Here, gathered in our beloved South Dakota, are a few members of our Williamson / Mattson Clan. Charles and Luella are to be blamed (be kind, they didn't know what they were doing). We're generally a happy bunch and somewhat intelligent (notwithstanding our tenuous grasp on reality). I'm also proud to say that most of us still have our teeth.

Friday, November 26, 2010

Three Pierce Divorces within Three Generations

From the Fortress of Solitude
Pleasant Grove

Hello All,
Our Pierce ancestors have been a topic of interest in several recent Blog posts. Tonight I'd like to pose a questions and hope someone in the Pierce family may have an answer. Why was this family line so dysfunctional toward the later half of the 19th and early part of the 20th Century?

Let me illustrate my point. I will begin with my Great Great Great Grandparents.

You'll see from the information provided we have the first recorded divorce along our Pierce line.
Andrew Jackson and Isabella Segrems Pierce's oldest child was Edwin Sherman Pierce. Edwin Sherman Pierce married Dora Fiddler (see below).

The Wedding Announcement in the Bloomington South Dakota Newspaper. 1884

Once again, we have a divorce involving the eldest male Pierce child. Edwin Sherman and Isadora Fiddler Pierce's oldest child was our Great Grandfather Walter Edwin Pierce. Walter married our Great Grandmother Vesta (see below).

And once again you have the eldest Pierce son, three generations in a row, divorcing his first wife.

I'm curious as to the causes of the divorces. I do know that one of the causes for my Great Grandparent's divorce was alcoholism, which may have been a common theme running back through the family line.

This is what I know about divorce at the turn of the last century. Divorces in the United States were much harder to obtain. Back then the parties in a divorce had to prove sufficient cause like abuse, adultery and abandonment, the divorce rate in America was estimated to be less than 5% of all marriages.

When I think of the three generations of children produced in these three broken homes, I wonder about the emotional and physical effect the divorces had on them.
I did a little research and would like to include these statistics on the children of divorced homes:

  • Teenagers in single-parent families and in blended families are three times more likely to need psychological help within a given year.
  • Compared to children from homes disrupted by death, children from divorced homes have more psychological problems.
  • Children of divorce are at a greater risk to experience injury, asthma, headaches and speech defects than children whose parents have remained married.
  • Following divorce, children are fifty percent more likely to develop health problems than two parent families.
  • Children living with both biological parents are 20 to 35 percent more physically healthy than children from broken homes.
  • A study of children six years after a parental marriage breakup revealed that even after all that time, these children tended to be “lonely, unhappy, anxious and insecure.
  • Children of divorce are four times more likely to report problems with peers and friends than children whose parents have kept their marriages intact.
  • Children of divorce, particularly boys, tend to be more aggressive toward others than those children whose parents did not divorce
  • People who come from broken homes are almost twice as likely to attempt suicide than those who do not come from broken homes
  • Children of divorced parents are roughly two times more likely to drop out of high school than their peers who benefit from living with parents who did not divorce.
I have taught and administered in the same title I public school for 28 years. I had some classes where up to 25% of the students were from divorced homes. I saw the impact it had on their lives. My experiences with the children of divorced homes makes me wonder how our great grandparents, aunts and uncles were affected coming from three generations of divorced homes.
The stigma back then must have been very embarrassing, in addition to the loss of stability and income - leading to poverty.

One can only speculate, but it does help me understand my own Great Grandfather Walter Edwin Pierce a little bit better. He was the eldest son of his own parent's divorce and knew of the divorce of his own grandparents.

It is a sad chapter in our Pierce family history.


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