Sunday, April 13, 2008

Idyls of Old South Ward

It's hard to believe that we're half through the month of April. Tristan will be back tonight, at midnight, from his vacation in Indiana. I'm really looking forward to seeing him. We've had very nice weather this weekend - the exception is one small fast storm that blew in - and all the windows are open now. What a gorgeous Sunday.

I bought a new book. Cousin Mark turned me on to The Idyls of Old South Ward by John McDonough. This is a book that I have tried getting inter library loaned to me without success. Well, it's evidently being reprinted and I couldn't be happier. This book was originally printed by The Chester Times, copyright 1932. McDonough wrote his recollections of the people in the Upland and Chester area. There is mention of some relatives in the book so this will be fun reading.

First off, page 291 offers a chapter entitled Crossing the Delaware and the names George Eyre, Pinney Pierce and Tom Berry are under this header. The author gives a colorful description of the homes near Seventh and Barclay streets as well as a description of the Eyre family. George Eyre and his younger sister Helen. Then goes on to describe Jim Pierce and family. In his words:

"Heretofore I have dealt with some of the piquant characters among the many fishermen of the village, and in at least one of these sketches appears the name Jim Pierce. He was one of the most creditable citizens of this city and the first among fishermen to permit himself to be assimilated into the more methodical life and conventions of the village. He was the father of five children of whom I knew Jim, Amos, George and a daughter Mary.

There was nothing but good in the background of these humble people. They were honest, sober, industrious, kind and friendly folks, and as such they were respected, honored and beloved by all who knew them."

Well....we know Jim Pierce had 7 children but this is the recollection of a man from 1932. A full 32 years after Jim Jr took his life. By 1932 we know Annie and Laura were dead. Frank was still alive but no mention of him in this book - not even as one of Jim Pierce Sr.'s sons.

The interesting thing about this chapter is the tone of sympathy. In my humble opinion, it sounds like the author felt the Pierce family were very good people and that if Jim did kill Eyre, it was an accident. Evidently many of the fishermen of the community as well as "South Warders" were supportive of Pierce.

Remember, McDonough is writing from his recollections and that he was a friend of District Attorney Josiah Smith who was prosecuting the case. Maybe I misunderstood his reference to Smith and the statement that followed, but it sounds to me like McDonough believed in Pierce and thought it was an accident. He further brought up a few other cases which I need to look into. He states:

"Accidents of that type frequently happened. The tragic experience of Judge Clayton and Ben Heacock is familiar to all the South Warders.....but Pierce, poor boy, did not have the poise of Judge Clayton. In the panic of the tragedy that followed he must have lost his head."

Ok, so if the author is comparing the situation between our Jim Pierce with an accident Judge Clayton experienced....what did happen with Clayton? Goodness...if Jim and Amos Pierce were innocent, expect that of an accidental death, their names really do need to cleared. What an awful thing to spiral out of control.

More later...

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