Minister, Agriculturist, Philanthropist, Historian

Contributed by BetteJo Hall-Caldwell

Francis Kingsley Pierce

The Man Behind The Pen And Also Behind The Plow

A Write-up of the Minister, Agriculturist, Philanthropist and Historian by Edgar Jackson Klock - Mr. Pierce's Ancestors - His Early Life - Twenty-five Years a Methodist Clergyman.

Ilion Citizen, Thursday, June 21,1906

Francis Kingsley Pierce

F. King Pierce is enjoying the closing years of a busy and well spent life at fine farm "Valley View" on the hills of Schuyler. Mr. Pierce has long wielded the pen for the Citizen and made the Minott column one of the leading features of the correspondence department of this journal. A few weeks ago he wrote a sketch of the life of Edgar Jackson Klock and now upon the invitation of the Editors of the Citizen. Mr. Klock returns the compliment and writes as follows of Brother Pierce's.

In compiling this "write-up" of Rev. Francis Kingsley Pierce, the well known Preacher-Author-Farmer of Herkimer county, the man who has by his life works and examples builded for himself such a wide and beloved personality in Central New York, we feel keenly our inability to do it justice or to say anything not familiar to our Citizen readers. the subject of our sketch has been prominently before the public of this county. In his several roles, for so many years that our readers will pardon us if we are compiled to us many facts relative to his life and works already well known to them. Of his ancestors we will speak first.

King Pierce, as he is familiarly known among his old friends and neighbors, was born April 20, 1832, at Osborn Hill, town of Herkimer, N.Y., and was the fifth son of Capt. Alvin and Thankful Langdon Burt Pierce, who came to this country from Wilbraham, Mass, prior to 1817; his father, Alvin Pierce, captain of a militia company in Massachusetts, Manufacturer, dresser, and dyer of cloth, was born at Suffield, Ct., 1782; his mother, Thankful Landgon Burt Pierce, was the seventh descent from Henry and Eulalia Burt, who came from England and settled at Springfield, Mass., 1640; his grandfather, Sergt. Francis Pierce, was born at Suffield, Ct., 1734, a school teacher; one of his pupils was Gideon Granger, Postmaster General 1801 to 1814; a sergeant he was with Gen. Wolfe at the taking of Quebec, served in the French and Indian war, and also in the Revolution. Sergt. Pierce's first wife was Mary Smith, by whom he had five children. Elder Pierce's grandmother, Phebe Kingsley-Ainsworth Pierce, second wife of Sergt. Pierce, was born 1744; her first husband, Nathan Ainsworth, was born 1740 and died 1776 or 7, a prisoner in the hands of the British; after the death of her second husband she came to Farmer's Settlement, near Herkimer, N.Y., lived there with her son, Nathan Ainsworth, jr., many years, where she died March 2, about 1828 and is buried in the old cemetery at Countryman's. Elder Pierce's great grandfather, Francis Pierce, was born in England, 1704.

F.K. Pierce's education was begun at an early age, under the direction of the wisest and best of teachers, a mother, who was a woman of education and refinement, and he became a reader and reciter of some merit before entering a regular school; he attended the common school until he was nine years of age when he went to live in the family of Edward M. Griffing, editor of The People's Friend at Little Falls. There he learned a little grammar, how to set type, something of the newspaper business, all in the space of a very few weeks, and then one night, taking off his shoes that he might run the faster, he informally severed his connections with Mr. Griffing, and returned to Osborn Hill by way of the towpath. He next engaged in the tobacco business with John Day at Utica, but this seemed to suit him no better than journalism and one morning after, he had been with the Days a few weeks, not having a suitcase handy, he put on all his clothing, which consisted of two suits, one over the other, and again returned to Osborn Hill by way of the towpath, where, when he was about eleven years of age went to live in the family of the Rev. Simeon Osborn. There he acquired a fund of education, both literary and agricultural, that became, perhaps a very important factor in his personality. Every member of the Osborn family was a scholar, one of the girls was referred to as a walking dictionary. Saturday afternoons were devoted to speaking, a debating school was held in The Settlement during the winter, in all of which young King took an active part and then or thereafter never was he known to fail or require prompting when he attempted to speak in public. Here he took up the study of such works as Pope, Milton, Thompson Young, Pollock, Montgomery, Byron, Ancient and Modern History, Wayland, the Soul, Austin and Holme's Eight Days Debate on Universal Salvation's, Albert Barnes' Essay on Butler's Analogy and not only the essay but the "Analogy" was so mastered by him that later, he was the only one in the class of eleven at Conference who was marked perfect in Vutler's Analogy. Here he met and profited by the acquaintance of that scholar, the Rev. Stephen Turtelot, M.D., graduate of Union College, than whom there probably never was in Herkimer county, a greater bibliographer. During the fall of 1849 he was a student at Fairfield Academy, where John P. Griffing was principal and the next spring he came back and put his agricultural knowledge into actual practice, working the Osborn farm three years until 1854, when he was united in marriage to Martha A. Minott, under whose teaching, as a life student, he has grown in wisdom, strength of character and usefulness for more than fifty years; and in as much as she has formed so large a part of his life and figured so prominently in his work and successes, a brief mention of her life will not be out of place here.

Martha Minott was the daughter of Thomas [1804-1865] and Mauve Johnson Minott of Schuyler [Minott] N.Y. She traces her lineage back to "Patriots and Founders" through her great grandfather, Asa Johnson [1728-1820] a revolutionary soldier to Captain Edward Johnson, [1599-1672] who founded Woburn, Mass, she being eighth in generation from William Sabin and second wife, Martha Allen. He took refuge in England in flight from France, came to Colonies 1643, settled in Rehobath, Mass. Her paternal grandparents were Howard Haywood Minott [1772-1843] and wife, Martha Sabin, pioneers of Minott. George Minott [1597-1657] and wife, Martha, were the first of the name to settle in the Colonies, coming from England in Winthrop's Expedition 1630, they settled in Dorchester, Mass. Mrs. Pierce was educated in her home school, attended the select school of Mrs. Frances Beardslee at Herkimer, 1850 and later spent several terms at Whitestown Seminary. She taught school at Ellison Four corners summer of 1851, in District No. 4, Dutchtown 1852, and at Minott 1854 and 1859. Endowed by nature with a bright mind, she has trained that mind in nature's most accomplished school, "The World", mingling with the world's noblemen, people of refinement, studying from the world's best text books, literature by the best authors, they have collected a choice library. A pride in her own lineage has led her through the study of her own ancestors, to become quite an amateur genealogist. As two analogous elements unite in the chemical laboratory to perfect some powerful substance, so the lives of Rev. and Mrs. Pierce have blended together, each helping the other and thereby, adding to its own strength; reading together, planning together, working together, making together their married life a perfect unit and one success, and now that the meridian is passed, together they are drifting down the other side towards that other realization which their existence has earned for them.

The first twelve years after their marriage they rented the Minott farm. In 1865 they bought the adjoining Amos Farrington farm, now known as Valley View, working both places for two years, milking 85 cows. Mr. Pierce making the cheese in which he became an expert, one house in Philadelphia taking his entire output at the top market price. The present excellence of American cheese-making has no more than touched what he accomplished fifty years ago.

Twice he was elected Justice of the Peace. A staunch prohibition worker, he was on that ticket for Justice of Sessions. Class Leader and Sunday School Superintendent, in 1871. Juyl 23d, he was licensed to exhort and during the next fifteen months spoke at "The Bush", Osborn Hill and Sterling Creek. March 26, 1872 he was licensed to preach and in '73 took his first charge at Schuyler and West Frankfort, April 9,1876. Bishop Andrews ordained him deacon and he went to his second charge at Salisbury Center, preaching also at Stratford, Emonsburg, and Paper Mill, April 13, 1878, he was admitted to fall connection and in '79 went to his third charge at St. Johnsville, preaching also at Krum Creek and Lasselsville. During his pastorated= here he passed his last examination and was ordained Elder by Bishop Peck.

1882-3-4 he was stationed at Cedar Lake, going also to Frankfort Hill. 1885-6-7 he was at Cold Brook besides serving the charges at Russia and Granvesville. 1888-9-1890-1-2 he was preaching at Jordanville and Columbia, and in 1893, the conference responding to a call, returned him to his old charge at Cold Brook and Russia, where he labored until 1897, completing 25 years of active service for the church, having served every charge the full time limit. In the spring of '98 he was granted supernumerary relations and superannuated in 1903. Since '98 he was resided at Valley View, his summer residence at Minott, N.Y., where he was interested himself in the improvement of his farm, the social and religious welfare of his neighbors and his town, doing special work on several newspaper, and letting his light so shine as to better the conditions of those with whom he has associated. As a preacher he never spoke from notes or written composition. Successful, vigorous revivals have rewarded his work in every field where he has labored. As a church worker he has ever been a leader and served as driver; monuments to his success as a debt lifter and church builder may be found in the magnificent brick parsonage bought, and the church built at St. Johnsville, the church at West Frankfort and the parsonage at Cold Brook. For his record as a polished gentleman, as a valuable friend, as an acknowledged scholar, go ask his many fortunate friends and admirers in every corner of Herkimer county; they will speak to you more eloquently than I can do in a newspaper "write-up." Few men are permitted to look back over an active life, and find in every line of labor and every channel of operation, success written so generally over all their works as can King Pierce. Perhaps, men have started under more adverse circumstances and risen to greater heights, but none have accomplished the work that has come to their hands to do with better judgment or more conscientious consider action; few, if any, will render a better account of the talents entrusted to their use, nor can any ask a greater tribute than the commendation of their own conscience and the recommendation and respect of their neighbors.

Rev. and Mrs. Pierce have two children, Frank Minott of Dolgeville and Edwin Burt of North Ilion. Frank Minott Pierce was born 1855, educated at Cazenovia and Antwerp, was principal of the school at Stratford three years, supervisor of Stratford ten consecutive years, in 1897 was appointed one of the board of State Forest Inspectors at a salary of $1200, is a piano bridge builder with the Livingston Co., at Stratford, but is now with the Julius Breckwoldt Co., of Dolgeville. In 1884 he married one of his scholars, a teacher, Bessie Brissee of Stratford, a descendant of the Rev. Jonathan Edwards, and they have three children; Claude A., a business college graduate, is a bookkeeper with Fred J. Helterline at Stratford; Madge Evelyn in the High School and Ross Kingsley in the graded school at Dolgeville.

Edwin Burt Pierce, born 1860, attended school at Salisbury and Fairfield Academy, taught school three winters, is an up-to-date farmer at North Ilion. In 1882 he married Minnie Simpson, a teacher of Trenton Falls, who is a descendant of corporal Elijah Hine of the Revolution, and amateur artist, a newspaper correspondent, writing both prose and verse. They have a son and daughter. The son, Seymour Simpson Pierce, is with the Remington Typewriter Company, and October 11, 1905, his grandfather Pierce officiated at his marriage to Louise Coleman, daughter of Frederick Coleman of the Coleman Carriage Company of Ilion. The daughter, Edith Burt Pierce, a student in the Ilion High School, is an expert, horsewoman; and no doubt inherits this trait from her grandfather, Elder Pierce, who has always been an admirer of good horses. In his younger days he trained many colts for himself and neighbors and even when he was an active minister ['tho we blush to say it] we fear that sometimes, when the roads were exceptionally good, he allowed his carriage horse to strike a clip a little faster than the prescribed ministerial gait set down by those good old orthodox Methodists.

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Created 11/13/03
Copyright © 2003 BetteJo Hall-Caldwell
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