Happy Birthday Pierce Brownell




Pierce Brownell (1781-~1802)

Pierce Brownell is one of those ancestors who can frustrate his descendants. He lived a short life and left very little evidence. Most of what we know about him comes from a manuscript notebook that has been passed down through one line of his descendants. The notebook was started in about 1868 by Lucretia Brownell Hall, the daughter of John Brownell and Mary Ann French and granddaughter of Pierce Brownell. Much gratitude goes to the current owner of that notebook for sharing the information contained within.¹

So, this post will cover what is believed to be true with a few comments and questions thrown in along the way.

Pierce Brownell was born on 16 Mar 1781 in New York, as the ninth child of Ezra Brownell and Hope Borden. He had fourteen siblings, namely: Ezra, Susan, Richard, William Alansing, George, Gardner, Charlotte, Mary, John, Lucy, Sally, Phoebe, Absolm, and Martha.

Brownell Manuscript, family of Hope Borden and Ezra Brownell.

When he was 16, he married Margaret Spike, daughter of Daniel Spike and Roseanna Fuller, on 28 May 1797 in Schuylerville, Saratoga, New York.

Pierce Brownell and Margaret Spike had the following children:

  1. Ezra Brownell was born on 10 Mar 1798 in Schuylerville, Saratoga, New York.
  2. Lucretia Brownell was born on 21 Dec 1799 in Schuylerville, Saratoga, New York. She married Timothy Johnson about 1818 in Rochester, Monroe, New York. She died on 02 Nov 1857 in Watertown, Jefferson, Wisconsin.
  3. John Brownell was born on 12 Apr 1802 in Schuylerville, Saratoga, New York. He married Mary Ann French on 03 Nov 1831 in Wells, Bradford, Pennsylvania. He died on 14 Feb 1895 in Cedar Rapids, Linn, Iowa. The aforementioned manuscript has an entry that states, “John Brownell, son of Pierce Brownell and Margaret (Speike[Spike]) Brownell, his wife, was born near Saratoga, N.Y., April 12th 1802.”
Brownell Manuscript, children of Margaret Spike and Pierce Brownell.

Pierce Brownell died about 1802 in New York. He was only about 20-years old at the time of his death. His widow, Margaret Spike Brownell, remarried in about 1804 to Alexander Simpson.


It is possible that 16 Mar 1781 is not the correct birth date for Pierce. It would seem to be a great coincidence that he would marry someone with the exact same birthday. Yes, my brother and his wife were born the exact same day (he married an ‘older woman’ because she was born earlier in the day than he), but it would be rare. And, marrying at the age of sixteen seems a little young. Normally men weren’t considered adults until age 21, so their marriage was about five years premature compared to the norm.

The manuscript explains that John Brownell’s “Grandfather’s name was Ezra Brownell, born at Dartmouth in Rhode Island.  He married Hope Borden (or Bordon), daughter of John Borden of the same place, and moved to Coeymans, on North River, South of Albany.” That may be where Pierce Brownell was born.

That previous tidbit of information connects us to an entry in Genealogical record of the descendants of Thomas Brownell, 1619 to 1910 written in 1910 by George Grant Brownell. It lists the children of Ezra Brownell and includes a son named Percy

Genealogical record of the descendants of Thomas Brownell, 1619 to 1910, Ezra Brownell.

Pierce Brownell may have been formally named William Pierce Brownell. A birth record was recorded for his oldest son, and that record lists the father’s name as William Brownell.³

So, we know that Pierce (or Percy or William Pierce) existed and he had children before his death at a very young age. But we don’t know how or exactly when he died. Mysteries abound!


¹ Steele, Edward E., Brownell-French Manuscript Notebook.

² Brownell, George Grant, Genealogical record of the descendants of Thomas Brownell, 1619 to 1910 [ancestry] (Jamestown, N.Y.: unknown, 1910), ancestry.com, p. 124.

³ Ezra Brownell, “New York Births and Christenings, 1640-1962,” database, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:FDY3-6YN : 12 December 2014), Ezra Brownell, 10 Mar 1798; citing , reference ; FHL microfilm 533,504.

Where is he in the tree?

Relationship chart, Lona Iona Fawcett to Pierce Brownell.
Pedigree chart, Pierce Brownell.

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