Dr. Eugenio Sierra, 1760-1849

The Sierra family in the United States begins with Dr. Eugenio Antonio Sierra. He began his life in a very small town called Valero in the Spanish province of Salamanca. Valero is southwest of the city of Salamanca and very close to Portugal. He was born there on 15 November 1760 and a week later was baptized at the Parish Church, Nuestra Senora de la Ascension.1

His baptismal record is a genealogical gold mine as it gives not only his parents' names, but both sets of grandparents as well. His parents were Manuel Sierra and Teresa Pazos. His paternal grandparents (abuelos paternos) were Francisco Melchor de Sierra, born in Madrid, and Antonia de la Rua y Perez, born in Salamanca. His maternal grandparents (abuelos maternos) were Francisco Pazos y Figueroa and Anan Sanchez, both born in Ciudad Rodrigo, Salamanca. Also, according to the parish record book, Eugenio had an older sister, Gertrude de Sierra, and two younger sisters, Isabel and Francesa Martina.2

Eugenio received his medical training in Cadiz, on the southwestern coast of Spain not far from Gibraltar.3 In 1785 he arrived in the Spanish territory of Louisiana (New Spain).4 and went to work as a practicioner of instruments (a surgeon) at the military hospital in Pensacola.5

Dr. Sierra worked at the military hospital in Pensacola under Dr. Juan Ruby, the Surgeon-major. The two of them did not get along and in 1790 Dr. Sierra was sent to San Marcos (Ft. Marks, now St. Marks), on the Gulf coast, south of what is now Tallahassee, and an important Spanish fort in North central Florida. Sierra spent four years at this military outpost, finally returning to Pensacola when a position became vacant at the hospital there.

At some point Dr. Sierra married Maria Josefa Calder and they had a daughter, Maria Gertrudis, named no doubt after his sister. In 1797 Maria Josefa became very ill. Dr. Ruby was called in to treat her and he moved her to a place more convenient to him. Dr. Sierra was insulted and attacked Dr. Ruby with a stick, yelling curses. Dr. Sierra was sent back to Ft. Marks. Eugenio and Maria Josefa separated and she died not long after.6

Shortly after this Eugenio married Francesca Dauphin, the Pensacola born daughter of Francisco Dauphin and his wife Ysabel Pichol.7 Francesca, born about 1777, was the youngest of four children.8 There is no record of their marriage but they were likely married in Pensacola. Eulalie, their first child, was born about 1798, and Isabella Eugenia, named for Eugenio's younger sister, Isabel, was born 6 Mar 1799 in St. Marks - this according to the inscription on her tombstone.

By 1805, when the family returned to Pensacola, two more children had been born: Irene Marie, born about 1802 and Joseph, born about 1804. In 1813 John was born and about 1816 their last child, Stephen, was born.9

While working in St. Marks, Dr. Sierra was also busy buying property in Pensacola. When they returned, in 1805, the family moved into one or more of these properties on Zarragossa Street.10 In 1813, Dr. Sierra purchased a large house that was for sale by the Spanish government. It was on Intendencia Street, Lot 169, and had formerly been the Intendant's quarters. This house became the family home. It was here he set up his medical practice and where he installed a guillotine, from France, which he used for amputations - much cleaner and safer than using a saw.

Gertrudis, Dr. Sierra's eldest child, married Alex Lesassier. She took her father to court, a case concerning her mother's estate and dowry rights. This so angered her father that he disowned her. Gertrudis then left with her husband for Havana, Cuba, where her husband died.11

Irene married Pitcairn Morrison, a U.S. Army officer, in 1823. Isabella married Dr. John Brosnaham, another Pensacola doctor, in 1828. Joseph married Joaquina de la Rua in 1829. The month before Joseph married, Eulalie married Joseph Cadolf. She married against her father's wishes; but before her marriage, she had "gravely offended" her father because she had "censured" him when he spoke to her of her "infamous behavior" prior to her marriage. In his will he noted that she was "unworthy of being my daughter."12

John, the son born in 1813, may have died young as there is no further records for him, just his name - Juan - in the 1820 census when he was seven years old. Stephen, the youngest child, died in 1853 and was buried in St. Michael?s Cemetery. He was unmarried.

Francesca died in 1833 when she was only fifty-six. Dr. Sierra lived until 1849. He had written his will in 1847, appointing Dr. John Brosnaham and his son Joseph as executors. He left his estate to four of his children, Irina Morrison, Isabella Brosnaham, Joseph and Estevan (Stephen). Gertrudis and Eulalie were disinherited and given two reals each, a Spanish legal requirement.

Dr. Eugenio Sierra and his wife, Francesca, are buried in St. Michael's Cemetery in Pensacola in the Brosnaham/Sierra Lot.

Related links:
Descent report for Eugenio A. Sierra with sources and index
Baptismal certificate: Eugenio Antonio Sierra
Sierra family home on Intendencia Street
Will: Eugenio A. Sierra
The Dauphin family
Gravestones: Eugenio A. Sierra and Francesca Dauphin
Dr. John Brosnaham / Brosnahan, husband of Isabella Eugenia Sierra
Family tree showing ancestry of Francis Celestino Brent and Mary Ella Shuttleworth and related families

  1. Record of baptism: Eugenio Antonio Sierra, 1760, "Certificado de Partida de Bautismo for Eugenio Antonio Sierra." Parish Church: Nuestra Senora de La Asuncion, city of Valero, Diocesis of Salamanca, Province of Salamanca, Spain. Book 3, Folio 47 Vlto., no. 14. Copy of certificate and translation provided by descendant Viola Upchurch in 2014.

  2. At the beginning of his will, Dr. Eugenio Sierra noted the place of his birth as "Varelo [sic], Bishopric of La Mancha and Province of Old Castile (Castilla la Vieja) and that he is the legitimate son of Don Manuel Sierra and of Dona Teresa Perez." Will of Eugenio Antonio Sierra, 9 July 1847, Pensacola, Escambia County. Original will was in Will Book 2 p.104. FHL MF 941009, Will Books 1832-1870, p.148-150. Eugenio got his mother's surname wrong as well - but he left home as a young man and he wrote his will in his 80s, so we can give him some slack. The transcription of the record of baptism, which is what most of us have had a copy of for many years, noted that his parents were native of - "natural de" - but the actual record says "vecinos de" which could mean "inhabitants of" or "neighbors of" and not "natives of." This was discovered by a descendant who visited the town of Valero, met the parish priest and was able to look at the parish record book. So they were not born in Valero and we don't know why they were living there. His sisters were Gertrude de Sierra, born 7 Nov 1758, baptized 19 Dec 1758 (baptism "de socorro" - emergency; Isabel Sierra, born 18 Aug 1762; and Francesa Martina de Sierra, 8 Nov 1763 (whether baptism or birth not noted). Eugenio and his sister Isabel were confirmed on 20 October 1765. There was also an entry of birth for Manuel Pablo Sierra, born out of wedlock, 25 Jan 1763, to Manuel Sierra and Catalina Canete - unmarried. Whether this Manuel Sierra was Eugenio's father, Manuel Sierra, is not known.

  3. In her book "Sierra," by Leora M. Sutton, she says that Dr. Sierra went to the University of Cadiz. This university was founded in 1979. The Faculty of Medicine, however, traces its founding to the Royal Naval College of Surgery in 1748 - the first in Europe to combine medicine and surgery in a single school. If Eugenio did go to Cadiz to study medicine, it was probably to this first institution.

  4. According to various sources, tradition says that Dr. Sierra came with Bernardo de Galvez when his forces captured Pensacola in 1781. Other sources says that he arrived in Pensacola in 1785. No proof yet that Dr. Sierra came with Galvez, but he was in Pensacola in 1785.

    Much of my information on Dr. Sierra comes from the following sources:

    Sutton, Leora M. Sierra, undated and privately printed manuscript.

    Coker, William S. and G. Douglas Inglis. Spanish Censuses of Pensacola, 1784-1820: a Genealogical Guide to Spanish Pensacola. Pensacola: Perdido Bay Press, 1980.

    Holmes, Jack D.L. Pensacola Settlers, 1781-1821. Pensacola, Florida, Pensacola Historical Restoration and Preservation Commission, 1970.

  5. During the American War for Independence, the Spanish supported and aided the American colonies with Spain hoping to recover territory lost to the British - Florida mostly. In 1779 Spain declared war on Great Britain, pushed them out of the Mississippi Valley, defeating them in Baton Rouge and Natchez, and taking Mobile. In 1781 Galvez and his forces captured Pensacola. In 1783, by the Peace of Paris Treaty, Spain regained East and West Florida from the British. So by 1785, when Dr. Sierra arrived in Pensacola, there were still many military forces.

    Gianelloni, Elizabeth Becker, Notarial Acts of Estevan De Quinones, 1785-1786, c.1966. Lousiana Ancestry Series, Book 2, pp.61-65 (from Notarial Book IV, 493. Dn Eujenio de Sierra, chief medical practitioner of the Royal Hospital of Pensacola, age 22, was named as one of those who gave statements in June 1786 during the criminal proceedings against Salvador Sanchez, age 20, soldier attached to the Eighth Co. of the Second Battalion, Infantry Regiment of Louisiana, accused of having killed another in his company. Eugenio signed his name Eujenio Sierra.

  6. In his will, Dr. Sierra states that he was first married to Maria Josefa Caldez [Calder] and that they had had one child, Gertrudis, who married Alex Lessassier, who died in Havana. Maria Josefa was born in Paisley, Renfrew, Scotland, in 1759, the daughter of William Calder and Agnes Rodger, and one of many children. (A transcription of Maria Josefa's will, 7 August 1797, gives her parents' names as Peter William Calder and Ines Dodra (?) - her mother's name perhaps, difficult to make out). The family came to America at some point in the late 1700s. Maria Josefa married Leon Castejon, a native of Spain, on 18 January 1784 in Donaldsonville, Louisianna, a town on the Mississippi River about halfway between New Orleans and Baton Rouge. Leon died sometime after this. How and when Maria Josefa and Eugenio met is a mystery, but at some point, Maria Josefa and Eugenio married and had one daughter, Gertrudis, about 1792. The split between Maria Josefa and Eugenio must have been very bitter, for in her will she wishes her daughter to be cared for by Benito Caro of New Orleans, and, in his absence or death, her sister the Most Reverand Mother Saint Angela Calder, a religious of the monastery of New Orleans. Benito Caro stated, several weeks later, that he could not fulfill the wishes of Maria Josefa, so we don't know whether Gertrudis was then under the care of her aunt or her father.

  7. Francisco Dauphin, Francesca's father, had been in Pensacola for some time. In the 1784 census of Pensacola, Francesca is eight years old and her brother Francisco was ten. They were both born in Pensacola, so the family had been there since at least 1774. Francisco was born in France, according to the 1820 census and was ninety-one at that time. According to researcher and descendant Cynthia Brosnahan Richardson, Ysabel Pichol (or Nichol) was born in the Canary Islands about 1724. Ysabel was about ten years older than her husband Francisco. She had been married before to someone whose surname was Lafon or La Fonda or La Forte. She had two daughters by Lafon: Maria, born 1758 in Louisiana, who married Thomas Commyns, and Antonia, born 1768 in Louisiana, who married someone named Hernandez. This was only partly true as Ysabel Pichol had married three times and also went by Elisabeta Pigeol and Elizabeth Pugeau.

  8. In the 1784 census, Francesca has one sister, Maria, 15, and one brother, Francisco, 10. In the 1820 census, Francesca's father, Francisco, 91 and a widower, is living at the Sierra home. Also living there is Santiago Dauphin, 50, another brother who was not in the 1784 census. According to Leora M. Sutton, they had two half-sisters: Maria LaFond Commyns and Antonia LaFond Hernandez.

  9. In the 1820 census there is a 7-year-old son, Juan, in the family. Nothing more is known about him and he is not in his father's will.

  10. Now known as Zaragoza Street.

  11. Not a lot is known about Gertrudis. She did marry Alex and they left for Havana after she had taken her father to court. She was disinherited, but her father left her portrait to his son Joseph. Joseph, in turn, kept in touch with Gertrudis and in later years deeded her the cottage on Lot 22 on Zaragossa Street. Where and when she died is unknown.

  12. In his will, Eugenio expresses his anger over Eulalia's behavior towards him and the fact that she married against his wishes. He left Eulalia and Gertrudis two reals each, a minimum which Spanish law apparently required.

Copy of a portrait of Eugenio Antonio by an unnamed artist. The portrait was left by Dr. Sierra, in his will, to his daughter Isabella. Photo courtesy of Viola Upchurch, a descendant.

Photo of the Sierra home on Intendencia Street, courtesy of Viola Upchurch.

Anne Healy's Genealogy, Created October 2002
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5 Aug 2014
Updated 17 April 2021