I thought it might be fun to blog, on occasion, about one of our ancestors. I have chosen my third great-grandmother, Polly Pierce Clark, as the first of those.
Pauline (Polly) Pierce was born in 1824 in New York. She married Roswell Bailey Clark, born in Pennsylvania in 1815, and they welcomed their first son, Wellington, in Climax, Michigan, on January 5, 1847. Their second son, William, was born in 1848, also in Michigan.
[A side note: Polly's first son is the first "Wellington" I have identified in our family tree. Several sons in following generations have been honored with that name, including my grandfather, Wellington Wesley Clark, my father, Robert Wellington Clark Sr, and my little brother, Robert Wellington Clark Jr. It is possible that Polly's son, Wellington, was named after the Duke of Wellington, who was one of Britain's great military heroes of the 19th century and was credited as the man who finally defeated Napoleon at the Battle of Waterloo.]
Roswell and Polly continued to live in Climax, Michigan. In 1861 the first federal income tax law was enacted, and records indicate that in 1864 they were assessed at the rate of 6% on the killing and sale of three hogs - amounting to a total tax due of 18 cents.
Soon after the death of her husband on February 21, 1885, Polly, along with her son and his family, moved to Nebraska. They were part of the great homesteaders race West to claim land. The Homestead Act, which was in effect for 123 years, allowed even women, African Americans, and immigrants to apply for land out west. Almost half of Nebraska was settled through the Homestead Act.
Polly, her son, Wellington, and his mother-in-law, Maria Darker Wynkoop, each laid claim to 160 acres of adjoining land. Polly's 160-acre plot was identified as the northeast quarter of section 7 in the twenty-first township of the fifty-third range. On the application papers, she sometimes signed her name with an "X", while at other times she actually penned her signature:
Her son, Wellington, built her house, in which she began living in May of 1885. It was a sod house, 16 x 24 feet, with a board-and-sod roof. It had one door and two windows, and was suitable for habitation year-round. She had an eight-foot deep well with good water and owned two horses and one cow.
In her first year on the acreage she planted 10 acres in corn which yielded 75 bushels.
In the second year she planted 10 acres in oats, but all of her crops were killed by drouth.
In the third year she planted 10 acres in corn which yielded 150 bushels.
In the fourth year she planted 10 acres in corn which yielded 200 bushels.
By 1890, when she had completed the requirements of the homestead law, making the property legally hers, she was 66 years old, and she had 20 acres planted in corn and 5 acres in flax.
She lived simply, with the following possessions:
1 wash stand
Sixty percent of those who began the homesteading adventure abandoned their lots before the five-year residency requirement was achieved. But Polly braved the hardships and became a Nebraska landowner.
Polly died on February 4, 1910, at the age of 85, a true pioneer woman.