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Aaron Pierce and family

Aaron Pierce Mrs. Harriet Pierce
Aaron Pierce and his wife, Harriet. 

Aaron Pierce was born on Feb. 15, 1793 in Southborough, Worcester County, Massachusetts. He  married his neighbor, Harriet Bellows, born on March 19, 1798, in Southborough, Worcester County, Massachusetts. They headed west to seek their fortunes and reached the western part of the state of New York about 1815 settling in Portaland in Cautauqua County, having made the great distance by wagon or canal boat. Here they stayed for a period of about ten years and Mr. Pierce engaged in the business of getting out timber from the vast forests.

The couple had three children during their time in New York: Marshall Brooks, Harriet M. and  Lorenzo Dow, and in 1825 made the six-week trek and settled in Bond County in Illinois, just north of St. Louis. It was there they became acquainted with two other pioneer families, who had made the journey from Kentucky. There were George Davidson and his wife, and his son Vance; and William Blundell and his wife, who was a daughter of the Davidsons.

While in Bond County, a daughter, Sila was born in 1827. The families farmed for two years but decided to head north to Galena to the lead mines. When they reached Galena they decided they didn’t like lead mining and decided to move south down the river to a “beautiful valley on the banks of the Mississippi River” that Vance Davidson had noticed on trip a year previous.

So once again, the Pierce family loaded up in a covered wagon drawn by oxen and took an old Indian trail, led by Vance Davidson. On the afternoon of the third day, Nov. 4, 1828, they reached what is now Savanna and took refuge in an old Indian wigwam at the location of the Pioneer Monument.  

A few hours later two other families arrived by boat—George Davidson and his wife; and William Blundell and his wife.

The three families began clearing the land and building log cabins from the walnut trees growing in the valley in what is now the north end of Main Street.

The cabins were completed by Christmas. Aaron Pierce, George Davidson and Vance Davidson then returned to Bond County to drive back the stock they had left when they moved to Galena. These were the first domestic animals in Carroll County and consisted of three cows, the same number of horses, and a couple of yoke of ox.

After returning they began clearing the ground for spring planting. The trees were felled and the cordwood piled in ranks along the bank of the river, ready to be sold to the steamboats in the spring. This was the main object of the pioneers when settling this location.

Each family had had a large part of ground surrounding their cabins, four acres, and the remaining ground was laid out in 12 acres for each family, to cleared till as he chose. According to records the first years the crops yielded wondrous crops with 125 bushels to the acre. 

On May 8, 1829, the Pierce family welcomed their fifth child, Mary Jane, the first white child born in the settlement and the first in what would become Carrol County.

Following the Plum River Raid, Aaron Pierce offered his services and was engaged in hauling provisions for the soldiers.

After the end of the Blackhawk War in 1833, the settlers returned from Galena and Vance Davidson and Aaron Piece each built two-story log houses, with cellars and a porch looking over the river. The new structures each had  a fireplace, a stairway, with one room upstairs and one below.

Aaron Pierce began construction of a hotel on the ground near where the old log cabins stood. Young David Bowen was hired to get out the timbers for the frame work and spent the winter on the island across from town cutting the large oak trees.

The hotel was first named the Frontier House but was afterwards called The El Dorado House and moved to south to the corner of Jefferson and Main. It was later renamed the Chambers House and it burnt down in December of 1882.

Aaron Pierce died June 16, 1856, in Savanna at age 63 and is buried at Savanna Township Cemetery.

Harriet Bellows Pierce was born on March 19, 1798, in Southborough, Worcester County, Massachusetts, and she died Jan. 30, 1860 at age 61 in Savanna and is buried at Savanna Township Cemetery.

Built by Aaron Pierce in 1836 on North Main Street, Savanna's first hotel was called the Frontier House. It was late moved to the 300 block of west Main Street and became the El Dorado until about 1865. It was then purchased by Frederick Chambers and remained the Chamber's House. It burnt down in 1882.

Here’s brief bios on their children:

Marshall Brooks Pierce was Born Nov. 27, 1816 in Portaland, Cautauqua County New York and died May 15, 1885 in Savanna. Buried at Savanna Township Cemetery The first marriage on record in the county, was that of Marshall B. Pierce to Julia Ann Baker, on August 26, 1839, by Benjamin Church, justice of the peace. They had two children Eveline Pierce Fish (Unknown to 1867) and Henry Enos Pierce (1843-1848).Th first wife died of cholera in Savanna, on July 10, 1854. Remarried to Mary Jane Westbrook Pierce (1823-1908). One child, Charles Carroll Pierce (1857-1948). Followed his dad as county treasurer. Worked as a clerk on the steamboat Sucker State in 1870 and had the same position on Rock Island in 1871.

Harriet M. Pierce was born Sept. 5, 1819, in New York and Died March 11, 1908 at San Rafael, California. Buried at Mount Tamalpais Cemetery in San Raf, California. Married Vance Davidson in the first marriage in the settlement. The moved to California during the gold rush and had 11 children.

Lorenzo Dow Pierce was born April 27, 1823, in New York and went to California with Vance Davidson in search of gold. He returned to Savanna and died Sept. 10, 1867, at age 44 and is buried at Savanna Township Cemetery.

Sila Pierce was born in 1827 in Bond County and the date of her death is unknown. She married David Bowen  on Jan. 31, 1844, and they had four children: Lester. Waterman (1845-1928), Emma L. (1848-1919), Luther Sherman (1855-1934) and Frank Pierce (1859-1936).

Mary Jane Pierce was born on May 9, 1829, and was the first white child born in Carroll County. She married Capt. J. B. Rhodes in 1846 and they had eight children: Esther (1847-1852), William Pierce (1850-1928), Henry Clay (1853-1939), Edward B. (1856-1856), Laura Pierce Rhodes Fairbank (1858-1944), John Brown (1860-1934), Thomas Brown (1860-1950), and Richard G. She died on Nov. 14, 1877 in Rock Island at age 48 and is buried at Savanna Township Cemetery. 

Henry Clay was born on Oct. 26, 1834, in Savanna. In 1850, he accompanied two older brothers and some others from his community on the long overland journey to the goldfields of California. He returned to Savanna in 1852, managed the Eldorado Hotel, and then became a clerk on one of the Mississippi steamers of that period. Soon after that, at the age of nineteen, he lost a leg below the knee in an effort to rescue a drunken man who had gotten into the rope when the anchor was running out. On October 23, 1855 at Savanna, he was married to Laura Shepherd and they had three children were born: Henry S., December 3, 1862; Palmer E., October 23, 1865; and Ralph H., December 2, 1868. They moved to Traer, Iowa, and he entered the grain business and afterward established a general store.

Brig. General Palmer Pierce
Their son, Palmer, born in Savanna graduated from Grinnell College and the United States Military Academy at West Point, New York and received his Lieutenant's commission in 1891. He served in the Spanish American War before becoming athletic director at West Point. An advocate of organizing amateur college sports, he helped spearhead the drive to create the founder of the National Collegiate Athletic Association prevent them from being taken over by professionals, (NCAA), and served as it's President almost continuously from 1905 and 1930. He was a Honor Graduate of the Army War College and served in the 1916 Pancho Villa Expedition on the Mexican Border. He served in France throughout World War I, most notably as Commander of the 54th Infantry Regiment and Assistant Chief of Staff of the American Expeditionary Force, receiving the Distinguished Service Medal and promotion to Brigadier General, the rank he held at his 1930 retirement. After leaving the Army he was employed as Assistant to the President of the Standard Oil Company. Pierce died of a stroke while speaking to the Pan-American Society in New York City, New York. He donated a silver cup he originally received from the NCAA, now the Palmer E. Pierce Trophy, to the Army Athletic Association, which since 1943 has awarded it annually to West Point's Intramural Football Champion. In addition, the Palmer E. Pierce Room at the NCAA's Indianapolis headquarters is named for him.

Not much is known about the youngest child, She married a man named Carson and her birth and death are both unknown.