Thursday, March 24, 2011

My last English ancestors came to the United States in 1829. The Pierces lived in the little town of South Lopham in Norfolk, England. They had worked as linen weavers and in the 1820s the linen industry crashed, as cheaper sources of fabric became available. The Pierces had to figure out what to do- become farmers in an area where farming was marginal, move to a big city, or strike out to America. They chose the latter.

The father, James, was born in 1790 and was married to Elizabeth, born in 1798. They married in the St Andrew's church in South Lopham on New Year's Day in 1818, a year after the picture below was drawn of the slightly dilapidated church.

South Lopham church.

The couple had seven children- William, James, Robert, Henry, Richard, John, and Ellen. As they prepared to leave the community, they doubtlessly went to the church one last time to pray they would survive the sailing voyage across the broad ocean (it took 10 weeks).

1825 baptismal record for Robert and Henry.

They settled in Jefferson County, New York and took up farming. At least three more children were born- Melvin, George, and Elizabeth. In 1848, James decided to move the family to Sheboygan County, Wisconsin, where he and Elizabeth lived out the rest of their lives.

My great-great-great grandfather Robert remained behind in Jefferson County. He had married Julia Ann Sprague sometime in 1849 or early 1850. In September 1850, the couple was living with Julia's brother Daniel and his family in the town of Theresa. Julia's widowed mother lived next door.

1850 census.

By 1860, the couple had four daughters- Sarah DeEtte, Bertha, Florence, and Frances. They moved to Wisconsin sometime between 1862 and 1864 and Robert enlisted in the Union Army during the Civil War, serving for 10 months in 1864 and 1865.

After the war, the family moved to Grand Traverse County, Michigan, where Robert worked as a farmer. A son Charles had been added to the family, and a fifth daughter, Fannie. However, she died when she was four years old in 1869.

1870 census.

Wife Julia died in 1878, and Robert never remarried. In the 1880s, he was badly injured in a logging accident, when a large log rolled over him on the side of a hill. He received a disability pension for his Civil War service, one of the contributing factors being chronic diarrhea. He died in 1904.

Robert Pierce.

A few years ago I happened to be in a small history museum in Fife Lake, near where the family had lived. There was a photo album in the front window and I opened it, unexpectedly finding many pictures of the Pierce family, none of which I had ever seen. Among these were photos of Robert and two of his daughters.



I have a handful of photographs that were passed down in my own family.

DeEtte and her husband David, circa 1875.

Among the other family heirlooms I have is DeEtte's bible. She died unexpectedly from a stroke in 1898, at age 46 (younger than I am now).

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