John Harwood Pierce: Ranger of the Plains

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Captain Michael Pierce
Genealogy of John Harwood Pierce:
1st Generation

[See also Carole Gardner's Capt. Micheal Peirse document attached. Gardner has done extensive recent genealogical research. Some of her findings conflict with the information presented on these pages and shed new light on the Micheal Pierce genealogy.]

Captain Michael Pierce was born in 1615 and died in1676. He and his descendants form the first American generation of Pierces in our family tree. Michael Pierce immigrated to the New World in the early 1640s from Higham, Kent, England to Scituate, in what later became Massachusetts. The ten year period from 1630 to 1640 is know as The Great Migration. During this period, 16,000 people, immigrated to the East Coast of North America.

Brother of famous Colonial Sea Captain, William Pierce. Captain Michael Pierce was the brother of the famous Colonial sea captain, William Pierce, who helped settle Plymouth Colony. Captain Michael Pierce played a significant role in the Great Migration. Historical records show that this one sea captain crossed the Atlantic, bringing settlers and provisions to the New World more frequently than any other. He had homes in London, the Bahamas and Rhode Island. He played a central role in the government of the early colonies. He was killed at Providence, one of the Bahama Islands, in 1641.

There were actually four Pierce brothers who made their mark on the New World: John Pierce (the Patentee), Robert Pierce, Captain William Pierce, and Captain Michael Pierce. All were grandsons of Anteress Pierce, and sons of Azrika Pierce and his wife Martha.

Marries Persis Eames. In 1643, Michael Pierce married Persis Eames of Charleston Massachusetts. His wife was born in Fordington, Dorsetshire England 28 October 1621. She was the daughter of Anthony Eames and Margery Pierce.

Pierce Family Moves to Scituate. Michael and Persis Pierce's first child, a daughter, was born in 1645 and named Persis in honor of her mother. Unfortunately, their first child died in 1646 at one year of age. The new family settled first in Higham, but moved in 1676 to Scituate, where the Pierce family continued to reside for most of the next century. Scituate is located some 10 miles north of the original Plymouth colony. It was settled as early as 1628 by a group of men from Kent, England.

In 1646, Benjamin Pierce, their second child, a son and heir, was born. This son, Benjamin Pierce, fathered the second Pierce generation in this family tree. Twelve other children were born over the coming years: Ephraim, Elizabeth, Deborah, Sarah, Mary, Abigail, Anna, Abiah, John, Ruth and Peirsis.

Erected First Saw-Mill. Michael Pierce resided on a beautiful plain near the north river and not far form Herring brook. He assisted in erecting the first saw-mill. The mill was the first one erected in the colony. It is believed that Samuel Woodworth (1784-1842) wrote the song, "The Old Oaken Bucket," concerning this river and mill in Scituate. Samuel Woodworth's grandfather, Benjamine Woodworth, witnessed the signing of Captain Michael Pierce's will, on January 1675. The lyrics to this classic American folk tune are given below:

How dear to this heart are the scenes of my childhood,
When fond recollection presents them to view,
The orchard, the meadow, the deep tangled wildwood,
And ev'ry lov'd spot which my infancy knew.
The wide spreading stream, the mill that stood near it,
The bridge and the rock where the cataract fell.
The cot of my father, the dairy house by it,
And e'en the rude bucket that hung in the well.
The old oaken bucket, the ironbound bucket,
The moss-covered bucket that hung in the well.

The moss-covered bucket I hail as a treasure,
For often at noon when returned from the field,
I found it the source of an exquisite pleasure,
The purest and sweetest that nature can yield.
How ardent I seized it with hands that were glowing,
And quick to the white pebbled bottom it fell.
Then soon with the emblem of truth overflowing,
And dripping with coolness it rose from the well.
The old oaken bucket, the ironbound bucket,
The moss-covered bucket that hung in the well.

How soon from the green mossy rim to receive it,
As poised on the curb it reclined to my lips,
Not a full flowing goblet could tempt me to leave it,
Tho' filled with the nectar that Jupiter sips.
And now far removed from the loved situation,
The tear of regret will intrusively swell.
As fancy reverts to my father's plantation,
And sighs for the bucket that hung in the well.
The old oaken bucket, the ironbound bucket,
The moss-covered bucket that hung in the well.

Captain in the Local Militia Fighting the Indians. Unlike his famous brother, Captain William Pierce, Michael Pierce was not a sea captain. He attained the title, Captain, from the Colony court in 1669. Historical records show that he was first given the rank of Ensign under Captain Miles Standish, then later, in 1669, he was made Captain. These titles reflects his role as a leader in the local militia formed to protect the colony from the Indians.

Honored for Heroism in King Phillip's War. Captain Michael Pierce's memory is well-documented in American history. He is honored for the brave manner in which he died in defense of his country. The exact manner in which he died is repeated in more than 20 books and letters detailing the military history of the King Phillip's War. This war took place between 1675 and 1676, and remains one of the bloodiest conflicts in American history. It was also a pivotal point in early American history. Although the English colonists were ultimately victorious over the Indians, it took the colonies over 100 years to recover from the economic and political catastrophy brought about by this conflict.

The battle in which Captain Michael Pierce lost his life is detailed in Drakes Indian Chronicles (pp. 220-222) as follows:

"Sunday the 26th of March, 1676, was sadly remarkable to us for the tidings of a very deplorable disaster brought into Boston about five o'clock that afternoon, by a post from Dedham, viz., that Captain Pierce of Scituate in Plymouth Colony, having intelligence in his garrison at Seaconicke, that a party of the enemy lay near Mr. Blackstorne's, went forth with sixty-three English and twenty of the Cape Indians (who had all along continued faithful, and joyned with them), and upon their march discovered rambling in an obscure woody place, four or five Indians, who, in getting away from us halted as if they had been lame or wounded. But our men had pursued them but a little way into the woods before they found them to be only decoys to draw them into their ambuscade; for on a sudden, they discovered about five hundred Indians, who in very good order, furiously attacked them, being as readily received by ours; so that the fight began to be very fierce and dubious, and our men had made the enemy begin to retreat, but so slowly that it scarce deserved the name, when a fresh company of about four hundred Indians came in; so that the English and their few Indian friends were quite surrounded and beset on every side. Yet they made a brave resistance for about two hours; during which time they did great execution upon their enemy, who they kept at a distance and themselves in order. For Captain Pierce cast his sixty-three English and twenty Indians into a ring, and six fought back to back, and were double - double distance all in one ring, whilst the Indians were as thick as they could stand, thirty deep. Overpowered with whose numbers, the said Captain and fifty-five of his English and ten of their Indian friends were slain upon the place, which in such a cause and upon such disadvantages may certainly be titled "The Bed of Honor." However, they sold their worthy lives at a gallant rate, it being affirmed by those few that not without wonderful difficulty and many wounds made their escape, that the Indians lost as many fighting men in this engagement as were killed in the battle in the swamp near Narragansett, mentioned in our last letter, which were generally computed to be above three hundred."

Today, in Scituate, there is a Captain Pierce Road.

In Cumberland, Rhode Island, there is a monument called Nine Men's Misery. A tablet near the monument reads:

MARCH 26, 1676

The monument is located in a dark, place in the woods, near a former monastery. The monastery is now a public library. The monument consists of little more than a pile of stones cemented together by a monk and marked with a plaque. However, this site is of major historical significance because it is concidered to be the oldest monument to veterans in the United States.

1. Captain Michael Pierce born 1615; died 3/26/1676.

married Persis Eames, 1643 (born. Oct. 28, 1621; died Dec. 31,1662). Micheal Pierce and Persis Eames had these 13 children:
2. Persis Pierce, born 1645. Persis died 1646 at 1 year of age.
3. >>>Benjamin Pierce, born 1646.
4. Ephraim Pierce, born 1647. Ephraim died 1719 at 72 years of age.
5. Elizabeth Pierce, born 1649. She married a Holbrook and gave birth to Captain Michael Pierce's only two grandchildren at the time of his death who are mentioned in his will: Elizabeth Holbrook and Abigail Holbrook.
6. Deborah Pierce, born 1650.
7. Sarah Pierce, born 1652.
8. Mary Pierce, born 1654. She married Samuel Holbrook, 23 June 1675. Samuel was born in Weymouth, Mass 1650. Samuel was the son of William Holbrook and Elizabeth Pitts. Samuel died 29 October 1712 at 62 years of age. Mary Pierce and Samuel Holbrook had the following six children: Persis, Elizabeth, Bethiah, Samuel, Elizabeth, and Mary.
9. Abigail Pierce, born 1656. Abigail died 1723 at 67 years of age.
10. Anna Pierce, born 1657.
11. Abiah Pierce, born 1659. She married Andrew Ford.
12. John Pierce, born 1660. John died 28 June 1738 at 77 years of age. He married Patience Dodson 12 December 1683.
13. Ruth Pierce, born 1661.
14. Peirsis Pierce, born 1662. Persis 3 December 1695. She married Richard Garrett, 3rd, who was born in 1659. They lived in Scituate, Mass. and had three children: John (born 1706), Anna, and Deborah.

married Mrs. Annah James sometime soon after 1662. They had no children. Captain Michael Pierce remained married to Annah Pierce until his death. Annah Pierce is well provided for in his will.

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Send all inquiries to the author, Barbara Case, at:  ~  Last Updated March 20, 2009