Daniel Pierce (1814 – 1902)

In my grandfather’s 1902 diary on April 27th he wrote about the death of “Grandpa Pierce” – this was Daniel Pierce, actually my grandfather’s great-grandfather.  Below is a transcript of his lengthy obituary.  My copy doesn’t give a source, but I would guess it was from the Sycamore, Illinois newspaper.

Head of Sycamore Banking House
Passed Away Sunday
Had Nearly Reached the age of Eighty-
eight Years – Was Taken Sick with
Pneumonia Last Wednesday —
Lived an Active Life

   Daniel Pierce died Sunday evening at the home of his daughter, Mrs. E. P. Townsend, at 8:45.  He had been sick since last Wednesday.  Mr. Pierce was out the previous Tuesday for the last time.  The weather then was stormy and he contracted a cold which brought on pneumonia. Complicated with acute brights disease it was seen from the first that he could not long survive as the infirmities of advanced age added their weight.  Two physicians were called from Chicago in consultation and on Saturday compound oxygen was administered with the hope of prolonging his life until his daughter, Mrs. Townsend, could return from Boies City, Idaho.  She did not arrive, however, until Monday.  With her daughter, Mrs. Webster, of Galesburg, Mrs. Townsend went to Boies City two weeks ago to visit another daughter Mrs. Georgia Yates.

Mr. Pierce retained consciousness up to a few hours of his death.  His grandson, F. B. Townsend, read letters to him Saturday from family connections in the east and instructions were given by him as to what to write in reply.

For the past ten years or more Mr. Pierce had been in ill health and had lived during that time practically a retired life.  But always having been active he was not content to be idle and so far as his health would permit, he looked after his interests in the west, leaving the affairs of the bank here entirely in charge of the grandson.  Mr. Pierce’s wealth is estimated at $1,500,000.  This be accumulated by hard work, and good investments, and not by speculation.  He was a shrewd calculator, a financier excelled by few and a man of strict integrity whose word could always be relied upon.

His early life was a struggle with poverty and the lessons of thrift and economy then gained remained with him through life enabling him to accumulate his vast wealth, which measured by individual effort, excelled that of any other man in the county.  Mr. Pierce was of a retiring disposition, and though pleasant and courteous was not given much to the common pleasures of society.  Life with him was too serious for that.  He was too ambitious to relax from the more important affairs.  His great brain force was forever in motion and in this work there was pleasure in the success of his plans.  As to what can be accomplished by untiring energy, thrift and conservative methods the life of Mr. Pierce is an object lesson of value.

The following sketch of his life is taken from the DeKalb county album.

Sketch From DeKalb County Album

   Daniel Pierce was born in the town of Neversink, Sullivan county, N. Y., July 18, 1814, and is the son of Joseph and Elizabeth (Cargill) Pierce.  His father was a native of Westchester county, N. Y., and when fifteen years of age went to Sullivan county, where his marriage with Elizabeth Cargill was solemnized.  They became the parents of six children – William, Polly, John, Daniel, Penelope and Catherine.  He died in March, 1819, at the age of thirty-one years.  His widow, three years later, married Edward Potter.

When our subject was but twelve years old, he commenced life for himself, working for $3 a month for the first seven months.  His education was limited for the  reason that he was thrown upon his own resources at such an early age.  But there was in him the making of a man.  He toiled early and late, working for others until he attained his majority when he began working a farm on his own account.  He worked during the summers and in the winter worked for his board and went to school.  He was married December 17, 1835, to Phebe J. Brundage, a native of Orange county, N. Y., born August 17, 1818.  To them three children were born, the first dying in infancy.  Eleanor is the widow of A. W. Townsend.  Sarah married G. P. Wild.  Her death occurred June, 11, 1896.  Mrs. Pierce died October 4, 1876.

After his marriage Mr. Pierce operated the old homestead for four years then purchased the lease of a farm in a different locality which he operated five years, and upon a third he remained until 1848 when he purchased the titles of three farms in Sullivan county, N. Y., including the old homestead.  From there he removed to Deming, Ulster county, N. Y., and purchased an interest in a tannery remaining in that business two years.  Desiring to increase his wordly [sic] possessions more rapidly than he could in the east he therefore determined on going west where the opportunities for advancement were much greater.  Accordingly, in 1855, he sold the greater part of his possessions in his native county and came to Illinois locating in Mayfield, DeKalb county, where he rented a farm for one year. In 1856 he removed to the city of Sycamore and engaged in the real estate business, buying and selling both improved and unimproved farms.  He continued in that business exclusively until 1867 when the banking house of Pierce Dean & Company was established of which he took the active management.  The firm name was changed in 1871 to Pierce & Dean, and in 1883 to Daniel Pierce & Company.  Until 1888 Mr. Pierce had the active management of his bank, but on account of impaired health he had since practically lived a retired life.  During the past ten years he had devoted his time principally to his Iowa interests.

photo of daniel pierce   For more than forty years Mr. Pierce has ranked among the ablest financiers of northern Illinois.  Successful beyond even his own highest expectations he has added to his possessions until he is the owner of many large and productive farms in DeKalb county and several thousand acres in Iowa and other western states.  The banking house so long managed by him has always been regarded as one of the safest financial institutions in the state confidence in which is based on his well-known conservative methods and strict integrity.  While as stated his early education was limited, yet by reading and observation he became well informed and his judgement of men and affairs, especially as affecting financial interests, has been almost infallible.  He always knew when to buy and when to sell a piece of real estate, the fluctuations in the money market having been generally foreseen by him.  His word was always kept inviolate and a promise made by him was fulfilled to the letter.

The funeral was held Wednesday afternoon at two o’clock at the home of Mrs. Townsend.  Rev. Geo. A. Sahlin officiated.  An eulogy of Mr. Pierce was delivered by Attorney D. J. Carnes.  The pall bearers were Walter Waterman, Sergius Lloyd, Frank Langlois, Elry Hall, Joshua Siglin and Charles Sivwrght.  The honorary bears were Harry Joslyn, Moses Dean, Hosea Willard, William Byers, David DeGraff and James Byers.  All except the last mentioned are past eighty years of age.

   During the hours of service, from two to four, the business places were closed as a mark of respect.     (End of obituary)

On a trip to Sycamore in 1999 I took photos of the Pierce’s gravestones (Elmwood Cemetery) and of the Daniel Pierce Building.

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12 Responses to Daniel Pierce (1814 – 1902)

  1. Lea says:

    I developed an interest in the Pierce family through my ancestors (Gunder Haugen of Norway) with whom the daughters of Sally J. Wild were living in 1920. I wondered why… The best I could figure, since they weren’t related, was that your family trusted mine. Do you have any thoughts on this?

    • I don’t know anything about Sally Wild, but this is an interesting story. Maybe other readers will eventually shed some light on it. And I will ask some of my relatives. This is one of those questions I could have asked my father. He was very interested in family history. Too late now. Thanks for posing the question.

      • Lea says:

        At the time, Sarah was 18, Virginia was 16, and their father was a dry goods merchant and I thought the Haugens may have known them from that association. Also, their mother died before 1930 and Margaret was with her father in that census. I thought perhaps the mother was sickly. In a later census (1930), Sarah J. Wild is shown to have had four years of college and living with a Virginia Lee who was a (short story) writer in Los Angeles. Sarah worked as a clerk in a department store. Ten years later, Virginia is long gone and Sarah remains. The next mention of her is her death record and her last name is Gordon. Unfortunately, not many census are transcribed for 1950 and later.

        I haven’t found Virginia or Margaret yet.

      • Lea says:

        As a matter if fact, the apartment still stands at 2915 Sunset Place, Los Angeles, CA. It’s the quintessential early LA apartment. You can see it on maps.google.com She was still a sales clerk, but did quite well from the income listed for her.

      • Lea says:

        Correction! Sarah P. Wild, middle name Paulette born 27 August 1901 in Illinois. I just found that she married in 1949 to Willmot Gregory Gordon.

  2. Lea says:

    I found this little bit on Benjamin Pierce who settled in Vermont after the war:

    Excerpts from “The Local History of Andover, VT.” It was first published in Chicago in 1886.

    Note” Abby Maria Hemenway edited and compiled five volumes of Vermont History, namely the Vermont Gazeteer. This included thirteen counties, It is regrettable, that because of her death, she never completed the sixth volume which would have included Windsor County. We believe this is the only part saved.”

    ANDOVER – This town is situated in the SW part of Windsor County, 20 miles SW from Windsor, 68 miles S from Montpelier and 37 miles N from Bennington.

    On page 22 there is the following paragraph…”I do not find any record that this town took any part in the Revolutionary war and presume that it did not, as there were but few settlers here during that period ,and those who were here, had a hard struggle to live and support their families; but quite a number of Revolutionary soldiers settled here after the war,viz:

    On page 22 Benjamin Pierce is mentioned as having settled in Andover. On page 27 there is another notation that Benjamin Pierce was one of George Washington’s Life Guards during the war. On page 39 under a heading “The Warner Bear Story” there is a paragraph: Asa Pierce and Pierce Walker, while hunting on the mountain one winter, were crossing over the thick top of a fallen spruce, when one of them fell through the branches into a den of three bears, The bears rushed out and made off, but the young men went to the home of Benj. Pierce and got the dog; went back and captured two of them; the other got away.

  3. Pingback: Happy 200th Birthday Daniel Pierce | This I Leave

  4. Sue says:

    I’m in the Daniel Pierce Building right now. Our offices are on the third floor.

  5. Reblogged this on This I Leave and commented:

    I’m reblogging this from my AlwaysBackroads blog. I posted many family stories there before I started this blog. They belong here.

  6. Sheryl says:

    Daniel Pierce lived a very interesting life. I really like how old-time obituaries had lots of details and told the story of an individual’s life.

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