Title: Interview with Marge Silver (April 20, 1967)
Full Citation
Permanent Link: http://ufdc.ufl.edu/UF00006735/00001
 Material Information
Title: Interview with Marge Silver (April 20, 1967)
Physical Description: Book
Language: English
Publication Date: April 20, 1967
Spatial Coverage: 12111
St. Lucie County (Fla.) -- History.
Funding: This text has been transcribed from an audio or video oral history. Digitization was funded by a gift from Caleb J. and Michele B. Grimes.
 Record Information
Bibliographic ID: UF00006735
Volume ID: VID00001
Source Institution: Samuel Proctor Oral History Program, Department of History, University of Florida
Holding Location: This interview is part of the 'St. Lucie County' collection of interviews held by the Samuel Proctor Oral History Program of the Department of History at the University of Florida
Rights Management: All rights reserved by the source institution and holding location.
Resource Identifier: SL 13

Table of Contents
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St. Lucie Tape 13A
Marge Silver
April 20, 1967
Page 1

I got in the front door. Then I got to be late. I had heard about

that line, but I didn't believe it. Now I believe it.

I found this out in politics. I don't really feel qualitied to make a

speech to you about the history of Fort Pierce. I feel that there are

many of you here in this room much better qualified, who know much more

about it, and to them let me say, if I'm telling you things you already

know, please be pa tient with me. I'm glad to know that there are some

people in the room who are relatively new commers to our area. And to

them I am probably saying something new. The reason I stand here before

you tonight is, first always a joy to join you and to have supper with

you, even if I have to hurry a bit at the supper, to see old friends

I don't get to see very often and I regret that, but it's very

pleasant to be with you. But I still wouldn't be standing here and you

wouldn't have asked me to come unless I had gone on a holiday last

summer which ended up in New York City where I got in touch with

a young man, to me he's a young man. To some people he wouldn't be

so young. A young man who started his journalistic career at the

radio station WIRA. Banty mentioned I used to be Mrs. WIRA, which is

kind of a glorified title and I never deserved that, but I was connected

with WIRA at the time when Jim Halvy was cub reporter. The first

reporting job Jim ever had was with WIRA and I'll never forget his

first story that he gave to Doug to put on the air on the news. It

started out, "On Fort Pierce Beach today there were three hundred odd

people." That's just the way it came out, too. Well I followed the

career of this young man and it has been a very interesting career. He

St. Lucie Tape i Sfl/

Page 2

was with the Army Times for quite a long while in Germany and traveled

extensively in Europe and then he came back to New York City and

became an editor of the magazine, Pageant, and from that step he

went on to become what he is now, an editor of Business Week, which is

pretty glorified for a Fort Pierce boy, who wrote, "There were three

hundred odd people on the beach." He's doing a lot better. But he's

doing very well and I know that you all would like to be proud of him as

I am for his accomplishments. During all this rather glamorous life

that he has lead he has never forgotten his real passion for the history

of Fort Pierce and he has continued to not only be interested in it

but to do a great deal of research about Fort Pierce. You may remember

if yiu've visited the museum, seeing the book that he's wrote called

Tale of the Seminole War. He wrote that quite a long time ago when

he was still a young man in the "three hundred odd people" stage.

The writing is not terrific but the history if very good. He's a

very careful reseacher and so devoted to it that he and his wife,

Hoyce spen their very short vacation times in summer going around the

country and finding documents that will back up his research for the

history in our area, even though he, of course, lives in New York all

the time, now. This is the second time that I learned about my

own community by going to New York. The previous time I found out

what St. Lucie was all about by going to the library, the New York

Public Library, on Fifth Avenue, and I found some fascinating things

about the background of St. Lucie and the St. Lucie River. Incidently

I found a map dated 1513 which shows the St, Lucie River right in the right

place. It's practically the only thing on that map of Florida that

is in the right place. And a kind of funny little blob that's supposed

St. Lucie Tape Gt |t

Page 3

to be Lake Ockeechobee. That was an interesting trip, but let me get

to the one that you're waiting to hear about and that was visiting

Jim and learning something about the man for whom the fort was named,

and for whom the city of Fort Pierce is named. Jim and Joyce Halvy found

a real rare treasure find about Benjamin K. Pierce who's the man in

question- on a holiday the summer before last 'when they went up to

Concord, New Hampshire where the Pierce family came from and came across

some letters from Benjamin K. Pierce to his father, Benjamin Pierce

and to his brother Franklin Pierce, who was, of course the fourteenth

president of the United States. These letters Jim is collecting and

compiling and eventually we'll get another book from Jim Halvy. And

certainly the last thing I want to do is ruin his book by telling

you too much. But when Jim starts talking about Benjamin K. Pierce

he almost can't stop him and I've spent a very fascinating afternoon

and evening at his home just listening to him talk about Benjamin Pierce.

Some of what I'm going to tell you is contained in a letter that he

sent to the historical commission through me about the descendents of

Benjamin K. Pierce that he has found and some else that I'm going

to tell you is a transcription of a letter that Benjamin K. Pierce wrote

in 1812, which I have here and which I'll circulate. It's kind of

hard to read so I got it transcribed and I'll read it to you. Other-

things I'm going to tell you I simply remember from the conversation

with Jim. Now this part of my talk to you is going to be highly inaccurate

because I'm famous for having a bad memory for little things like facts.

But I'm going to try to give you an impression of the man that I got

from JIm. First I would like to give you the history. This is tru what

I'm going to tell you now and it's written down so I can't forget it or

get it mixed up. Benjamin K. Pierce was the oldest son of Benjamin Pierce,

St. Lucie Tape S l3A

Page 4

who was quite a political figure even before his son Franklin became

president. He was twice governor of the state of New Hampshire. It

was a political family all the way around. Benjamin K. was the older

brother and Franklin, his younger brother, was the president. Benjamin

K. went into the army as a career and he was involved in the war of 1812

as you'll see from his letter and he was also involved in the Seminole

War. He was stationed in St. Augustine and from St. Augustine he was

with the army group that founded Fort Pierce. How much time he spent

here is unknown at this time. Jim is still researching his experience

in Fort Pierce. But just to give you a quick sort of picture of the

man. first the fort as you probably know most of you was built originally

in Fort Pierce in late 1837 or early 1838. This is about the middle of

the career of Benjamin K. Pierce. Most of the family papers as I said

are in Concord, New Hampshire. Jim found a letter dated January 1838.

He knows of such a letter. It was written from St. Augustine by

Benjamin K. Pierce. It was written to his brother Franklin who was

then a U;S. senator in Washington. This letter doesn't mention Fort

Pierce but it's the only letter that Jim had found up to the time I

talked to him that came from Benjamin K. Pierce in Florida. And it

describes a military action on the St. Lucie River, so obviously it

must have been the expedition that resulted in the founding of the

forBenjamin K. Pierce died in New York on April the first, 1850 and he

was buried on Governor's Island, but in 1888 the body was removed to

Cyprus Hills National Cemetery in Brooklyn and Jim and Joyce Halvy had

visited the grave there. Now Halvy has located a direct descendent of

Benjamin K., his great. great grand daughter, and she's Mrs. Nita

Bourage Meyers Bouchette of Ottawa, Ontario. The Pierce story quite

St. Lucie Tape fT$ V?

Page 5

often touches Canada and certainly in this case it does. B.K. was

that. B.K. is Benjamin K. Pierce. He signs himself in his letters,

e ven to his father and to his brother B.K. Pierce, which is pretty

formal but you get the habit after you've seen a few of these letters

of calling him B.K., which is probably a little bit taking liberty

but I will do it because it's automatically what you do. He was married

and widowed three times. His first wife was an Indian girl. Her name

was Josette La Frambrose. And that's sort of interesting because those

of you who know french, and I'm sure that many of you do. know that

frambrose is raspberry and there are a great many raspberries in Canada

and probably she got her name from her occupation, which might have

been picking raspberries. The issue of this marriage which was in 1818

he was married, that was when he was stationed on Mackinaw Island in

Michigan. Now that's particularly interesting. The date of 1818 was

just after the war of 1812 and Jim Halvy believes that Pierce was one

of the army group who were engaged in surveying the border between

Canada and the United States and that was figured because Mackinaw Island

is right on that border and that's probably what he was doing at this time.

They had one daughter who'd name was Harriet. That's a name to remember

in this. His second wife was Amanda Borkin, whom he married in 1823.

and she came from Alabama. He went from one extreme to the

other. In that day and age it was quite difficult to get from Canada

to Alabama and it isn't known how he did it but he did it. There were

four children of that marriage. Elizaveth, Amanda, Charlotte- and William.

t:e one son he had who died in infancy. And Amanda. wth wife died in 1831.

And I'd like to interpolate right there one of the stories that I recall

Jim telling me from one of the letters that I did not see. He simply told

me about. Now here's where my facts may be a little bit scrambled, but

St. Lucie Tape \V

Page 6

it was such a fascinating story I thought I'd tell it to you as I

remember. This wife died and it was a very tragic circumstance, and in

that day it was customary in case of death for the deceased to be played

out at the home of the family instead of at a funeral home as we usually

d o now. And the body was lying in state as it were in the home and

apparently Benjamin K. was not in the house that night but was somewhere

else, but the four children were there. The house caught fire. It was

a terrible thing and the house burnt to the ground, the coffin with it,

I am told and the children were barely saved from the fire so that it was

a double tradegy. The third wife was Louise Reed of Portsmouth, New

Hampshire so he had a real variety in his domestic life. In 1840

his eldest daughter, Harriet, who was the daughter of the Indian girl and

Mr. Pierce, married an army officer named James Brooster Rickett. Their

daughter, Mary Graham married a navy officer named Guy Hamilton Bourage.

He was particularly interesting because he was the admiral in charge and

command of the cruise in Memphis, whcih in 1927 went to France to pick

up Charles Lindbergh and bring him back to this country for his triumphal

parade after having flown over to in the Spirit of St.

Louis as you remember of course. Now their daughter, that's the daughter

of Guy Bourage and Marie Graham, was Nita and she is the present descent

whom Jim Halvy has met and talked to. She is now married to a Mr.

Bouchette. Mrs. Bouchette has a portrait of B.K. painted when he was

a young lieutenant on Machinaw Island. And the portrait is in full

dress uniform. Halvy suggested that the historical commission make an offer

to Mrs. Bouchette for a copy to be made of this painting,-a photo to be

made in the exact size of the original painting, then colored in oils so

that we down here may have an exact replica of the painting that was made

St. Lucie Tape U4 \k%

Page 7

of Mr. Pierce at this time in his life and I'm happy to say that the

historical commission was willing to go along with that and to make

an offer. This is being accomplished right now. I had a letter from

Jim in the past few days. He's to see Mrs. Bouchette again. She's coming

from Canada to NorfolK and they're to meet there and he's going to see

if they can't get this done. Besides the portrait Mrs. Bouchette has a

letter of B.K. Pierce's that was written from Albany to father in

Hillsborough, New Hampshire. That's the family keep,,Hillsborough, dated

1812. It's the earliest Benjamin K. Pierce letter on record. Now Jim

has an interesting proposal fo r this,too. He proposes that the historical

commission here buy this letter. The letter is not particularly, directly

related to Florida or to Fort Pierce or to his military activity here

becasue t. of course he took, this letter was written long before the

Seminole War portion of his life, but it being the first letter and it

having reference in a very important historical way to the war of 1812

which concerns New Hampshire. Remember Concord, New Hampshire has the letter

from St. Augustine so what Jim wants to do is to buy the 1812 letter about

the war of 1812 and exchange, make an exchange with Concord for the

letter written by B K. Pierce from St. Augustine referring to military

action on the St. Lucie River and the St. Lucie County Historical

Commission also thought that would be an excellent idea and it has

budgeted funds for a proposal to accomplish this. There is still to be

examined and Jim and Joyce are going to spend this summer's vacation examining

what they call the McNeal letters. Benjamin's oldest sister married a

Gen. McNeal and during all of Benjamin K.'s resisitudes when he was widowed

three times in a row and when he was away on campaigns for the Seminole

Wars the McNeal family took his children and brought them up so there was

St. Lucie Tape \

Page 8

a great deal of correspondence between McNeal and Benjamin K. Pierce.

So that Jim is very hopeful in this correspondence which he hasn't

touched yet, but he has it located. In this correspondence there will

be some very definite references to the port of Fort Pierce. As Jim

says Benjamin K. Pierce is anything but a modest man and he's very

sure that he would not have a port, a fort named for him without mentioning

it in a letter somewhere. But there is one other thing to remember about

1838. You remember that was the probable date when the date was

established. It was also the dd=e of his third marriage so he might

have been distracted vy other things around him. Now. I know that you

would like to have a word, pardon, was there a question? I know y9u

would like to have a word sketch of BEnjamin K. Pierce and the best

way to get a thumb nail sketch of man or a woman or anybody is to read

something they had written to an intimate friend or relative when their

guard is down and they're simply expressing themselves as they would if

they were in the bosom of the family, some of the letters that Jim lwt

me read of Benjamin K. Pierce has given me a very, very clear picture of

the man. He was a definite man. He was not wishy washy in the least. He had

a temper,#had a sense of humor, he was impatient with things that he

didn't think were right and he expressed himself so. The letter that

I have here Is a zerox-:copy of the 1812 letter. I'm going to just

circulate it around for you all to take a look at,but it's terribly

hard to read because in 1812 they were still using the s's for x and all this.

So I've simply transcribed it and I'll try to read it to you now. This

letter was written to his father, Benjamin. And he goes: A short time

since I wrote to you from Cyprus Harbor on Lake Ontario. soon after the

date of that I unexpectedly received orders from Col, McComb to attend

St. Lucie Tape Vat 51N

Page 9

him on a route to this city,(that's Albany) where I now am. We left

Cyprus Harbor on the ninth and arrived here on the eve of the fourteenth

instant. I'm in goodhealth and pass the time agreeably. I have nothing

new to communicate.( He immediately proves this untrue.) The war news,

I suppose (his grammar falls down every now and then, too, I must tell you)

The war news I suppose reach you as soon in the public vehicles as they

would by private letter. The Proclaimation of Brigadeer

General Smith has brought ridicule and contempt upon himself, and disgrace

upon the army. A strange fatality seems to attend the General's army. The

troops here generally repair to winter quarters. There will therefore.

be nothing done towards -the conquest of Canada, only to keep up the

recruiting service to keep the regualr forces and preparing for a spring

campaign. Our navy has had a very different success than the army has'

had. The r brilliant achievements have covered them with immortal honor.

The capture of the by Captain the __

by Captain Jones, and Macedonia by Commodore DeCateur has exceeded

anything record in the battles of the world. I shall proceed tomorrow

on my way to the city of New York with Co\. McComb. I shall probably

remain there the greater part of the winter, but as I am

a bird at flight and passage resting but a short time at any particular

place. On my arrival at New York I shall write you and from them

probably determine whether my abode there will be long or short. I send

my love by Aiken, James and this is as neat as I can come to decifering

that name. But it's a very odd name as you can see for what it represents.

I send my love by James and wish to have particular care taken of him as

he is a most beautiful animal. I would by no means have him tode by any

St. Lucie Tape ;

Page 10

person except yourself and don't wish to have him hacked until he gets

recruited. (I don't know what that means. I hope I've read it right.

You can look at the letter. Maybe you can make more of it than that.}

When he arrived at Hillsborough that will make eight hundred miles that he

has rode with scarec ly resting. If his eyes could be helped it would make

him still more valuable (and then the copy is too pale. I can't read

e exactly what it says.) But something might be tried upon him without

injury at least. Please give my love to the family and receive the

same from us. Your affectionate son, B.K.Pierce"'. Now I don't know

what your reading of the man might be from that letter but it's as typical

of a letter as you'll find. What interested me very much was his daring

to criticize his superiors. He was a lieutenant colonel and he was calling

the brigadeer general names there. And his confession that the navy

was doing better than the army at the time. Also he spent three or

four paragraphs of concern about the wonderful, beautiful horse and

he sort of tosses off the family like that. But then, maybe it was

typical of the time but it does give you something of a picture of the'

man. I'd like to spend just a moment or two if you will be patient with

me another moment or two on Franklin Pierce, his brother. Again you

can get a picture of a man from his relatives as well as from his letters.

Usually a family's thinking goes along in more or less the same groove.

And I'm sure that I'm telling you things that many of you know already.

But let's review it anyway. Franklin Pierce was the fourteenth president.

He was born in Hillsborough, was the son of Benjamin. He graduated

from Boden College. He was a nationalist and a Jacsonian democrat and

I'm glad to say it. So presumably, Benjamin K. was also a Jacksonian

democrat. He was speaker of the Ftate House of Representatives. He

S Lucie Tape #l$ \e;A

Page 11

was also elected as Congressman from New Hampshire which he served for

two terms, I believe. Also he served a term in the senate before becoming

president. Another interesting note incase y6u have forgotten who

composed the cabinet of Franklin Pierce. ones of the cabinet members

was a man named Jefferson Davis. So he was a New Hampshire man with a

great deal of empathy for the south land. I think it's most appropriate

for his son, the founder of Fort Pierce. It's been a joy to tell

you a little I know about Benjemin Pierce. I hope that it's give you

a new insight into him and maybe a new interest in preserving our

fort for the information and the educatioAand the inspiration of

our children. Thank you very much.

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