chapter  4
15 Pages

The Pierce Children As Adults

WithJames R. McGovern

INFORMATION about Mary W. Pierce’s childhood and adult life is the most complete for any of the Pierce children. Since she and Henry V. Poor represent still another generation of “Yankee Family,” an extensive discussion of their courtship, marriage, raising of children etc. will follow in subsequent chapters. 1 Insights on this later generation are also obtained, of course, through inspection of the lives of the other nine Pierce children as adults. This knowledge is uneven; some of them, notably Elisabeth (b. 1804), the second child, and Lucy (1808), corresponded frequently with the Parsonage, and their correspondence was preserved. Sarah, the eldest daughter, however, either did not write as much or the family was not as careful with her letters. 2 The same is true for Abigail (1806) who was seldom away from home and Feroline (1810) who lived close by. The boys John (1811) and William (1815) clearly did not write as often as their sisters and less is known about them. Robert (d. 1813) died as a boy and Benjamin who was retarded did not write at all. Their letters, particularly when they are ample, reveal differences between the children as adult personalities, but they also demonstrate similarities and considerable carryover from their lives at the the Parsonage. Moral perfectionism continued to inspire and haunt them as adults. Their choice of occupations and marital partners was itself suggestive of parental influence. Three daughters Sarah, Feroline and Lucy married ministers; another, the spinster, Elisabeth taught Sunday school, distributed tracts and served for a time as a type of missionary. John became a missionary, an abolitionist and minister. Only the younger children followed occupational and marital patterns which suggested a departure from parental norms. But even here, William became a businessman associated with the Tappans in Cincinnati and Chicago and thus exhibited that continuous influence of the Tappans over the Pierces. Mary Pierce broke most completely with her style of life at home. She married a lawyer turned writer and investor and lived over twenty years in Bangor, Maine, and in New York. Yet, when she had a choice of places to reside, she chose Brookline, living there from 1863 to 1912, the year of her death, suggesting here again that the apple had not fallen far from the tree.