Transcript of an Interview with Don Carlos Pierce

Stories from Uncle Don

May 18, 1994 8:25 pm

Dana and I visited Don several times while we were at BYU. He lives about a half an hour south of Provo, in a town called Salem. That's where he and my grandpa, Dale Lerwill Pierce, were born. My father, Gordon Dale Pierce was also born there. Each time we would drive past the Salem Pond which was part of Don's responsibilities.

On this visit we brought Riley to see Uncle Don and we wanted to video Uncle Don telling some of the stories that he knows from his memory. He's holding Riley Charles Pierce (2 weeks old)

Derek: So have you thought of any stories? Or Why don't you just tell us about your father.

Uncle Don: Well, my grandfather, Isaac Riley Pierce Sr. was born in Nauvoo in 1844.

Derek: That was the year Joseph Smith died wasn't it?

Don: He was born about two weeks after that. I don't know whether part of his family or all of his family left Nauvoo on the ice.

Derek: Across the river?

Don: Yes, across the river on the ice. And then, of course they went to Winter Quarters. They lived at, well, Kaneville, I think they called it that, but it was part of Winter Quarters. My Grandmother, Mary Jane McRae, was born while they were at Winter Quarters. She was born at Kainville Iowa in 1848.

Derek: So now Joseph White Pierce was Isaac Riley Pierce Sr.'s father?

Don: Right. Amanda Mary Heath was Isaac's mother. Amanda Mary Heath's line goes back to royalty.

Derek: Right that's one of the connection pieces. Yeah I remember that. I have so much stuff on my computer that I can't follow it half the time.

Don: Well another thing about that, that might be off interest to you and anyone that sees this picture (video). Judy is doing what she calls now end of line work. She's isolated and Identified the end of lines of our ancestores. She's looking at the upgrade that the church has made last year from the church records. (Ancestral file) Adding what has come from that upgrade.

Derek: To bring up the records. That needs to get done because it gets missed.

Don: She estimates that when that get's done there will be 14,000 names.

Derek: On the pierce line, I know that's amazing.

Don: Well that will be the pierce and the Lerwill line. That is my mother's name was Lerwill. Ofcourse it doesn't stay that way for long.

Derek: So after Isaac Riley…

Don let me give him back to you. He's squirming like he's in unfamiliar territory.

Derek: He squirms a little bit. So tell us, after they moved to winter quarters and Mary McRae was born, then what happened?

Don: Well, I think, in 1852 or 3 the Pierce family came to Salt Lake City.

Derek: How did they come?

Don: In a team and wagon.

Derek: By oxen or horse?

Don: I'm not sure whether it was oxen or horse. Some had one of each. So they settled in Salt Lake City at about 9th east. And 4th south.

Derek: They built a house there?

Don: Well, I don't know whether they built the house or whether the house had been built previously. But I do have a picture of the house that my father (Isaac Riley Pierce Jr.) was born in.

Derek: Wow! So he was born in Salt Lake then.

Don: Yes, that family moved from Salt Lake to Salem when he was about 4, I believe so.

Derek: I didn't realize that. Now what did Isaac Riley Pierce Sr. Do?

Don: He was a brick layer, a farmer, a stalk (I think, the video is unclear) man.

Derek: Did he help work on the temple at all?

Don: Not the temple but he helped build the companion building.

Derek: The tabernacle?

Don: No the other one, the one that's in the corner, the assembly building. He helped build Bishop Speare's store, I don't know where that was, and lots of other places in the 10th ward, he speaks of it like this.

He and his family, that would be Joseph White Pierce, his dad,

Derek: How many brothers and sisters did he have?

Don: I think they had 11. Yeah it was only 5 grew to maturity.

Derek: Where was Isaac Riley?

Don: He was about in the middle. There was four sisters and he was the only male that grew to maturity and have a family.

Derek: So then they moved to Salem

Don: In 1888

Derek: Isaac Riley Junior was four years old?

Don: Yeah he would have turned 5 in September, they came in the spring.

Derek: And what did they do once they got here? (Salem is where we did the interview)

Don: They farmed and raised cattle.

Derek: How much land did they have?

Don: Well, let's see, there was 25 acres in this lot. You see, when he (Isaac Riley Pierce Sr.) moved here he had two wives, two families. And he bought another farm out here that was probably 18 acres or something like that. It so happens, well maybe it didn't just happen, but I'm sure it was by purpose, the land he bought was irrigated by the Salem pond, all of it. Records show and I'm the secretary of the pond company and so I kind of searched the records. At the time about 1901, when they formed the pond company. Why he was about the biggest stock holder on the project. I think he had 40, 41 shares or something like that. In this area, why one share fills the area of one acre with water.

Derek: How did Isaac Riley Pierce Jr., your father, how did he meet and marry his wife?

Don: Well, he went on a mission to the southern states in 1903. I think he came home in 1905.

Derek: What comprised the Southern states at the time?

Don: Well he spent a lot of time in Alabama and Mississippi. I suppose the Southern states was probably could be as far as east of the Mississippi and south of the Mason Dixon line.

Derek: Ok yeah, I mean because that's where we're headin', is back to North Carolina. Did he ever tell any good mission stories?

Don: Yeah, that probably was, I was so close to him he couldn't of told one that me not hear. Most of my young life.

Derek: So tell your favorite mission story that he used to tell you.

Don: Well he told one story that he and his companions, and I don't know which state it was in, they taught, tracted in one area and they got so, well it was kind of a rural area, the homes were quite scattered. They didn't have any place to stay so they started lookin' and askin' for a place to stay. They weren't very successful. So they pulled off of the beaten path and knelt down and had prayer. He said, the next house they knocked at, they were invited into to stay for the night.

Derek: The Lord takes care of his missionaries, huh?

Don: Another time, he told about, they were holding a street meeting. I don't know where this was either, except that is was probably one of those two states. This one guy kept a hacklin'. "How many wives you got?" Dad got kind of fed up, he thought he'd better answer him, so he did, well I'll tell you friend, I've got enough wives that I don't have to worry about someone else's wife. He said the fellow shut right up. He might of used different words like I don't have to chase someone else's wife, something like that.

Derek: But he wasn't married was he?

Don: No.

Derek: Did he ever talk about people that he was able to convert?

Don: Well, yes. One family moved to Utah. They settled up in Clarkston Utah, now that's almost to the northern boarder. I remember one time during the depression, they were having a really tough time. I think they came down to visit. Mother and Dad gave them stuff out of the farm, things that could help so they had food.

Derek: So when he came back from his mission, Tell us about basketball.

Don: Well, he played before he went on his mission in 1902 when he played on the basketball team for Brigham Young Academy.

Derek: Did he ever talk about that?

Don: Well yes some, not a lot. I knew that he played on the BYU basketball team, he didn't talk about it a lot. Other people probably talked about it more than he did. I found out while I was young, and while I grew up. If anybody in Salem wanted to play basketball they asked Riley Pierce to show them how.

Derek: Now is that what they called him, was Riley Pierce?

Don: It was either Riley or I.R.

Derek: And they asked him to show him how.

Don: Well, he was almost the coach of the , he probably played a lot with them, he couldn't do anything without getting his feet in it. I've talked to some people who are older. Well maybe I should put it this way, they were alive after father died. They talked about, When Riley was coaching us, we played here or there, They always had stories about they had beaten somebody or how somebody had beaten them. His experience at BYU had really set him up as a basketball authority in Salem.

Dana: Small town hero.

Derek: I would imagine, we've got a copy of that picture. We had to talk to the archive leader at the BYU special reserves library, we had to talk to the head and he's going to get us a copy of that.

Don: So after his mission, when did he meat his wife and get married.

Derek: He got married in 1906 not a full year after he got back from his mission. His wife's name was Flora Jennett Lerwill. She lived in Payson. I don't know how there first meeting was. There was a little story that goes with that, when he went on his mission, he was going with a girl in Salem. It seemed liked they would be married when he got home. But that didn't happen.

Don: Did she dear John him?

Derek: No I think he was still going with her when he started going with my mother. Well before they got married though, the girl died. The parents came to dad, since they were really good friends wondered if it would be well to have her sealed to him. Then my future mother came into play. Dad talked to her about that. She said well, she can't bare you any children. I'm gonna be the one that bears you children I believe I should be the first one. If after you're married to me and they still want to, then I'll stand proxy. But it never happened.

Derek: So where did they get married?

Don: The Salt Lake temple, Dec 12, 1906.

Derek: How many kids did they have?

Don: 6, well, 7 one was still born, or almost, I don't know exactly

Derek: So run down the order

Don: Edith, Don Carlos, Dale Lerwill, Reah, Louise, and Virginia.

Derek: I've heard all those names, I've heard my grandparents talk about all those people.

Don: Well this is regarding my grand mother, Marry McRae Pierce. She had two children when Grandpa Pierce (Isaac Riley Pierce Sr.) wanted to take a second wife, in those days most people who were kind of prominent, were more or less instructed to take a second wife. There was lots of ladies that joined the church, or more joined the church that men could be found for.

Derek: Still the same,

Don: Well not as much so because men can travel now and women can travel now, once a woman was in Utah, she had to take what was there.

Derek: Slim pickins some times

Don: Well he married a Thomas was her last name, I can't remember her first name, I'm forgetting names. There first child was about he same age, within two months, as my father. My grandmother told me that on several occasions, that she thought that my father was a blessing that had been given to her because she accepted poligamy. Because there was thirteen years between her last child and my father. And he came just after they accepted poligamy. The second wife gave birth to 5 children, two in Mexico, down in the colonies. Grandfather went down, we think in 1887 or 1890 and took her and her family. My grandmother stayed here with the farm to run things here. Their two youngest children were born while they were there. One of them was born while he was encarserated in the state prison for unlawful cohabitation.

Derek: Now is that why they went down to the colonies?

Don: Yes, to escape persecution.

Derek: Because the law had come through and…

Don: Yeah it was after that he had been in the penetentury

Derek: Now he came back to Salem I assume.

Don: Yes, one of the children born down there died in Mexico, the other one moved to Idaho about the same time he got married. In aberdine Idaho. But uh, when that last boy that was born down in Mexico became 5 years old, their mother died, and my grandmother accepted the rest of those children as her own and raised both families. I have mentioned that in my history. I'v talked to all of them. They called her aunt Mary. She was the mother they called aunt Mary.

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