Grandma Carrie

My first genealogical target back in 1976, was “Grandma Carrie.” No maiden name, no birth place, just “grandma Carrie.” Her Christian name and her claim of Irish descent was all of the information that my father could give to me. It was a start of so much more to come!

Carrie E. Pierce/Pearce was born on 05 January 1859, in Woodbury, Vermont, USA. I visited the village of Woodbury in late June 2009, to learn more about her. Woodbury is a small, rural town not far north of the state capital of Montpelier. Small plots of agricultural land dot the valleys where main roads amble along side of the creeks, small rivers and waterfalls. Tall, rolling mountains flank the valley. The various town names that spring up in this research of her family are scattered down the valley and then turn, up and over the ridge to the west. They are all in close proximity of each other. These little towns or villages, stretch across road and river without an obvious town center.

Cattle were grazing in the fields and tall road signs cautioned me about bear and moose; I assume that the signs are so tall so that they would show above the winter snow-line. I stopped to chat with a family riding long the gravel road in a horse-drawn wagon. They were out for their regular Sunday drive through the hills. It is a gentle, wild country. I don’t know how anyone could make a living in this area if not for the tourists. I think that I may now understand as to why my ancestors moved on further West. Carrie’s parents and grandparents were all born in this same valley.

The Pierce family migrated into this area from southeastern Massachusetts, shortly after the American Revolution.At the age of 13, Carrie’s mother died. Harriet Nelson Pierce died at the young age of 25. Her father, Lorenzo James Pierce remarried soon after and had two more children, Cora and Silas. Lorenzo worked at various jobs in the Woodbury area, including farming carpentry, joinery and later as a store merchant.

Grandma Carrie wed Nelson F. Kelley of Bradford in 1881, just after her twenty-second birthday; it was his second marriage. Nelson worked as a poultry farmer and dealer. A year later, their son Curtis Stevens was born in the nearby town of Barre, famous for its granite quarry. An interesting side note is that in the summer of 1975, me and my parents visited the Rock of Ages quarry as my mother had a keen interest in earth science and especially in rocks and minerals. My father would be so surprised to know that we were in the same area where his Grandma Carrie lived as a girl!

Sometime after the birth of her son Curtis, Carrie and Nelson divorced. He remarried and raised Curtis in East Montpelier but Carrie moved out of the area. I don’t know when or where she left the area or when she arrived in western Michigan.

In the summer of 1891, in the county courthouse of Allegan, Michigan, Carrie wed Francis “Frank” Mellen. Frank was a widower; his first wife, Eva Young, died the previous year at their home in Byron Township of neighboring Kent County. Frank had two young children in his care, Arthur and Irene.

Frank Mellen was born in March of 1850, in the canal-side town of Baldwinsville, New York. He and his family had moved into Hillsdale County, Michigan in 1860 and established a home in the small agricultural town of Reading, just north of the Indiana State border. Frank remained there for ten years. In 1880, he was living with his first wife Eva in Byron Township of Kent County. Their daughter Irene, was born four years later in the State of Kansas. The Mellen family returned to Michigan some time prior to his second marriage to Carrie Pierce Kelley.

Carrie began a new family with Frank at their family home near Burnips, just south of Hudsonville, Michigan. They had two daughters together, Winifred and Vada, my fraternal grandmother.

A few questions continue to challenge me: Where did Carrie go following her divorce from Nelson Kelley and why did she leave her son behind? Where did she meet Frank Mellen?