In the 19th century four residents of Schaghticoke served in the U.S. House of Representatives: Josiah Masters, from 1805-1809, Herman Knickerbacker, from 1809-1811, Job Pierson, from 1831-1835, and Thomas Ripley, from 1846-1847. The biographies I wrote of Masters and Knickerbacker have already appeared in these pages and are now on the website of the town, www.townofschaghticoke.org, as well as at my blog, www.schaghticokehistory.wordpress.com. I will write about Ripley in the future. Now, Job Pierson is on center stage.
Pierson was born in either Bridgehampton or East Hampton, in SuffolkCounty on Long Island, in 1791. One of his ancestors, Henry, was one of the original settlers of Southhampton. He was undoubtedly named for his great-grandfather named Job, who was born in 1697 and had just died in 1788. The family was well-off, and Job received a fine education. According to an article by a descendant in “NY Genealogy”, Pierson returned frequently to the home farm on Long Island. According to his obituary, he was “fitted for college” …by Dr. Lyman Beecher, father of Henry Ward Beecher, who was a preacher in Bridgehampton. He entered WilliamsCollege in Massachusetts as a sophomore, graduating in 1811. He studied law briefly with attorney William Williams in Salem, Washington County, and then with Herman Knickerbacker in Albany and Schaghticoke. He became Knickerbacker’s partner and began to practice law in 1815.
Also in 1815 he married Clarissa Taintor Bulkeley of Williamstown. She was a descendant of the founders of Concord, Massachusetts. Evidently they settled near Pierson’s patron Knickerbocker, as the little family is in the 1820 census of Schaghticoke. A newspaper article from 1833 describes Herman Knickerbocker and his home and factory on the Tomhannock Creek in some detail, but also states, “On the opposite side of the creek, surrounded by lofty pines, locust, and other ornamental trees, stands the residence of the Hon. Job Pierson, member of congress for the county of Rensselaer.”
Job followed his mentor in community and political involvement. When the Presbyterian Church sold pews to raise money to build its meeting house in 1820, Herman bought two pews and Job one, for $31. Neither man had any children baptized there- so perhaps their support was more symbolic than anything else. Pierson also joined Bethel Mather and William B. Slocum to donate land for the church when the building was moved into the village of Schaghticoke in 1827.
Interestingly, Pierson and his senior partner Knickerbacker were political opponents for the first fifteen years of their long friendship. Knickerbacker was a Federalist, and Pierson a Democratic Republican. The Federalist Party of Knickerbacker lost influence with the election of James Madison after the War of 1812, and Knickerbocker eventually joined Pierson as a Democratic Republicans, and supporter of Andrew Jackson. Meanwhile, Pierson, the longtime Jeffersonian Democrat, was appointed District Attorney of Rensselaer County in 1824 and served until his election to Congress as a Jacksonian in 1831. His obituary states, “the county never had an abler or more efficient public prosecutor. He always had his cases prepared, he never allowed himself to be ‘taken by surprise’, and the prisoner against whom he appeared had to be ‘doubly bound’ in honesty to escape conviction.”
In 1830 Pierson was elected to the US Congress by a large majority, and re-elected by an even larger majority in 1832. While in Congress, his obituary notes, Pierson “seldom spoke, but when he did speak it was with effect….General Jackson had not a more thorough supporter of his administration.”
In September of 1831, an article in the “Troy Sentinel” was “a call to prevent repeal of tariffs to protect farmers, mechanics, and manufacturers of RensselaerCounty”. It announced a meeting to be held at the court house in Troy to appoint delegates to a convention in New York City, and was signed by many men in the county, including Herman Knickerbacker, Bethel Mather, Abraham Knickerbacker, and Job Pierson, all of Schaghticoke.
While he was in Washington, D.C. from 1831-1835, Job Pierson wrote eloquent letters home to his wife in Schaghticoke. Fortunately for scholars, some 350 of these letters were collected in two volumes and are now in the Library of Congress. Others of his papers are in the Bentley Historical Library of the University of Michigan. According to the comments of the librarians at the Library of Congress, Pierson, “with no political experience on the national level, and little on the local, knew he had much to learn. He was not lacking in confidence, however…One of his early observations was that a ‘great proportion’ of his fellow congressmen did nothing, and would ‘do nothing during the whole session’.”
Pierson came into contact with President Andrew Jackson many times while he served in Congress, “mostly while escorting visiting constituents who wished to meet the President.” He was happy to find that Jackson was not the backwoods hick he had been led to expect, but well-spoken and distinguished, with “the finest eye” he had ever seen. Pierson also went to dinner at the White House on several occasions, and wrote letters to his wife describing the occasions. One dinner was a “he-party” for thirty members of congress. The “old fellow”, Jackson, “was in good humor,” and the wine “flowed like torrents.” Even tee-totallers felt compelled to imbibe, and everyone became “as giddy as schoolboys.”
Pierson wrote to his wife about all of the political issues of the day, but also frequently asked about his children. He worried about them as they were away at school- the commentary from the Library doesn’t specify which ones- , and also about the constant fear of severe illness, financial problems, and the difficulties created for his wife by his absence. He wrote, “women should always be sunshine & flowers. Tears may flow at times-but only for the purpose of bedewing their garlands or moistening them like genial showers. They should not know the price of wheat or the difference in the quality of wood-all such matters should be provided and regulated by the other sex & I regret exceedingly that I am not at home to relieve you of all these burthens and quiet your wounded feelings.”
The Piersons had five children, all born at Schaghticoke: Sarah Jerusha (1816-1866), who married Philip Titus Heartt in 1839; Samuel Dayton (1819-1850), Job (1824-1896), who married Rachel Smith, Mary Bulkeley (1825-1851), who married Oscar Winship; and John Bulkeley (1828-1885), who married first Mary Lockwood, then Harriet VanSchoonhoven after Mary died.
Just to give a bit more information on the children, in the 1860 census, Sarah and her husband lived in Richmond, NY. He was an importer, and the couple obviously lived abroad for some years. They had eight children, one of whom had been born in Scotland, and one in Germany. The family included a governess, a cook and a servant. Samuel graduated from Williams in 1840, became a lawyer, and died in 1850. Job graduated from Williams in 1842, and became a prominent Presbyterian clergyman in Michigan. In retirement, he contributed thousands of entries to the New Oxford English Dictionary. John lived in Troy, and in the 1880 census, his occupation was listed as bank president. Mary’s husband Oscar Winship was a West Point graduate, who served in the Mexican War, then afterwards in the Southwest, controlling Native Americans. He died young.
Returning to Job and his letters home from Washington, D.C., a frequent topic was the sometimes chaotic congressional boarding houses where he lived. He reported that an unnamed senator had seduced a “handsome chamber-maid” and the other boarders, angry that he had monopolized her company, imported “some 4 or 5 girls from a house of ill-fame…who came there every night.” Pierson visited all around the city, and occasionally attended the theatre, walking out on a performance of “Macbeth” that he was not enjoying.
Pierson served two terms in Congress, but was not reelected for a third term in 1834. Andrew Jackson’s removal of government deposits from the Bank of the United States had created bad economic conditions in Schaghticoke, but Pierson remained firm in his support of his President. The “Albany Evening Journal” of November 3, 1834 reported that RensselaerCounty elected its entire Whig ticket. Judge Hunt had only a 33 vote majority over Job Pierson. Pierson served the last few months of his term, until March 4, 1835, as a lame duck. He wrote to his wife, “I shall shake the dust from my feet against the prison door of this City (Washington, D.C.) & and quite it I hope forever.” Pierson was concurrently running for Supervisor of the town of Schaghticoke, and the “Journal” of April 8, 1835, reported that Amos Briggs, industrialist, was elected supervisor over Job Pierson, “the Regency candidate.” The latter implies, I guess, that Pierson was the protégé of the old guard, like Herman Knickerbacker, though that wasn’t true. Briggs was a recent immigrant from Rhode Island.
However, Job was not unemployed when his term in Congress ended on March 4, 1835. According to the “Schenectady Cabinet” of March 25, 1835, Governor Marcy nominated him for Surrogate Judge in RensselaerCounty. “Mr. P. seems to be the special favorite of his party in Rensselaer. He has held the office of District Attorney for nine years, was twice elected to Congress, and has now been nominated by the Governor and will doubtless be confirmed by the Senate (as Surrogate.)” He served until 1840, after which time he went into practice as an attorney in Troy. I have found his name connected with his mentor, Herman Knickerbacker, in several land deals, and he helped to settle his estate when Herman died intestate in 1855. I believe that the Piersons moved to Troy when Job returned from his time in Washington, DC. They lived on WashingtonPark, the private park in the city of Troy.
Though he didn’t return to elective office, Job continued to be involved in politics and government. He was appointed in 1846 by the New York State Legislature to be one of the commissioners locating the route of the New York and Erie Railroad. He was a delegate to various State political conventions, and to the Democratic National Conventions of 1848, 1852, and 1856. The “Buffalo Daily Courier” of September 3, 1850 reported that “That sturdy old democrat and large hearted gentleman, Job Pierson, will represent the city of Troy at the State Convention.” His obituary adds, “He was an unswerving Democrat. He possessed a national reputation and influence. He was a prominent member of the conventions that nominated Cass, Pierce, and Buchanan for the presidency.”
Job was a respected and influential man in the county. Isaac T. Grant, who had a prosperous factory making agricultural machinery on the DeepKill in the 1840’s, served at a couple of State Political conventions with Pierson. He named his son, born 1836, after Job. Job Pierson Grant also became a manufacturer. Grant’s brother John and his partner Daniel Viall also had sons named Job. Grant placed an ad advertising his new “Patent Fan Mill”, made at Junction (Melrose) in the 1845 “The Cultivator”, a New York State Agricultural Magazine. The ad included endorsements by area farmers, then by Job Pierson, who honestly stated, “I know little of the utility of the fan-mill above described….but I am personally acquainted with almost every one of the above subscribers, and have no hesitation in saying that the most implicit confidence may be reposed in all they certify.” A further endorsement is by W.L. Marcy, NYS Governor, who certifies that he knows Pierson is a “highly respectable man (formerly member of Congress)”.
Pierson died in Troy on April 9, 1860 and is buried in OakwoodCemetery. Unlike his mentor Knickerbacker, Pierson left a will, which left his property to his widow and four surviving children, Job, John B., Sarah J. Heartt of Staten Island, and Mary B. Winship, of Troy. Mrs. Pierson died in 1865. The beautiful plot at Oakwood includes all of his children and their spouses.
I have quoted several times from his extensive obituary in the Troy “Times”. It further states, “As a Lawyer he had few superiors, as a man his integrity was manifest in all his acts, as a citizen he was universally esteemed……He despised trickery, and he loathed hypocrisy. He was frank and truthful…He made the cause of his client his own. He addressed the common sense of juries; simplifying the most abstruse points…He enjoyed a large and lucrative practice. He loved home and its endearing associations. He enjoyed the society of his friends. He was devotedly loved in return. We shall all miss the true old man, the eminent lawyer, the excellent citizen.”
“Spirit of the Times”, Batavia, NY Oct 26, 1852
“Corrector”, Sag Harbor, NY Nov 4, 1840
“Observer”, Madison, NY Dec 11, 1852
“Evening Journal”, Albany, NY 1850, Dec 5, 1834, Nov 3, 1834, Apr 8, 1835, Mar 22, 1834, Nov 12, 1831
“Evening Star and Times”, Schenectady, NY April 15, 1869
“Daily Observer”, Utica, NY May 9, 1848
“Free Press”, Auburn, Sept 29, 1830
“Democrat”, Penn Yann, Nov 2, 1852
“Republican Watchman”, Monticello Mar 2, 1847, 1844
“Daily Courier”, Buffalo, Sept 3, 1850
“Cabinet”, Schenectady, Mar 25, 1835, Sept 1859
“Morning Herald”, Utica, Apr 9, 1860
“Evening Post”, NY Dec 4, 1832, Aug 17, 1853
“Times” Troy, Apr 10, 1860
Manuscript Division, Library of Congress, Pierson Collection: MSS61531
Pierson Family Papers, Bentley History Library, U of Michigan
Pierson, Lizzie Benedict, Pierson Genealogy, digitized by Google, Albany, 1878
Census: US 1820
Biographical Directory of the American Congress, US Govnt 1971
“The Cultivator”, 1845 p 295