The Pioneering Pierces
By Ida Pierce Coeyman 1948
Printed in THE SETTLER, Published by the Bradford County Historical Society, Towanda, Pennsylvania, September 1974. Editor, Sylvia Wilson. Submitted by and Reprinted with permission of Sylvia Wilson. (Retyped for Tri-Counties by Pat SMITH Raymond)
Here the chronicle of the Pioneering Pierces begins as the writer learned it from her father, Walter Pierce and from her next door neighbor, Nancy Niles Bird. Additional knowledge was gained from records left by Harry Pierce and his sister Ruth Pierce Perkins and Henry Miner. Diaries of Emmeline Tracy and James Martin and the research work of Conrad Richter including every fact to be uncovered from every reliable source appears in the following saga.
Of all the world’s real heroes, none have won
The right to be more honored or more dear
Than he, who pushing toward the setting sun
Became the Smithfield Pierces-pioneer.
His moods preferred God’s primitive exchange
Where well tilled corn, in corn gives back returns,
Nor did he ever deem it wrong or strange
That pay should be no more than effort earns.
Ah, would his children, in this age were true
To that, which they inherit from the past;
Could they but look beyond their present view
This creeping socialistic change, they’d blast.
The Vermont settlers, especially around Pulteney and Halifax, were the first to become interested in these schemes of the Connecticut Company to attract permanent residents to the land they claimed in Bradford County, Pennsylvania.
As neighbors met, it was the one topic of conversation. Stories grew from much repetition and the Company promises became irresistible.
Some of the more venturesome soon had signed with the agents and made the small down payment required. Each was provided with a chart showing the location of his best spring, near which he should erect his cabin, and enough landmarks were noted on the chart so that he could find his way from his starting point into the wilderness and to the exact location of his possession.
No man in Pulteney was more interested in this new country than Phineas Pierce, great grandfather of the writer, as he was a skilled woodsman. He longed to see the hemlocks and the pines in the primeval forests that covered so many Pennsylvania hillsides.
His wife, Ruth Gaines was in such a weakened condition from consumption that he dared not submit her to the hardships of the long trip.
Through the years of 1800 and 1801 they bade one neighbor after another "adieu" as they set out for the "Promised Land." The saddest parting was with Samuel Kellogg and his wife Sarah Rogers. They and the Pierces had been close friends for many years.
In preparation for establishing this new home, Samuel Kellogg, Solomon Morse and Nathan Fellows were organized into the nucleus of a church in Pulteney, Vermont, February 11, 1801 by Reverend Elijah Norton, and were soon thereafter on their way. Little or no news came back from them. Those who would not do the work required to clear the land were lured father west to the treeless plains of Illinois. The staunchest remained and no word of regret was ever recorded. They met their problems and with God’s help overcame them.
Ruth Gaines Pierce died November 8, 1902 after a tedious, lingering illness. Phineas was left with seven children, four having died in infancy. Keziah, aged 29 at this time was married and had a home and family of her own, as did Thoda aged 23 years. Lucy, aged 13 was the only girl in the home. There were four boys – Phineas Jr., aged 21; Amos aged 18; Abiram, aged 16 and Stephen, aged 11.
By this time Phineas was consumed with the desire to get into the Pennsylvania Forest. The flowing accounts of which were being more assiduously poured into the ears of prospective settlers by the land agents. He was busy about his plans for migrating but somehow found time to persuade Ruth Rogers Beebe, widow of Cooley Beebe, that it would be to her advantage and to that of her daughter Thurza, if she would marry him and follow her sister Sarah Rogers Kellogg into the new country. She agreed and on January 13, 1803 they were married. Two months and two days after the death of Ruth Pierce.
Phineas, at once, signed up for lots 38, 39 and 40 about 500 acres located in what later became Smithfield Township, made his initial payment and received his chart.
His home and possessions which he would not be able to transport had to be disposed of and this took much time as so many were liquidating at this same time.
Various methods of transportation had been used by his predecessors but Phineas decided on a team of oxen and a horse. The latter to be hitched to the end of the wagon tongue, to help pull the load, to speed up the oxen, furnish Phineas with a seat on his back and provide him with swifter transportation when any scouting had to be done. The oxen were trained to follow this horse. The wagon was carefully chosen for the long, hard trip over rough roads.
It was well into the fall before all of this business could be completed, his 1803 crops harvested and the greater part marketed, as he could take but little with him.
By this time his second wife was so heavy with child that she did not feel equal to the long, hard ride and the exposure to the weather of the late fall. Again there was a wait but this time only a short one as Horace Pierce, Grandfather of the writer, was born November 16, 1803.
The plan was to start on the long journey as soon as the mother regained sufficient strength. Phineas was about sixty years old at this time.
After all the months of planning it seemed an endless job to cut the load to what would go into the wagon box, leave comfortable seats for the mother and babe (a small rocking chair securely fastened to the bottom of the wagon box) and the two girls and bring the absolute necessities for the winter’s work, axes, augers and saws to build the cabin; brush hooks, cant hooks, chains and hooks and clevices to use in clearing the land. Phineas, from the first time he had heard of the stately pines and hemlocks, had envisioned the mill he would construct and use some of the much vaunted water power. He brought his anvil and bellows, the iron necessary and the up and down saw that he would need.
These things filled that one small wagon box so rapidly. There were many anxious consultations, many readjustments and many disappointments as one of the family after another removed a prized possession they had hoped to carry to the new home. The mother insisted on having room reserved for her loom, which could be taken apart, her spinning wheel and her flax wheel and the raw material which she would make into yarn and cloth for clothing. They needed her prized blankets for warmth, the irons for the fireplace in the new home, and her kettles, griddle and frying pans. There was seed, too, to be carried for next year’s crops and an endless amount of small articles necessary to their very existence.
About the second week in December all was in readiness. Much food, like dried beef and jerked venison, Johnny cake, rye bread and maple sugar were placed in an accessible place, as well as an iron kettle in which water could be heated and mush cooked or a bit of hot catnip tea made when needed along the way. They had a foot stove for the mother’s comfort and anytime they wanted to make a fire for cooking they could take some coals from it. In fact they had to stop and make fresh coals for this stove occasionally. Once it was neglected too long but they were fortunate enough to get some coals from an inn to renew it and so did not have to resort to striking a spark with a flint and steel. Grain to feed the animals had to have its place on the load, too.
Long before day break on the appointed day a well broken pair of oxen, for which Phineas had paid seventy dollars was attached to the loaded wagon, and the study horse, value unknown, had his whiffle tree snapped into the ring at the end of the wagon tongue. Phineas mounted the horse. The women took the seats provided for them in the wagon box. Thurza and Lucy were near enough of an age to be very companionable. The mother held baby Horace close to her body so that he would benefit from her warmth. The three boys walked most of the time to keep warm, occasionally perching on the load somewhere for a short rest. Stephen, aged 11, was left in Pulteney with his grandparents, Amos Pierce and his wife Mary Spaulding Pierce. They were well along in years and Amos was quite infirm from his service in the Revolutionary War. They seemed to need Stephen.
There were no regrets on leaving the old home, they were thrilled, rather, with the idea of a new adventure. They knew there would be hardships but they were eager to meet and overcome them. In this spirit the days passed quickly.
They used their own provisions but when night came they would stop at a tavern or road house, as such places were designated at that time, to get the animals cared for and their load of goods under cover, if possible. Beds were always found for the women and usually for the men. After a night’s rest, they were eager to get on their way. So far as is known the trip was uneventful until the family crossed the Susquehanna river and came to that unbroken forest. As far to the west as the eye could see was a block of the most massive and luxuriant pine and hemlock trees that surpassed their wildest expectations. A boundless deep immensity of shade.
"All the air was full of freshness,
All the earth was bright and joyous,
And before them, through the sunshine,
Westward, ever westward lay the forest.
With a look of exaltation
As of one who sees a vision,
Sees what is to be, and is not,
Stood and Marvelled Phineas P.
Loved the shadow of the forest,
Loved the wind among the branches;
Through their palisades of pine trees
Felt as one among them, moving slowly
Moving toward a peaceful haven
In the solitary forest."
They had not proceeded far into the forest before the road that had been very rough from the start, became so narrowed, by the brush growing in from the sides, that the wagon could not pass through. Phineas rode on ahead and found the trail to be gradually closing in. There was nothing to do but find the place where the least chopping would allow them to turn around and return to the clearing along the river. There they found accommodations for the women. The men unloaded the goods and laid out tools and iron enough to build a sled out of the materials at hand. The wagon box was attached to it and reloaded and this time they were able to get through.
The two older boys went ahead with their axes and cut back where the new growth had sprung up into the opening since the earlier families had passed through in 1801. Abiram took his gun and got enough small game for a good supper when they reached their possession.
It was mid-afternoon when they got to the Samuel Kellogg home near the present Humpton place. They only halted long enough to let the mother and babe off. They were to remain with the Kelloggs until the Pierce cabin could be built and somewhat dried out. Thurza and Lucy went on with the men to cook and help in other ways.
We can imagine what it meant to Sarah Rogers Kellogg, who had heard little or no news from Pulteney since the family left there in 1801, to have her sister Ruth with her for two weeks or so. How they did visit and Ruth Pierce learned many valuable lessons in pioneer house keeping that were of much help to her in her own home.
Letters could go out from and come in to Smithfield at this time through Hollenback’s Store in Athens. Their service was expensive and most uncertain, but the Pierces, through this medium had got word to the Kelloggs that they would soon arrive and where they were to locate. The latter family had cut out an opening from the main trail from Athens to Springfield, to the big spring on the tract directly north of the present Wood homestead.
Although the travelers were weary from their long and tedious jaunt their enthusiasm never waned. They could not command words to express themselves as they rode mile after mile among the stately monarchs of this wonderful forest, not yet marred by man. The writer can appreciate their feeling from a somewhat similar experience in Northern Nova Scotia.
I tarried there that day; I worshipped there,
For in that forest God seemed everywhere,
And when the shining day was wholly done
And twilight’s peaceful hours were well begun
I homeward bore the forest’s loving words
That filled my heart like melodies of birds,
And seemed God’s benediction from above
Those woodland gladsome messages of love.
Taken from "The Trees"
There was no sign of man from the Kellogg cabin until they came to a stumpy lane, just wide enough for a wagon to go winding and rocking through between the big butts. This lane led to the Michael Bird possession. They made their settlement in 1801 as had Solomon Morse and Nathan Fellows who located nearer to the present village of East Smithfield.
After passing the lane leading to the Bird possession, Phineas Jr. Who was scouting well ahead of the others, was on the alert to locate the opening on the right of their trail that Samuel Kellogg had opened up for them.
Great was his joy when he came to it. He followed in to the glistening spring of crystal clear water that had been the feature that sold this particular location to them. That was just as the agent had represented it. After a long draft of the refreshing water his happy shouts echoed and re-echoed through the forest telling the others of his find.
Phineas skillfully piloted the load in through the narrow opening. Each took a drink of the much needed water and the animals were not forgotten. Phineas when thanked God for his guidance and care in leading them to this peaceful, sylvan retreat.
"They loved the shadow of the forest,
Loved the Wind among the branches
Through their palisades of pine trees
Soon their smoke rose slowly, slowly
Through the tranquil air of evening
In this Solitary Forest."
They began, at once, to prepare a shelter for the night and for use while putting up their cabin. From their experience gained along the way, they were organized, and each one knew the part of the work for which they would be held responsible. They expected hardship, they met the challenge and proved themselves the winner by overcoming them.
The patriarchs of the forest looked upon them with approval. They recognized them as experienced wood’s folks as soon as they noticed Phineas’ skilled handling of his ox team on the rough road. They sensed that he understood wood’s life. They had seen the trappers and adventures, in their zest for gain, leave a trail of careless fires and even more careless barking of trees to mark paths, in their greedy rush to catch the fur bearing animals. Others had tarried for a time but became homesick or thought the effort too great to work out a home and soon moved on, sensing no friendship in the trees. This family was noticeably different. They were happy and laughed and sang about the work.
As the family organization swung into action, Phineas gave his attention to the oxen and horse. They had a hard pull to get that loaded sled along the rough trail. They needed much currying and rubbing, then they were turned loose to browse around until it was time for their grain. Abiram started right in to get the material together for the big fire that would be needed for heat, coals for cooking and to keep away the wolves, panthers and bears by night. He had coals in the foot stove to start it. Thurza and Lucy busied themselves gathering dry bark and dead branches while Abiram got the heavier material. As soon as Phineas had made the animals comfortable, he began dressing the squirrels and rabbits that Abirm had shot on the way in. Amos and Phineas Jr. Were cutting the poles and branches for the lean-to that would be put up in front of the fire for their temporary shelter. No wind could penetrate this dense forest and it did not seem cold to them even though it was December. They were accustomed to life in the open and the rigors of new England.
When the fire was burning up satisfactorily the girls went over to the load and began getting out the trenchers and wooden bowls they would need for their supper; also the meal and the salt. Phineas Jr. Left his work long enough to get the heavy iron kettle and the large iron frying pan as there would soon be coals on which the game could be cooked and the porridge made. Needless to say, they were all hungry, as little time had been taken for their mid-day lunch.
Phineas Jr. And Amos had selected two massive hemlocks with inter-mingling branches reaching down to the ground and rather near to the fire. The branches on the side fronting the fire were cut back well to the trunk for a certain distance up and poles were laid from one tree to the other on the stubs of the limbs. The sharpened ends of the heavy branches they had cut were then braced in the ground and leaned against the poles. This made a good shelter with an opening left toward the fire. Fresh cut boughs trimmed from the poles were piled in one end for a bed, pelts were thrown over these and home made blankets were used for covers.
By this time the girls had the game fried to a turn. How good it did smell, and a well cooked kettle of porridge was ready to be eaten with it. For dessert they put some maple sugar, shaved fine, on the last helping of the porridge.
There was much innocent fun among the young people as they satisfied their healthy appetites and thus the first Smithfield meal was eaten by the Phineas Pierces. No regrets, no complaints. They were full of anticipation of the morrow when they would begin their permanent home and unload their belongings and place them in the other end of their temporary shelter.
After the animals had satisfied their hunger they came in and lay down near the fire and family. All were ready to retire early and were lulled to sleep by the woods’ noises such as the hoots of the big horned owl, calm and steady as always. Now and then wolves howled afar off and occasionally a wail could be heard that might have been a panther, a catamount, or a red fox. The latter could give the worst scare of any animal in the forest when it so desired. Phineas had to replenish the fire twice during the night.
Nights that are spent in the open
Under the whispering trees;
Slumber that is sweet and dreamless
Lullabys sung by the breeze,
Waked by the first red sunbeam
Unto no day of strife-
Waked to a day of adventure,
Such is the pioneer’s life.
At day break they were astir and there were coals enough now, to bake a Johnny cake and cook more game. They had a little tea but it would be hard to replace and very expensive, so that was saved for the mother.
After breakfast Phineas paced off the 16X18 foot plot for the cabin and set the corner posts. While Amos and Abiram were clearing this plot, he was marking the smaller trees that would need to be felled to provide logs for the walls and the roof of the cabin.
Phineas Jr. Had taken his gun and gone deep into the forest to get meat enough to take care of their needs until they had the building put together. He returned for Amos to help him bring in a deer and he also had two wild turkeys. When the deer was dressed, the hair was removed from the pelt with lye made from wood ashes. The skin would be tanned with oak bark liquer, in a hollowed out log trough. Later it would be worked soft, laid out flat, cut out with a hunting knife and sewed into a shirt for one of the boys. It might be trimmed with squirrel fur.
To return to the cabin building, while Phineas Jr. And Abiram felled the trees that had been selected for their uniform size. Phineas and Amos cut them into the proper lengths to lay up the walls, trimmed them and notched them for the corners.
The girls had been told to get meat enough cooked and Johnny Cake baked for several days, as it would be up to them to keep the cracks between the logs plastered with clay as soon as the walls of the cabin were started. There was no milk to be had, so the Johnny Cake was crumbled in water instead and sweetened with a little maple sugar.
As soon as the men got enough logs cut and notched to begin the cabin, the horse was brought up. With his help they could be stacked very near to the place where they were to be used, then the men, by putting poles under each end, could lift them into place. They were laid up cobhouse fashion with the bark left on. The cracks were filled with clay mixed with dry grass and leaves. The side walls were seven feet high.
The weather favored them and the job was completed before a storm came. The opening for a door was left on one side and a blanket was used for a door that first winter. The windows could be cut out later. Paper would be greased with bear oil and used in place of glass. In a few days they were ready for the roof. It was hard, slow work to get those logs in place. They, in turn, were covered by large sections of bark held down by poles, the ends of which were held in place by heavy stones. This covering was only temporary, to be used until the following June when they could peel larger sheets from basswood logs.
The chimney was very capacious at the bottom, being without jambs and would hold logs of any size and many feet long. Some stones were laid at the back to protect the end of the cabin from the fire, and so much of the smoke as choice to ascend, found a kind of tunnel in the chamber way to convey it out. It was made of split sticks of suitable length built up with four equal sides and plastered over with mud on the inside to keep it from catching on fire. This, too, was a temporary make shift and was replaced the next summer with a real fireplace having an outside stone chimney to conduct the smoke out.
While the men were working on the fireplace and finishing the roof, the girls dampened and tamped the floor and topped it with clay. As often as bear skins could be spared from other uses, they would be tanned and laid on this dirt floor.
About this time it was discovered that their grindstone had failed to get in the load. When they mentioned this oversight to Samuel Kellogg he told them that Michael Bird had one. The scattered settlers in the area used that one stone for some time. (What is left of it is in the Albert Hall’s repair shop at the present time, 1948.)
As soon as the clay had dried sufficiently, a light fire was made in the fireplace in the cabin and was kept burning steadily but carefully for fear of setting the place on fire. The interior was so damp it required much drying out before it could be used. They hurried the process in every way possible because they were so anxious to bring the mother and baby Horace home. They had all been too busy to make many calls on them and the mother was getting homesick as the excitement of the reunion with her sister wore off.
The older boys took turns every few days in going out for game. This wild meat provided the greater part of their food , so much was required. Amos had been assigned the mob of cleaning up around the cabin, so that it would look more home-like when the mother came. The heavier limbs from the tops of the trees used in constructing the cabin were worked up into wood for the fireplace and the smaller brush was used on the outside fire. The "lean-to" was still a safer place to sleep because it was drier than the cabin.
Phineas, with some help from the older boys, was hewing out the material from which they would later construct the punchard, benches and stools; - split logs with legs in bored holes in the rounded side. The long benches were used at the sides of the punchard and stools were scattered about the cabin. The punchard was a higher, wider bench, split from a very large tree and was used as a dining table. Two strong poles, one end of each secured in a hole made in a side and an end log of the cabin with the two ends that came together supported by a forked post, securely bedded at the bottom in the earthen floor, formed the family bedstead. Leather thongs laced from the long horizontal poles to wooden plugs in the logs provided the bed spring and sweet smelling pine boughs covered with the pelts, home cured, provided the mattress. The spinning wheel and the loom provided the furnishing when the mother’s ladderback rocker was placed near the fire. The kettles were hanging on the cranes. The frying pans and the griddle were near at hand. The trenchers and bowls were on the punchard and all was clean and orderly. This may sound primitive but it was the best they could do with the tools they had at hand. This family was happy and far more established than the average household of to-day.
All was in readiness for the home-coming of the mother, and what a happy day it was. She was so pleased with all that they had accomplished and was strong enough, by now, to utilize every spare moment at her wheel or loom making materials for the clothing needs of the family. Lucy and Thurza could take their turns, under her supervision. Much spinning was turned over to them, by spring, so that the mother could work more steadily at the loom.
Long sharp sticks called "Candle Wood" had been split out and dried around the fire. Soon they burned fairly well and with the light from the fire, permitted some work in the evening. Hickory bark was sometimes used for lights as were small pieces of twisted rags, with one end submerged in bear grease. These latter were called "sluts".
The animals had to browse over quite a radius, before spring, to satisfy their hunger. They got very thin. When the family went into the cabin to sleep, the "lean-to" was enlarged and more heavily brushed. It was then used as a shelter for the oxen and horse, nights and on stormy days. There was not much snow on the ground at any time.
The Kellogg family were of much help to the newcomers as they had learned much about the frontier life in their two years of experience. Sarah divided her herbs – catnip, penny royal, sassafras and boneset with her sister, so that she could make teas in case of sickness. The young people of the two families were very congenial and eventually a romance developed between Anna Kellogg and Phineas Jr.
As soon as the family was settled in the cabin, the men started the clearing for the next season’s crops. There was still the problem of game for food but every moment was mad to count. Abiram and Phineas Jr. Like to work together at felling the trees. As one would sink his bit deep into the flesh of the butt, the other would clip the chip off like clock work. Sometimes a word would not pass between them in an entire half day. From fifty or sixty feet above the ground these heavy butts went, holding their thickness and as straight as flag poles. Some butts were so thick one could not see over them when felled. The best of these were trimmed for mill logs and later snaked down by the Tom jack Creek near Burt Bennett’s home, where Phineas had selected a place to build a dam to provide the water for the wheel that would furnish the power for his saw mill. He was planning to start this work as soon as the spring opened up.
Evenings the men busied themselves hewing and burning out cavities in blocks cut from poplar trees for various sized buckets, some tall and some shallow. The irons were heated in the fireplace, then used to smooth the rough hewn edges. These receptacles were used for wash basins, for bread mixers and large ones were made for wash tubs. The most tedious job was hollowing out the great number of these buckets that would be needed for sap. These latter were made of basswood or cucumber. When the season was over they would be turned bottom up and left on the ground. The spiles were made of elderberry with the pith burned out.
The Kelloggs had shared their soft soap, too, but it would be returned when the weather became warm enough for the Pierces to run off some lye from their wood ashes and combine it with the winter’s accumulation of fats. Soap making on the outdoor fire was more or less of a festive affair. Sand was combined with this soap when badly soiled clothing was being paddled in the tub.
By spring the women had shirting woven sufficient for several new garments for the men. Deer skins were used for most of their clothing. There was newly woven material for dresses for the women as well as others for underwear and night garments and some soft enough for baby Horace’s wardrobe. The men in the meantime had a good start in clearing the ten acres they had planned to have ready for food crops. Phineas respected the value of the trees too much to wantonly girdle them as some did, to cause them to defoliate and die. This was a quick way to get land to sow wheat on, as the dead trees could stand until the first crop was harvested and then be felled and burned.
"I like a man who likes a tree,
And wants no better company.
For such a man, I always find
Is just the very sort, and kind
Who’s not content, unless it be
He, too, can grow much like a tree.
For trees, you know are friends indeed
They satisfy much human need;
In summer shade, in winter fire,
With flower and fruit meet all desire
And if a friend to man you’d be
You must befriend him like a tree."
The season for sugar making came early, that season. The Pierces had learned the process during their sojourn in Vermont. The sap was boiled in large iron kettles suspended over the outdoor fire. When it began to thicken, it was finished off in the fireplace, the sugar stirred and when thoroughly cooled it was stored in wooden tubs. Sufficient had to be made for a year’s supply of sweetening.
When the run of good sap was over and the spiles and other paraphernalia cleaned and put away for the next season, it was time to work up the wood that had been put to one side when the food plot was being cleared. Much of the waste material had been used in the sugar making.
Then the really novel part of the work came on when they prepared to plant the new land. It took a lot of geeing and haw buckling to saddle the oxen and shovel plow around the stumps. But such mellow, deep soil they had never seen and it smelled so good. The stumps could not be burned and grubbed out until the next season.
The sun shone down particularly warm in these small clearings, protected on all sides from the wind, but it took one person’s time to sit, gun in hand, to protect the precious seed from the squirrels and crows and in the fall much night watching, to keep the crop from the coons and foxes. The dog would sound the warning and call for help. Potatoes and turnips were planted on one side of the flax and corn.
Much hard work was required to keep down the side shoots that kept sprouting from the stumps and the weeds, but with it all, the boys cleared a twenty five acre fallow and had it ready to sow to wheat the next fall. The weather was satisfactory and they harvested plenty of food and forage for the winter season.
The heavy meat diet could be varied through the spring and summer season as there were many weeds that were tasty and healthy for greens, that grew in the woods and roots, too. The girls would ride the horse down to the open land along the river and get dandelions and mild weeds. These were a real treat. There were quantities of wild berries, some were dried for winter use. Delicious water cress grew around the outlets of many springs as well as mint and catnip which supplied tea.
During the long, hot days of summer Lucy and Thurza spent more and more time in the deep forest. It was their movie house, museum, art gallery and light opera (birds). They knew where to find the sweet fern wintergreen berries, also partridge berry and a succession of flowers, from the hepatica on through to the golden rod.
They named certain trees after the Vermont neighbors and held imaginary visits with them. Friendly squirrels were named, too. They talked with the birds and learned to imitate their calls and songs – a never ending source of pleasure.
Phineas had spent most of the summer in building the dam on the Tom Jack, so as to have a sufficient fall in the water to turn the water wheel and furnish the power to run his up and down saw, when the mill race and its gate regulated the flow of the water in to the flume. It took much time to construct all of the paraphernalia with his crude tools, also much ingenuity. He often appealed to Samuel Kellogg for help, as he was more skilled in the use of tools and his knowledge of higher mathematics was helpful, too. Late in the fall of 1804 the flume was completed and the saw ready for use.
The plank for the flume and the timbers for the mill were hand hewn as were all of the parts for the immense water wheel. The necessary iron plates and spikes were hammered out on the anvil as the need arose. Bear’s grease was used for oil. Many jokes were passed on the slow progress of this saw but with it Phineas Pierce sawed the first log from the primeval forest that covered the Smithfield Hills.
During the winter of 1804-05 enough lumber was sawed out so that the first framed building in the township was erected the following summer – a barn. Great grandfather believed then, and the writer often heard her father make the same assertion, that a good barn would soon pay for a good house. This meant shelter for the oxen and horse. A cow was soon bought and pigs, also a few sheep to provide wool for clothing. Plenty of forage could be raised now that there was a place to store it. More land was being cleared and the stumps removed from the first plot. A good stone fireplace, with a chimney to carry the smoke outside, had been added to the cabin. A board floor had been laid and a second one and a partition had converted the upper part of the cabin into two sleeping rooms, reached by means of a ladder. The downstairs bed was made smaller and a new baby came to the family, a girl who was named Ruth All in all, 1805 had been an eventful year for the Pierces. They were quite comfortable now.
In 1805 Nehemiah Tracy and family arrived in the township, the thirteenth family according to Emmeline Tracy’s diary, written in 1860. They settled near the Gerould, Williams and Mitchell families in the eastern part of the township and a road was opened up from the Athens-Troy road, near Samuel Kellogg’s cabin, in an easterly direction to what was later called Gerould’s Corners. There had been a path with marked trees for some months and the young people had been going back and forth through the forest. They had, by the same means, been visiting Solomon Morse’s family, the James Satterlees and the Col. Samuel Satterlees. The Michael Birds were their nearest neighbors. The latter being a barber by trade, was periodically visited for a hair cut by the men of the Pierce family.
In 1806 a log school house was built, as a community project, at the foot of Pease Hill, east of the present village. It replaced the old log cabin where the first communion service was held and the sacrament administered by a traveling missionary, Rev. James Wood in 1801. This school house was to serve as a church as well. Paths from various directions converged on this building.
Services were held here without aid of pastor until 1812, when the first Congregational Church was build in the village at a cost of four hundred and fifty dollars. The Pierce family took an active interest in this church.
To return to school matters, Ephriam Gerould was the first teacher. Money was so scarce that he and succeeding teachers accepted grain, maple sugar, geese or whatever could be spared from the homes of the pupils. This produce could be delivered to Tioga Point (Athens) by the teacher and exchanged in Hollenback’s store for goods. Occasionally money would be given in exchange. Spelling was the principal sturdy, with some attention given to reading and writing. Arithmetic, grammar and geography were added as books became available. Ink was made from maple bark, boiled in water with copper added. A goose Quill sharpened by the "master" was used as a pen.
The furnishings consisted of a fireplace at one end of the building and a raised platform at the other end which held a seat of some kind for the teacher. A long wide board extending down each side of the room was made to project from the wall, (it rested on wooden pegs driven into the logs) forming a table. The older pupils placed their books on this and used it as a desk. A long bench, with no back, was placed in front for a seat. The pupils faced the wall to study, and the open room to recite. In front of this arrangement was a lower seat the entire length of the room, where the smaller children sat. The girls occupied one side of the room, the boys the other. Never were they allowed to sit together and there was no communication between them, except sly winks and signs when the teacher’s back was turned. This was the school house where the writer’s grandfather, Horace Pierce, began his education.
Early in 1807 Elias Needham and family came in. Their possession was in the eastern part of the township, on the land known as the C.P. Howland farm. His daughter Lucy, was very attractive and a neighborhood romance developed, immediately, between her and Constant Williams. In the fall, a day was set for the wedding.
The cabin was put in the very best order and arrangements made for the wedding supper. The affair was to be a secret, only a few of the neighbors were invited, among them was Squire Pierce (Phineas) who was to marry them. He had brought his commission as a Justice of the Peace when he came in from Vermont. When the company arrived, they found the young couple ill at ease over the thought of standing before the Squire and taking their vows.
After the ceremony was over the festive board was prepared for the feast of corn cakes and baked beans. They had been baking in the outdoor stone oven. Imagine the consternation when it was discovered that the oven had been robbed of its contents. The company had to depart supperless. The secret had not been kept. They young people of the Tracy and Gerould families, and some others, were having a singing school that same evening, in the school house. They had looted the oven and eaten the food. They returned later to serenade the newly weds and to confess. This was the first wedding in Smithfield township.
Some of the older heads thought this prank of the boys had been carried too far and that an object lesson would not be out of place. There had been a little thieving going on in the Community for some time. The general opinion was, that David Couch was the guilty party.
He was a remnant of the trapping outfit who had been overrunning this section for fur bearing animals, previous to the sale of the land to the New Englanders. Couch and his wife continued to trap and hunt, but made no effort to clear any land or raise any food or improve their manner of living. Couch grew bolder about his thieving and was finally caught in the act of helping himself to a neighbor’s corn. He was arrested and Squire Pierce set a day for his trial. At the appointed time, the culprit was brought in (the school house, probably). A Jury was drawn from those assembled and Constant Williams was appointed by the "Squire" to act as counsel for the defendant. After a full hearing, the jury brought in the verdict – guilty. He was sentenced to return two bushels of corn for each bushel stolen. The decision was enforced in some manner peculiar to the times.
This lesson was not enough to reform him. He was soon in trouble again. The offense, the second time, was tattling and thereby causing a neighborhood disturbance. Although he was known to be a liar, it was unpleasant to have him carrying his falsehoods from cabin to cabin. He was again brought before "Squire Pierce’s" court. After the testimony was all in, he was again found guilty. His sentence was a certain number of cuts from a hickory sprout, Joseph Carpenter to administer same. David had to walk into the ring and remove his jacket. Carpenter carried out his part faithfully and Couch departed. This was referred to as, making him a present of a stripped jacket.
The general supposition was, that he and his wife would leave the settlement after this. Instead, he mended his ways. He set up a saw mill near Balsam Swamp, went to clearing up the land around his cabin and improved his home. He became a good citizen and proved that majority rule can be very effective, when honestly administered.
There is a record of twenty families living in Smithfield township by the summer of 1807. There have been more. There were young people in most of these homes and they just naturally drifted together for mutual company and amusement. The latter consisting of singing schools and spelling bees, held in the school house. The boys would bargain to get the girls and take them home on horseback, when they were fortunate enough to have one. One horse, however, was all that was necessary for a couple, as it was customary for the girl to ride behind her attendant. When the boy had no horse he had to escort his Miranda (localism for sweetheart) on foot.
The settlement was fortunate from the first in having many singers with unusually good voices, from the Gerould, Tracy and Kellogg families. Later augmented by the Woods and the Phelpses. The Pierces could not help much about the singing, but they carried off most of the honors in the Spelling Bees. The writer never needed to consult a dictionary for help in spelling a word, so long as she could consult her father.
Through the winter there was much day time visiting between the families. The oxen would be hitched to the sled, filled with plenty of straw and pelts. The whole family would go, taking along the spinning wheels, the knitting or the sewing. Many of the boys were taught to do this work from the eighth to the tenth year, according to the development. All were most anxious to learn.
With no radios or daily papers and no regular Sunday meetings in the school house the family visits provided the only contacts outside of the home for the older people and were greatly enjoyed. Simple, innocent pleasures mean much until the appetite is jaded. Games were played by the young people whenever sufficient numbers of them got together, and they were genuinely happy. They had no morning "hang-overs" and no regrets. When old Uncle Harry Pierce was interviewed by a news reporter in 1884 he said, "I know we were much happier and more care free in the early settlement, than the people are today.
Immorality was unknown. When a man or boy paid court to one of the opposite sex, it was with the sole intention of making her his wife. The marriage vow was sacred and entered into for better or for worse until death did them part.
Phineas Pierce Jr. And Anna Kellogg decided very suddenly to be married when they learned that the Commission as Justice of the Peace, held by Squire Pierce, was about to expire He did not want another appointment and the settlement was suggesting Phineas Jr. As a successor.
The young couple were very popular and the wedding was to be a community affair with everyone invited. Phineas Jr. Just had to have a new suit of clothes and the Commission would expire in nine days. The wool for the suit was still in the fleece, just as it had been sheared from the sheep in the spring. The decision once made, not a moment was wasted.
The fleece was selected and sorted carefully, the finest and the coarsest parts rejected. Just the strong prime staples chosen. Only the mother could do this but the girls were ready to help with the greasing of the part to be worked up. A pound of melted fat had to be worked into each three pounds of wool.
Then came the carding. It took some experience in handling the shaped paddles filled with wire teeth to brush and comb a lick of wool until it was all trimmed one way and deftly turned into a fleecy roll that was ready for spinning. The girls could card as well as their mother but only two could work at a time, as they had only two sets of paddles. As soon as a sufficient amount was carded, the mother turned this work over to the girls and she got the spinning wheel out and began the endless walk before it, constantly using the left hand to pinch a roll of wool on the end of the last one as the peg in the other hand kept the wheel turning the apparatus that stretched and twisted the wool into yarn. Once the yarn was in hands, (skeins) kettles of water had to be heated, as it required many, many buckets of soap suds to thoroughly clean the yarn, and then much rinsing to remove the soap. When it was thoroughly dried before the fireplace, it was ready to be dyed. The girls spelled the mother about the spinning as soon as they had the carding done. There were hanks ready to be washed. This was a particular job, so the mother washed, Lucy rinsed and Thursa spun. In this way they made surprisingly quick work of the job.
The dye tub was an important a part of household equipment in those days as an electric iron is in a modern home. It held a prominent position at one side of the hearth and generally contained blue dye, made by combining coperas with male urine. This combination set the color better than when the liquid procured from boiling log-wood in water, was used and gave a brighter, clearer blue color, much favored by the boys and young men, for their clothes. When the dye was ready, it took some time to dip, rinse and dry so many hanks. Then it had to be wound on the shuttles by hand and was ready to be woven on the loom. This was another particular job, the yarn had to be kept straight and the pressure of the beater very even. It was interesting to see the bright blue material grow. Time was passing so rapidly that the women spelled each other but the loom was run continuously until that part of the work was completed. The trousers and coat were cut and the garments finished, except for buttons and button holes, before the women retired the night before the wedding, and all was in readiness at the appointed hour. Eight working days from the sheep’s back to the boy’s.
The evening wedding was a gala affair. Deacon Samuel Kellogg’s cabin was filled to the limit of its capacity. During the evening there were many whispered conferences among different groups of girls, followed by much laughter. The boys frequently absented themselves from the cabin in groups of two or three. They were planning to introduce a custom that some of them had learned was being practiced in another frontier settlement. They had never seen it carried out – namely, to put the bride and groom to bed before the festivities broke up.
After the refreshments were served Phineas Jr. Was called outside on some pretext or other and at a given signal Anna was seized and shoved toward the ladder leading to the loft. She had no idea what the girls were trying to do, so did not offer too much resistance to being pulled up the ladder. When they started to remove her clothes, she began to resist in earnest; but the others were too much for her. When they had her in her night clothes and in bed, they held her until the pre-arranged signal could be passed on to the boys who had kept Phineas Jr. Outside all of this time. A real tug of war developed when he realized that something was being put over on them, but his strength was as nothing against so many. When they got him up the ladder he was dumped into the bed with Anna without waiting to remove his wedding garments. Then the rascals fled down the ladder as fast as it would carry them. Self consciousness and embarrassment kept the newlyweds on the upper floor while the merriment went on to a later hour, below.
Recounting different phases of this prank caused much fun all winter, whenever the young people were together. From it developed our present custom of tormenting bridal couples about getting started on their wedding trip and other annoyances.
The following winter, the newly weds spent most of their time through the week, in their respective homes, but had Sunday together in one home or the other. They were busy days for both of them. Anna had much spinning and weaving to do to have bedding and towels in readiness for her new home. Material was woven too, to be sewed into ticks which in turn would be filled with wheat straw and corn husks to use as a mattress and geese were common enough by now so that feather beds and pillows were coming in style. She also had to have the material on hand for any needed clothes as she would have to help Phineas Jr. In their corn patch as soon as the growing season would come. Phineas Jr. Had bought a possession not far from his father’s but not a tree had been felled on it. He and Abiram began the clearing for the cabin at once. Amos helped his father at the mill. They were working up lumber to sell, now. Not a very good market but it helped. They did some custom sawing, too.
Logs would be used for the side walls of Phineas Jr’s cabin but boards would be needed for the floor, roof and other finishing jobs. When the materials were in readiness the mill was closed down and all hands worked on the cabin, except for the inside work. This work kept all of the men so busy that it was not possible to clear all of the corn patch to support the new home, so the trees on part of the plot were girdled in the winter and left to die. It would not be much more difficult to plough between the dead trees than to dodge the stumps. It meant a loss of the lumber and would necessitate burning the fallow over, after the corn was harvested.
The men worked together again through the sugar making, as they had only the one outfit of utensils. When that was finished Phineas Jr. And Anna moved into their new home.
The summer of 1808 passed quickly and uneventfully. The various families were becoming better acquainted all of the time. This, in turn, brought about more socialability.
The Commission naming Phineas Jr. As a Justice of the Peace, arrived in due time. He was thereafter referred to as the Young Squire, while his father continued to retain the title but was now called the Old Squire, by the neighbors.
As soon as the corn could be harvested, the fodder was stacked and the men of the family all turned in to help Phineas Jr. Fell his dead trees and get ready to burn the plot over. They planned to have these trees fall atop of each other and against each other if possible, as they had to touch to burn. When they were all down, a day was set for the "log rolling", and all the neighbors were invited. Men, women and children came and brought their oxen, horses, chains, hand spikes and axes.
The women of the Pierce families had been preparing food for days. Quantities of venison, wild turkeys and smaller game of all sorts was roasting on outdoor fires, around Phineas Jr’s. Cabin, on the appointed day. Inside were piles of bread and Johnny cake and pans of baked beans that had been baked in the fireplace. The babies were put on the bed and the mothers took turns in keeping the young children together and away from the fires. The men came early and got right to work snaking the logs into windrows ready to burn. Those who had oxen or a horse did this part. Others were assigned to scattering the brush from the tops and limbs to feed the fire after it was started at the end of the windrow. Coals for starting the fires came from the fireplace, and still others had to give their attention to keeping the logs rolled up so as to touch each other, when they burned apart. The women and girls found much that they could do to help. They like to be out where the excitement was.
When the fires really got going there was a terrible roar and crackling, a frightful sound. The men went around with begrimed hands, bending their faces to the ground when they had to close in to roll the logs together. This position was to save their beards from catching fire. It was hard and dangerous work but these men understood the job. They had taken turns all day in going to the cabin for food, only a few at a time. In spite of the heat and smoke there was much joking and fun. The women had a wonderful visit and did a fair share of the work, too.
Toward night, as the work lessened, the play began. Where the fires were started, the charred coals were cold and some one picked up one and blackened the white face of an ox, that started another one off and so on. When the oxen were finished the boys began on each other’s faces, with an occasional pass at a girl. Soon a woman screeched and that set the boys to chasing and blackening the faces of the yelping girls. Pandemonium reigned and one unregenerate slipped into the house and blackened the faces of the babies, the caretakers all having gone outside to see the fun. After this fracas, the older people went home but most of the boys remained to help roll the leavings together and later to see the girls home.
It took days to finish up as lye was made from the ashes and black salt from the lye. These were both salable articles and would provide money for seed and for grubbing hoes from the blacksmith. They would be needed to cultivate the corn.
The Old Squire came up from the mill for his dinner one day in mid December of 1808. While he was waiting for it, he stepped outside. Being especially hungry, he pulled a frozen turnip, as he had often done before, and ate it. Acute indigestion developed and before anything could be found to relieve him, he died.
The family and the entire community were stunned by the suddenness of it. The grief of the widow was pitiful to see, as she gathered her little brood of three under five years of age, about her. Another baby Harry, had come to the home in the February previous. Her unwavering faith in God was all that sustained her. Phineas and his older boys were a closely knit unit, bound by their common love of the great out of doors.
This was the second death in the community and the first among the Vermont families who were so closely united by ties of friendship and marriage. It was a heavy hearted sorrowing group who followed Phineas Pierce to the grave that had been prepared for him on his own land, that dreary December day. It was just about five years after his entry into what he still considered the Promised Land. He was the most experienced woodsman in the entire settlement. Expert with the axe and unerring with his gun. His calm, cheerful manner of overcoming difficulties had been of help to all of them. The community felt his loss as badly as his family. He was strong in his religious convictions and lived what he believed.
The little settlement had barely adjusted itself to this loss when death entered the Samuel Kellogg home and took the beloved wife and mother. It was a double blow to Ruth Pierce to have to lose her sister, Sarah, so soon.
Abiram Pierce married Sarah Satterlee, daughter of James Satterlee January 8, 1809. He had taken a large holding from the Bingham Estate. It was located a little to the west of his father’s possession, on the Athens-Troy road. The Paul Ayres farm is a part of that land. There was much valuable timber on this plot. At the time of his marriage, he had quite a saw mill in operation on the creek running through the land. In 1822 he sold the western half of his possession to James Martin. That part is the farm now owned by Harry Harkness, great, great, great grandson of Phineas Pierce.
Thurza Beebe married Enos Smith soon after Abiram left the home fireside. She settled nearer Troy and had a large family-. John V. Ballard was of her line. Amos and Lucy still remained with the mother to help her in bringing up the three younger children.
The settlement, from the first, had been harassed by the agents for the Bingham Estate. They did not consider it very seriously until the Federal Court handed down a decision in favor of the Pennsylvania Company from whom the Bingham Estate had bought a large holding in this section. Maps were so inaccurate when the grants to the Connecticut Company and the Pennsylvania Company were made, that their claims over-lapped by one degree of latitude. Bradford County unfortunately lay in that disputed section. As soon as the legal battle was won by the Pennsylvania Company, the agents of the Bingham Company returned with blood in their eye, as much ill will had developed through the years of argument, and demanded that the settlers who had purchased their land from the Connecticut Company must pay them for it or lose their title to the land.
This decision was a terrible blow to Ruth Pierce, but Phineas Jr., Abiram and Amos joined her in a family consultation and they decided to let about three hundred acres of the original purchase of Phineas Pierce, laying on the south side of the Troy-Athens road, revert to the Bingham Estate, (No timber had been removed from this part) rather than try to pay for so many acres the second time. The home and the land that had been cleared lay on the north side of the previously mentioned road and is now owned by Homer Wilcox and Clifford Harkness. This would be retained by the widow and she could re-purchase it by turning over a certain number of bushels of wheat each year to the Bingham Agents.
Samuel Wood bought the acreage turned back from the original Pierce grant, that same year, 1809. It is now the land owned and occupied by Ernest Wood, great, great grandson of Samuel. It is the last bit of land in the township to remain in the family of the man who cleared it and brought it under cultivation.
The Pierce family was much interested when a church building was started in 1812 on land given for that purpose by Major Jared Phelps. It stood on the same grounds, a bit east of the present Congregational Church. It was to be a frame building. The original estimate of the cost was four hundred and fifty dollars. Nehemiah Tracy pledged one third of this amount. After paying it in full, he sold his last cow to secure money for more nails at thirty three and a third cents a pound and glass to complete the building. It meant much sacrifice on the part of each one to provide this money, but this church was dedicated free from debt.
Reverend John Bascom was the first pastor. His salary was two hundred dollars per year for half time. The congregation could not meet this after the first year but they kept up their meetings regularly and gained new members until they could afford a pastor again. Samuel Kellogg was the first deacon and served in that capacity for the remainder of his life.
In July 1814 Phineas Pierce Jr. Enlisted in a volunteer regiment under Col. Dobbins and went to the Niagara frontier. He was killed in a skirmish with the enemy in September of that year. Two neighbors enlisted at the same time.
After his brother Phineas’s death Abiram was commissioned a Justice of the Peace and retained the office until his son William took over.
Thus there was a "Squire Pierce" in the Smithfield settlement through three generations. This implied faithfulness to the interests of the community, at that time, and that the officer held the confidence of the public. In those days the office was much more important than at present.
The Phineas Pierce family have been on every tax roll from the first assessment to the present time, 1948.
Lucy Pierce had married Asahel Smith by this time, and Horace was a well grown boy who was a real help about chores and could pull weeds and hoe the corn and potatoes. When Amos had any spare time, he helped Abiram in his mill. The mother was doing a good bit of spinning and weaving for the families along the river and with that extra money was very comfortable.
Soon she had to face another problem. It was becoming very evident that Lucy and her husband were getting the "Western Fever". Several groups from the East had passed through Smithfield on their way to the treeless plains, where it was possible to get crops going more quickly and with much less work. Neighbors were frequently joining parties. Present day historians are mentioning Smithfield as one of the gateways through which the West was settled. It caused Ruth Pierce many sleepless nights to see this interest growing in Lucy and Asahel but it took all the courage she could summon when she discovered that Amos was interested, too. She realized it was the pioneering spirit of their father that was urging them on. With a smiling face but a heavy heart she joined in their plans and wished them God speed when the day of their departure arrived. They joined a party enroute to Greenbriar, Illinois. The writer has corresponded with Lucy’s great grand daughter for many years – Mrs. George Young, Roseville, Illinois. Abiram promised to keep up the acreage of wheat for the mother and Horace could take care of the other work under his supervision. Harry lived with Sloan Kingsley one year and then with Ezra Wood until he set up his own home. He married Alma Phelps, daughter of John Phelps. Only three of the large Pierce family were left in the home, the mother, Horace and Ruth, now a well grown girl and of much help.
The Kelloggs and Pierces had been friends since they all lived in Goshen, Connecticut, before the migration to Pulteney, Vermont. They were brought closer when Samuel Kellogg married Sarah Rogers and Phineas Pierce took his sister Ruth to be his second wife. After death entered the home of each and removed a beloved helpmate, Samuel and Ruth tried to lighten the burden of the other in all ways possible. As the children in both families married and went into homes of their own it was only natural for Samuel Kellogg to ask Ruth Rogers Beebe Pierce to marry him and take on another name. It seemed a sensible arrangement to her because she realized that Horace would soon want to strike out for himself. They were married April 28, 1820. She had been born in Litchfield County, Connecticut, January 21, 1766. She died September 18, 1849 and Samuel Kellogg preceded her in death by ten years. They were buried in the Congregational Cemetery.
When the Pierce-Kellogg families combined they used the latter home. Stephen Randall bought the original Pierce homestead and clearing and lived there for some time.
Horace Pierce was much benefited by his close association with Deacon Samuel Kellogg. It undoubtedly had much to do with shaping his life. Said Kellogg was a very pious gentleman, endowed with a keen mind and well educated. He fought in the Revolutionary war and was personally acquainted with George Washington. He attended his inauguration in New York. He was a dyed in the wool "Blue Belly" as his strict observance of the Sabbath Day proved. Said day began at sunset on Saturday and lasted until sunset on the succeeding day. During these twenty four hours, only the most necessary duties were performed. The waking hours were spent in reading the Bible, prayer and serious thought by the adults. The children had many Bible verses to commit to memory. Harry Pierce won a book for being the first to commit eight hundred verses to memory in a given time, in one of the early Sunday Schools. The children were taught the catechism, too. No play was permitted on that day and laughter was an unheard of thing. This type of Sabbath was carried out by Horace Pierce when he set up his own home and the writer’s father, (Horace’s Son) to the time of his death in 1929, was much annoyed by loud laughter or confusion in the home, on Sunday.
Samuel Kellogg invented and patented a shearing machine to run by water power, the principal of which is still in use. He was a clothier, a woolen cloth finisher and a mill wright. He worked in the Crockett Fulling Mill in Milltown, on the Chemung River. Leaving home Monday morning and not returning until Saturday evening.
When the writer’s great grandmother married Deacon Kellogg she was an aunt of his daughter Anna, who had married Phineas Pierce Jr. She was also her step-mother and her mother-in-law. These inter-marriages brought about some strange relationships.
In 1814 Frederick Perkins brought his family into Smithfield from Goshen, Connecticut, where he had been a neighbor of the Kelloggs and the Pierces. He took up a possession about a mile to the west of Deacon Samuel Kellogg’s home. There were several young people in that family. They had good singing voices and were soon very popular in the various singing schools.
Cynthia Kellogg married Oramel Tracy, son of Nehemiah, March 29, 1921 and Elvira married Oramel’s brother, Arabel, July 21, 1822. These marriages developed a closely knit friendship between the Pierce-Kellogg-Tracy families that continued through two generations.
Not so long after the Kellogg sisters married the Tracy brothers a similar circumstance began to develop in the Pierce-Perkins families. Ruth Pierce married Luke Perkins February 22, 1826 and Horace Pierce married Luke’s sister Mary, November fifth of the same year. Abiram Pierce officiated at both ceremonies.
Horace bought a possession soon after the old home was sold to Stephen Randall. It was the farm now occupied by Will Clark, on the "Turnpike". He had made a good start on the clearing and had a home ready for his bride, who in turn had the usual dowry of blankets and household linens in readiness; the result of her industrious spinning and weaving.
From the very start, they decided to provide more privileges for their children than they had had. Long hours of hard work and frugal living enabled them to have their farm debt free and well stocked, for those days, when the financial crash came in 1844-45.
The first born, the writer’s father, first saw the light of day October 3, 1834. He was named Walter. Another son, Harry, was born eight years later. December 22, 1842.
Horace Pierce had long been interested in watching the progress of Harry L. Bird, son of Michael. His clearing was in the southern part of the township. The land there seemed to give him better crops, he had better than average buildings and a very well stocked farm as well as many acres of valuable timber land. The aforementioned crash of 1844-45 caught him unprepared. He was heavily in debt and had to sell his holdings at a great sacrifice to satisfy his creditors. This was a bad break for an honorable, deserving man who would have come through all right had not unforeseen circumstances overtaken him, but it gave Horace Pierce a great reward for his frugal years. He was able to sell his farm and some stock, purchase this same Bird farm and make a good down payment on what proved to be the beginning of one of the best farms in the township. The top soil was deep and very productive.
One of the stories that the writer’s father always enjoyed telling had to do with his early life on this farm. It was connected with their Sunday trips to the village to attend the Congregational Church services. The family conveyance was a one horse lumber wagon and the steed, a raw boned half broken colt. The writer’s grandmother would seat herself in the straw at the rear and brace herself against the wagon box, holding Harry as close to herself as possible. Grandfather would brace himself in the front of the wagon box and the narrator selected no special seat because he knew the colt would soon start to run and everyone would be bounced in every direction. He wanted to be where he could see the colt’s joy in frustrating grandfather’s plans to control him. The latter would wrap the lines around his hands and saw on the colt’s mouth and yell, whoa, whoa, but all to no avail. The animal would wind himself and slow down for a time, but as soon as convenient to himself, would break into a run, again. Unvaryingly, the fracas ended with the steed pulling the conveyance up to the church door in a most decorous manner. The family would pull themselves together as best they could and alight. There is no record that this performance ever spoiled grandfather’s disposition or put him out of humor for worship.
His life was gentle and the elements
So moved in him that nature might stand up
And say to all the world, "This was a man".
He did not take any active part in the public affairs of the town, but was one of those quiet, peaceable, yet patriotic citizens whose presence is not sensible felt but none the less needed in every community.
He continued to work hard and being farsighted, he planned well. In a few years he had the help of two industrious sons They worked together through the growing season and then Walter and Harry took the ox teams and earned some money for themselves, during the winter months, in the big logging cams near Burlington, where much valuable pine timber was being worked up into lumber.
The older son, Walter, had two ox teams so well broken, that he could haul two loads of logs at a time. Either team would follow or wait for the other according to his directions. As long as he remained on his farm, he had an ox team and used them on many jobs, in preference to horses.
One day when walking across one of his fields grandfather suddenly became lame. The pain in his hip was so intense that he could hardly drag himself back to the house. This was the beginning of a painful hip disease which made him a cripple for the remainder of his life.
As time went on, more land was added, by purchase, to the original Bird holding, the dairy was increased, a greater acreage of plowed land was put into crops. Flax was raised. The writer remembers the barrel of flax seed that stood in the old house for years, and the tow and linen which was woven into hand toweling by Polly Sherman. One towel is still in existence (1949). A hand woven table cloth, probably made from this same flax is in the Walter I. Pierce home as is a wide leaved gate leg table. Louise Harkness has a hand loomed bed spread.
April 17, 1859, Horace Pierce’s oldest son, Walter married Lurancy Carpenter, daughter of Asa and Desdemona Easer Carpenter. This was the first move toward the dilution of the pure Yankee blood that had run through this Pierce family for many, many generations.
It has been aptly said, "Of all the worthwhile people in the East or in the West, the Yankee intermarriages produced the greatest and the best".
The Carpenters were Scotch-Irish. They came into Pennsylvania from Hamilton, New York, where Lurancy was born December 5, 1836. They moved into a house that stood just across the Tom Jack Creek from Fred Wakeley's. It was another neighborhood romance.
Walter took his bride into his father’s home because the latter was a helpless cripple by now and Harry being only seventeen, could not carry on alone. The true pioneering spirit of the old line of Pierces was developing in him and his head was full of plans for the future. It had not been so strong in Horace Pierce as his spirit was somewhat broken by the hardships of his youth and later by the intense pain caused by his hip disease, and affliction prevalent at the time and thus designated. He died December 12, 1864.
A deal for thirty-six acres of land had been consummated with Henry Peet, that same year, by Walter Pierce. This land had an old house and some out buildings on it and was about the center of the farm that he envisioned. It, also, contained an unfailing spring at sufficient elevation to supply running water for the house and barn that he had in his mind. It had been a hard deal of put-over as Peet was not at all anxious to sell.
There was a sort of a squatter settlement in this particular locality. He kept buying them up as fast as he could and finally had two hundred and thirty acres of exceptionally good land. He soon had the cleared part in a high state of cultivation and took excellent care of his two valuable timber lots. Like his grandfather, Phineas, he built the barn first, principally from the timbers and other usable lumber in the buildings on the various plots that he had bought.
The Peet house was made as livable as possible and the Walter Pierce family moved into it late in 1866. It was ten years before the barns were made sufficiently large to accommodate the stock and lumber that had been worked up from the timber lot and cured for the house. This was one of the show places of the surrounding country side, when completed, and the family settled in it in time for the arrival of a girl baby, the writer, February 26, 1876. There were already three boys – George, Stanley, and Jesse.*
A terrible calamity befell this family when the dearly beloved wife and mother died in December 1877.
"Over twenty million minutes ran her life—for so God planned them!
And just as many queenly acts of loving care behind them
Enriching every moment with her Bible and her brood—
Through my lucid imagination, she’s my dream of motherhood!
I kiss her still on creaking knees beside the beckoning bed,
And in prayers I catch the glimpse of a halo ‘round her head—
Stirring in and out the mansions of the spirit world above—
Through my lucid imagination, she’s my dream of mother love.
Without her benediction, bleak my yesterdays would seem,
And the evening of to-morrow miss the sunset’s radiant gleam!
She gave me this one life to live – this hope of still another—
Through my lucid imagination – she’s my never dying Mother!"
*Walter and Lucrancy Carpenter Pierce had three boys and one girl. One boy was George. He married Dorcas Phillips and to them were born eight children: Louise, Anna, Israel, Jenny, Cora, Harry and Lawrence. Israel married Edith Squires, had two children Jeanette and Charles. Jeanette married Lindley Stone and had three boys Dale, Lawrence and Glen. Thus the third pioneer Pierce was a great, great grandfather to the Stone boys.
In January of 1880 Walter Pierce married Sarah Arnold Tuttle, a professional dressmaker. She was never meant for a farmer’s wife, but she had a very important place in the lives of the children in the family. She encouraged them in all ways to improve themselves. She brought much good reading, music and many interesting new friends into the home, and aroused a keen interest in school and church work. She was a good homemaker as well as a good companion.
About this time grade Holsteins made their appearance in the community. Walter Pierce was favorably impressed with them, but there were characteristics in his Durham stock that he wished to preserve, so he began with cross-breeding, using Holstein sires and Durham dams, then line bred through Holstein sires until the last tinge of red was removed from the black in his herd. The experiment was a success and gave him a highly productive strain of study large barreled grade Holsteins.
He was the pioneer in bringing purebred Holsteins into the township. He also put up the first silo. By this time he was producing too much milk to be made up into butter on the farm, so he arranged for a Troy Creamery to collect his cream and that of some other neighbors who were convinced that dairying was the profitable business for this section of Pennsylvania.
He also was the leader in introducing labor saving machinery to his community. The first revolving rake was made in William R. Rossis’ blacksmith shop and was tried out on said Pierces’ meadow. He also brought in the first reaper and the writer well remembers when a binder was first tried out on this farm. It was a most unusual machine and men came from miles around to see it work. They were fascinated by the mechanism that tied the knot in the binder twine. And so it was that every thing that would conserve strength, was always considered a good investment by him.
Most of his neighbors made maple sugar. He was never interested although he had many trees. His reasoning was that the long hours required to care for a heavy run of sap, overtired a farmer just as his season of heavy work was coming on. In other words it took more of his physical well-being than it put cash in his pocket.
He was also the first man in the community to become interested in breeding driving horses. He had his heavy draft horses for the farm work, but he liked the lighter more nimble footed breeds for driving. As roads were more improved, he foresaw a demand for these animals. He raised and sold many beauties in this class. The writer recalls a trim pair of very dark bays, well matched, that he furnished and drove when two teams were required to transport the Smithfield Band in their wagon, that accommodated the instruments as well as the players. This was the best band in this section at that time and was often called to the surrounding towns, even as far as Owego, New York.
When the band played these leaders would arch their necks and prance in time with the music. They attracted more attention than the band. He was an expert horseman. At another time he owned a jet black team that made friends quickly wherever they appeared. They were so well broken that he could handle them at certain types of work, by word of mouth, without the aid of reins.
When D.R. Stephens came to Smithfield to see if there was a sufficient interest in a creamery to justify him in building and equipping here, he was sent to interview Walter Pierce first, as he was the leading man in the dairy industry at that time. It was a fortunate meeting. The two men agreed on a plan and each had much confidence in the judgment and honesty of purpose of the other. They spent many days in driving around among the farmers and discussing the plan. Enough cows were signed up to insure the success of the venture, thus he had much to do in starting the industry that brought prosperity to the Smithfield farmers.
Just as he was ready to reap the financial benefit from his industry and farsightedness, his second wife convinced him that the farm work was undermining her health. He rented his farm and located in the village of East Smithfield. He pioneered along one more line by starting the first feed store, inland from the railroad. From a small beginning it became a very lucrative business, proving once more that his business instinct was strong and clear, he was far above the average in foreseeing trends.
He was quiet and unassuming in manner, seldom putting forth his ideas unless they were solicited. Loyal in his friendships but seldom forgetting when this confidence was betrayed.
He was blessed with good health, which he conserved by his simple and clean habits and by his even, happy disposition. At the time of his death, he was ninety-five years old, having attained the greatest age of any of the men in the well known group of about thirty octogenarians who were entertained annually from 1920 to 1930 in the small town of East Smithfield. Two of the women in this group reached the century mark.
His second wife preceded him in death by seventeen years.
So ended a busy, happy life, filled with sweet contentment. That these characteristics may be the heritage passed on to the succeeding generations is the wish of—
Mrs. Ellsworth Coeyman passed away in 1970 at 94 years of age.
Still waits for us that city our sires
Saw looming in the realm of their ideal;
Still needs the world the spirit that aspires
To lead where earth is new, and heaven seems real.