Emma Peek, aka “Madame Marantette”
By Linda Wilbur
Due to an extraordinary family intermarriage pattern, I am related in four different ways to Emma Peek (1849 – 1922), born in 1849 to John G. and Matilda (RICHARDS) Peek of Mendon, St. Joseph Co., MI. Emma’s first husband was Patrick Henry Charles MARANTETTE, also of Mendon, MI. Charles, a son of Patrick Godet Marantette, a very Roman Catholic pioneer fur trapper and his wife, Frances MOUTON. When Charles decided to marry the very beautiful, but very Protestant Emma, the family definitely did not approve! From what I have heard, this ongoing family disapproval weighed heavily on the marriage, which lasted less than a year and ended in divorce.
In 1882, Emma was taken in hand by Daniel H. HARRIS and trained as an equestrienne. Apparently, the ability to gracefully manage a horse while riding sidesaddle must have run in the Peek family. Emma’s younger sister, Myrtle Viola “Myrtie” Peek (HOFFMAN) was also a trained equestrienne. She was not nearly as famous as her older sister, but that might have changed if she hadn’t died prematurely at the age of 33 of pneumonia.
In addition to retaining her first husband’s surname as her professional name, Emma also named her famous horse “St. Patrick” after her former husband and his father! While she was actively performing, she carried everything she owned…including her dogs, several horses and an ostrich trained to pull a two-wheeled buggy…in a pullman car with “St. Patrick” and “Madame Marantette” boldly painted on both sides. I know for certain that she appeared for at least one season with Ringling Brothers and also traveled to England to perform. I have also heard, but haven’t been able to confirm, that she knew William Cody and performed in his Wild West Show. Her specialty was training high school horses. Additionally, she and St. Patrick held the high jump record of 7 feet, 10-1/2 inches…which may still stand, as it was accomplished while riding sidesaddle! It is known that Emma was an active performer well into her sixties. My mother told me about having seen her driving her ostrich and cart in a Colon, Michigan circus parade in the summer of 1916. (Emma would have turned 67 that year.) Emma eventually married her trainer, Daniel Harris, but they never had any natural children together. I understand they did adopt a daughter, but have not yet been able to discover who she was or whatever became of her. Emma Peek Marantette Harris aka “Madame Marantette” died in 1922 at Mendon and lies buried in the Mendon Township Cemetery, Mendon,St. Joseph Co., MI.
the world record achievements and self-promotion of one of the most colorful citizens of the village of Mendon, Michigan. A horsewoman of impeccable standards and ability, Madame Marantette set world records in horsemanship while riding side-saddle in a skirt. She later became known as “Queen of the Saddle” and traveled for several years with the Barnum & Bailey Circus.