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.

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

  1. Pingback: Bio Sketch: Joseph Peirce (1786-1821), pioneer, merchant, & banker in Dayton, Ohio | Glancing Backwards

  2. Pingback: Bio Sketch: Elizabeth H. (Forrer) Peirce (1827-1874), wife of J. H. Peirce | Glancing Backwards

  3. Pingback: Bio Sketch: Jeremiah H. Peirce (1818-1889), Dayton lumber dealer and founder of Five Oaks | Glancing Backwards

  4. Pingback: Bio Sketch: Elizabeth Forrer Peirce (1857-1930), nurse in Dayton, Ohio | Glancing Backwards

  5. Pingback: Bio Sketch: Howard Forrer Peirce (1865-1899), prominent musician in Dayton, Ohio | Glancing Backwards

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