The children of Thomas H. and Anna M. Pierce:
While I was researching Thomas Henry Pierce and Anna Medora [Brewer] Pierce, I collected little clues about these great-grandparents that told me about them as people. I now picture Thomas H. Pierce as a restless man, an adventurous man, an outdoor man, a religious man, a man who traveled many miles, a man who kept many irons in the fire. And what kind of woman was married to this kind of man? Anna Medora must have been one tough woman. While Thomas was off adventuring, she is the one who bore eight children--three died as children-- and raised five to adulthood. She is the one who drove the wagon west while her Tommy was off hunting buffalo. When she was 58 years old, she is the one who took Thomas H. Pierce in the back of a wagon from Juliaetta to Boise in 1906 for medical treatment. When he died a month later, she returned to Latah County and lived another 31 years.
When Thomas H. Pierce filled out paperwork, he consistently reported his place of birth as Wayne County, Indiana. Other people have reported the date variously as 1847, 1845 and 1844. In the 1850 federal census of Taylor Township, Howard County, Indiana Thomas was listed as 5 years old. Later his age is 23 on his marriage certificate of 1867. On the 1870, 1880 and 1900 federal census his age is reported as 26, 36 and 56, all faithful with the 1844 birth date. Finally, the 1900 census shows a birth date of May 1844 and Anna's application for a pension declares, "said soldier was born May 27, 1844 at Wayne County, Indiana". Thomas may have lied about his age so he could join the service; it wasn't uncommon for young boys to do at that time and he may have kept lying about his age. His discharge papers do state that his age was 18 years old when he was mustered out of the army in 1865. One of Thomas' army buddies wrote in an affidavit for a pension application for Anna Medora in 1907, "The said Thomas H. Pierce was a mere stripling of a boy about sixteen years of age, I think, when he ran away from home and enlisted."
Family stories say that Thomas' grandfather, Isaac Perice raised horses in Indiana, that his father was Ezra Perice who was married to Sarah Cheeseman. These families are found on the 1840 and 1850 census of Wayne County and Howard County. According to pension papers, Thomas enrolled on the 14th day of August 1861 in Company A of the 1st Regiment of the Illinois Cavalry. Later T.H.P. claimed on a pension application that While on guard duty over stores of wheat at camp in Missouri June 1862 I received a gunshot wound right ankle and heel. He said that he was treated at a hospital in West Plains MO, at a hospital in Houstin, MO and then sent to Rolla MO and then to St Louis where he was discharged. August 7, 1862 T.H.P re-enlisted with Company E, 94th Regiment of the Illinois Infantry for three more years of service. He fought in these engagements: Battle of Prairie Grove, Arkansas on December 7, 1862; seige of Vicksburg, Mississippi from June to July of 1863; Raid on Yazoo City, Mississippi on July 12, 1863; Expedition to Brownsville, Texas August 11 through November 1863, Skirmish at Tate, Mississippi on December 22, 1864 and the Seige of Spanish Fort, Mississippi from March to April 1865. Lee's Army of Northern Virginia surrendered to Grant's Union forces on April, 9, 1865. Confederate General Johnston and Union General Sherman signed another agreement on April 26 so the armies started disbanding and men went back to their farms and work. Thomas Pierce was discharged from the army on July 17, 1865 in Galveston, Texas.
Sometime after his discharge in 1865 in Texas and April 28, 1867 when he married Anna Medora Brewer in Neosho County, Thomas H. Pierce arrived in Kansas. Maybe he was one of the ex-Union soldiers along with ex-Confederates and ex-Slaves who drove long-horn cattle from Texas to Kansas after the war. According to "History of the State of Kansas, Chicago: A.T. Andreas, 1883, pg. 826, Neosho Co.: "The first deed now found upon the records of the county was one bearing date Dec. 28, 1866 for sixty-two acres of land in the southeast quarter of Section 35, Township 28,, Range 21; the grantors were John and Electy Ann Pisell and the grantee Thomas H. Pierce." I do not have direct evidence that this was my great-grandfather but I do know that his marriage license said that he was married in Neosho County, Kansas in April of 1867. The 1870 Federal Census showed that Thomas H. and Anna Pierce with one child, a female C.B. were living in the Verdigris Township of Montgomery County, Kansas. Their Post Office address was Montgomery City. Anna Medora reported that they lived near Medicine Lodge for a time and that they lived in Cedar Vale, KS before they moved to Idaho in 1877. The Pension File of Thomas Pierce shows that he applied for a pension that was denied in 1874; his address was Cedar Vale, Kansas in Howard County. In 1878, Howard County was divided and renamed so that present day Cedar Vale is located in Chautauqua County, KS.
The grandchildren of Anna Medora remembered the stories she told about Kansas. Uncle Bruce, the youngest son of Pearl and Dow Scott remembered sitting on her lap and listening to the stories of Indians, "Buffalo" Hunts, the Chisholm Trial and the infamous Bender family. Once when her Tommie was out on the trail, Anna had a dream where she saw him by a river, laying out money on rocks. When he got home she found out that he had saved a man from drowning and had put his money out to dry. Another story that Uncle Bruce remembered was that Anna Medora and Thomas were traveling by wagon, they stopped at a wayside Inn to rest. But Thomas smelled blood--he was very familiar with the smell of human blood after the Civil War--and urged Anna to go on. They didn't stay at the Inn and later heard the reports of the travelers that notorious Benders killed and buried in their backyard. Pearl, the daughter of Anna and Thomas told her grandchildren that the Brewers and Thomas Pierce were good friends of Buffalo Bill Cody. Her grandson Bradley Bowen remembered that Pearl said the Pierce family took the train from Juliaetta to Spokane to see Bill Cody in one of his shows when she was a little girl.
Are these family stories true? Well, certainly Thomas and Anna Medora Pierce were in Kansas at the right time. T.H.P. was in Texas when the cattle drives started and he fit the profile of those first cowboys, young and adventurous. In any case he didn't go back to the family farm. The Bender Family opened their way station/Inn on the wagon road between Osage Mission [now St Paul] in Neosho County and Independence in Montgomery County in about 1870. They had disappeared from the area by 1875.["Handbook on the Frontier Days of Southeast Kansas" by B. Close Shakleton, page 99, 100] The Widow's pension application filed by Anna Medora named Osage Mission as the place they were married and Montgomery County is where they were living in 1870. In the obituary of Anna Medora, it was reported that the Brewer family moved to Iowa after they left Pennsylvania and later to Kansas. She claimed that the family left PA when she was 7 years old, this would have been about 1855. Her father, William Brewer mustered into the Kansas Cavalry in 1861. Bill Cody was born in Iowa in 1846 and his family moved to Kansas when he was a youngster. After the Civil War Buffalo Bill became a Buffalo Hunter and supplied meat to the workmen building the railroad west across Kansas. Our family stories say that Thomas H. Pierce was a Buffalo hunter.
Here is an excerpt from a news article published in the Spokane Review about 1930. Medora Pierce had just turned 82, when she gave this interview.
The Pierce family, Thomas, Anna Medora and daughter Maud arrived in the Northwest during the time of the Nez Perce Indian War. After staying near the present day Pullman, WA for a month, they decided to move over the line to Idaho Territory where they found residents in Moscow, fearing hostile Indians had put up a stockade called Fort Russell and people were living there. For a time, the Pierces moved into Fort Russell and then they took a homestead about 4 miles south of town. The land entry file for the Pierce homestead--Lots 3 and 4 E1/2 SW1/4, Section 31, Township 31 north of range 5 West of the Boise Meridian-- in then Nez Perce County [now Latah] was first settled on in October of 1877. In the Testimony of Claimant, these improvements were described: house 13 x24 with doors and window, a stable, 160 acres fenced and about 65 acres cultivated to wheat and flax. One of the witnesses described the house as a log house.
During the eight years that the Pierces lived on the Palouse farm, their son Earl Strong was born in 1878, Miles Benton was born in 1880 and Lydia Pearl was born in 1883. Their place of birth is described as the "old Snow place." In 1882, Thomas H. Pierce's name first showed up as a lay delegate in the minutes for the United Brethren Conferences of the Washington Territory. The 1883-1884 conference minutes had a Report of Committee on Applicants. "Your Committee would report that the following; We examined Bros J. Grimerland, T.H. Pierce according to Discipline, and each passed a fair examination, showing that they are sound in doctrine and clear in most of their answers. We recommend that they be received and licensed to preach, page 103. On page 111, "T. H. Pierce and J. Black were licensed to Preach." [copied notes from the Washington Territory conferences of the United Brethren Church sent to me by the "Center For the Evangelical United Brethren Heritage United Theological Seminary.]
About 1886, the Pierces moved to Juliaetta, Nez Perce County Idaho Territory. According to family stories, they left the Moscow area because it was too cold and windy. Certainly, Juliaetta which was founded along the Potlatch River would be a banana belt compared to Moscow. In later years, Juliaetta became known for its fruit trees and the sweet melons grown on its slopes. Thomas continued his work as a circuit minister for the United Brethren Church, riding many miles on horseback. Minutes of the Colombia River Conference of the Church of the United Brethren in Christ in 1897 mentioned Thomas H. Pierce's name again. "The report of the Spokane District was read by the presiding Elder, W.R. Lloyd. His report is as follows: ...The Nez Perce Country is an inviting field and should be entered by us. T.H. Pierce has been doing some work there and the prospects are encouraging." During the same time, Anna Medora founded the first Sunday school in Juliaetta in an old woodshed which was later moved to the Harmony school and still later to the first church building. She held the position of superintendent for 12 years.[ "A Centennial History of the Kendrick -Juliaetta Area" published by the Kendrick-Juliaetta Centennial Committee in 1990]
Latah County broke off from Nez Perce County in 1888. Idaho Territory became a state in 1890. Various land transactions of Thomas H. and Anna Medora are in the Deed Books of Latah County from 1888 to 1903. Their youngest child, Stella Medora was born in 1890 and their oldest daughter Maud was married to John Evans at the home of her parents in 1891. On December 17th, 1897, Thomas H. Pierce, minister of the Gospel solemnized the rites of matrimony between William Schetzle of Fix Ridge in Latah County to Lilly J. Scott also of Fix Ridge. Young Pearl Pierce--about 14 years old--signed as a witness. It is interesting that Lilly was the cousin of Dow Scott. Maybe this is where Pearl and Dow met; anyway they were married in July of 1900. June 3, 1903 Miles B. Pierce married Bertha M. Bowers at Juliaetta, Idaho. One year later on November 2, 1904, Earl S. Pierce married Annie M. King, Thomas H. Pierce officiated at this ceremony.
Although an Invalid Pension was approved for T.H. Pierce on July 29, 1890 and he was receiving $12.00 a month, he applied to get his pension increased in 1902. The examining surgeon's report on September 17 gave an interesting description of Thomas. Height: 5' 51/2 "; Weight: 175 pounds; complexion: light; color of eyes: hazel; color of hair: brown grey; occupation: Minister of Gospel. More description: Tattooing in India ink and vermilion on flexor surface right arm, a spread eagle, below the American Flag on staff, measurements of emblems five and one-half inches. On flexor surface of left arm shield of U.S. under this crossed muskets with fixed bayonets, below these a five rayed star, space measures 3 3/4 inches from top of the shield. The surgeon went on to write the evaluation of Pierce's scar from the gunshot wound, his rheumatism and his inguinal hernia. T.H. was given a rating of disability 6/18; that was not enough to increase his pension. In January of 1906, a group of Juliaetta neighbors sent a petition on behalf of Thomas to Idaho Senator Dubois.
In the fall of 1906, Thomas' health was failing more; he suffered loss of weight and decreased strength. As a last resort, Anna Medora and daughter Stella put him in the back of a wagon and traveled close to 300 miles by the state wagon road to Boise where he was admitted to the Old Veterans' Home on September 26. Thomas H. Pierce died of stomach cancer October 26, 1906. The family could not afford to bring him back to Latah County and he was buried in the Boise Veteran's Cemetery.
Anna Medora continued to live in Juliaetta after the passing of Thomas. Her youngest daughter Stella Medora married Arthur C. Morgan on August 5, 1908. The 1910 Federal Census of the village of Juliaetta showed that Anna M. Pierce, a 62 year old widow had her own income and owned her house free of mortgage. Arthur, Stella, and child Gertrude were living with her. In 1920, Anna Medora lived by herself in a rented house. According to family report, Anna was very close to her sister, Lizzie Brewer Flinn Dew. I was given a transcript of a letter written by a daughter of Lizzie which said, "We used to go to see Aunt Dora Pierce. She was Grandma Dew's sister. She was blind in her later years. She lived to be 100.[Actually she died in December of 1937 so she was not quit 90.] She loved to piece quilts even after she was blind, and never got the pieces the wrong side out and did it all by hand. She had several children so we are related to the Pierce's, Scott's and Stewarts." One of the last pictures of Anna was taken with her sister Lizzie.
Anna Medora Brewer Pierce died December 25, 1937 at home and was survived by five children, Earl Pierce of Lewiston; Mrs M. Evans of Salem Oregon, Mrs. Pearl Scott of Juliaetta; Miles Pierce of Spokane and Mrs. Stella Morgan of Puyallup, Washington. She is buried in the Juliaetta Cemetery.
Last update: May 10, 2001