308 Gibbs-Pierce

The empty lot where the home of Thomas and Rebbeca (Pierce) Gibbs lived at 308 South Adams is now an empty lot.

The empty lot where the home of Thomas and Rebecca (Pierce) Gibbs lived at 308 South Adams is now (2013) an empty lot.

Living at 308 South Adams was a young couple. Thomas Gibbs was born in Michigan in 1871. He married Rebecca Pierce in 1897. They lived immediately next door to Rebecca’s sister, Phebe (Pierce) Lowe. Thomas died around 1907, the couple never having children. After her husband’s death, Rebecca moved to Lansing, Michigan where she roomed with fellow domestic worker, Bell Taylor. She died some time after 1927.

Rebecca was born in 1871 in Ypsilanti to Allen Pierce, a stone mason originally from Ohio, and Hannah Augustus, originally from Delaware. In 1900, Allen and Hannah were living at 7 North Normal Street in Ypsilanti. Rebecca’s parents moved to the area around Buxton, Ontario sometime after the 1850 Fugitive Slave Act. Leaving Canada, they came to Ypsilanti, where they are buried.

Hannah’s family came from West Chester, Pennsylvania. West Chester, twenty lies west of Philadelphia and about the same north of Maryland a slave state. At that time, West Chester had a large population of fugitive and free blacks, including Mary Ann Shadd, future editor of the Provincial Freeman in Canada.

Allen Pierce owned the lot that his two daughters, Phebe and Rebecca, would live on when they married. The Pierce family were residents of Adams Street since at least 1880. Hannah died in 1885, Allen died in 1902.

For more on West Chester, Pennsylvania and Mary Ann Shadd, see Jane Rhodes’ Mary Ann Shadd Cary: the Black Press and Protest in the Nineteenth Century, published by Indiana University Press, 1998.

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