Joseph Joan y Domingo Piernas, soldier and early settler, was born in Barcelona, Spain, on February 23, 1755, the son of Pedro Joseph Piernas, ad interim governor of Louisiana during the American Revolution, and María Gracia Ory. He entered military service as a cadet on June 1, 1765, and served at St. Louis and New Orleans until his discharge as a lieutenant about 1780. His military career was checkered with irregularities. He went to Natchitoches, bought a plantation and slaves, and lived there for several years, but later returned to New Orleans. There he married María Adelayda Leconte in 1793 and moved to the jurisdiction of Nacogdoches. His ranch, called Santa María Adeleida, was near the Sabine River at the site of present Converse, Louisiana. He frequently served as French and Spanish interpreter for Nacogdoches commandant José de Guadiana. While sending merchandise to San Antonio in 1795 in exchange for horses, he engaged in a financial dispute with Antonio Leal. Piernas pastured cattle along the Calcasieu River and in 1795 sought to form a settlement there, but when Spain transferred the province to France, he went to Pensacola; he resided there at least until 1815.