Does apple know how far it falls from tree?

Peterson discovers much in common with great-great-grandfather
By: 
Kevin Passon
Editor-in-chief

Michael “Blue” Peterson has more in common with his great-great-grandfather than a blood line and a last name.

Now serving as worshipful master of Mason-Woods Lodge 368 F&AM, Peterson did not know how much he had in common with his ancestor until well into adulthood.

“The curious part of this story is, other than a few snippets, I did not know my great-great-grandfather accomplished any of this until I became a member of Shawano area Masons,” Michael Peterson said.

“My grandmother had articles from the Evening Leader (Nov. 25, 1942), another around 1944, when my father, Ward F. Peterson, enlisted in the U.S. Navy and drew some of the similarities. I was aware my uncle, George Peterson, was a Mason. When I moved home in 2020, George Tincher (rest his soul) steered into the archives.”

It was in 1862 in the Town of Belle Plaine when Alexander Peterson enlisted in Company B, 21st Wisconsin infantry, to fight in the Civil War. After spending months in an Atlanta hospital, he was medically discharged. After that, he immediately reenlisted.

He was promoted to the rank of second lieutenant for his “gallantry and heroism.”

Prior to returning home after the Civil War ended, he adopted a young orphaned adolescent whose parents died before seeing their freedom.

Throughout his life, he worked in many occupations — including mercantile, lumbering, postmaster and township treasurer.

He was an avid member of the veterans service organization GAR (Grand Army of the Republic). As a member of the Republican Party, he traveled to Ripon, where the political party was born.

Alexander Peterson was a founding father of the Shawano Masonic Lodge No. 170, which was chartered in June 1868. He served as worshipful master after being elected senior warden. The elected worshipful master was unable to fulfill his duties that year due to illness.

Fast-forward to 1977. Alexander Peterson’s great-great-grandson, Michael Peterson, enlisted in the U.S. Air Force.

During his enlistment, he was promoted early to senior airman and subsequently to sergeant, before his cohorts, for outstanding service.

Throughout his life, Michael Peterson served in many occupations — including musician, aircraft mechanic, president of several racing organizations and clergy.

He is an avid member of American Veterans Post 10 in Shawano, and a member of the Republican Party of Wisconsin. When he remarried 18 years ago, Michael Peterson, like his great-great-grandfather, adopted his wife’s sons — Joel, Ryan and Tylor.

“Our departed (Masonic) brother George Tincher was close friends with my uncle, George Peterson, who belonged to Shawano lodge and were also both Shriners,” Michael Peterson said. “My Uncle George shared a lot of this with Brother Tincher, who was able to corroborate his stories by looking up information in old minutes books and ledgers dating back to the lodge beginnings.”

Michael Peterson said he felt a great honor when he discovered all the similarities.

“One primary reason I joined the Freemasons is because our Mason brothers work humbly and do not wish recognition. Great-Great-Grandfather Alexander served and lived not wishing to draw attention to his work,” he said. “As I read more and more into his life, I also felt a connection to the past. History is to me one of the most important things we need to study and preserve.”

He said it’s perhaps because certain family values were passed down from generation to generation that he made some of the same choices.

“Most important, I believe the things we do validate the choices we’ve made — some good, some bad,” Michael Peterson said. “We all just work to keep more checks in the good box than the bad.”

Already with much in common, there is one more similarity yet to be seen.

It was Nov. 4, 1929, and Alexander Peterson was 87 years old.

“After a day of yard work and bringing in firewood, Great-Great-Grandpa Alexander sat down in his favorite chair,” Michael Peterson said, as he recounted the story. “Shortly after, one of the children exclaimed, ‘Look at Grandpa,’ as he slid down, softly gasped twice and completed his work upon this earth and was given the master’s word.

“He left this earth as subtle as the sunset on a warm summer day and (was) given Masonic honors at his funeral. I would like that in common with him, too.”

Alexander Peterson is buried in Friendship Cemetery in Belle Plaine.

kpasson@newmedia-wi.com