Liriodendron tulipifera flower

The University of North Carolina
A Department of the North Carolina Botanical Garden


Collectors of the UNC Herbarium
The following information was compiled by Carol Ann McCormick.

Thomas Minott Peters
(4 December 1810 – 14 June 1888)

The UNC Herbarium has found about half a dozen specimens collected by Dr. Peters, all collected between 1870 and 1874, from Alabama. Of particular interest are several specimens of Trichomanes petersii Gray collected by Dr. Peters in Winston County, Alabama in 1870, 1874 and 1875. 

As NCU proceeds with cataloguing additional specimens collected by Dr. Peters may be found.

The University of Alabama Herbarium (UNA) has 10 mounted specimens collected by Peters that were in Charles Mohr’s Geological Survey herbarium.  According to Dr. Steve Ginzbarg, UNA Curator, “Peters also donated his collections of lichens, fungi, and Carex to the University of Alabama.  These are not mounted on separate sheets, but rather glued onto the pages of collection books. [UNA has] 6 books of lichen specimens, 7 books of fungi, and 3 books or Carex from Peters.”


Thomas Minott Peters, image from Charles Mohr’s PLANT LIFE OF ALABAMA
Thanks to Meredith McLemore, Archivist, Alabama Department of Archives & History
for assistance in obtaining this image.


Dr. Peters was a lawyer by profession, a botanist by avocation.  According to the Alabama State Bar,

“Thomas Minott Peters was born on December 4, 1810 in Clarksville, Tennessee. He moved with his parents to Lawrence County, Alabama in 1819, locating at a farm near Leighton. He attended LaGrange College and graduated from the University of Alabama with a Bachelor’s Degree in 1834 and a Master’s Degree in 1836. He read law at Moulton and was admitted to the Bar in 1836. He had a successful litigation practice in the area. Peters became involved in politics and served in the Alabama House from 1845 to 1846 and the Alabama Senate from 1847 to 1848.

Thomas Minott Peters was a staunch Unionist. With the outbreak of the War Between the States, he left Alabama because of his Union sympathies despite the fact that he was a pre-war slaveholder. Perhaps because he was not a supporter of the Confederacy, his reputation in Alabama is obscure today.

However, in 1868 he was elected to a six year term on the Alabama Supreme Court as a Republican and he became Chief Justice in 1873. He promoted equal rights for African Americans and he was one of the first prominent Alabamians who publicly advocated equal rights for women, a position which was unpopular in both male-dominated political parties of his era. He was defeated for re-election in 1874 but continued to practice law in Moulton until his death in 1888.

Thomas Minott Peters was an advocate for public education, a promoter of industrial development, a nationally recognized naturalist, and an activist for equal rights. For his lifetime of achievement, the lawyers of Alabama induct Thomas Minott Peters into the Alabama Lawyers’ Hall of Fame.” (1)

In addition to practicing law, Thomas Peters was the editor and owner of a newspaper (“The Union” and “The Moulton Advertiser”) in Moulton, Alabama.(8)  He left the Whig Party in 1844 “because of the annexation [of Texas] question.” (7, 8)  However, he apparently re-joined the Whig Party in 1845 when elected as the Representative for Lawrence County in the Alabama General Assembly.  “In 1860, on the Union issue, he supported Stephen A. Douglas, and during the secession contest proved himself to be an ardent and uncompromising friend of the Union.  During the War of Secession he went into the Federal lines.  He was a member of the constitutional convention of Alabama in 1867 from Lawrence County.” (7)  Peters’ son, William, served in the Confederate Army. (8)

Charles Mohr extolled Peters’ virtues in the Introduction to Plant Life of Alabama.  “In his love for botany [Thomas Minott Peters] found recreation from his professional duties, and his greatest enjoyment was to wander through the adjacent mountains in search of plants.  The study of lichens and fungi attracted him particularly, and he was one of the few mycologists working in the Southern field along with Curtis and Ravenel.  Of his zeal and activity in this line the long list of Southern fungi of his contribution, published by M.A. Curtis and Berkeley, bears ample testimony.  He was also a close observer and accurate student of the higher orders.  He first brought to light the delicate and extremely rare fern Trichomanes petersii, described by Gray, with others like it hidden in the dark recesses of rocky defiles and the so-called "rock houses."  He gave close attention to the species of Carex, furnishing the investigators of this difficult genus with material from a region unknown to botanists.  In acknowledgement of the services rendered him, Boott, of London, one of the first authors on these plants, presented him with a copy of his magnificent work, Illustrations of the Genus Carex.  These classical and valuable volumes Judge Peters bequeathed to the University of Alabama, his alma mater, together with his mycological herbarium and collection of Carices, all mounted and labeled.  In 1880 the writer had the privilege of enjoying the company of this venerable botanist during his investigations of the forests in Lawrence and Winston counties, and also received from him much valuable information on the mountain flora of the State, made use of in the present work.” (2)


Trichomanes petersii Gray
photograph by Alan Cressler, 2009 (3)


Thomas Minott Peters was married to Naomi Sophia Leetch (20 September 1820 – 18 June 1880) of Moulton, Alabama, and they had six children:  Sarah Naomi (27 July 1839 – 14 July 1963), William Lemuel (23 March 1842 – ca. January 1907), Martha Leigh (18 December 1844 – d. after 1911), Anna Maria (“Mariah A.” in the 1860 census; 18 March 1846 – d. between 1895-1907), Mary Minott (11 March 1850 – d. between 1895-1907) and Lutie (“Lucy” in some references) Alice (23 April 1853 – d. after 1911) (4,5,6,7, 8).  Thomas Minott Peters died at age 78 at his home in Moulton, Alabama on 14 June 1888.



(1)  Thomas Minott Peters (1810-1888). [Internet]. 2011. Montgomery, Alabama, United States of America: Alabama State Bar. [cited 2011 Dec 20] Available from:

(2)   Mohr C. 1901. Plant Life of Alabama. Montgomery, Alabama, United States of America: Brown Printing Company. 921 p.

(3)   <a href=""> Alan Cressler / Discover Life </a>

(4)  Alabama's Supreme Court Chief Justices: Thomas M. Peters. [Internet]. 2011. Montgomery, Alabama, United States of America: Alabama Department of Archives and History. [cited 2011 Dec 20] Available from:

(5)  1850 Census “SCHEDULE 1. – Free Inhabitants in The 8th District in the County of Lawrence State of Alabama enumerated by me, on the 12th day of December 1850.  J.B. Speare Ass’t Marshall 418.”

(6)  1860 Census “SCHEDULE 1. – Free Inhabitants in The Southern Division in the County of Lawrence State of Alabama enumerated by me, on the second day of June 1860.  C. C. [illegible] Asst. Marshall  Post Office Moulton, page 4.”

(7)   Owen, Thomas McAdory and Marie Bankhead Owen (1921)  History of Alabama and dictionary of Alabama biography, Volume 4. “Peters, Thomas Minott,” page 1349. Chicago:  S.J. Clarke Publishing Company.

(8)  Cagle, Hoyt. “Re:  Leetch/Peters Famil.”  GenForum., 08 Aug 2004.  Web.  25 Jan 2012.  <>.



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University of North Carolina Herbarium
CB# 3280, Coker Hall
University of North Carolina
Chapel Hill, NC 27599-3280
phone: (919) 962-6931
fax: (919) 962-6930

Last Updated:  25 January 2012