Pioneer Families of Grand Traverse County, Michigan
Robert Pierce (1824-1904) and Julia Sprague (1828-1878)
Robert Pierce was born around 26 October 1824 in South Lopham, Norfolk,England, son of James Pierce and Elizabeth Wade (see Pierce in England page to examine latest findings). He was baptised there on 19 June 1825, along with his brother Henry Pierce. The family spelled their name Pearce in England, changing it to Pierce in the United States. Robert sailed with his family to New York in 1829. They settled in Jefferson County, New York. While his parents and brothers moved on to Sheboygan County, Wisconsin in 1848. Robert remained behind.
Robert Pierce's 1825 baptismal record, South Lopham, Norfolk, England (second from bottom)
Robert married Julia A Sprague around 1850. Census records record that Julia was born in 1828 in New York. Her gravestone lists 1823 as her birthdate.
In 1860 the Pierce family was living in Alexandria, Jefferson County, New York. Four daughters had been born in New York: Sarah DeEtte, Bertha, Florence, and Frances A. Residing with the family were three members of Julia's family. Their relationship to Julia is not clear. 78 year-old Sally Sprague, born in Massachusetts or Connecticut, may have been either her mother or grandmother. Twenty-three year old Marcellus Sprague and twenty-two year old Mary Sprague were probably Julia's brother or nephew and his wife. In the 1850 census Marcellus was listed as the son of Charles and Marguerite Sprague. Charles was thirty-six and had been born in Massachusetts. Marguerite was thirty-four and had been born in New York. In 1850 Julia would have been twenty-two (or twenty-seven), so it is unlikely that Charles was her father, more likely he was her uncle.
The Pierces left New York sometime between 1860 and 1864. In October 1864 Robert joined the B Company of the 27th Wisconsin Infantry. He served until 29 August 1865, apparently escaping injury or disease during the time he was enlisted.
The Pierces lived near the town of Lima in Sheboygan County, Wisconsin. A number of Pierce families lived there, including two of Robert's brothers. Several of Robert's nephews eventually moved to Michigan.
Between November 1866 and the summer of 1870 the Robert Pierce family moved to Paradise township, Grand Traverse County, Michigan. By 1870 three additional children had been born: Charles, Mary, and Fannie. Fannie Pierce died at age three in Mayfield township. The family later moved to Fife Lake township around 1875. All records indicate that Robert worked as a farmer throughout his life. Julia Sprague Pierce died 2 July 1878 in Michigan. Her death record has not been located. She was buried in 1880 in the Fife Lake cemetery.
In his later years Robert suffered from poor health exacerbated by a logging accident in the late 1880s when a log rolled over him, breaking several ribs. In 1890 he applied for a Civil war pension which was subsequently approved. In 1900 he was living with his son Charles. Robert died 3 February 1904 at Fife Lake, Grand Traverse County, Michigan. He is buried in the Fife Lake cemetery. A death notice appeared in a Traverse City newspaper:
Sheriff Chandler received a message this morning stating that his father-in-law Robert Pierce had died at his home in Hodge. He was one of the first settlers of Grand Traverse county. The (?) will be held tomorrow at 1 o'clock at Fife Lake."
Children of Robert and Julia Sprague Pierce
i. Sarah DeEtte Pierce was born 15 December 1851 in Jefferson County, New York.
ii. Bertha Pierce was born in March 1855 in New York.
iii. Florence Pierce was born in September 1856 in New York.
iv. Frances A Pierce born 1857/8 in New York.
v. Charles Pierce born January 1862 in New York.
vi. Mary E Pierce born 28 February 1863 in New York.
vii. Fannie Pierce born 31 October 1866 in Wisconsin. She died 11 May 1869 at Mayfield, Grand Traverse County, Michigan and is buried at the Fife Lake cemetery.