WY11-a Peter Jacob Carter

Peter Jacob Carter Historical Marker
Historical Marker WY 11-a: Peter Jacob Carter Photo credit: Jean E Flynn

WY 11-a Peter Jacob Carter

"Born enslaved on 29 May 1845 near Eastville, Northampton County, Peter Jacob Carter served in the 10th United States Colored Troops during the Civil War and afterward attended Hampton Institute. He represented Northampton in the House of Delegates from 1871 to 1879, was conspicuous in First Congressional District politics, chaired Republican state conventions and African American mass meetings, and attended the party’s national conventions. A prominent Eastern Shore politician, in the 1880s he joined the Readjuster Party, led by former Confederate general William Mahone. Carter died 19 July 1886 and was buried in the family cemetery near Franktown."

-Department of Historic Resources, 2009 Marker WY-11-a

Peter Jacob Carter

This nineteenth century portrait of Peter Jacob Carter is on display in the Northampton County administration building under the "Northampton Notables" exhibit.
"...taken by an unknown photographer, (it) was published in Luther Porter Jackson's Negro Office Holders in Virginia (1945) Courtesy of University of Virginia Special Collections."

Peter Jacob Carter info
Peter Jacob Carter 
From the Northampton Notables exhibit in the County administration building at 164040 Courthouse Rd. in Eastville.

Peter Jacob Carter was born into slavery in Eastville, on May 29, 1845. His father was the son of a free native of West Africa and an enslaved Virginia woman, Carter, a younger brother, a sister and his mother all belonged to Calvin H. Read, a schoolteacher.

By the year 1858, Read had moved to Baltimore. On December 5, 1860, to satisfy a debt of $1,000 borrowed from his wife's estate, Rend deeded Carter, two of his siblings, and their mother to his wife, still residing in Northampton County

From November of 1861 until the end of the Civil War, Union troops occupied the Eastern Shore of Virginia, headquartered in Eastville. With the occupation, Carter escaped from slavery and on October 30, 1863, he enlisted in Company B of the 10 Regiment United States Colored infantry. He served in the US. Army throughout the War, including assignments to the Quartermaster Department and the Bureau of Refugees, Freedmen, and Abandoned Lands. He was discharged on May 17, 1866.

Carter returned to the Eastern Shore and settled in Franktown. He attended the Hampton Normal and Agricultural Institute (now Hampton University) from 1869 to 1871. In November of 1871, he was elected as a Republican to Northampton County's scat in the House of Delegates.

By 1872, Carter was recognized as one of the leading African American members of the assembly. He won reelection three times, making his eight-year tenure in the General Assembly one of the longest among nineteenth century African Americans. During his tenure in the General Assembly, Carter served on many committees and introduced bills aimed at positive social change: improvement to the care of African American deaf mutes, the elimination of abuse of state prisoners, the amendment of antebellum laws pertaining to juries and criminal laws that discriminated against blacks and favored whites, and provisions for housing for the afflicted poor and aged. He was a member of a delegation that met with President Ulysses S. Grant to solicit support for the civil rights bill pending in Congress in 1873. Other bills he presented dealt with local issues, such as taxes on oysters and the boundaries of election precincts. His bill to incorporate the Northampton Land Association was passed in 1875.

Carter did not seek reelection in 1879 and took the position of Lighthouse Keeper at Cherrystone Inlet, while continuing to farm his land. However, he remained the predominant African American leader on the Eastern Shore of Virginia and continued to work tirelessly for the Republican party, serving on committees and as doorkoopeх, choiring state conventions, and campaigning on behalf of its interests. Is 1882, Carter was appointed to the board of the newly established Virginia Normal and Collegiate Institute (now Virginia State University).

While traveling on a steamer from Norfolk to the Eastern Shore, Peter Jacob Carter fell ill. He died on July 19, 1886, apparently of appendicitis, and was buried in the family cemetery near Franktown.

Bethel Baptist Church

Bethel Baptist Church , 2004: Bethel Baptist Church in Franktown was organized in 1882 and built on land donated by the Honorable Peter Jacob Carter, a former slave who served in Northampton County's seat in the House of Delegates from 1871-1879.
Photograph by Francis Bibbins Latimer Landmarks- Black Historic Sites on the Eastern Shore of Virginia.

-From the Northampton County Landmarks exhibit found in the County Admin building.

Cherrystone Light station

"Picture of Cherrystone Light Station showing false work under the structure preparatory to being transferred onto a scow for moving to Choptank River; looking S.W., distance 100 ft. " 

From 1879-1880, Peter Jacob Carter, a prominent historical figure, was the Cherrystone Bar Lightkeeper. Photo courtesy National Archives. Visit our Lighthouses page to learn about the Lighthouses in Northampton County.