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Everyday Lives

The Pierce House in the 1880s. Although by this time the Pierce family had subdivided the land, the farm appears much as it did earlier in the century.

The Pierce House, in Dorchester, Massachusetts, tells important stories about New England history. The family lived in the house for almost three hundred years and, like most Americans, worked hard to provide for themselves and their children. They lived interdependently with their relatives and neighbors and actively participated in their church and their community. They took part in both local and national events; during the American Revolution, for example, Colonel Samuel Pierce (1736-1815), participated in the fortification of Dorchester Heights.

The Pierces arrived in Dorchester, one of the largest towns in Massachusetts, soon after its settlement in 1630. The town's generous land grants made it possible for many residents, including the Pierces, to be farmers well into the nineteenth century. For 150 years the Pierces grew a variety of crops, raised animals, and bartered for goods and services with their relatives and neighbors. Over time, however, after generations of divisions, farms became smaller, and the Pierces, like most New Englanders, began to look for new ways of making a living. Most of the Pierces became brick masons, who helped to construct the developing Boston metropolitan area. By the time the city annexed Dorchester in 1869, Lewis Pierce (1786-1874) and his sons saw their land as capital rather than farm land, and they subdivided their farm into suburban house lots. Still, the Pierces remained in the house until 1968, when it was acquired by SPNEA.

The Pierce story personalizes and gives life to the important themes-continuity and change-that are the essence of American history. At once unique and typical, the Pierce family history is currently providing inspiration for innovative programs for school children and for other programs designed to engage new SPNEA audiences interested in the everyday lives of ordinary people.

-Susan L. Porter
Research Manager

Everyday Lives