortunate position, and one it will be hard to make the electors of this County believe fits him for the office of sheriff.” However, in November he was in fact elected sheriff of Kent County and served two four-year terms.
By 1880 Freling was the sheriff of Kent County and possibly living at the County jail in Grand Rapids’ Second Ward.
Freling probably never married, was a member of the Old Third Michigan Infantry Association, and he received pension no. 67,730, drawing $6.00 in 1883 for a gunshot wound in the left side, increased to $50.00 by the time of his death.
His brother Dayton was with him when Freling died of consumption at 12:45 a.m. on Sunday August 18, 1889, at the residence of Mrs. Hobart, on the corner of Division and Lyon Streets in Grand Rapids. “He had been ill,” noted the Democrat on August 18, “for two years prior to his death, although he was apparently struck down by consumption in the summer of 1889.”
The Herald wrote on August 19 that his Gettysburg “wound never healed entirely. His lungs began to give way to the effects of the wound a little more than a year ago, and since that time his decline has been steady and rapid.” His funeral was held at 2:00 p.m. on Tuesday, August 20, at the Universalist church in Grand Rapids, and the ceremonies were conducted by the Masonic lodge.
When his will was made public on August 22, 1889, he had divided up all he owned among to the Grand River Lodge No. 34 of the F. & A.M., his brother Philo and his wife, his brother Dayton and his brother Manser as well as two nephews and a niece.
Freling was buried in Greenwood cemetery: section F lot 1.