Doctor Eungenio Antonio Sierra
When European powers attempted to colonize the New World, they first sent explorers and soldiers to establish a foothold on the new frontier. Later they sent traders, trappers, and priests to deal with the local inhabitants. As time moved on, settlers with their families arrived to build up a new colony and establish roots in this new land. All cities and towns required individuals with special skills to fit in and make the city or town prosper. So in 1785, Eugenio Antonio Sierra arrived to work in the Spanish Royal Hospital.1
There are two different documented dates on Sierra's birth. One source shows he was born in 17502 and another in 1760.3 His date of birth is given as 3 February and he was born in the Nation of Valero, Bishopric of La Mancha, Province of Old Castille, (Castilla la Viega), Spain.4 His parents were Emanuel Sierra and Theresa Parez. While he was in Spain, he was enrolled at the University of Cadiz. He was credited with writing a book on Medical Techniques and Prescriptions.5 He is said to have come to Pensacola when Bernardo de Galvez led his forces from New Orleans during the American Revolution.6 Sierra was a captain and surgeon with the Spanish fleet when they captured Pensacola. He was assigned duty at the military hospital from 1785 – 1790 as a practitioner of instruments (surgeon).7
Unfortunately for Sierra, he clashed with the surgeon-major (Doctor Juan Ruby), and Sierra had to leave and work at Fort San Marcos in St. Augustine from 1790 – 1794. Sierra moved back to Pensacola when the position of head practitioner at the hospital opened up. He was to be paid $800.00 a year. Dr. Ruby objected to this promotion but Sierra held the job until 1 January 1799, when he again was sent to Fort San Marcos. The reason for his dismissal comes from a story that Sierra struck Ruby in a fit of anger after Ruby was providing medical care for Sierra’s wife who was ill. Sierra and his wife (Maria Josefa Calder) separated and she died shortly after the separation.8 From this marriage they had one child, Gertrudis Sierra.
Sierra met and married Francisca Dauphin around 1797 and they had five children. For a wedding dowry they received the deed for lot 45, which cost around $150.00. Dr. Sierra, in 1811, petitioned as “professor of surgery” to have a house and lot on the corner of Zaragossa and Florida Blanca evaluated. This lot was purchased in 1802 but, since it was in run down condition, he had to fix it up for his family and also used it for his family practice. He even purchased lot 22 for more expansion.9 In 1812 he brought the former Intendent's house.
He purchased a guillotine in New Orleans and had it installed in his house for amputations. This was the only one erected in the United States.10
Dr. Sierra provided for his family by purchasing parcels of property at tax sales, buying and caring for slaves and his mkedical practice. He was a shrewd businessman and if someone owed him money he would just use the law to gain his or her property.
He witnessed Andrew Jacksons capture of Pensacola in 1814, again in 1818, and the final transfer to American forces in 1821.
While he cared for his family, he encountered problems with his daughter Gertrudis, so much so that disowned her. However, her step-brother, Joseph, saw to it that she was cared for after her father’s death.11
A note about his birth date and the inscription on the marker for his final resting place: Sierra's will reads: “I am eighty seven years, less five months and six days”. He signed the will on the 9th day of July 1847. His marker reads: Died in 1849 at the age of 99 years.12 His final resting place in Saint Michael’s Cemetery, along the south eastern side of the cemetery.13
Doctor Eugenio Antonio Sierra, born 3 Feb 1750 or 1760, died March 1849
Wives and children:
Wife - Maria Josepha Calder
Daughter – Gertrudis Sierra
Wife – Francisca Dauphin (married 1797)
Daughter – Eulalie Sierra (1797)
Daughter – Isabella Eugenia (1799 – 1889)
Daughter – Irine Sierra (1802)
Son – Joseph Sierra (1804)
Son – Estaban Sierra( 1806 – 1857)
Note - Interesting facts while researching Dr. Eugenio Sierra: The British carried off one of his Negro slaves, Abraham, in 181414 but a different source showed Abraham left when Jackson invaded Pensacola. 15 Abraham trained with the locals in Ferdinand Plaza and wore a British uniform. One source reports he was a leader of the Seminoles and was to become known as the “Prophet”. Another has him moving to Apalachicola River with the British, amrrying Hagar, the widow of Billy Bowlegs and fighting in the Seminole Wars until 1837 when he hears a promise of freedom for “native born Floridians”. He is said to have gone to Oklahoma in 1839.
Holmes, Jack David Lazarus, Pensacola Settlers, 1781- 1821. Pensacola, FL: Pensacola Historical, Restoration and Preservation, 1970
Author Unknown, St. Michael’s Cemetery. National Trust for Historical Preservation.
Sutton, Leora M. Notes on Eugenio Atonio Sierra, Pensacola, FL: Pensacola Historical Society, 2003
McAlister, L.N., Pensacola During the Second Spanish Period. The Florida Historical Quarterly, v37 no. 3 (1959: Jan – April) pages 282 – 328
1 St. Michael’s Cemetery, p4
2 Jack Holmes, Pensacola Settlers, 1781-1821, p77
3 Leora M. Sutton, E.A. Seirra, p1
4 Ibid, p2
5 ibid, p2
6 L.N. McAlister, Pensacola During Second Spanish Period, p285
7 Sutton, p3
8 Sutton, p3
9 Holmes, p78
10 Sutton, p4
11 ibid, p5
12 ibid, p5
13 St. Michael’s Cemetery, p4
14 Holmes, p78
15 Sutton, p5