Monthly Archives: July 2012

Be the change you want to see on the web

I almost entitled this post “If you blog it, they will come.” But ultimately, I decided against it, because let’s face it, it’s a logical fallacy. Just because you write something, that doesn’t guarantee that anyone will ever actually read it.

Ah, but on the flip side, if you don’t write it, I can guarantee that nobody will read what you had to say about it (whatever “it” is).

I’ll come back to this in a minute, but first, a little background…

As you have probably noticed (if you subscribe to this blog or are my friend on Facebook, Twitter, or LinkedIn, where these entries are auto-added to my feed), I’ve been posting a lot of “Bio Sketch” entries lately.

These are the Biographical Sketch sections of archival manuscript finding aids I have written over the past few years. And, not to toot my own horn too much, but I worked really hard on them. Sure, some of the people, like Col. Robert Patterson or Benjamin Van Cleve, are really well-known and were easy to research. And some of them weren’t, like David W. Schaeffer or Thomas Dover. Most were somewhere along the middle of the difficult-easy research continuum. And then there was the added facet of all the cool stuff I learned about Person X while processing their manuscripts, so of course I wanted to add some of those details in as well…so I did.

When I was researching these people, of course I looked in all the usual “scholarly” resources I could think of: the manuscripts themselves (of course!), the local history books at my fingertips, city directories, Ancestry.com, article databases, WorldCat, finding aid repository databases, etc.

But when I felt like I was hitting a wall, I did what pretty much everyone does these days: I hit up Google search. And I’m not ashamed to admit it.

Now, obviously, you have to take things you find “online” with a grain of salt and make sure you judge them critically before accepting that information at face value. But you never know what might come up on your search results that is either (A) a perfectly reputable source of information that just happens to actually exist on the web (yay!) or (B) a snippet of information that comes from a questionable source but now that you have that clue you can easily verify it using a reputable source (e.g., found the person’s elusive death date in a genealogy forum, so now you have a date to search for a newspaper obituary).

In many cases, I did not have a whole lot of luck with finding substantial, useful, trustworthy sources of information readily available on the Internet. And I have a master’s degrees in history and library science, so I am pretty good at sleuthing these things out. Many people might not have been as patient in their attempts as I was (and even so, I still often came up empty-handed).

After I finish writing the Biographical Sketch and the rest of the finding aid, I place a printed copy at the reference desk, have a catalog record (which is also added to WorldCat) made for the collection (albeit with a much shorter bio sketch), and add the finding aid to the OhioLINK Finding Aid Repository.

And in most cases, until lately, I had thought, Okay, that’s that.

Sometimes the collection listings in WorldCat, the OPAC, or the OhioLINK database seem to come up in search results.

But, I had noticed, while I was doing my Google searches, that sometimes, if I had written a blog post (usually earlier in the process, while arranging and describing the materials) about the person in question, I often got references to my own blog when “Googling” for that person (e.g., Thomas Lowe).

So then I thought, Why not post the Biographical Sketches to my blog also? The blog is highly ranked on Google (if you search for something relevant), and after all, I did all this work — why shouldn’t other people (online) benefit from what I’ve already done?

I got my supervisor’s approval for posting the Bio Sketches. (I did write them — and I’m only posting the ones I wrote, nobody else’s — but since it was part of my job and a document I wrote for the Library, I thought it might be weird to post the text word-for-word without some kind of approval.) He thought it was a great idea. As a matter of fact, he had some people he wanted to show the Howard Forrer Peirce sketch to, so that’s why that one was posted first.

[The library archives does not have a blog; if it did, these obviously would have been better suited to the institution’s blog, not mine.]

And here’s where I return to the title of this blog post. We’ve all heard, “Be the change you want to see in the world.” What does that mean? If you see something you wish was different, and there’s something you can do about it, you should do it, right?

Well, every time I conducted a depressingly semi-fruitless Google search for one of the awesome individuals I was researching for a collection, I would think to myself, “These people rock; how is there just nothing about them online?”

For example, in the cases of Samuel Forrer, who had the longest, most intimate association with the Miami-Erie Canal of anyone ever, or his grandson Howard Forrer Peirce, who, in the words of my boss, was practically a “rockstar” in Dayton, inasmuch as you could be a rockstar playing wicked Classical on the piano in the 1890s, I found this lack of Internet presence particularly unjust.

So I fixed it.

I’m posting my Biographical Sketches here on the blog, along with footnotes/bibliography (yay! sources that can be verified!), a sprinkling of photos and illustrations (also from our collections, posted on Flickr – which also gets great Google ranking) to add visual interest, and a note at the end of each one referencing the original manuscript collection and saying, “Contact me or the library for more information.”

And now, when you Google for “Samuel Forrer”, you get this. Red dots indicate something I posted online. (I’m not entirely sure why the bio sketch for his wife comes up before his does, but still.)

Google search for Samuel Forrer

Google search for Samuel Forrer

That’s Page 1 of the Google hits, by the way, and notice the first two hits: me. I did that. That really makes me smile. 😀

And for “Howard Forrer Peirce” (no I did not mean “Howard Forrer Pierce,” thankyouverymuch), you get this. (Again, not sure why his mom is listed first, but nevertheless.)

Google search for Howard Forrer Peirce

Google search for Howard Forrer Peirce

Again, that’s Page 1 of Google hits. Out of 10 hits on the first page, all but 1 of them (the daytonhistorybooks one) is either something I posted about HFP or a link/reference to something I posted about HFP.

And even for “Col. Robert Patterson,” my items are not quite as high (since there is more “out there” about Patterson), but still have two hits on Page 1:

Google search for Col. Robert Patterson

Google search for Col. Robert Patterson

(And might I add that, less than two weeks after posting that photo and bio sketch for Col. Robert Patterson, I already had someone email me to inquire about him, specifically after seeing the photo/blog.)

Like I said, I’m not trying to toot my own horn (even though I know it probably sounds like I am!), but I’m just ecstatic that these things are “out there” and people will have an easier time finding them now. Because while all those other cataloging and finding aids are certainly important, as are reference archivists and librarians, we need to just accept the fact that, at some point or other, almost very researcher is going to “Google it”. (The casual researchers will probably do that first; the really serious ones might not want to admit it, but at some point in their process, they will probably do it, too.)

Now, I’m certainly not trying to charge archivists with taking on extra research projects and filling any and every void they find on the Internet in a particular subject area — although if you have time and resources to do that, go for it! But I’m just suggesting that, if you already have a lot of content that could easily (and legally) be translated to the web, why not share it?

And you don’t necessarily have to share your entire biographical sketch like I did. I could have made a simple statement about each person’s identity, significance, and then given the information about the manuscript collection and the contact info. It still would have been picked up by Google. I just figured, the more content I posted, the more likely that it would be found and utilized.

Archives are for use. And if people can’t find it, they can’t use it. So why not share some tasty nuggets of real content “online,” a sometimes-nebulous place where those who need/want it can find it quickly and easily? And by extension, they will find…you…and your archives…and the rest of your super-cool stuff.

Make sure that whatever you share, you do so in a way that it can be regularly and adequately crawled by search engines, such as Google; otherwise, you’re wasting your time, if nobody can find the stuff even after it’s online.

I’ve had good luck with this WordPress blog (after I turned on the “let search engines crawl my blog” setting as well as submitted the URL to the search engines directly) and Flickr (no extra steps were required on my part except for the photos to be public). Depending on how “important” the subject is, you might even consider adding/editing a Wikipedia page — and list your repository’s collection as a source, of course! — but that is another story altogether.

So next time you’re working on a collection that’s awesome (aren’t they all?) and you realize the subject has no web presence, consider giving them one.

I haven’t even told you about all the reference questions this blog has generated, but trust me: as an outreach tool, it’s working.

Bio Sketch: H. Eugene Parrott (1839-1933) & Henrietta (Peirce) Parrott (1848-1919) (& family), early residents of Oakwood, Ohio

Henrietta Elliot Peirce, sometimes called “Etta,” was born November 21, 1848, in Dayton, Ohio, the eldest daughter of Jeremiah H. Peirce (1818-1889) and Elizabeth H. Forrer (1827-1874). Henrietta was named after her paternal grandmother, whose maiden name was Henrietta Elliot.[1]

Henrietta (Peirce) Parrott with daughter Mary Edward Parrott, 1881

Henrietta (Peirce) Parrott with daughter Mary Edward Parrott, 1881 (Dayton Metro Library, FPW, Box 32, Folder 24)

Henrietta received most of her education at home or through teachers of particular subjects. Like her sisters, Henrietta was artistic, winning an award at the Ohio State fair in 1866 for best pencil drawing. She also had a lifelong interest in gardening. As a young lady, she attended the commercial college to learn bookkeeping.[2]

On June 9, 1871, Henrietta Peirce married Henry Eugene Parrott at Five Oaks, her parents’ home in Dayton, Ohio.[3]

Henry Eugene Parrott, usually called “Eugene,” was born March 1, 1839, in Dayton, Ohio, the youngest surviving son of Thomas Parrott (1797-1864) and Sarah Sullivan (1880-1883). Eugene attended the Dayton Academy, Delaware College (later Ohio Wesleyan University), where he graduated in 1860 and later held the distinction of being its oldest living alumni.[4]

At the time the Civil War broke out, Eugene’s father and older brother Edwin operated a linseed oil manufacturing business in Dayton. After Edwin took a commission in the First Ohio Volunteer Infantry, Eugene began to take a more active part in the business. Thomas Parrott wanted did not want his youngest son to go off to the war, Eugene wrote in his diary, in May 1862:

Father said to me this eve’g: “I wish you wouldn’t attend the war meeting ‘Gene, for I don’t want you to get into the notion of going to war. I am an old man and this suit (about the oil presses) troubles me a great deal & my private business, & I don’t want to have any more business to attend to. If the call is urgent Joseph [the middle son] will go & I think I ought to have one son at home to help me.[5]

Nevertheless, Eugene did participate in the war effort. On June 11, 1862, Eugene went on a steamboat from Cincinnati to retrieve sick and wounded soldiers from the Pittsburg Landing, Tennessee (Battle of Shiloh), remaining with the relief workers about two weeks.[6] In September 1862, he was among the “Squirrel Hunters” who defended Cincinnati against the threat of attack from the Kirby Smith’s advancing forces.[7] [For more on H. Eugene Parrott’s Civil War service in 1862,  see “A Tale of Two Howards,” especially Part 7, here on my blog.] In July 1863, Eugene enlisted as an adjutant and lieutenant in the 86th Ohio Volunteer Infantry, which was commanded by his college comrade Col. William Lemert, and served six months, being mustered out in February 1864.[8]

After the Civil War ended, the Parrott brothers Eugene and Edwin both returned to the linseed oil business. In 1869, the brothers incorporated the Malleable Iron Company, a foundry which had been established a few years earlier by others. Eugene served as secretary and treasurer of the company; his older brother Edwin as president. In 1882, new officers took over the company, and Eugene became involved in marble dust manufacturing. In later years, he held positions at the Dayton Board of Trade, the Dayton Automatic Gas Savings Company, and the National Cash Register Company.[9]

Despite his various forays into the Dayton business world, Eugene’s first love was farming. He owned a large farm in present-day Oakwood known as Briar Hill, with a herd of dairy cattle, as well as horses.[10]

Location of H. Eugene Parrott's farm 'Briar Hill' in Oakwood, 1875

Location of H. Eugene Parrott’s farm ‘Briar Hill’ in Oakwood, 1875 (1875 Montgomery County, Ohio, Atlas, pg. 116)

Initially, Briar Hill farm had a little frame house on the property, and this was the home to which he brought his bride, Henrietta.[11] His young wife was said to be “even fonder of the country than her husband.”[12]

In the winter of 1879, Eugene and Henrietta moved their growing family into a new stone and frame house that had been designed by an architect from Springfield, Massachusetts. Demonstrating their artistic abilities, Henrietta and her aunt and sisters personally did some of the decorative carving and painting inside the house.[13]

Eugene Parrott was one of the original signers of the petition to create the village of Oakwood, which was incorporated in 1908, and served as the village’s second mayor from 1910-1913.[14]

During the 1913 Flood, Henrietta invited refugees to stay at Briar Hill. The house was eventually sold in 1918. Henrietta’s will divided up the Briar Hill property among the family, resulting in the private road, Briar Hill Road, which still exists, although the Parrotts’ 1879 home burned down in 1969.[15]

Further evidence of the family’s stamp on Oakwood is Forrer Boulevard, named for Henrietta’s grandfather Samuel Forrer; it formerly included what is now Oakwood Avenue and extended all the way from Far Hills to Park Avenue. Another example is Elizabeth Gardens Park, which was named for Henrietta’s mother Elizabeth (Forrer) Peirce.[16]

In addition to farming and business activities, Eugene taught Sunday school at Grace Methodist Episcopal Church for many years.[17] He was a member of the “Saturday Club,” a men’s literary club in Dayton that met to hear papers and hold discussions, and he was also a Scottish Rite Freemason.[18] And even in his old age, he never abandoned his love for horses and the outdoors, engaging in daily two-hour rides even after he reached 90.[19]

Henrietta E. (Peirce) Parrott died April 21, 1919, at the home of her daughter Mary Edward (Parrott) Clunet, Briar Hill, Oakwood, Ohio, after several months of illness; she was 70 years old. She was buried on April 23, 1919, in Woodland Cemetery in Dayton, Ohio.[20]

Henry Eugene Parrott died December 31, 1933, at Five Oaks in Dayton, Ohio (which was by then the home of his daughter Frances I. Parrott); he was 94 years old. He was buried on January 2, 1934, in Woodland Cemetery in Dayton, Ohio.[21]

Gravestones of Henrietta and H. Eugene Parrott, Woodland Cemetery, Section 103

Gravestones of Henrietta and H. Eugene Parrott, Woodland Cemetery, Section 103 (Photo by the author, 29 Oct. 2011)

H. Eugene Parrott and Henrietta (Peirce) Parrott had nine children:

  1. Edward Peirce Parrott (1872-1873);
  2. John Ennals Parrott (1874-1929);
  3. Samuel Forrer Parrott (1875-1875);
  4. Elizabeth Forrer Parrott (1876-1979);
  5. Frances Isabel Parrott (1878-1934);
  6. Marianna Parrott (1879-1879);
  7. Mary Edward Parrott (1880-1945);
  8. Roger Sheffield Parrott (1883-1950); and
  9. [infant] Parrott (1887-1887).

Edward Peirce Parrott was born November 16, 1872, in Dayton, Ohio. He was named for Henrietta’s brother Edward Davies Peirce, who had died a few years earlier. He died March 1, 1873.[22]

John Ennals Parrott was born January 25, 1874, in Dayton, Ohio. He was named for his father’s cousin John Parrott and for his father’s great-grandmother whose maiden name was Ennals. John was a lumber broker in Dayton. On June 21, 1905, in Dayton, he married Sophie Adéle Reynolds (1882-1944). They had one child: John E. Parrott, Jr. (1906-1966). John E. Parrott, Sr., died June 26, 1929, in Dayton, Ohio.[23]

Samuel Forrer Parrott was born April 5, 1875, in Dayton, Ohio. He was named after his great-grandfather Samuel Forrer, who died the previous year. He died August 21, 1875.[24]

Elizabeth Forrer Parrott, usually called “Beth,” was born May 27, 1876, in Dayton, Ohio. She was named for her grandmother Elizabeth (Forrer) Peirce, who died a few years earlier. On October 10, 1901, at Briar Hill, Beth married Samuel Ellis (1866-1929). They had six children. Elizabeth F. (Parrott) Ellis died in November 1979, probably in Buffalo, New York, where she had resided for many years.[25]

Frances Isabel Parrott was born January 21, 1878, in Dayton, Ohio. She was named after her father’s older sister Frances, who suggested Isabel as the middle name. She never married and lived with her father until his death. For several years, she was a reporter for the Dayton Daily News and an active member of the Montgomery County Historical Society. She died on July 13, 1934, at St. Elizabeth Hospital in Dayton, as a result of injuries sustained in an automobile accident the previous day.[26]

Marianna Parrott was born June 15, 1879, in Dayton, Ohio. She died October 29, 1879.[27]

Mary Edward Parrott was born October 28, 1880, in Dayton, Ohio. She was named after her mother’s aunt Mary (Peirce) Davies, who was often called “Mary Edward” (Mrs. Edward Davies) to distinguish her from Mary (Loury) Davies (Mrs. Samuel Hiley Davies). On February 27, 1902, in Montgomery County, Ohio, Mary Edward Parrott married Nathaniel Shannon Clunet (1866-1965), a contractor and consulting engineer from Baltimore. They had four children: Henrietta Parrott Clunet (1902-1998), who married Robert A. Ferguson Light (1897-1992); Mary Edward Clunet (1907-2001), who married Edmund Rossiter Sawtelle (1905-1964); Aimee Lannay Clunet (1909-1995), who married L. Keith Wilson; and Natalie Shannon Clunet (1911-1986), who married Roy Gerald Fitzgerald, Jr. (1910-1990), and later Charles J. Thornquest (1910-1986). Mary E. (Parrott) Clunet died June 15, 1945, at her home, Briar Hill, Oakwood, Ohio.[28]

Roger Sheffield Parrott (1883-1950). He was named Roger because his parents liked the name and Sheffield after his mother’s great-grandmother whose maiden name was Sheffield. Roger graduated from West Point in 1908 and attended the officers’ school of artillery at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas. He was a career soldier and served on the staff of General John Pershing during WWI. In 1924, he was awarded a Distinguished Service Cross for extraordinary heroism in the Philippines in 1909. In his later years, he was in charge of student military instruction at Princeton University. He was a U.S. Army colonel when he retired. On February 11, 1909, in Dayton, Ohio, Roger married Mary Barlow Ohmer (1883-1950), daughter of Edward G. and Clara (Legler) Ohmer, of Dayton. They had two children: Virginia Sheffield Parrott (1912-1986), who married T. Hughlett Henry, Jr., and Thomas Alexander Parrott (1914-2007). Roger S. Parrott died November 11, 1950, in Washington, DC.[29]

The last child of Eugene and Henrietta Parrott was a son born on June 2, 1887. He died the same day and so was never named.[30]

*****

This biographical sketch was originally written by Lisa P. Rickey in April 2012 for the Forrer-Peirce-Wood Collection (MS-018) finding aid at the Dayton Metro Library, 215 E. Third St., Dayton, Ohio, 45402; phone (937) 496-8654.

Additional information about the sketch’s subject can be found in that collection. For more information about the manuscript collection’s contents, please see the original PDF finding aid available in the Local History Room of the Dayton Metro Library, the OhioLINK EAD Repository entry, or the WorldCat record.

Please contact the Dayton Metro Library or this blog’s author for more information about how to access the original finding aid or the manuscript collection.


[1] Frank Bruen, Christian Forrer, the Clockmaker, and his Descendants (Rutland, VT: Tuttle, 1939), 106; Frances I. Parrott, Henrietta Elliot Peirce (Dayton, OH: s.n., 1919?), n.p.

[2] Parrott, Henrietta Elliot Peirce, n.p.; Bruen, Christian Forrer, 107; Mary Sayre Haverstock, Jeannette Mahoney Vance, & Brian L. Meggitt, eds., Artists in Ohio, 1787-1900: A Biographical Dictionary (Kent, OH: Kent State University Press, 2000), 670.

[3] Parrott, Henrietta Elliot Peirce, n.p.; Bruen, Christian Forrer, 106.

[4] Bruen, Christian Forrer, 106-112; Forrer Genealogical Data, Forrer-Peirce-Wood Collection (hereafter cited as FPW), 7:12, Dayton Metro Library (Dayton, Ohio).

[5] H. Eugene Parrott’s diary, 26 May 1862, FPW, 31:1.

[6] H. Eugene Parrott’s diary, 11-22 June 1862, FPW, 31:1.

[7] H. Eugene Parrott’s diary, 2-13 Sept. 1862, FPW, 31:1; Bruen, Christian Forrer, 110.

[8] Bruen, Christian Forrer, 110; American Civil War Soldiers (database), Ancestry Library Edition.

[9] Harvey W. Crew, History of Dayton, Ohio (Dayton, OH: United Brethren Publishing House, 1889), 430-431; Dayton City Directories.

[10] Bruen, Christian Forrer, 111.

[11] Parrott, Henrietta Elliot Peirce, n.p.

[12] Bruen, Christian Forrer, 111.

[13] Parrott, Henrietta Elliot Peirce, n.p.

[14] Harry G. Ebeling, “Parrott Family Key to North Oakwood Development,” Oakwood Register, 17, no. 22 (27 May 2008), accessed 27 Feb. 2012, http://www.oakwoodregister.com/archives/2008/v17num22_052708/people.html.

[15] Parrott, Henrietta Elliot Peirce, n.p.; Ebeling, “Parrott Family Key to North Oakwood Development.”Bruen, Christian Forrer, 107-108.

[16] Parrott, Henrietta Elliot Peirce, n.p.; Ebeling, “Parrott Family Key to North Oakwood Development”; Bruen, Christian Forrer, 107-108.

[17] H. Eugene Parrott’s diary, [several entries], FPW, 31:1; The History of Montgomery County, Ohio (Chicago: W. H. Beers & Co., 1882), 650-651.

[18] Bruen, Christian Forrer, 111; Henry Eugene PARROTT: Ancient Accepted Scottish Rite of Freemasonry Membership Cards and Certificates, FPW, 31:5.

[19] Bruen, Christian Forrer, 111.

[20] Bruen, Christian Forrer, 106-108; Woodland Cemetery & Arboretum Interment Database, accessed 21 Feb. 2012, http://www.woodlandcemetery.org. Henrietta is buried in Section 103, Lot 1793.

[21] Bruen, Christian Forrer, 106, 108-112; Woodland Cemetery & Arboretum Interment Database, accessed 21 Feb. 2012, http://www.woodlandcemetery.org. Eugene is buried in Section 103, Lot 1793.

[22] Bruen, Christian Forrer, 112; Parrott, Henrietta Elliot Peirce, n.p.; Woodland Cemetery & Arboretum Interment Database, accessed 21 Feb. 2012, http://www.woodlandcemetery.org. (Woodland Cemetery records call him “Edwin P.”)

[23] Bruen, Christian Forrer, 112-113; Parrott, Henrietta Elliot Peirce, n.p.; Woodland Cemetery & Arboretum Interment Database, accessed 21 Feb. 2012, http://www.woodlandcemetery.org; Ohio Births & Christenings Index, 1800-1962 (database), Ancestry Library Edition; California Death Index, 1940-1997 (database), Ancestry Library Edition.

[24] Bruen, Christian Forrer, 113; Parrott, Henrietta Elliot Peirce, n.p.; Woodland Cemetery & Arboretum Interment Database, accessed 21 Feb. 2012, http://www.woodlandcemetery.org.

[25] Bruen, Christian Forrer, 113-114; Parrott, Henrietta Elliot Peirce, n.p.; Social Security Death Index (database), Ancestry Library Edition; Find A Grave, accessed 21 Feb. 2012, http://www.findagrave.com/cgi-bin/fg.cgi?page=gr&GRid=70644723.

[26] Bruen, Christian Forrer, 114-115; Parrott, Henrietta Elliot Peirce, n.p.; Woodland Cemetery & Arboretum Interment Database, accessed 21 Feb. 2012, http://www.woodlandcemetery.org; Ohio Deaths, 1908-1953 (database), FamilySearch, accessed 22 Feb. 2012, http://www.familysearch.org.

[27] Bruen, Christian Forrer, 115; Parrott, Henrietta Elliot Peirce, n.p.; Woodland Cemetery & Arboretum Interment Database, accessed 21 Feb. 2012, http://www.woodlandcemetery.org; Ohio, County Births, 1856-1909 (database), FamilySearch, accessed 22 Feb. 2012, http://www.familysearch.org.

[28] Bruen, Christian Forrer, 116; Parrott, Henrietta Elliot Peirce, n.p.; Ohio Deaths, 1908-1953 (database), FamilySearch, accessed 22 Feb. 2012, http://www.familysearch.org; “Services Monday for Mrs. Clunet” (obituary), Dayton Journal, 16 Jun 1945; Woodland Cemetery & Arboretum Interment Database, accessed 21 Feb. 2012, http://www.woodlandcemetery.org; Social Security Death Index (database), Ancestry Library Edition; Georgia Death Index, 1933-1998 (database), FamilySearch, accessed 22 Feb. 2012, http://www.familysearch.org.

[29] Bruen, Christian Forrer, 111, 116-122; Parrott, Henrietta Elliot Peirce, n.p.; “Roger Sheffield Parrott” in Hall of Valor, Military Times, accessed 28 Feb. 2012, http://militarytimes.com/citations-medals-awards/recipient.php?recipientid=16155; Princeton University Archives, Faculty database, accessed 28 Feb. 2012, http://www.princeton.edu/~mudd/databases/faculty.html; Fauquier (VA) Democrat/Times-Democrat Newspaper Index (database), Fauquier County Public Library, accessed 28 Feb. 2012, http://www.fauquiercounty.gov/government/departments/library/index.cfm?action=FDIIndex; U.S. Passport Applications, 1795-1925 (database), Ancestry Library Edition; Gravestone of Virginia S. (Parrott) Henry, Maryland Gravestones, accessed 28 Feb. 2012, http://marylandgravestones.org/view.php?id=2403; “Thomas Alexander Parrott,” Wikipedia, accessed 21 Feb. 2012, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Thomas_Alexander_Parrott.

[30] Parrott, Henrietta Elliot Peirce, n.p.; Woodland Cemetery & Arboretum Interment Database, accessed 21 Feb. 2012, http://www.woodlandcemetery.org.

Bio Sketch: John Elliot Peirce, Sr. (1861-1940), Dayton businessman

John Elliot Peirce, Sr., usually known as J. Elliot (or simply “Elliot” to family), was born April 17, 1861, in Dayton, Ohio, the son of Jeremiah H. Peirce (1818-1889) and Elizabeth H. Forrer (1827-1874).[1] Elliot was apparently named after his great-grandfather, Dr. John Elliot.

Elliot received his education at Cooper Academy and continued his studies until he was about 20 years old.[2]

J. Elliot Peirce, 1883

J. Elliot Peirce, 1883 (Dayton Metro Library, FPW, Box 28, Folder 9)

About 1881, Elliot began working as a clerk at Peirce & Coleman, the lumber business in which Elliot’s father J. H. Peirce was senior partner.

On September 10, 1885, J. Elliot Peirce married Mary Frances “Fanny” Harsh, daughter of Mr. and Mrs. J. V. Harsh of Findlay, at the Methodist Episcopal Church in Findlay, Ohio.[3]

Mary Frances (HARSH) Peirce on her wedding day, 1885

Mary Frances (HARSH) Peirce on her wedding day, 1885 (Dayton Metro Library, FPW, Box 28, Folder 16)

After Elliot’s father J. H. Peirce died in 1889, Elliot soon became president and treasurer of the Peirce & Coleman Company, which he incorporated in 1891. Under Elliot’s presidency, Peirce & Coleman did business in general contracting and building, especially in dealing hardwood lumber. Elliot remained president of Peirce & Coleman until 1896, when the company was dissolved.[4]

Beginning about 1891, Elliot was secretary and treasurer of the Superior Stone Company, which produced cement sidewalks and marblelithic work. This company ceased to exist about 1895.[5]

After the Peirce & Coleman Company dissolved in 1896, Elliot turned his attention more fully to the Dayton Marblelithic Company, of which he was then vice president. By 1900 he was manager of the company and would continue to be associated with it until his death. The Dayton Marblelithic Company (later simply “Marblelithic Company”) initially dealt in marblelithic, clay tiles, mosaics, and marble; it later dealt also in ceramic, rubber, asphalt and cork tile, structural glass, and linoleum.[6]

J. Elliot Peirce, undated

J. Elliot Peirce, undated (Dayton Metro Library, FPW, Box 28, Folder 9)

In the late 1890s, Elliot embarked on another type of business venture, when he hired Dayton architect Charles Insco Williams to design and build the Algonquin Hotel (now the Doubletree Hotel), which opened at the southwest corner of Third and Ludlow Streets in 1898. The Peirce-Williams Company, of which Elliot was president and general manager, were proprietors of the hotel until about 1917.[7]

Algonquin Hotel, southwest corner Third and Ludlow, Dayton, Ohio

Algonquin Hotel, southwest corner Third and Ludlow, Dayton, Ohio (Dayton Metro Library, Local History Postcards, postcard #0462)

For many years, the J. Elliot Peirce family lived near Elliot’s childhood home, Five Oaks. Elliot’s home, like Five Oaks, was described as being on the west side of Forest Avenue, except Elliot’s was north of Rung Road, rather than just opposite it. In the early 1900s, Elliot’s house was described as being at the southwest corner of Broadway and Old Orchard, later southwest corner of Homewood and Old Orchard. For many years while Elliot operated the Algonquin Hotel, the family lived at the hotel but kept their home in the Five Oaks neighborhood as a summer house. In 1918, Elliot’s house was identified as 551 N. Old Orchard. In 1922, the family residence was 1037 N. Old Orchard, a house that still exists at the southwest corner of Homewood and Old Orchard. About 1930, Elliot and Fanny moved to 339 Kramer Road in Oakwood, where they lived until death.[8]

Fanny H. Peirce died on November 4, 1936, at her home, 339 Kramer Road, Oakwood, Ohio; she was 73 years old. She was buried on November 6, 1936, in Woodland Cemetery in Dayton, Ohio.[9]

J. Elliot Peirce died on June 6, 1940, at his home, 339 Kramer Road, Oakwood, Ohio; he was 79 years old. He was buried on June 8, 1940, in Woodland Cemetery in Dayton, Ohio.[10]

Grave of J. Elliot Peirce family, Woodland Cemetery, Section 77

Grave of J. Elliot Peirce family, Woodland Cemetery, Section 77 (Photo by the author, 29 Oct. 2011)

J. Elliot Peirce and his wife Fanny Harsh had five children:

  1. Elizabeth Forrer Peirce (1886-1973);
  2. Virginia O’Neil Peirce (1888-1985);
  3. Mary Frances Peirce (1890-1969);
  4. Dorothy Howard Peirce (1900-1986); and
  5. John Elliot Peirce, Jr. (1900-1959)
Virginia, Elizabeth, and Mary Frances Peirce, 1898

Virginia, Elizabeth, and Mary Frances Peirce, 1898 (Dayton Metro Library, FPW, Box 28, Folder 10)

*

Jack and Dorothy Peirce, 1902

Jack and Dorothy Peirce, 1902 (Dayton Metro Library, FPW, Box 28, Folder 10)

Elizabeth Forrer Peirce, usually called Bess, was born August 7, 1886, in Dayton, Ohio. On June 29, 1911, at Five Oaks, she married Joseph Bradford Coolidge (1886-1965), a lawyer from Medford, Massachusetts. They had two children: Mary Elizabeth Coolidge (1912-2008), who married Robert Schantz Oelman (1909-2007); and Dorothy Peirce Coolidge (1916-2000), who first married Robert R. Woodward (1909-1955) then married John D. Runyan (1912-1994). Elizabeth F. (Peirce) Coolidge died May 5, 1973, in Dayton, Ohio.[11]

Virginia O’Neil Peirce was born January 28, 1888, in Dayton, Ohio. She graduated from Smith College in 1910. On June 29, 1910, at Five Oaks, Virginia married General George Henry Wood (1867-1945), son of Major General Thomas J. Wood (1823-1906) and Caroline (Greer) Wood, of Dayton. They had two children: Thomas John Wood, III (1911-1996), and Peirce James Wood (1914-1987). Virginia O. (Peirce) Wood died October 26, 1985, in Brevard County, Florida.[12]

Mary Frances Peirce was born July 24, 1890, in Dayton, Ohio. She graduated from Smith College in 1912. She worked at the Marblelithic Company with her father and brother. She never married. Mary F. Peirce died on August 26, 1969, in Brevard County, Florida.[13]

Dorothy Howard Peirce was born September 6, 1900, in Dayton, Ohio. On June 14, 1924, at Five Oaks, she married Robert Alexander Johnston Morrison (1898-1976), a trainmaster from Cincinnati. They had several children. Dorothy H. (Peirce) Morrison died June 3, 1986, in Cincinnati, Ohio.[14]

John Elliot Peirce, Jr., usually called Jack, was born September 6, 1900, in Dayton, Ohio. He worked at the Marblelithic Company with his father. He was unmarried. John E. Peirce, Jr., died in April 1959 in Brevard County, Florida.[15]

*****

This biographical sketch was originally written by Lisa P. Rickey in April 2012 for the Forrer-Peirce-Wood Collection (MS-018) finding aid at the Dayton Metro Library, 215 E. Third St., Dayton, Ohio, 45402; phone (937) 496-8654.

Additional information about the sketch’s subject can be found in that collection. For more information about the manuscript collection’s contents, please see the original PDF finding aid available in the Local History Room of the Dayton Metro Library, the OhioLINK EAD Repository entry, or the WorldCat record.

Please contact the Dayton Metro Library or this blog’s author for more information about how to access the original finding aid or the manuscript collection.


[1] Frank Bruen, Christian Forrer, the Clockmaker, and his Descendants (Rutland, VT: Tuttle, 1939), 126; Frank Conover, Centennial Portrait and Biographical Record of the City of Dayton and Montgomery County, Ohio (Chicago: A. W. Bowen, 1897), 305; Augustus W. Drury, History of the City of Dayton and Montgomery County, Ohio, (Chicago: Clarke Publishing Co., 1909), vol. 2, 663.

[2] Conover, Centennial Portrait, 305; John Elliot Peirce, Sr.: Report cards from Cooper Academy, Forrer-Peirce-Wood Collection (hereafter cited as FPW), 28:7, Dayton Metro Library (Dayton, Ohio); Drury, History of the City of Dayton, vol. 2, 664.

[3]. Bruen, Christian Forrer, 124-125; John Elliot Peirce, Sr.: Newspaper Clippings, FPW, 28:8.

[4] Drury, History of the City of Dayton, vol. 2, 664; Conover, Centennial Portrait, 305; Dayton City Directories.

[5] Dayton City Directories.

[6] Drury, History of the City of Dayton, vol. 2, 664; Dayton City Directories.

[7] Curt Dalton, Dayton (Charleston, SC: Arcadia, 2006), 62; Dayton City Directories.

[8] Dayton City Directories; Sanborn Fire Insurance Maps.

[9] Bruen, Christian Forrer, 124; Woodland Cemetery & Arboretum Interment Database, accessed 20 Dec. 2011, http://www.woodlandcemetery.org. Fanny is buried in Section 77, Lot 20.

[10] “J. E. Peirce Funeral Set” (obituary), Dayton Journal, 7 June 1940; Woodland Cemetery & Arboretum Interment Database, accessed 26 Oct. 2011, http://www.woodlandcemetery.org. Elliot is buried in Section 77, Lot 27.

[11] Bruen, Christian Forrer, 125; Social Security Death Index (database), Ancestry Library Edition; Woodland Cemetery & Arboretum Interment Database, accessed 15 Feb. 2012, http://www.woodlandcemetery.org; Obituary of Robert S. Oelman, 16 May 2007, New York Times; Obituary of Mary Elizabeth (Coolidge) Oelman, [July 2008], Scobee-Combs-Bowden Funeral Home web site, accessed 17 Feb. 2012, http://www.funeralplan2.com/scobeecombsbowdenfuneralhome/archive?id=140657; Obituary of Dorothy (Coolidge) Runyan, Dayton Daily News, 27 Jan. 2000.

[12] Bruen, Christian Forrer, 125; Social Security Death Index (database), Ancestry Library Edition; Florida Death Index, 1877-1998 (database), Ancestry Library Edition.

[13] Bruen, Christian Forrer, 125; Dayton City Directories; Social Security Death Index (database), Ancestry Library Edition; Florida Death Index, 1877-1998 (database), Ancestry Library Edition; Death notice of Mary Frances Peirce, Dayton Journal Herald, 7 Oct. 1969; Dayton City Directories.

[14] Bruen, Christian Forrer, 126; Ohio, County Births, 1856-1909 (database), FamilySearch, accessed 17 Feb. 2012, http://www.familysearch.org; Dorothy Howard (Peirce) Morrison: Newspaper Clippings, FPW, 30:3; Spring Grove Cemetery Interment Database, accessed 17 Feb. 2012, http://www.springgrove.org; U.S. Passport Applications, 1795-1925 (database), Ancestry Library Edition.

[15] Bruen, Christian Forrer, 126; Dayton City Directories; County Births, 1856-1909 (database), FamilySearch, accessed 17 Feb. 2012, http://www.familysearch.org; Florida Death Index, 1877-1998 (database), Ancestry Library Edition; Dayton City Directories.

Bio Sketch: Elizabeth Forrer Peirce (1857-1930), nurse in Dayton, Ohio

Elizabeth Forrer Peirce, often called “Bess,” was born September 5, 1857, in Dayton, Ohio, the daughter of Jeremiah H. Peirce (1818-1889) and Elizabeth H. Forrer (1827-1874).[1] Elizabeth was probably named after her mother, whose maiden name was Elizabeth Forrer, or possibly her great-grandmother Elizabeth (Neidig) Forrer, who had died a few years earlier.

As a young woman, Elizabeth studied at Cooper Female Seminary in Dayton.[2]

Elizabeth Forrer Peirce, undated

Elizabeth Forrer Peirce, undated (Dayton Metro Library, FPW, Box 29, Folder 10)

Elizabeth lived at Five Oaks nearly all of her life. Even in her old age, Elizabeth lived there with her Aunt Mary (Forrer) Peirce and her sister Sarah Howard Peirce.

However, on two separate occasions during her thirties, Elizabeth made extended stays in Boston, Massachusetts.

The first of these times began in November 1890, when Elizabeth went to stay with her brother Howard F. Peirce, who was studying and performing in Boston. They lived at 198 Tremont Street. While there, Elizabeth attended many lectures (several on literature) and visited friends, including the Diman family.[3]

After staying for about a month, Elizabeth wrote to her sister and aunt back home, asking whether she might stay longer, if they could afford to be without her (and to keep financing the visit). Elizabeth wrote:

Do you and Aunt Mary think it would be a possible thing to get along without my share of the house money for the first two or three months of next year[?] Then if the money can be spared, will it be right for me to stay away from home so long a time[?] I would like very much to stay. The perfect freedom from all care and worry has made such a wonderful change in the way I feel, that it seems to me the cure is worth trying, for a longer time. As you say, we ought to make the best of ourselves, mentally, morally, and physically… Howard would like me to stay, and I think he would hate to go back to the way he was living before I came…[4]

It was decided that Elizabeth would stay in Boston. She remained there until the end of April 1891, after which time she returned to Five Oaks.[5]

Elizabeth apparently felt that she had no right to leave home permanently while her feeble sister Mellie was still alive, but after Mellie died in July 1892, she began to think seriously about a profession for herself: nursing. She informed her Aunt Mary of this desire in October 1892:

I am finding out all I can, as to the rules in regard to training schools connected with the Hospitals, as I expect to make that nursing a study. I have always felt an inclination for that vocation but never thought I had any right to think of leaving home for good as long as Mellie lived. Now it seems to me I have the right to choose my own way of living. I fear you will not approve of my plans, but I am going to give you some of my reasons. Every woman who has no family to take care of ought to have a business or profession, and can not help being dissatisfied and unhappy without it… If at any time I find that I am not strong enough I can give it up, and nothing is lost…[6]

Elizabeth argued that while her aunt might find teaching a more suitable profession, she did not think she would make a good teacher. She also expressed a desire to earn her own money.[7]

Elizabeth was right that Aunt Mary would disagree with her choice. Mary wrote to Elizabeth’s sister Sarah a few days later:

Bess has written me telling what she is wanting to do. Of course, I would not presume to oppose her, but I am very sorry she has chosen a profession that we think will undoubtedly result in invalidism. I hoped, after the years of sadness and sorrow through which we have passed, that when you were once more restored to health and all home together [to] live happily in our lovely home, as your father had so carefully and kindly arranged.—If the poor child would only turn her attention to literary pursuits and not try to break down the little strength she has, it does seem to me, the result might be more satisfactory. I have been feeling very sad since receiving her letter.[8]

Elizabeth executed her plan to train as a nurse in August 1893, returning to Boston again to train as a nurse in the Massachusetts general hospital there. She remained in Boston until October 1894, although her school work had ended in June.[9]

After Elizabeth returned to Five Oaks at the end of 1894, she began working as a nurse in Dayton. She is listed as a nurse in the city directories from 1895 through the 1901-1902 edition. From 1902 until her death, she has no occupation listed.[10] It is not clear why her nursing career ended. Although her formal career had ended, Elizabeth still kept busy with many activities outside the home.

Elizabeth Forrer Peirce, undated

Elizabeth Forrer Peirce, undated (Dayton Metro Library, FPW, Box 29, Folder 10)

Elizabeth was one of the founding members of the First Unitarian Church of Dayton, along with her sister Sarah Peirce and her Aunt Mary Peirce.[11] She was also active in the Woman’s Literary Club, of which she was a founder and past president, as well as the Needlework Guild of America.[12]

Elizabeth’s cousin and close friend Frank Bruen described “Bess” as…

…the court of final resort upon all family dilemmas or questions of fact. If anyone felt a doubt about some matter, it was settled by a reference to “Aunt Bess.” She never betrayed a confidence; was kind and efficient, interested in the welfare of all the family, and bent upon doing all in her power to further it…[13]

Elizabeth Forrer Peirce, later in life

Elizabeth Forrer Peirce, later in life (Dayton Metro Library, FPW, Box 29, Folder 10)

Elizabeth F. Peirce died on November 19, 1930, at her home at 120 Volusia Avenue in Dayton, Ohio; she was 73 years old.[14] She was buried on November 21, 1930, in Woodland Cemetery in Dayton, Ohio.[15]

Grave of Elizabeth Forrer Peirce in Woodland Cemetery, Section 77

Grave of Elizabeth Forrer Peirce in Woodland Cemetery, Section 77 (Photo by the author, 29 Oct. 2011)

 

*****

This biographical sketch was originally written by Lisa P. Rickey in April 2012 for the Forrer-Peirce-Wood Collection (MS-018) finding aid at the Dayton Metro Library, 215 E. Third St., Dayton, Ohio, 45402; phone (937) 496-8654.

Additional information about the sketch’s subject can be found in that collection. For more information about the manuscript collection’s contents, please see the original PDF finding aid available in the Local History Room of the Dayton Metro Library, the OhioLINK EAD Repository entry, or the WorldCat record.

Please contact the Dayton Metro Library or this blog’s author for more information about how to access the original finding aid or the manuscript collection.


[1] Frank Bruen, Christian Forrer, the Clockmaker, and his Descendants (Rutland, VT: Tuttle, 1939), 123.

[2] “Funeral for Miss Peirce to be Friday,” Dayton Daily News, 20 Nov. 1930, in Elizabeth Forrer Peirce: Obituaries, Forrer-Peirce-Wood Collection (hereafter cited as FPW), 23:9, Dayton Metro Library (Dayton, Ohio).

[3] Various letters from Elizabeth F. Peirce to her family, FPW, 19:9, 19:13, 20:4.

[4] Elizabeth F. Peirce to her sister Sarah H. Peirce, 1-2 Dec. 1890, FPW, 19:9.

[5] Various letters from Elizabeth F. Peirce to her family, FPW, 19:9, 19:13, 20:4.

[6] Elizabeth F. Peirce to her aunt Mary Forrer Peirce, 11 Oct. 1892, FPW, 20:4.

[7] Elizabeth F. Peirce to her aunt Mary Forrer Peirce, 11 Oct. 1892, FPW, 20:4.

[8] Mary Forrer Peirce to her niece Sarah H. Peirce, 15 Oct. 1892, FPW, 12:4.

[9] Various letters from Elizabeth F. Peirce to her family, FPW, 19:9, 20:2, 20:4; Frank Conover, Centennial Portrait and Biographical Record of the City of Dayton and Montgomery County, Ohio (Chicago: A. W. Bowen, 1897), 310.

[10] Dayton City Directories.

[11] “Funeral for Miss Peirce to be Friday,” Dayton Daily News, 20 Nov. 1930, in FPW, 23:9; Finding Aid, First Unitarian Church of Dayton Church Records (MS-230), Wright State University Special Collections & Archives (Dayton, Ohio), accessed 18 Jan. 2012, http://www.libraries.wright.edu/special/collection_guides/guide_files/ms230.pdf;

[12] “Funeral for Miss Peirce to be Friday,” Dayton Daily News, 20 Nov. 1930, in FPW, 23:9.

[13] Bruen, Christian Forrer, 123.

[14] “Funeral for Miss Peirce to be Friday,” Dayton Daily News, 20 Nov. 1930, in FPW, 23:9.

[15] Woodland Cemetery & Arboretum Interment Database, accessed 2 Feb. 2012, http://www.woodlandcemetery.org. Elizabeth is buried in Section 77, Lot 24.

Bio Sketch: Mary Forrer ‘Mellie’ Peirce (1855-1892), music-lover and middle child

Mary Forrer Peirce, usually called “Mellie,” was born January 1, 1855, in Dayton, Ohio, the daughter of Jeremiah H. Peirce (1818-1889) and Elizabeth H. Forrer (1827-1874).[1] Mellie was apparently named after her aunt, who was then simply Mary Forrer, and who later also became Mary Forrer Peirce, after marrying Mellie’s father Jeremiah H. Peirce.

Mellie Peirce, undated

Mellie Peirce, undated (Dayton Metro Library, FPW, Box 19, Folder 6)

In the early part of 1872, from January to about June, Mellie lived in Sandusky, Ohio, with George and Nancy (Follett) Thornton, and attended school there. While in Sandusky, she suffered a serious illness, possibly the mumps, in February.[2] Mellie stayed with the Thorntons again in the spring of 1880, at which time they lived in the Clifton neighborhood of Cincinnati.[3]

From June 1874 to August 1875, Mellie toured Europe with her Aunt Mary Forrer. Mrs. Thornton and her daughter Mary, as well as several other acquaintances were also present for parts of the trip. Mellie seems to have primarily entertained herself with sight-seeing, although she did study German and music (piano, it seems) while visiting Germany.[4] Mellie hoped that her brother Howard (then 9 years old and already quite talented at piano apparently) would have the opportunity to study music in Germany, since it would (in her opinion) benefit him so much more than her.[5]

Like many members of the Forrer and Peirce families, Mellie was interested in art and music. She played piano. She also painted; she mentioned painting flowers and painting on china.[6]

It is not clear whether Mellie ever had any particular occupation.

Mellie Peirce, undated

Mellie Peirce, undated (Dayton Metro Library, FPW, Box 19, Folder 6)

Mellie seems to have been afflicted for most of her life with poor health. She apparently suffered from severe headaches, backaches, fatigue, neuralgia, and general feebleness.

Examples of her various illnesses include:

  • April 1868: Mellie referred to herself as “the weak human creature that I am…”[7]
  • February 1872: Mrs. Thornton wrote: “Mellie has been suffering for a few days with one of her real severe headaches… She…is affected quite similarly to the time last fall, you will probably recall the symptoms.”[8] The next week, Mrs. Thornton reported Mellie was still unwell: “She has been sick, weak, headaches, not able to get out of bed.”[9]
  • November 1874: Mellie mentioned that her back had now been “broken in” and had not given her any trouble for a few days.[10]
  • May 1878: Mrs. Thornton wrote: “[Mellie] appears to me in even a weaker condition than during her visit in Sandusky…”[11] Mrs. Thornton also referred to Mellie’s “her feeble health.”[12]
  • April 1880: Mr. Thornton wrote: “Hope Mellie arrived all safe and that you may find her improved by her visit with us. We parted with her with regret but another invalid, as she knows, came to occupy her room.”[13]
  • December 1882: Mellie wrote: “Living on so much less nerve stimulant now, than for several years past, I can not wonder at my great want of strength, or the small amount of exercise it takes to weaken me. Fatigue acts on me in a singular way, making sleep more difficult to obtain…”[14] The next day, she added that she suffered from “neuralgia, succeeding my headache, yesterday was spent in complete idleness…”[15]
  • July 1884: Mellie reported: “Tuesday I made my first visit to Dr. Robinson’s office, but having found it too much for my strength do not know when I can take a trip of its length again…”[16]
  • November 1887: Mellie wrote: “Last night I slept in my own room for the first time, not having walked upstairs before, since the accident… Am strong enough now to walk without help and shall soon be well as ever…”[17] The nature of her accident is unclear.
  • April 1891: Mellie’s sister Sarah wrote: “[Mellie] has been very well for some time but today has had two attacks.”[18]

Mellie was ill again in June through July 1892. Her symptoms included a persistent cough, as well as rheumatism and a swollen leg.[19]

Mellie Peirce, undated

Mellie Peirce, undated (Dayton Metro Library, FPW, Box 19, Folder 6)

Mellie Peirce died on July 25, 1892, at her home at Five Oaks in Dayton, Ohio; she was 37 years old.[20] She was buried on July 27, 1892, in Woodland Cemetery in Dayton, Ohio.[21]

Peirce family plot, Woodland Cemetery, Section 77

Peirce family plot, Woodland Cemetery, Section 77 (Photo by the author, 29 Oct. 2011)

*****

This biographical sketch was originally written by Lisa P. Rickey in April 2012 for the Forrer-Peirce-Wood Collection (MS-018) finding aid at the Dayton Metro Library, 215 E. Third St., Dayton, Ohio, 45402; phone (937) 496-8654.

Additional information about the sketch’s subject can be found in that collection. For more information about the manuscript collection’s contents, please see the original PDF finding aid available in the Local History Room of the Dayton Metro Library, the OhioLINK EAD Repository entry, or the WorldCat record.

Please contact the Dayton Metro Library or this blog’s author for more information about how to access the original finding aid or the manuscript collection.


[1] Frank Bruen, Christian Forrer, the Clockmaker, and his Descendants (Rutland, VT: Tuttle, 1939), 123.

[2] Various letters to, from, and about Mellie Peirce in the Forrer-Peirce-Wood Collection (hereafter cited as FPW), 8:13, 18:14, 18:16, 18:18, 18:20, 9:12, Dayton Metro Library (Dayton, Ohio). Nancy (Follett) Thornton was a daughter of Oran Follett; she often signed her letters simply “N. F. Thornton.”

[3] Various letters to, from, and about Mellie Peirce, FPW, 18:13, 18:16, 18:18, 9:11.

[4] Mellie Peirce to her family (several letters), FPW, 18:22 & 18:23.

[5] Mellie Peirce to her sister Henrietta Parrott, 1 Nov. 1874, FPW, 18:22; Mellie Peirce to her family, 25 Feb. 1875, FPW, 18:23.

[6] Mellie Peirce to her family (several letters), FPW, 18:14, 18:16, 18:20, 18:22, 18:23.

[7] Mellie Peirce to Sarah H. Peirce, 24 Apr. 1868, FPW, 18:16.

[8] Nancy F. Thornton to J. H. Peirce, 11 Feb. [1872], FPW, 9:12.

[9] Nancy F. Thornton to J. H. Peirce, 20 Feb. [1872], FPW, 9:12.

[10] Mellie Peirce to her sister Henrietta Parrott, 1 Nov. 1874, FPW, 18:22.

[11] Nancy F. Thornton to J. H. Peirce, 8 May 1878, FPW, 9:12.

[12] Nancy F. Thornton to J. H. Peirce, 8 May 1878, FPW, 9:12.

[13] George Thornton to J. H. Peirce, 23 Apr. 1880, FPW, 9:11.

[14] Mellie Peirce to her father J. H. Peirce, 3 Dec. 1882, FPW, 18:13.

[15] Mellie Peirce to her father J. H. Peirce, 3 Dec. 1882, FPW, 18:13.

[16] Mellie Peirce to her brother Howard F. Peirce, 20 July 1884, FPW, 18:20.

[17] Mellie Peirce to her brother Howard F. Peirce, 16 Nov. 1887, FPW, 18:20.

[18] Sarah H. Peirce to her brother Howard F. Peirce, 24 Apr. 1891, FPW, 18:21.

[19] Sarah H. Peirce to her sister Elizabeth F. Peirce (several letters), June-July 1892, FPW, 14:3.

[20] Death notice of Mary Peirce, Dayton Journal, 27 July 1892; Woodland Cemetery & Arboretum Interment Database, accessed 23 Jan. 2012, http://www.woodlandcemetery.org; Bruen, Christian Forrer, 123. Bruen incorrectly states that Mary died on July 23, rather than July 25.

[21] Woodland Cemetery & Arboretum Interment Database, accessed 23 Jan. 2012, http://www.woodlandcemetery.org. Mellie is buried in Section 77, Lot 18.

Bio Sketch: Sarah Howard Peirce (1853-1930), founded first kindergarten in Dayton, Ohio

Sarah Howard Peirce was born April 28, 1853, in Dayton, Ohio, the daughter of Jeremiah H. Peirce (1818-1889) and Elizabeth H. Forrer (1827-1874).[1] Sarah was apparently named after her maternal grandmother, whose maiden name was Sarah Howard.

Sarah graduated in 1872 from Central High School in Dayton.[2]

Sarah Howard Peirce, undated

Sarah Howard Peirce, undated (Dayton Metro Library, FPW, Box 18, Folder 11)

In the summer of 1876, Sarah wrote to Elizabeth Peabody regarding kindergarten teacher training. Peabody, who had founded America’s first English-speaking kindergarten in Boston in 1860, suggested that Sarah “go to Mrs. Ogden of Worthington, Ohio.”[3]

John Ogden operated a teacher training school in Worthington, Ohio, known as the “Ohio Central Normal and Kindergarten Training School.” John’s wife Gussie (Brewster) Ogden trained the kindergarten teachers. Mrs. Ogden herself had traveled to Boston in 1872 for training as a kindergarten teacher, and upon her return, she opened the first kindergarten in Ohio.[4] Sarah studied kindergarten teaching under Mrs. Ogden in the late summer and fall of 1876.[5]

Sarah opened the first kindergarten in Dayton in 1876. The school was located on the west side of Wilkinson Street between First and Water (Monument) streets. Sarah operated this school from late 1876 through 1877.[6]

In January 1878, Sarah moved to Lafayette, Indiana, to teach school there. Sarah taught the younger children, while a Mrs. Wood taught the older children. While in Lafayette, Sarah boarded initially with the family of one Dr. Smith and later at the Stockton House.[7]

By the early part of 1879, Sarah had begun inquiring about teaching positions back in Dayton. She asked her father to speak to his acquaintances on the School Board on her behalf; she also wrote to some school board members, such as A. D. Wilt, herself.[8]

Wilt encouraged Sarah to apply for a teaching position in the city schools on account of her “considerable experience.” However, he cautioned her that she might “meet the objection that you are not a graduate” [of the city’s normal, or teacher training, school] “and that graduates are granted the first opportunity, other things being equal.”[9]

Sarah did return to Dayton in 1880 and taught school for many years. For the most part is unclear where, but in 1882 she taught at Cooper Academy.[10]

Sarah Howard Peirce, undated

Sarah Howard Peirce, undated (Dayton Metro Library, FPW, Box 18, Folder 11)

By 1889, Sarah was operating a kindergarten at 356 W. First Street. Beginning in 1892, Sarah was director of the Dayton Kindergarten and Primary School at 316 W. Monument Avenue. Soon after, the school moved to 310 W. Second Street. These kindergartens were all private schools; kindergarten was not added to the Dayton public school curriculum until the late 1890s. A year’s tuition at the Dayton Kindergarten and Primary School cost $40 in 1892.[11]

Sarah Howard Peirce, undated

Sarah Howard Peirce, undated (Dayton Metro Library, FPW, Box 18, Folder 11)

Sarah continued teaching until at least 1915, which is the last city directory listing her occupation; she was 62 at that time.[12]

In addition to being a kindergarten teacher herself for many years, Sarah taught many women to be kindergarten teachers. She was also a founding member of Dayton’s Playgrounds Association, and she participated in the Montgomery County Horticultural Society and the Dayton Garden Club.[13]

Sarah was one of the founding members of the First Unitarian Church of Dayton, along with her sister Elizabeth Peirce and her Aunt Mary Peirce. Sarah was among those who signed the church’s Articles of Incorporation on May 21, 1910.[14]

For many years, Sarah lived at Five Oaks with her Aunt Mary (Forrer) Peirce and her sister Elizabeth Forrer Peirce.

Sarah Howard Peirce died April 9, 1930, in Athens, Greece, while visiting Europe with her sister Elizabeth and her niece Elizabeth (Parrott) Ellis. Sarah was 76 years old. She was buried in an English churchyard.[15]

*****

This biographical sketch was originally written by Lisa P. Rickey in April 2012 for the Forrer-Peirce-Wood Collection (MS-018) finding aid at the Dayton Metro Library, 215 E. Third St., Dayton, Ohio, 45402; phone (937) 496-8654.

Additional information about the sketch’s subject can be found in that collection. For more information about the manuscript collection’s contents, please see the original PDF finding aid available in the Local History Room of the Dayton Metro Library, the OhioLINK EAD Repository entry, or the WorldCat record.

Please contact the Dayton Metro Library or this blog’s author for more information about how to access the original finding aid or the manuscript collection.


[1] Frank Bruen, Christian Forrer, the Clockmaker, and his Descendants (Rutland, VT: Tuttle, 1939), 122.

[2] Brief History of the Alumni of Central High School, Dayton, Ohio (Dayton, OH: Alumni Association of Central High School, 1887), vol. 2, 64;

[3] Elizabeth Peabody to Sarah H. Peirce, 3 Aug. 1876, in Sarah Howard Peirce: Notebook of Poems, Music, & Miscellany, Forrer-Peirce-Wood Collection (hereafter cited as FPW), 17:24, Dayton Metro Library (Dayton, Ohio); “Kindergarten,” Wikipedia, accessed 20 Jan. 2012, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kindergarten.

[4] Dennis K. McDaniel, John Ogden: Abolitionist and Leader in Southern Education (Philadelphia: American Philosophical Society, 1997), 87-88, accessed 19 Jan. 2012 via Google Books, http://books.google.com/books?id=cyALAAAAIAAJ; Clyde O. Ruggles, Historical Sketches and Notes, Winona State Normal School, 1860-1910 (Winona, MN: Jones & Kroeger Co., 1910), 186-187, accessed 19 Jan. 2012 via Google Books, http://books.google.com/books?id=pXBTvmmnVnEC.

[5] Brief History of the Alumni of Central High School, vol. 2, 64; Sarah H. Peirce to Elizabeth F. Peirce, Aug.-Sept. 1876 (several letters), FPW, 13:26.

[6] “Portrait Displayed,” Dayton Journal, 19 Oct. 1930, FPW, 18:10; Bruen, Christian Forrer, 122-123; Brief History of the Alumni of Central High School, vol. 2, 64; Dayton City Directories.

[7] Sarah H. Peirce to Jeremiah H. Peirce, 1878-1879 (several letters), FPW, 13:23; Sarah H. Peirce to Mary “Mellie” F. Peirce, 1878 (several letters), FPW, 13:25; Sarah H. Peirce to Elizabeth F. Peirce, 1878-1879 (several letters), FPW, 13:26; Mary “Mellie” F. Peirce to Sarah H. Peirce, 7 Jan. 1880, FPW, 18:16; Brief History of the Alumni of Central High School, vol. 2, 64.

[8] Sarah H. Peirce to Jeremiah H. Peirce, 15 Feb. 1879, FPW, 13:23; A. D. Wilt to Sarah H. Peirce, 28 Apr. 1879, FPW, 17:15. Sarah specifically asks her father to speak to “Sam and Bob,” which probably refers to Samuel Davies and Robert Steele.

[9] A. D. Wilt to Sarah H. Peirce, 28 Apr. 1879, FPW, 17:15.

[10] Dayton City Directories.

[11] Dayton City Directories; Dayton Kindergarten and Primary School Program, 1892, FPW, 17:26; Augustus W. Drury, History of the City of Dayton and Montgomery County, Ohio, (Chicago: Clarke Publishing Co., 1909), vol. 1, 456-457.

[12] Dayton City Directories.

[13] “Portrait Displayed,” Dayton Journal, 19 Oct. 1930, FPW, 18:10; Sarah Howard Peirce: Newspaper Clippings, FPW, 18:10; Bruen, Christian Forrer, 122-123.

[14] Bruen, Christian Forrer, 122-123; Finding Aid, First Unitarian Church of Dayton Church Records (MS-230), Wright State University Special Collections & Archives (Dayton, Ohio), accessed 18 Jan. 2012, http://www.libraries.wright.edu/special/collection_guides/guide_files/ms230.pdf; “Portrait Displayed,” Dayton Journal, 19 Oct. 1930, FPW, 18:10.

[15] Bruen, Christian Forrer, 122.

Bio Sketch: Mary (Forrer) Peirce (1838-1929), artist in Dayton, Ohio

Mary Forrer was born August 24, 1838, in Dayton, Ohio, the daughter of Samuel Forrer (1793-1874) and Sarah Howard (1807-1887).[1]

As a child, Mary showed an interest in and aptitude for drawing, a talent she had at least partially inherited from her mother. Her mother was probably her first drawing teacher. She also received some tutoring in botany and the drawing of plants from John W. Van Cleve. From girlhood onwards, her artwork often featured nature, flowers, still life, and landscapes.[2]

Mary Forrer, undated

Mary Forrer, undated (Dayton Metro Library, FPW, Box 13, Folder 20)

As a young woman, Mary studied at Cooper Female Seminary in Dayton, where she had a most talented art teacher, Clara Soule (later Medlar), daughter of a well-known portrait painter, Charles Soule. Clara, also an accomplished portrait painter, taught Mary much about painting.[3]

In July 1862, Mary traveled to New York City again, to Fort Hamilton. Her brother-in-law Luther Bruen, husband of her sister Augusta, was stationed there with the 12th U.S. Infantry. While in New York City, she attended the Cooper Institute (now called Cooper Union), where she studied, for the most part, landscape painting and water color techniques.[4] Mary continued her studies at the Cooper Institute until at least November 1862, before returning to Dayton sometime prior to 1864.[5]

Mary Forrer, 1863

Mary Forrer, 1863 (Dayton Metro Library, FPW, Box 13, Folder 20)

By 1864, Mary had begun teaching at the Cooper Female Seminary in Dayton.[6] She taught at the school for a few years, and then afterwards, she taught private lessons in drawing and painting in her home for a few more years.[7]

From June 1874 through August 1875, Mary studied in Europe, visiting many of the famous European art galleries and receiving instruction from teachers in several different cities. She studied at least two months in the British Isles, mainly in London. She spent two months in Geneva, Switzerland. She studied for four months in Germany, primarily in Munich. There, she studied with a man who had been artist for the German Emperor, and this experience has been credited as most helpful to her career. She spent another four months in Italy, studying at Naples, Florence, Rome, and Venice. She also visited at least briefly the cities of Paris, Oxford, and Berlin.[8]

After Mary returned from Europe, she returned to teaching at Cooper Academy (as it was then called). She primarily taught drawing, but she also sometimes taught wax-flower making and other art subjects. Her work as a teacher required her to cover many types of art, rather than focusing on her own favorite subjects and mediums. She remained as a teacher at the school until about 1882.[9]

On October 5, 1882, Mary married Jeremiah H. Peirce (1818-1889), the widower of her sister Elizabeth, apparently despite her mother Sarah’s objections. At the time of their marriage, Mary was 44, and Jeremiah was 64; they had no children.[10]

Mary (Forrer) Peirce, undated

Mary (Forrer) Peirce, undated (Dayton Metro Library, FPW, Box 13, Folder 20)

After her marriage, Mary was able to return her attention to painting primarily flowers and landscapes. She no longer worked at Cooper Academy, although she still taught students at her home occasionally. Her new home, her husband’s Five Oaks estate nestled in Peirce’s woods with a pond and trees and flowers all around, provided many beautiful subjects for Mary’s artwork.[11]

Over the course of her life, Mary exhibited her artwork many times and won several awards, including many at the Ohio State Fair in the 1860s and Cincinnati exhibitions in the 1860s and 1870s. She exhibited less after her marriage but continued creating artwork until about a year before her death.[12]

A few of Mary’s watercolor paintings are included in the Forrer-Peirce-Wood Collection.[13]

'Eglon, West Virginia, July 1901' watercolor painting by Mary (Forrer) Peirce

‘Eglon, West Virginia, July 1901’ watercolor painting by Mary (Forrer) Peirce (Dayton Metro Library, FPW, Box 13, Folder 11)

The Dayton Art Institute has also preserved some of her artwork.[14]

Mary, along with her nieces Sarah and Elizabeth Peirce, were among the founding members of the First Unitarian Church of Dayton, founded in 1910 and located at the corner of Salem Avenue and Five Oaks Avenue. During the 1913 Flood, when the church was unable to use its temporary meeting place on West Fourth Street, the Peirce family offered the use of their home at Five Oaks. The family also donated to the church a stained glass window dedicated to the memory of Howard Forrer Peirce.[15]

Mary (Forrer) Peirce, late in life

Mary (Forrer) Peirce, late in life (Dayton Metro Library, FPW, Box 13, Folder 20)

Mary (Forrer) Peirce died September 2, 1929, at her home Five Oaks in Dayton, Ohio; she was 91 years old.[16] She was buried on September 5, 1929, in Woodland Cemetery in Dayton, Ohio, near her parents.[17]

Tombstone of Mary (Forrer) Peirce in Woodland Cemetery, Section 102

Tombstone of Mary (Forrer) Peirce in Woodland Cemetery, Section 102 (Photo by the author, 29 Oct. 2011)

*****

This biographical sketch was originally written by Lisa P. Rickey in April 2012 for the Forrer-Peirce-Wood Collection (MS-018) finding aid at the Dayton Metro Library, 215 E. Third St., Dayton, Ohio, 45402; phone (937) 496-8654.

Additional information about the sketch’s subject can be found in that collection. For more information about the manuscript collection’s contents, please see the original PDF finding aid available in the Local History Room of the Dayton Metro Library, the OhioLINK EAD Repository entry, or the WorldCat record.

Please contact the Dayton Metro Library or this blog’s author for more information about how to access the original finding aid or the manuscript collection.


[1] Forrer Genealogical Data, Forrer-Peirce-Wood Collection (hereafter cited as FPW), 7:12, Dayton Metro Library (Dayton, Ohio); Frank Bruen, Christian Forrer, the Clockmaker, and his Descendants (Rutland, VT: Tuttle, 1939), 136; Woodland Cemetery & Arboretum Interment Database, accessed 20 Dec. 2011, http://www.woodlandcemetery.org. See also FPW, Series I: Samuel Forrer Family.

[2] “Mary Forrer Peirce: An Artist Who is Yet Busy with Brush and Palette Though Near Her 80th Year,” Dayton Daily News, 24 Dec. 1916, in Mary Forrer Peirce: Newspaper Clippings, FPW, 13:18, and also quoted in Frank Bruen, Christian Forrer, the Clockmaker, and his Descendants (Rutland, VT: Tuttle, 1939), 137; “High Interest in Art Affairs Began Long Ago,” Dayton Journal, 13 Feb. 1927, in Mary (Forrer) Peirce: Newspaper Clippings, FPW, 13:18; Mary Sayre Haverstock, Jeannette Mahoney Vance, & Brian L. Meggitt, eds., Artists in Ohio, 1787-1900: A Biographical Dictionary (Kent, OH: Kent State University Press, 2000), 301.

[3] “Mary Forrer Peirce,” Dayton Daily News, 24 Dec. 1916, FPW, 13:18.

[4] Mary Forrer to Sarah Forrer, 28 July 1862, FPW, 11:7; Harvey W. Crew, History of Dayton, Ohio (Dayton, OH: United Brethren Publishing House, 1889), 565; Haverstock, Vance, & Meggitt, Artists in Ohio, 301; Bruen, Christian Forrer, 140; “Cooper Union: History,” Cooper Union web site, accessed 10 Jan. 2012, http://cooper.edu/about/history.

All of the published sources consulted (see above paragraph) state that Mary attended the Cooper Institute in 1860 and returned to Dayton in 1861. However, according to her correspondence (see Mary Forrer to Sarah Forrer, 1860-1861, FPW, 11:6), she was not in New York at that time but wrote to her mother from various cities in Ohio. In the July 28, 1862, letter, Mary writes to her mother about arriving in New York and inquiring about her lessons at “the Institute.”

[5] Mary Forrer to Sarah Forrer, 15 Nov. 1862, FPW, 11:7; Howard Forrer to Elizabeth Peirce, 29 Sept. 1861, FPW, 6:8. Howard sent an advertisement for Cooper Union to his sister to give to their mother and states that he “will visit the Institute and find out what we can about it” while he is in New York.

There is no correspondence between Mary and Sarah for the year 1863, which may indicate that she had already returned to Dayton. The collection does include letters from 1864 (see FPW, 11:8), but they are not written from New York. Furthermore, Mary is listed in the 1864-65 Dayton city directory as a teacher at Cooper Female Seminary in Dayton.

[6] Dayton City Directory, 1864; Crew, History of Dayton, 565.

Note: The Cooper Female Seminary was known by several different names over the years, including: Cooper Female Seminary, Cooper Seminary, Cooper Academy for Young Ladies, Cooper Female Academy, and simply Cooper Academy. All of these terms refer to the same school, which was located on the southwest corner of First and Wilkinson (source: Dayton City Directories).

[7] Crew, History of Dayton, 565.

[8] Mary Forrer to Sarah Forrer, 1874-1875 (several letters), FPW, 11:10-12; “Mary Forrer Peirce,” Dayton Daily News, 24 Dec. 1916, FPW, 13:18; Crew, History of Dayton, 565.

[9] Dayton City Directories, 1877-1879; Crew, History of Dayton, 565-566; “Mary Forrer Peirce,” Dayton Daily News, 24 Dec. 1916, FPW, 13:18; Haverstock, Vance, & Meggitt, Artists in Ohio, 301.

[10] Bruen, Christian Forrer, 136, 138-140; Sarah Forrer to Jeremiah H. Peirce, 2 Sept. 1877, FPW, 4:9; Jeremiah H. Peirce to Sarah Forrer, undated, FPW, 4:9. See also FPW, Series II, Subseries 1: Jeremiah Hunt Peirce.

[11] “Mary Forrer Peirce,” Dayton Daily News, 24 Dec. 1916, FPW, 13:18; Crew, History of Dayton, 566; Haverstock, Vance, & Meggitt, Artists in Ohio, 301-302.

[12] Haverstock, Vance, & Meggitt, Artists in Ohio, 302; Bruen, Christian Forrer, 140; Mary (Forrer) Peirce: Newspaper Clippings, FPW, 13:18.

[13] Mary (Forrer) Peirce: Watercolor Paintings, FPW, 13:11.

[14] Dayton Art Institute Bulletin 35, no. 1 (Sept. 1976): 31.

[15] Finding Aid, First Unitarian Church of Dayton Church Records (MS-230), Wright State University Special Collections & Archives (Dayton, Ohio), accessed 18 Jan. 2012, http://www.libraries.wright.edu/special/collection_guides/guide_files/ms230.pdf; Miami Valley Unitarian Universalist Fellowship church web site, accessed 18 Jan. 2012, http://www.mvuuf.org.

[16] Bruen, Christian Forrer, 136.

[17] Woodland Cemetery & Arboretum Interment Database, accessed 20 Dec. 2011, http://www.woodlandcemetery.org. Mary is buried in Section 102, Lot 1348.