Title: Interview with Jim Halbe (November 11, 1967)
Full Citation
Permanent Link: http://ufdc.ufl.edu/UF00006740/00001
 Material Information
Title: Interview with Jim Halbe (November 11, 1967)
Physical Description: Book
Language: English
Publication Date: November 11, 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: UF00006740
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 18

Table of Contents
        Page 1
        Page 2
        Page 3
        Page 4
        Page 5
        Page 6
        Page 7
        Page 8
        Page 9
        Page 10
        Page 11
        Page 12
        Page 13
        Page 14
        Page 15
        Page 16
        Page 17
        Page 18
        Page 19
        Page 20
        Page 21
        Page 22
        Page 23
        Page 24
        Page 25
        Page 26
        Page 27
        Page 28
Full Text

This Oral History is copyrighted by the Interviewee
and Samuel Proctor Oral History Program on
behalf of the Board of Trustees of the University of

Copyright, 2005, University of Florida.
All rights, reserved.

This oral history may be used for research,
instruction, and private study under the provisions
of Fair Use. Fair Use is a provision of United States
Copyright Law (United States Code, Title 17, section
107) which allows limited use of copyrighted
materials under certain conditions.
Fair use limits the amount of materials that may be

For all other permissions and requests, contacat the
the University of Florida.

St. Lucie Tape #18IA
Jim Halbe
November 11, 1967
Pge 1

Friends, tonight is a very happy night for me because I have been trying for

some time to tell you a bit about the St. Lucie Historical Society. I find

that if we had have met last night we would have been celebrating our

twelveth anniversary. The St. Lucie Historical Society is a non-profit

organization chartered November 25, 1955, dedicated to the study and pre-

servation of historical facts of the Indian River section. We are very happy

that we have with us tonight our first president, Mr. E. W. Halbe, and Mrs.

Ollie Peterson, our first treasurer. It is also very much a great pleasure

to me to welcome back one of our old .home town boys who went to the city

to make good and he did. I see Mrs. Hellier was to introduce him but I

think if she don't want to go, I'll go on with it. I have known

ever since he was born. He went to New York to make good and he's coming

Ick to tell us some of the things he wants us to know. He is one of

staff for the Business Week of New York City. Mr. Jimmy Halbe.

J.H.: I see Marjorie got out of that pretty well. I'm certainly grateful

for this large turnout and great priviledge to speak to you about something

that I've found to be very interesting and very exciting. And if I

succeed this evening in imparting to you some of the excitement that I have

felt and experienced as I get closer and closer to what I'm looking for

I'll be very happy indeed. I know it is customary for the speaker to say

something excruciatingly funny at the beginning and I'm also happy to

say that I don't have to this evening for three reasons. Two of them,

are two friends of mine in the back Harris and Harold Holsberg,

who, I'm sure with absolute sincerity will either drop something or

laugh in the wrong place before I'm finished. The third reason is my

father who) I'm afraid recalls the last time he and I were in the same

St. Lucie Tape #19'A

Page 2

room when either one of us was a speaker was about twenty five years ago

in the Methodist Church when he was talking to the men's club and just

as he got up to speak, I reached up and spilled a glass of water. His notes

were drenched. I haven't the foggiest idea what he said after that. I was

so embarrassed myself, but I have a notion it was something about the

prepatory mess. I think probably the next, the final reason whk don't

have to try too hard to say anything amusingv'because this man I'm going

to talk to you about tonight is himself a very intense man and I can say

with some assurance on the part of myself and anyone else who has undertaken

this exercise, but if in the course of the investigation, the man has

really proved to be rather dull and bland we would have lost interest and

you and would have lost interest. That has not been the case.

He proves himself in every respect to be an intense and exciting person

filled with wide emotional extremes given to gfeat ____ and his i4,

too; filled in many occasions with great tradegy. I think perhaps

the easiest way for me to begin, and I'm going to try as much~I can this

evening to reading what himself has written and injecting my own observations

and thoughts as little as possible. To read what is the best and simplest

and shortest biographical note about Benjamin K. Pierce. There's a great

d eal, we have an immense period of history to cover) but this is very short

and very simple and a couple of places are not quite accurate. But it is

from the military history of the state of New Hampshire published by one of

the Pierce, written by one of the Pierce descendents and published in

Concord in 1866. Frankly by surprise, and this is quite a revelation

and I hope it is to you too, there's an entire section of this very,

very large volume which is a description of the Seminole war in Florida.

And I think that speaks for itself in terms of the number of New Englanders

and New Hampshiremen who were down here at the time to imagine that they

St. Lucie Tape #1,24

Page 3

in a, well, 1866 would have been about a hundred year history of military

affairs in New Hampshire to include a whole section on the Florida war,

was to me quite a surprise. This is what the footnote says. in that


Major Binjamin Kendred Pierce was the eldest son of Gov. Benjamin

Pierce and was born at Hillsborough August 29, 1790. He pursued his

preparatory studies at Phillips Exador Academy and entered government

in the fall of 1807. He continued in that institution for three years

having commences the study of law with David Stab of Hillsborough. This

is the man who later became the tutor and partner of Franklin Pierce.

He continued in Mr,Stab's office until the commencement of the war with

Great Britain. Then he entered the regular army as lieutenant of artillery.

In August 1813 he was promoted to a captaincy. In June 1836 he was promoted

to major of the first regiment of artillery and ordered to Florida.

In October fifteenth 1836 he was made Lieutenent Colonel by his brother.

for distinguished services in the of Fort Dade. I'll interrupt

myself for a moment to explain that. is, it's well out of use

today but it's a promotion that is. ah, you get the entitlements and

pay of the rank but you really don't get therank. You can use the rank but

on the list of seniority in the army you keep your former rank. The same

month in October 1836 he was appointed by Governor Call of Florida and that

was the Richard Keith Call who was the great great grandfather of Mary Call

Collins the wife of Leroy Collins. He was appointed Quartermaster

General and Colonel of the regiment of attached to his army.

In consequence of his arduous duties and sickly climatejColonel Pierce's

health became greatly impaired and -he was ordered north for duty. This

was where there's now an commission. It doesn't say here, after recuperating

St Lucie Tape #19A

Page 4

from his illness in 1836 and 1837 he came back to Florida at Fort

Pierce. It's a very disappointing otmmission but this isn't a very

abbreviated footnote. He was stationed after his return from his

second tour in Flrida at Taberg., New York with his regiment. And

subsequently at Holton) this is in Maine and New York City. Subsequent

to his return north in 1838 he was appointed Lieutenent Colonel of the

eighthegiment of infantry. This is New York's famous eighth company

regiment with its armory on Lower Park Avenue. His appointment was

confirmed by the senate but he declined the appointment preferring the

arm of service in which he had stayed so long which was the artillery.

Change o climate, however, did not change his health and he died a

disease of the brain in New York City in 1849) age fifty nine years.

That) too) was a mistake. He died in 1850 at the age of fifty nine.

He died, incidently I even have the address, at Eleven Green Street.

which is in north Manhattan and I intend to go there and see what's there

now at my next opportunity. Well now, toiet this man in some kind of

focus you probably want to know where does he fit into the Pierce family.

And I'm going to takr a certain liberty, if I may, if I can get back

from the microphone just a little bit, and ask you just to imagine that

I have a blackboard here and I'm going to sketch on it the family tree.

We mentioned his father Benjamin Pierce. Just imagine a box up here

with Benjamin. He was born in 1757. He di d in 1839. He was married

twice. His first wife was Elizabeth Andrews whom he married when she was

twenty in 1788. She died in childbirth after delivering a daughter who was

named ElizabetbHi-ext marriage was about a year later when he married a

girl named Anne Hendrick of Elmhurst, Massachusetts. She, too, was the

same age as the former wife, about twenty when they were married. And by

Anne Indrick, Benjamin Pierce had light children. The household had nine

St. Lucie Tape lA-

Page 5

counting the first daughter. The first of these eight by the second

wife is the man that we're concerned with tonight.enjamin endred taking

his first name from his father and the second name from his mother's

maiden name. He was born on August 29 1790, Now to those of you

who are inclined to count quickly on you fingers, this turns out to be

exactly seven months after they were married. We will assume therefore

that he was two months premature. The next born was a daughter born

to years later name Nancy,' She was born in 1792. Ifll tell you briefly

a little more as we get some of these extra people out of the way. She

married a man named Solomon McNeal, She died in 1837. The next born was

four years after that in 1796 a son name John Sullivan, Four year later

came Harriet, She died in 1837, She married a man named Hugh 'amenson

and that name appears in some of the letters I'm going to read you

tonight, The next was a son named Charles and he died at the age of twenty

five after emigrating to the west, The next son was Franklin who

became the president, He was born in 1804 which makes his fourteen years

younger than Benjamin Kendred, Then there was a daughter and I don't

know her birthdate but she died in infancy. And finally the last sonr

born in 1812 Henry Deerborn. Now what became of these people? Most

important is Elizabeth, the daughter by the first wife. She married a

man named John McNeal and most of the letters I have are to and from the

McNeal family, John McNeal was the son of a revolutionary war veteran

and comrad of Benjamin Pierce, a Hillsborough man. and he was quickly

we missed him in 1808 and became)by virtue of his

rank and his affluence and his wealth and the fact that he married the

oldest daughter. normallyjl would say the head of the family. He was

more senior in age and importance in family affairs -which you will see

St. Lucie Tane #164

Page 6

very much in these letter, the man who ran the show. who took care of

the difficulties in which all of them managed to get: loss of parents.

loss of. the death of children. Benjamin Pierce's own being widowed

three times. Benjamin Kendred .I'll tell you about that separately.

He's a most important man. As far as Elizabeth is concerned. I have

traced one relative. one descendant) a man in Boston who is the great

great grandson. The other;I know nothing about'Nancy or John Sullivan. or

Harriet or Charles. The Franklin Pierce family, there are no descendants.

He was married to the daughter of the president of Bodon college. They

have two sons and both were killed in accidents before he became president,

And much of his. the tradegy of his life and this. his own solitude while

he was president from 1852 to: 1856 was because the sons had gone and his

wife was very sickly, Charlie of course, died in infancy, And then

Henry Deerborn, the youngest I met in Hilltborough New Hamoshire two great

great nieces. I don't think that's the right term. Grand nieces

I sunoose greal descendants of Henry Deerborn Miss Mary and Miss Susan

Pierce and these very charmingladies in their late eighties I imagine

are the official hostesses at the the Pierce family homestead" in

Hillsborrough. They alternate each day. The ive in Hillsborough and

they go out a few miles to the family homestead. One is a hostess

one day and one the next. My wife and I were there. We had been

advised earlier by the New Hampshire Historical Society when we went

through and listened to their explanation of what they were saying to

be sure to not interrupt them because if we did they'd start all over

again. However this happy coincidence lead me to the woman who is the

direct descendant of Benjamin endred Pierce. There's a certain amount of

rather natural disorder in all of this because of my efforts to boil things

St. Lucie Tape #1'

Page 7

as much as possible. Now for Benjamin Kendred, I the summer of 1817. now

I told you from this footnote that he went into the army in 1812 when the

war broke out in Great Britain when for the next five or six years I know

very little about him, Then he suddenly appears in correspondence on MacKinae

Island on the Michigan territory in the late 1816, stationed with army

and I've got a very good guess as why he was there, His brother in law. or

his half brother-in-law. Elizabeth's husband, John. as I say. he was

rising quite rapidly in the army. He had a higher rank, He was the Post

Commander at Mackinac Island, Fort Macinac, The fact that Benjamin

Kendred was there at all I'm sure is because his brother in law asked

for him to be referred to a staff, And later, in the later 1820's.

John Sullivan wound up also at Machinac Island,And I hope you can imagine

the difficulty and the many coincidence-in this kind of research to find

in correspondence and ordering books and so on. two Pierces. both of them

lieutenents.both of them not giving their first names., signing papers and

trying to separate one brother from the other. It's the most agonizing

thing you can imagine. And when you see the similarity in names. for

example Benjamin writing either to his father or later to his brother in law

as dear general and try to figure out which one he is talking about or the

fact that he had a daughter named Harriet and a sister named Harriet and

a daughter named Elizabeth and a sister named Elizabeth.The coincidences

are enormous and very difficult to sort out, Benjamin Kndred in the summer

of 1817. having met the preceding winter a local family of whom the mother

was a full blooded Ottowa Indian and the father a deceased fut(rader

met in the winter social season of Machinac the daughter who's name was

Tosette LaFrambrois, This is quite an interesting woman the mother,

St. Lucie Tape #lUA

Page 8

She was very wealthy. The mother had died. She had taken on his

business. She became the agent for the American Fur Company

which was .ohn Jacob Asters activity in the far west, which cuts

all the way from Michigan clear to Washington State, And she became

quite wealthy in carrying on. She was a fine business woman. She spoke

of course Ottowas and a little French but she was very difficult to

communicate with, He daughter, Josette. however became quite fluent

in French and she and Benjamin Kendred were married in the summer

of 1817. By her he had two children. The first was Harriet in 1818

that's where the coincidence comes with his sister. And the second was

a son in Langdon who was named for the governor of New Hampshire, Langdon

as with all. his two other sons died after only two years. The reason

Harriet is important is because the woman I have met who is the great great

granddaughter of Benjamin Kendred is descended through Harriet. Now Josette

the half breed Ottowa French wife died also after only a few years. She

died in 1823. And Benjamin Kendred then was with one daughter whom he

had to care for and leave with his sister while he was off in the army.

He didn't marry again until 1831. The second wife was Ananda Blakon

of Shasta Alabama, And she, by her he had five children, The first

born was Eliza1eth, The second Amanda the third. Charlotte. and two

sons. Henry Jackson, Henry for his brother and Jackson for the president.

and Benjamin for himself, The two sons also died in their infancy. His third

wife he married in 1838 after returning from Fort Pierce, Her name was

Loisa Reed, She was from Delaware City. Delaware, I forgot to mention

Mr, Boiken, The name Boiken in Alabama is a rather famous one. There

have been many Boikens in congress. And when I mentioned this to a friend

St. Lucie Tape #18/

Page 9'

of mine from Alabama and he recognized the name just like that, Now you

have a picture of Benjamin Kendred and his family, Now I'm simply going

to start I hope give you some idea of how these people fit in with some

of Benjamin Kendred's original letterssome of Franklin's letters which

in most cases quote Benjamin's letters and in many cases others are

written to the father General Pierce in New Hamoshire and General

McNeal the brother-in-law in Boston, The first one, is not

historically significant but it is factual in terms of what it tells

about the social customs and the attitudes at those times and this man,

It's addressed to his father back in Hillsborough, New Hamoshire, And it's

dated Shasta Alabama une ninth 1823:

My:-dear Father: You will no doubt be surprised, but I hooe not

displeased or dissatisfied at the news of my being married, Upon every

view of the subject and after mature affection I found that my prospects

of happiness and respectability will both be brighter by a matrimonial

collection with a female of my choice, While I visited a gentlemen's

house in the state of Alabama I became acquainted with a young lady. Miss

Amanda Blakon with who's reputation, deportment and manners I was

pleased and I commenced addressing her. We were married last evening,

I'm extremely anxious to visit you and with the blessings of providence

I hope and calculate seeing you next season- accompanied by Mrs. Pierce,

Mrs, Pierce's friends are, 'I apologize for not reading the word here

because I'm not sure what it is. It's either weathy or worthy,) Mrs,

Pierce's friends are wealthy or worthy and highly respected, My

connection with her leads to the unqualified approbation of Colonel Fenwick

the lot of my m'.litary friends several of whom have accomnanted me here

St. Lucie Tape #18

Page 10

by invitation,I shall probably return to Balancas- which was a fort at

Pensacola towards the last of this month, Give my love to my mother,

my love to my brothers and sisters and receive the same from your

affectionate son P,K. Pierce, And he adds a P.S. I am in haste, By

next May I will write you again, The next one is from New Castle

Delaware, He has now been transferred back to the north from this

very temporary sign, I believe, in Pensacola, He's married to Arnanda

Boiken and by this time he's had at least several of the children I have

mentioned to you earlier, This is addressed to Gen, and Mrs, McNeal

who'sbrother in law and sister are in Boston, My dear brother and sister

six weeks ago today by the accidental upsetting of my carriage the bones

of my leg were broken and otherwise badly bruised in a dreadful and

dangerous manner, I'm now confined to my back upon my bed and probably

shall be for a month longer,I shall be indebted with the blessings of

providence to the blessings of providence if I shall be able to move about

in that time'! The next one is New Castel-

Delaware, August twenty ninth, 1831, to his father. no to his brother

in law, "Dear General. I expected to be moving about long ago. but my wound

heals slow, I'm still confined although in good bodily health, I have

lost my poor little son: Benjamin, He expired on the twenty sixth instant

of what is called the summer complaint. Tell Harriet to write me and I

will write her a long letter as soon as I can get out so as to be moving

about, Tell her Elizabeth Black wishes to have her write to her and that

her friends send her their love, Please excuse my brevity, I'm very-inconvien-

iently situated for writing," The next one is from Fort Hamilton of

New York, which is just at the eastern end of the, northern end of the

.......... Bridge that is there today. Fort Hamilton New York,
January sixteenth 1836 This also is to his brother in law. "Dear

General: Harriet read Elizabeth Anne's letter. I beg your pardon. I'm

St, Lucie Tape #10A

Page 11

going to have to be very careful with some of these. They're difficult

to read- anyway, "Harriet received Elizabeth Annes's letter and her aunt's

by Mrs, Livingston, who is an awful pretty critter. What a pity

it is that I can't fall in love with her. One thing that I encountered

through all of this was the fact that Benjamin K. Pierce was an awful

manager of money, He was always borrowing money from his brother in

law, August thirtieth. 1836, "My dear General'

I have a splendid opportunity with making for a little money and have some

little fortune. Can you lend me some money? If so can you let me know

as soon as possible. I will give you note with interest for three or

five hundred dollars and can double it in a year and circle it, With a

few thousand dollars I can make a competency for myself and family. This Uis

the first time when a certain opportunity for making money has found me."

The next one is from Franklin and I read it only becmase it mentions

Benjamin, Hillsborough November 6 1836. This is from Franklin to his

father. Dear General: (Benjamin mind you at this time is down in Florida

on his first tour excluding Pensacola at this ioint..) "I have made the

foregoing extracts becuase I know they will afford you and our other friend

pleasure as they have me. The latitude given to Benjamin

by Governor Call I consider under all the circumstances in the highest

degree honorable. And the manner in which the services are noticed in

the Georgia and Florida papers show the instillation in which he is held

in that section, The papers provided I have made the foregoing extract speaks

of Benjamin in several places, It speaks that he performed a march with

baggage riders and seven or eight days provisions for Governor Call

sixty five miles in two days and adds "It is zeal and energy like this that

the times require, It was this that gained the competence of the General

Chief and saves the army from want. It further states They (That is the

prisoners the Indian prisoners ) tell us that the powder is nearly

St, Lucie Tape #1iA

Page 12

exhausted and above all the two head chiefs the most wanted and the

most hostile next to Powell which was the English name

the one of the Miccosukies and the other of the tribe were

killed by Major Pierce at Fort Gray, I think the campaign may now be

splendidly closed. Tragically mistaken he was in that. Now these are

the extracts that Franklin copied down from Benjamins letter to him.

Benjamin says on October 21 1836 of St. Augustine "My dear father I

write to you today on my way to Savannah and Charleston on business by

the appointment of Governor Call Commander in Chief of the army in Florida.

I am in excellent health. (And he adds again having not finished the

first letter.) Savannah Georgia October 23 1836. I arrived here this

evening on my way to Charleston, I leave here today and expect to be

in Charleston tomorrow, I've enclosed Governor Call's orders to me and

the columns from the newspapers which will give you a history of the

late operations. (And then another note Charleston South Carolina

Tuesday October 25 arrived here this morning and at daylight and before

sunrise purchased three hundred horses. I'm in excellent health and spirits.

I shall leave here for Camp Ferry tomorrow wh-ch s on the St. Tohds River

roughly west of Green Cove Springs having done everything required and

accomplished without difficulty. Everything which I had attempted

(excuse I had accomplished everything without difficulty which I had

attempted. Give my love to my dear little children. The president

Andrew Jackson has me Lieutenent Colonel for what he has

termed Distinguished Services at the battle of Fort __. The

next from Governor Call's orders. To enable the army to

move with oromotitude five hundred good fresh horses will be absolutely

necessary. These you are authorized to purchase without delay, You will

St, Lucie Tape #l18

Page 13

understand that you are your instructions give you full authority to take

any measures for the immediate and expected prosecution of the campaign.

Extract from a Georgia paper. Important from Florida. The

arrived here yesterday from St. Augustine with Major Pierce and

other officers from our gallant little army on board, By this arrival

we had received an exerot from the St. Augustine Herald, which furnishes

the important intelligence which we give below. The first excerot

explains the mission of Major Pierce and his conduct in Florida has already

excited the admiration of our readers. We hope he will be successful

in orocuring all the material necessary for the prosecution of the war.

Then another extract from the St. Augustine Hearald of October 21. We

are leased to learn that Governor Call has conferred uoon Major Pierce the

appointment of Corner Master General of the army. We feel satisfied

that the office could not be in better hands. This one too, if from

Franklin to his brother in law General McNeal inBoston. Washington.

January 15 1937. Dear General: Benjamin has been sick in Savannah- but

is now bette nd expected in by this time at Charleston. He had a

violent attack of Volusia. Volsia was a fort in south of

Orlando somewhere I would say the Kissimmee area. I'm presuming

the name was because the county of Volusia was so large of that time

Immediately after the battle of Wahoo swamp that took lace on November

the twenty first 1836, And his ohysiciankenjamin's physician writes

that he ought not to think of taking the field fro ome time to come. He

is under orders to come to Charleston SoutICarolina and his last letter

dated on the states that he intended to proceed to

that lace immediately. I want to just summarize what's going to take

St, Lucie Tape #RAN4

Page 14

place now during the rest of 1837. Pierce was known in Florda the first

time. He has distinguished himself in two military actions

the battle of Fort Gray and the battle of the Wahoo Swamp from the battle

which he was made Lieutenent Colonel and QuartenriKaster General of the

army. He's had this very difficult physical aiment which caused him

to have to be relieved and sent north, He's gone north. He's not far

from Washington when Franklin was there as a senator. He's gone to

New York and taken care of some business gone to Boston and seen his

children who were staying with John the McNeal family and then as an

assignment for the balance of the year he's gone to Detroit on service

for the engineers. I have a few papers here in whcih he describes

surveying the entire route for the reconstruction of the road from

Detroit to Chicago. the distance in some miles and as a result of this

survey he makes recommendations for funding the restruct'on of the road,

Then he comes back to New York and comes down to Washington, Now the

important aspect of his life that we're concerned with begins in Waashington

in roughly October 1837 when he's about to go to Florida a second time

after recovering his health to commence the expidition which resulted in

the founding of Fort Pierce. Washington October 4 18)7 Benjamin

to his brother-in-law,General McNeal, My dear General: I enclose the

note for Mr. Lyion for one thousand dollars. He says he feels much

obliged to you for it, I have not yet asked General McComb what

disposition he will make of me, I am now employed in settling my road

accounts. When I ascertain where and when I am to leave here. I will

write to you" New York City October 29 1837 from Benjamin to his

sister. "My dearly beloved sister: I must leave here a day or two at

furthest for Florida. When at Washington City I asked General Mc Comb

St. Lucie Taoe #184

Page 15

if he my services at Florida and he said "yes". I then told

him that I would come by way of New York and be in St, Augustine by the

tenth of November. I would not ask to be let off. It would be an injury

to me. I shall have this command of the first regiment of artillery

and shall come on north in the spring. The winter climate is fine

in Florida and I have no objection to a winter comoaign there, I am

greatly in hopes tht my dear sister's health and spirits will be improved.

(I beg your pardon. I can't finish:that sentence.) I wrote to my

brother Franklin at Hillsborough in relation to Elizabeth his daughter

but .least he should not be there I enclose a copy to you. Now the next

few letters are certainly the most important to us locally and that's why

I've gotten to them as quickly as I could. Pierce has received his orders

to go to Florida and he's on the way, He says here from Charleston

South Carolina November 15 1837. "My dear General- I arrived here

yesterday in the steamboat South Carolina in good health with ithe exception

of having suffered from sea sickness, I leave here today on the steamboat

for Savannah to Black Creek which is

in Florida. Then ._ to St. Augustine where my whole regiment is.

The whole regiment I am informed full was transported from Black Creek

on Saturday to St. Augustine and was destined to operate in fhe east side

of the St, Johns's river. I am gratified at this arrangement. It will

lace me in ooen communications with St. Augustine where I wish you and

the girls to write to me. There seems to be various rumors as to the

probable termination of the war. When I arrive in Florida I shall be

better able to judge, (Then he adds a note "My dear sister The general

may be out in the west as he was at this time, But I

need to write to you, and to him at New York and you must open the letters.

St. Lucie Tape #1V-

Page 16

Tell Harriet my daughter that she must write to'often. Also Elizabeth

Anne and Francis and Benny (who are Elizabeth's children) And direct

to me at St. Augustine any communications. With my love toll your

husband and brother B.K, Pierce, Now finally on November 21. 1837

he's in St. Augustine, He takes command of the regiment He visits

Oceola who was taken a prisoner a few weeks earlier in the 'what is

t called Fort Mann or St, Martha at St. Augsustine and his --is what

he says about his plans. "Dear General: I arrived he on Sunday evening

the nineteenth instant a part of the regiment having gone down to Mosquito

River and the remainder seems to embark. on boats here. I have this

morning a command on the regiment and will leave here if the

weather permits tomorrow. The Cherokee Delegation have gone up to

Fort Mellon with General Jessuo to have a talk with the Seminoles.

And they are sanguine that they will come in and the war will end. I

hooe so, I saw Jud Smith and his family yesterday. Jud Smith was a

New Hamoshire man who was appointed Federal Territory Judge in St.

Augustine. and well known to the Pierce family, I saw him yesterday.

Tehy say everything that could be expected or whiched about the character

of your dear lemented son was done. 'I should inject here that the

Pierc6s oldest son John SCott McNeal was killed in Florida

in September 1837. And one of the first things Benjamin did on arrival

in St. Augustine was to visit the young boy's grave. He says. Jud Smith

he will obtain and send to you the resolution of the officers in St.

Angustine I had been so engaged in preparing for my departure

that I have not been able to obtain and give you all the particulars

that I could wish to have done regarding his nephew's ._ But I

shall do it before I leave here, I have been up today to see Oceola.

St. Lucie Tape #14A-

Page 17

Wednesday morni;-g two hours before daylight the captain of the steamboat

has just sent word that we will sail at daylight and therefore obliged to

pack up and say goodbye, Give my love to all. Write to me at St.

Augustine. Your affectionate brother B.K. Pierce. It's at /this

moment that he starts the expedition that results in the founding

of our town. His next letter gets tantalizingly close to what I've been

searching for in these last two summers in New Hamoshire. And htat

is a letter that will tell us I have until the

and call it Fort Pierce. This one is from Camo H on Indian River

Sunday morning December 3 1837, This sight is about fifty miles north of

Titusville. It's the noint where the mosquito lagoon joins Indian River

and there's a narrow sand bar there about a hundred yards long. They had

to haul their boats over this. "My dear General' We expect an express

from St. Augustine this evening and I hope toreceive a letter from some

o f my family and from Harriet, I have not received a letter from

anyone since I left New York. and I am extremely anxious to hear from

you. I am in good health and spirits and in command of the first

regiment of artillery. I wrote last evening a little memorandum which

I enclose to you and will give you some idea about position. Please have

some of your family write to me often, On my arrival at St. Augustine

I was hurried off so quick that I had no time to do anything. I went

over to the grave of our lamented son and I want to mention the subject;

now I ought not to mention the subject now as it will revive your grief,

Camp Indian River, December 18, 1837. 'y dear sister,

I have only time to send by the express a word to you and to Harriet

and Elizabeth and say that I recieved your letters all on-: one sheet

dated November 19, I am in good health and soiritsI hope the war is

St, Lucie Tape #1iA

Page 18

soon closed of which I have the highest hopes'' The third letter and

the last one before he departs for the bluff down there the fort.

This is December 21 1837 in Camp Holloway, "My dear sister: As an

express is to leave here -today by which means I hooe this letter will

eventually reach you I know not when I found time to answer more at

length your letter with Harriet's and Elizabeths'. I am in command

of the first regiment of artillery in this miserable desert wilderness

and have been since the first of October, One narrow strio of land called

the which is that separates the Hillsborough lagoon which

on some maps is what the mosquitoe lagoon called or the Indian River,

We haul boats across from one river to the other, a distance of about

half a mile. It has its name (The next few words really

cause me to my heart to beat faster as I read this, because I thought

it ,says Fort Pierce but it doesn't) I had just bought a fort here,

rAnd here comes out looking almost like Peir) which we call Fort

Anne. We have been here twenty days doing nothing without any means

of taking the filed cut off from all communication. with other divisions

of the army and deprived of the means of sending to the oost office

at St, Augustine, This is a miserable situation. Your letter of the

fourteenth of November which reached me a day or two since is the only

which I have received since T left New York. I must know you must know

how miserable I am in being that situated living on hard bread and

salt oork cut off from all communications with my realatCves and

friends the army is doing nothing. General 'essupo "who was the commanding

general- of the army in Florida at the time) still is negotiating and

talking and God only knows when this ruinous ...... disgraceful war

St. Lucie Taoe # I8A

Page 19

may end. One day's report says the war is over. The next day's say it

is contradictory, I'm not only. I'm not only 'something or other)

but I am disgusted. I feel outraged at the situation in which I am placed.

As an old frie:-.d used to say when he got tipsy "I am dammed mad."

You know my dear sister how much I wish to hear from my dear father

my children and from you all. The Whigs have had an uoroarious

celebration of their victory, Do let them rejoice for once in their

lives. They have several victories. I don't believe they will long

retain their ascendency. Whenever, and as soon as I can get to St.

Augustine and have time I will tend to all your wishes my dear sister

in relation to the remains of your dear lamented son. Pray right often

and ask your husband to do the same. -Apoarently the sister and brother

in law are going to New York and he says) "Helen will you be there?

Give my love to them. Elizabeth and the other children and receive the same

for yourself, I am dear sister your most affectionate brother. B..3. Pierce."

The next letter is not one that says it wasn't written from Fort Pierce

it says I've just been to __ Fort Pierce, He's gone

back to St. Augustine, The fort here has been built and apparently

he's written some other letters in which he's described Fort Pierce

but by January twentieth this new is now old and he writes on entirely

different subjects, "My dearly beloved sister. I received your letter

at Washington December thirty first this morning. In order to have left this

city for Indian River this morning on the steamboat but the weather has

prevented my getting out of the harbor, I have fortunately an opportunity

in writing an answer to your letter, It has caused a grief to me to

learn that you are still so much afflicted with grief'about the lose of

her son six months earlier) You must act with Christian resignation and

St. Lucie T ape # 1i4

Page 20.

reconcile yourself to the disposition of providence. You ought to have

counselation in the belief that the dead are taken care of and that they

are happy and at rest. Such a course is true philosophy and true Christianity.

I fear this war will not terminate this winter. If it does not I intend

at all hazards to come north in the spring. I heard of a melancholy

intelligence of the death of my dear sister, Harriet. She is relieved

fom an affliction far worse from death and is now at rest and at

oeace. I am glad to hear that Harriet and Elizabeth and Sammy are all

well and in New YOrk. I shall never be able to prepare you for your

kindness and maturnal care for my dear little children on my absence.

The next letter is one of January twenty four, 1838-. which the Historical

Commission has purchased and since so much of that has _aoeared in the

paper not lo0g ago I won't read that one now. Now let me quickly

summarize what happens next and give you a closing of this man's life,

It goes back to Fort Pierce once more having been in St. Augustine

to buy supplies for the fort and being quite discouraged at the fact

that supplies were not readily availabtat the time and he goes back

t o New York. takes command once again at Fort Hamilton in Brooklyn

and remains there for I think several years. Then he goes to Plattsburgh

New York and I have some letters from there indicating that, not describing

but indicating that he had recently married a third time a woman from

Delaware City Delaware named Elissa Read. Much of the correspondence

from Plattsburgh during the time there is simply taking 4are of the

affairs of his children asking his brother and sister in Bost6n to

send the children to him, writing back to make sure they're properly

proper clothes are purchased fro them. And then to the end of his life

St. Lucie Tape #184

Page 21

within the last decade of his life he's given an absolutely miserable

a assignment in Maine, Holton Maine, May 13 1840. "My dear General

He arrived here on the fourth instant from Plattsburgh generally in

good health although weather and was bad. General Eustis for

whom the city of Eust-s was named and whom Pierce knew in Florida

has assumed without any right or authority the command of this post

which oroperly belongs- to me. He ___a sign to his department on his

rank and I told him that I knew him to

be my enemy and that he had slaughtered- me and tried to injure me for

several years past, He's a slanderous rascal, He asked me the other day

before several officers evidently to make an attack uoon me- how I liked

this place. I told him that I thought it was the last place in the world.

He then said you better write an to you brother Frank Pierce

who woe in congress to have this regiment removed, I told him that

I would leave it for him to write to his brother in law Secretary

Secretary of War upon the subject. Upon which we had

a shari and warm tete a tete in which I gave him my mind. much to

his dissaoointment and discomforture. He has disgusted almost every

officer here and while he remains tilere will be not oeace. I took a

bad cold on the march and am not in good health. I hope we may soon have

news of war or peace, In either case we shall not ourselves remain

long in this end of creation, Harriet joins me in love to you all to the

family and yourself. Please write to me often in our exile. Most

a affectionately your brother B.J.Pierce." This also was from Holton

Maine Seotember 21 1840. My dear sister :I'm just going to read excerots

here.) Harriet wrote to you some day since informing you of her engagement

St, Lucie Tape #164

Page 22

to be married to Lieutenent Ricketts. He is a very clever young man of most

correct and exemplary habits of most respectable connections

and I have given mu consent and am satisfied for I think he will made

a good husband. Harriet required several articles of dress none of which

can be orocured here. I have therefore thought best for her to go to

Boston so she can obtain not only the necessary articles but to receive your

advice which she desires very much. I intend to accompany her if I cah.

If any rate I shall go for here when she is ready to return to this

place. Then Iwas given I suppose you might call it the marriage license

Yes. it's the certificate of the issuance of the marriage license to

of Harriet his daughter to Lieutenent Ricketts on October 24 1840.

"My dear sister Holton. Main Octoberll. 1841. I arrived here in a

Saturday the ninth in good health and found all except Harriet. On

Sunday she was delivered of her'little daughter and not expected to live

during a day. This morning thanks to God she is better and with great

hope the doctor says she will recover. The little child is quite

pert. In haste your affectionate brother B.K. Pierce." Holton. Maine

November 15 1831, "Dear General 'General McNeal) Harriet is restored

to health although she is not very strong, She remains with us

whilst Lieutenent Ricketts is at Fort Fairfield 'which is farther

north in the woods of Maine) building quarters. His little baby is

right smart and very pretty. She has named her Elizabeth after Elizabeth

McNeal" Holton Maine February 3 1842, "My dear sister I have

nothing to report except the death of Harriet's Ifttle baby and

Elizabeth communicated that to you and that Harriet communicated to you

that distressing intelligence'.' This is another letter that describes

St. Lucie Tape #18-/

Page 23

the political maneuvering in the army at that time. Holton Anril 28 1842.

"My dear General: (McNeal) We have just received the news of the death.

of General Fenwick. This occurance will make me a full Lieutenent Colonel.

(Mind you all this time' he's been only a lieutenant colonel by

__ ) If Col. Wallop is promoted to Colonel in the fourth artillery

in olace of Colonel General Fenwick which deceased then I shall remain in

this regiment as it's lieutenant colonel, But there is a report or

a rumor from Washington that Colonel Wallp will be passed over and in

that case Colonel Prange will be made Colonel in the fourth artillery.

And I Lieutenent Colonel of the Fourth Artillery which will be which

will probably make me stationed at Buffalo or __ Harbor. In

case of this movement I s!-all not be able to send you the money which I

had intended as it would take all of my money which I could at this

moment raise to carry myself and Harriet on the long journey. Colonel

Wallop is in good health is in as good as health as any man. He has

been applying for orders to go to Florida. We're very close to the

Portland Maine January 7 1843 is the last letter of Pierce

in the New Hampshire Historical Society library, It's not particularly

significant but I'll just read it because it's the last one."My dear

sister Idu will think strange perhaps to find my letter dated here.

But late last month I was ordered unexpectedly to repair without

delay to this post and take command of the militia of which this is

headquarters. I'll arrived here the day before yesterday with Elizabeth

who is not in the enjoyment of very good health. Charlotte is with Harriet

at Fort Fairfiled. I intend to return for her at and send her to school

in this state. General Eustis has left here for Florida on a quarter of

St. Lucie Taoe#lP

Page 24

inquiry and will not probably be back for a month or two. We

board at Mrs. Jones. I'm sorry I neglected to mention that now by this

time his third wife has died and he's once again a widower and

having to care for his children as best he can. We board at Mrs.

Jones'. I am in intolerably good health, Harriet and Charlotte

and Mr. Ricketts were so when last I heard from them. I have not had a

letter from the general or yourself since I can remember.It has been

a very long time. I feel very anxious to hear from -you. Permit me

to hear from you as soon as possible. The general has not answered

my letter returning the papers to him corrected in relation to the

Michigan land, Pray et me know if you all enjoy good health. Elizabeth

joins me in love to his sister's children. Elizabeth

Benjamin the general and yourself. Both truly and affectionate

your brother B.K Pierce." This is the last of the manuscript material

and I can only close by saying that the man after this agonizing

turmoil of having his three sons die three wives die and frequently

passed over for promotion and eventually he was taken ill with some of

the disease that he first acquired in Florida. He finally went to

after this difficult time in Maine in the Maine woods

He went to Governor's Island and became First Commander there in

New York Harbor and he died as I said earlier at a rather ordinary

street address in lower Manhattan in the first of Aoril 1.850. Last

fall my wife and I after some more letter writing and research found

where he was buried. The military cemetery on Governor's Island where

he was originally buried was removed entirely there in 1888 because of

the expansion of the church so all the bodies in the cemetery were moved

to Cyorus Hill National Cemetery in Brooklyn and I found it quite easy

St. Lucie Taoe #1l

Page 25

to call uo and ask if they have any records on a Pierce there and the

caretaker found the instantly and we went out there and photographed

it. His grave was in the officer's section and just behind his

tombstone is a written on the back of it is written his daughter's name

indicating that she's buried just behind the place where he is and the

c aretaker indicated that was allowed at that time. More than this on Pierce

I don't know but the whole subject of the man who 'gave his name to our town

the man who's decision at that critical moneit in the winter of 1837 and 1838

after being assigned to go down here and set uo a fort. When he said

those magic words that were repeated so often all over the country

1 et's build it here was ah that decision that critical moment is

what has produced everything that has come after that. Ive tried to think

over in my mind the circumstances that might have existed then and of course

I haven't given up hope that there maybe: be somewhere someday a letter

from him buried in some dusty cabinet that does indeed say to either his

sister or his brother Franklin "I sailed my men down the Indian River and

we landed at this place and we build a fort there and I called it Fort

Pierce." That's missing now but if you stop and think and want to extrapolate

and interoret events about and reconstructing that moment just visualize

a grouo of men by boat moving down the Indian River and the utter impossibility

of landing any where in the Vero Beach area because of the sloppy area

that you know is still there. And then along about the north bridge

look in the west and see this white ridge of sand in the west back from

the swamo area and then coming down to about where our south bridge is

now and see that the white ridge moves out to the shore and there forms

a bluff that goes as far south as you can see. This is why I think that the

theory of where Fort Pierce is which there has been too little evidence

St, Lucie Tape #18#

Page 26

and we're all seeking that I think the theory and in fact the

Historical Commissions and the County Commissions purchase of the

land ,where we think it is is utterly sound as far as reasoning is

concerned because that indeed as you're coming south from the river is the

first olace you can land. We're going to have to do a Tot more before

we can reconstruct that again and I don't know how it's going to take

us. It's sort of an endless project. Every time I think I'm finished I

get a letter or find some clue that leads me somewhere else. I was

really suooosed to finish this little endeavor for the Historical

Quarterly last year and I told them if indeed my next seasons adventure

in Concord which were last summer should provide new clues that will

lead me off on new tangents. I would have to really it and of course

that's just what I found, In trying to describe what must have haooened

there what the area looked like I did have onestroke of good luck which

I'm awfully leased about. It's a description of Fort Pierce. About that

time but published not until 1856, In our report of sickness at

military oosts all over the United States by the surgeon general. And

in this large volume which was found quite by accident by a manuscripts

librarian in New Hampshire Historical Society Library there is a section

called Fort (ierce. In the footnotes it says "These observations are derived

from the reports of assistant surgeon James R, Conrad'' These observations

are derived from the reports of assistant surgeon .ames. R, Conrad who must

have been here to see!whhat he descibes here. I would estimate ten

y ears earlier which would be about 1846. Well that's very close to the

tme it was founded. Well this is what Fort Pierce, how Fort Pierce .s

described in a book published in 1856, "Fort Pierce one hundred and

seventy miles south of St. Augustine is situated on a bluff about

St. Lucie Taoe #18If

Page 27

fifteen feet above the water level on Indian River on which it it established.

The bluff on which -the post is located is part of a high range of land

which extends along the border of the river for many miles

and is the most elevated portion of land in this region of the country.

Two hundred yards west of the post there is a pond about three fourths

of a mile in circumference. The principal part of which is dry during

the summer exposiong a sandy bottom which is now covered with grass.

Now let's adventure ourselves for a moment and think about the reason

involved here. He landed in the first olace where he can land and the

first soot there is the bluff and indeed there he finds it three quarters

west which would now be the northern portion of the savannah. This

the country generally is very low and then the rainy season is covered

with water. Infact there appears to be a succession of nonds partially

dried during the warm season, the savannah, The

water of the river is highly imoregnated with salt and abounds in oysters

and fish of the finest description. This is perfectly reasonable. One

might think at first that the Indian River is in reality a river

but as we all know it really is just a bay of the ocean, The _

country consists of loose sand and is very ooor producing oines scrub

oat and occasionally palmetto. That's sure right. The water you've

been drinking is impregnated with separated hydrogen- and effects the

bowels of those not accustomed to it. These affects however soon

wear off and it becomes palatable and wholesome. The prevailing winds

in summer are southeast or tradewinds and northernly winds in winter.

The heat of the vertical sun in the summer season is very oooresssing

pushed together with the mosquitoes. Then there's a residence here

during the month of May June July and August

St. Lucie Tape # 18A

Page 28

But they became pretty supportable for the pioneers. though. These

evils are however greatly -eliminated by the

University of Florida Home Page
© 2004 - 2010 University of Florida George A. Smathers Libraries.
All rights reserved.

Acceptable Use, Copyright, and Disclaimer Statement
Last updated October 10, 2010 - - mvs