The only genealogy of the early Pearces is in a still-in-print book, Three Pioneer Rapides Families, which documents the early history of the ancestors of my Grandpa Gus (Augustus Rice Pearce). Exerpts from the book are in italics, and any comments from me are in plain text.
Captain Peter Robert hailed from Beaufort District, South Carolina, and was the fourth generation of his family in this country, being a great-grandson of Rev. Pierre Robert, the first Huguenot preacher to set foot on the shores of the New World. He came of that sturdy stock whose fearless spirit neither the cruelty of religious persecution nor the dangers of the ocean and the fear of the savage could intimidate or subdue. The descendants of our Louisiana pioneer are eligible to membership in the Daughters or Sons of the American Revolution, and also in the Huguenot Society of South Carolina.
Robert Tanner also came from Beaufort District, South Carolina, and was a son-in-law of Captain Peter Robert. He is said to have been a man of great force of character, was a surveyor and soon acquired prominence and wealth in his new surroundings. His forebears came from Virginia, so we believe, and he has left a numerous progeny, some of whom yet occupy the lands he first settled.
William Pearce, Sr., came from Screven county, Georgia, and his forebears from Virginia. He, like many others of his name, was a Revolutionary soldier. Two of his sons married daughters of Robert Tanner and Providence Robert. Thus the relationship of these three families is readily seen. Numerous family Bibles preserved with care, and the old cemeteries of Cheneyville and Evergreen, Louisiana, tell the story of many generations of the descendants of these pioneers. There has been such frequent inter-marriage between them in the past century or more that at this period one of the present generation would make no mistake in calling one of the others "cousin."
Baton Rouge, La. January 14, 1945.
PART ONE THE ROBERT FAMILY
PART TWO CAPTAIN PETER ROBERT
PART THREE THE TANNER FAMILY
PART FOUR THE PEARCE FAMILY
PART FOUR THE PEARCE FAMILY
The Pearce family--0ne of the most prominent and prolific in central Louisiana-traces its origin back to Virginia in the first quarter of the seventeenth century. Imbued with courage and rugged pioneer spirit, some of the members of it followed the tide of emigration to the great southwest, and we find the indelible stamp of their footprints in North and South Carolina, Georgia, Mississippi, and Louisiana. Our Louisiana Pearces are all descendants of William Pearce, Sr., and his wife, Sarah Bray. We have attempted to render that portion of this genealogy dealing with them as complete as possible, and we do not hesitate to state that all dates of birth, death and marriage contained herein are authentic.
We are indebted to Mrs. Ettie Tidwell McCall of Atlanta, Georgia, for some very essential data on the Pearces before they came to Louisiana. Every present and future generation of this family should ever be grateful to her for her splendid work, McCALL-TIDWELL and ALLIED FAMILIES. We learn there for the first time that the names Pearce and Pierce are synonymous, and we are told that the progenitor of this sturdy stock came from England and settled in Virginia in 1631. We believe, from information listed below, that he came seven years earlier. In J. C. Hotten's LISTS OF EMIGRANTS TO AMERICA we find that a "Captain William Peerce patented 200 acres of land nere Mulbery Iland in the corporacion of James Cittie in 1636." In this work of Hotten we also find the name variously given as Pearce, Pearse, Peerce, Peerse, Peirce, Peirse, and Pierce. This author also tells us that on August 1, 1635, "Steeven Pierce, aged 30, was licensed to go beyond the seas on the ship ELIZABETH of London, Christopher Browne, Master."
This same author on page 224 gives us the muster of Captain William Pierce taken in 1624, which recites that he came over in the ship SEA VENTURE, and that his wife, "Mrs. Jone Pierce came in the BLESSING." This muster likewise shows that Captain Pierce was at James Cittie and at that time had four servants there, one of whom was a Negro woman. He also had a plantation at "Mulbury Iland," according to the same authority, and the muster taken there on January 25, 1624, shows that he had thirteen servants at that place and gives their names. In Stanard's Colonial Virginia Register, page 32, we learn that William Pierce of James City County, Virginia, was a member of the Council in 1631. All this would indicate that our Captain Pierce or Pearce was one of the prominent men of the colony in its infancy.
There has always been a William and a Stephen Pearce in the branch of the family in which we are particularly interested, and we feel that it does not take an unusual stretch of the imagination to believe that either the Stephen or William mentioned in Hotten's valuable work was the ancestor of our Louisiana Pearce family. The earliest of the name on whom we can place our finger with any degree of certainty is a Stephen Pearce who was born in Virginia towards the close of the seventeeth century or in the early part of the eighteenth. He emigrated to North Carolina where he permanently settled and married. It is claimed that his wife was a Lanier. We do know that he had three sons:- Stephen, Joshua, and William. We have been unable to trace any descendants of Stephen, the eldest. However, the records show many Pearces in North Carolina about this period and later, and some of them may have been his progeny. William Pearce, the youngest of the three brothers, appears to have been the most famous. He was born about 1740 in North Carolina and served with distinction in the Revolutionary Army. At one time he held the rank of a captain in the First Continental Artillery, and later was an aide on the staff of General Nathanael Green with the rank of major. He is recorded as being a member of the Sons of Liberty in Savannah, Georgia. In 1781 Congress presented him with a sword for gallant services. He was a member of the Continental Congress in 1786, and died on December 10, 1789. In 1783 he married Charlotte Fenwick, daughter of Edward Fenwick and Mary Drayton of Charleston, South Carolina. They had no issue.
Joshua Pearce, the second son of the Stephen Pearce who emigrated to North Carolina from Virginia, was the father of William Pearce, Sr., the immediate ancestor of the Louisiana Pearces. He (Joshua) was born in North Carolina about 1735. We later meet him in Georgia where his name first appears on the records in July, 1768, when he applies for 150 acres of land on Buck Creek, in St. Matthews Parish. In his application he stated that he came from North Carolina to Georgia four months previously, had a wife and six children, and owned slaves. He received a Royal grant from King George III, in St. Matthews Parish in 1769. On that land the original Pearce home was built. It was in Effingham county and there, so we learn from "THE BEVILL FAMILY," by Agnes White Tedcastle, it was that President George Washington paid a visit on his way from Savannah to Augusta in 1791. We are told also that in 1825 when Steven Pearce (son of this Joshua) lived there he entertained the Marquis de La Fayette when that distinguished gentleman made his famous tour of the United States.
Joshua Pearce soon became one of the leading men in the vicinity of his new home in Georgia. In 1777 he was appointed Surveyor of Roads for Effingham county, and in 1778 when the Georgia Legislature passed an act under the provision of which five commissioners were appointed from each county as representatives for the colony, one of the commissioners from Effingham county was Joshua Pearce, Sr. He was here for the first time officially recorded as Senior in order to distinguish him from his son Joshua who was likewise a prominent man in Georgia at that period. Joshua Pearce, Sr., married Hannah Green in North Carolina about 1752. He died in Georgia (probably Screven county) on April 17, 1810 - so says the family Bible of his son Stephen, now the property of a descendant, Mrs. Cora Cheney (Pearce) Bai1ey of Opelousas, Louisiana. His will was dated September 10, 1807, and was probated in Screven county, Georgia, in 1816. He mentions his wife and four children. The children were:- William, Joshua, Stephen and Sarah Pearce.
In his application for a grant of land in 1768 he stated that he had six children. It is therefore probable that two of them had died before he signed his will. His second son, Jo- shua Pearce, Jr., was a Revolutionary soldier and moved to Mississippi in 1807 where he died, leaving children, one of whom, Mary Pearce, married William McCall and lived in Screven county, Ga. Stephen Pearce, the third son of Joshua, Sr., remained in Georgia and there married Mary Mills. Their daughter, Mary, married Paul Bevill, Jr. This Stephen Pearce's will is dated May 4, 1829, and is on file in Screven county. The only daughter of Joshua Pearce, Sr., Sarah, married a McRea.
William Pearce, Sr., eldest son of Joshua Pearce, Sr., and Hanna Green, was the forebear of the Pearce family of Rapides and Avoyelles parishes, Louisiana. He is usually designated as William Pearce, Sr., in order to distinguish him from his son of the same name. That he was a soldier in the Revolutionary Army is proven by a certified list of the Troops of the Georgia Line on which his name is found (see page 621 in "The Story of Georgia and the Georgia People," by Smith). A certificate that he was a soldier in the First Battalion, Georgia Line, was signed by Gen. Elijah Clark in 1784 (see page 481, McCall-Tidwell and Allied Families). This William Pearce, Sr., was the first of his name to come to Louisiana, arriving here about 1808. He was born in North Carolina in 1754 and went to Georgia with his parents in 1768. His name appears in White's Statistics of Georgia in 1793 as being one of the early settlers of Screven county. He was a Justice of the Peace in 1773 and Judge of the Inferior Court of Screven county in 1794. We find the following mention of him in his father's will :-
Secondly :-I give and bequeath unto my beloved son William Pearce, whom I appoint executor, two tracts of land, Also 1,075 acres of land which shall be used for the mill, to be equally divided between my sons William and Stephen.
William Pearce, Sr., came to Rapides parish, Louisiana, about 1808, and settled on the right descending bank of Bayou Boeuf about two miles above the present town of Cheneyvi1le. His home is said to have been somewhere near Lloyd's Bridge. He was killed there on November 6, 1813, by a chimney falling on him. There is some myth in the family about his having buried a lot of money near his home, and having died suddenly no one ever knew the where-about of the "golden sepulchre." It is said that much "digging" has been done in the vicinity in the vain hope of finding it. The place of his burial is not known.
The Pearces stayed in and around Rapides and Avoyelles Parishes in Louisiana, and several generations passed before my Grandpa Gus came along. William Pearce, Sr. had six children, among them William Pearce, Jr.; William Jr. had three children, among them Alanson Green Pearce; and Alonson had ten children, among them William Oscar Pearce, Grandpa Gus' father. All of this is outlined in the charts and family history sheets.
Returning to the "Three Families" book for some final comments on the family of William Oscar Pearce.....
THE PEARCE FAMILY , Page 351
Some years following the death of his first wife, William Oscar Pearce remarried, his second wife being Ida Rice. They had one child :-
Augustus Rice Pearce.
a.-Alanson Green Pearce, eldest child of William Oscar Pearce and his first wife, Minerva Frith, was born near Evergreen, Avoyelles parish, Louisiana, in 1867. He was a prominent and popular physician in his section of his native parish, and married June 25, 1890, Mary H. Winn, a daughter of Dr. William H. Winn. Both are long since dead. They left five children :-Lucille Pearce who married P. H. Harrison, Maudrie Pearce who married Carl Bancroft, Sadie Pearce who married William Reid, and Malcolm and Winn Pearce who, as far as we have been able to ascertain, never married.
b.-Mary Frith Pearce, second child of William Oscar Pearce and his first wife, Minerva Frith, was married to A. Byron West of Avoyelles parish, La., son of Isham West and Eliza Catherine O'Quin, and grandson of Rev. John O'Quin and Anna Allen. His grandfather (Rev. John O'Quin) was a son of Rev. Ezekial O'Quin and Mary Brockston, and Ezekial O'Quin was a son of John O'Quin and Gracey Spivey of North Carolina. A. Byron West was born in Avoyelles parish, La., on September 28, 1868, and he and his wife now reside in Bunkie and have one daughter, Sarah Frith West.
c.-Thomas Frith Pearce, third child of William Oscar Pearce and his first wife, Minerva Frith, was born in Avoyelles parish, La. He now resides in Bunkie where he is a prominent business man. He married Addie Smyth, a daughter of Hervy Smyth and Ann Rebecca Irion (daughter of Robert Richardson Irion and Ann Bernard Audebert) .They have no children.
d.-Augustus Rice Pearce, son of William Oscar Pearce and his second wife, Ida Rice, is now living in or near Prescott, Arizona. He has been twice married but we have been unable to get any very definite information on the subject. We are told that his first wife's name was Alma and his second Ruth, and that there are children by both marriages.
The author has Gus' (Augusta Rice Pearce) information basically correct. Gus did remarry to Ruth, but we can find no evidence of children by that marriage.
William Oscar Pearce appears to have wandered off the bayou country to New Orleans, where he met his second wife, Ida Augusta Rice, daughter of a prominent New Orleans hardware dealer. The firm of Rice Bros. and Associates is covered in New Orleans history books, and Augustus Rice was a fairly wealthy man. A photograph of Augustus Rice and some of his history will be in the photos and documents section of this family.
William Oscar Pearce had three children with his first wife, and only Grandpa Gus with Ida Rice. In his late teens, Gus can be found in the census with the Marks family in New Orleans, Henry Marks listed as a Railroad Agent. Presumably this is where Gus got started in the railroad business, as he is listed as a yard foreman in various cities in later years.
Gus migrated to the Illinois area, and in about 1905 he met and married Alma Elliott, daughter of a local butcher and dry goods store owner in Carbondale. The Elliotts will be covered in their own section on this site. Gus and Alma produced two boys, my father William Elliott Pearce and his brother James Allan Pearce. After about ten years of marriage, something happened between Gus and Alma, and Gus left town. Alma divorced him and, with the help of her family, raised the two boys. She never remarried. There are several versions of the breakup, some blaming Gus and some blaming Alma, but we are not certain of the details.
We later succeeded in tracing Gus to New Jersey, where he met and married his second wife Ruth Isabel Dougan, the daughter of a coal miner in Minesville, New York. Gus and Ruth then evidently went west during the depression, Gus applying for Social Security in Tempe, Arizona, where he was working for the WPA. Later, they went to Reno where Gus worked as a carpenter, and Ruth as a housekeeper in a Reno hotel, until Gus' death in 1967. Ruth died in 1969 in Reno.
It is ironic that after the distance and time I was separated from Grandpa Gus, when I married in 1966, he was only about 200 miles away, and still alive.
Gus' first son, William Elliott Pearce, my father, died in 1943 at age 36 as the result of an old head injury which he incurred playing football in college. So, I didn't know him either. Gus' second son, James Allan Pearce, lived his life in Carbondale, Illinois with the Elliott family, and had three children, Nancy, Lewis, and Sarah. I looked for over a year for that family, and had no success until last year when as a result of an old posting of mine on the New Orleans genealogy forum, Lewis spotted me and made contact. We exchanged information for several months, and brought the family history up to date.
I live in Fair Oaks, California, with my wife. My two daughters are grown and out of the house. My brother emmigrated to Australia in about 1960 and lives around Sydney. He never married.
So, that brings us up to date on the Pearce surname.