Saturday, May 10, 2014

Great Granddad Died at Sea in 1847

James L. Pierce, my 3rd great grandfather, was born about 1820 in Nantucket, Massachusetts.  

He married Elvira W. Brayman about 1841, most likely in Providence, Rhode Island.

Next, I learned that Elvira re-married to William A Corey on 8 Feb 1849 in Windham County, Connecticut.

On the 1850 US census for Cumberland, Providence, Rhode Island I found William and Elvira Cory, and children of James and Elvira: Marcus M Pierce age 7, Mary L V Pierce age 5, and Ellen T Pierce age 4.

I confirmed that James and Elvira were the parents of the children on Ellen T. Pierce's death record (above).

I spent more than forty years trying to learn what happened to James L Pierce -- did he die or divorce Elvira?

In 2014, I finally discovered a record in the National Archives that shows he enlisted in the US Army and died at Sea on the way to fight in the Mexican-American War in 1847.

Why did James L. Pierce join the Army in 1847

Perhaps the answer is in a family legend my grandmother Bailey told me… she always said we are related to President Franklin Pierce (1804 – 1869).  He was the 14th President of the United States (1853–1857).  Franklin Pierce became a Brigadier General in the Army during the Mexican–American War.

General Franklin Pierce from the United States Library of Congress

Did James L. Pierce, a farmer from Rhode Island, join the Army to fight in a far away war at the urging of Franklin Pierce a relative?  I'll probably never have the answer to that question, but the probability is strong.

The death of James L Pierce was just the beginning of tragedy that followed this family for the next 35 years.  

See Cowboy Legacy -- The short, tragic life of Marcus Pierce

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