The Pierce family is one of the ancient Colonial families of the Commonwealth, the forerunners of the name playing a conspicuous part as masters of vessels bringing hither emigrants from England. For several generations there has lived in New Bedford a branch of the old Rehoboth and Swansea Pierce family, descendants of Capt. Michael Pierce, who have been leading-spirits in the community — names especially conspicuous in the industrial life of the town and vicinity. Reference is made particularly to some of the descendants of the late Otis Norton Pierce, whose son, the late Hon. Andrew Granville Pierce, was for forty-two years treasurer of the Wamsutta Mills Company, an extensive and the most successful cotton industry of New Bedford, serving, too, for a time as its president, and who was officially connected with many other enterprises of New Bedford and elsewhere; and who, too, was hardly less prominent in the public affairs of the place, serving as the chief executive officer of the city and as a member of the city government; to another son, Otis Norton Pierce, Jr., who was long chief clerk of the Wamsutta Mills Company and of the New Bedford and Taunton Railroad Company, and has been officially identified with a number of corporations of New Bedford, being at present president of the Grinnell Manufacturing Company; to the sons of the first mentioned of these brothers, Andrew G., who are now actively carrying forward to even greater success the work of their father; to Charles M. Peirce, deceased, who was long in business in New Bedford, active and influential in municipal and legislative work; and to that beloved physician, Dr. A. Martin Pierce, whose broad charity, benevolence and high efficiency made him in many ways the guardian and counselor of the community.
There follows in detail and chronological order the Pierce lineage of these men from their American ‘ancestor, Capt. Michael Pierce.
(I) Capt. Michael Pierce, who was born in England, came to America not far from 1645. Locating first in Hingham in 1646, the following year he removed to Scituate, where he purchased land in the Conihassett in 1647. Captain Pierce was in the Narragansett fight in December, 1675, and escaped with his life only to fall in a more terrible conflict the March following. The Narragansetts early in the spring of 1676 had committed ravages in Rhode Island; parties had even penetrated to Plymouth and killed a number of inhabitants. On the alarm Capt. Michael Pierce, of Scituate, with a company of fifty Englishmen and twenty friendly Indians from Cape Cod, was ordered to pursue the Indians toward Rhode Island. Suffice it to say that he met the enemy not far from Pawtucket, where he found himself in the presence of an overwhelming force, and here they were engaged until nearly every man fell, Captain Pierce among them. Captain Pierce was twice married, his first wife dying in 1662. About 1663 he married (second) Mrs. Annah James. His children were:
- Persis Pierce,
- Benjamin Pierce,
- John Pierce,
- Ephraim Pierce,
- Eliza Pierce,
- Deborah Pierce,
- Anna Pierce,
- Abiah Pierce,
- Ruth Pierce,
- Abigail Pierce.
(II) Ephraim Pierce, son of Capt. Michael, married Hannah, daughter of John Holbrook, of Weymouth, Mass., from which place he removed to Warwick, R. I. He was made free-man of the Colony from Providence May 3, 1681. He died Sept. 14, 1719, and his wife passed away in that same year. Their children were:
- Azrikim Pierce, born Jan. 4, 1671;
- Ephraim Pierce, born in 1674;
- Michael Pierce, born in 1676;
- Rachel Pierce, born in 1678;
- Hannah Pierce, born in. 1680;
- Experience Pierce, born in 1682;
- John Pierce, born in 1684;
- Benjamin Pierce, born in 1686.
(III) Ephraim Pierce (2), son of Ephraim, born in 1674, married Mary Low, and they were residents of Rehoboth and Swansea, Mass. Their children were:
- Mial Pierce, born April 24, 1693;
- Mary Pierce, Nov. 16, 1697;
- David Pierce, July 26, 1701;
- Elizabeth Pierce, May 30, 1703;
- Clothier Pierce, May 24, 1728;
- Ephraim Pierce.
(IV) Mial Pierce, son of Ephraim (2), born April 24, 1693, married Judith Ellis, born in 1686, daughter of Judge Ellis. They lived in Warwick, R. I., and in Swansea and Rehoboth, Mass. Mr. Pierce lived to be ninety-four years of age, dying Oct. 18, 1786. Mrs. Pierce died Oct. 6, 1744. Their children were:
- Ephraim Pierce, born Nov. 9, 1712;
- Wheeler Pierce, July 11, 1714;
- Nathan Pierce, Feb. 21, 1716;
- Mary Pierce, Oct. 18, 1718;
- Judith Pierce, Oct. 21, 1720:
- Mial Pierce, March 24, 1722;
- Job Pierce, April 25, 1723;
- Caleb Pierce, June 8, 1726;
- Joshua Pierce.
(V) Rev. Nathan Pierce, son of Mial and Judith, born Feb. 21, 1716, married Oct. 6, 1736, Lydia Martin, born July 17, 1718, died Dec. 21, 1798, a descendant from Ephraim Martin, and “a remarkably smart woman,” noted for her learning and the assistance she gave her husband. He spelled his name Perce and she Pierce. He was a Baptist minister for forty years, preaching in one church. He was succeeded by his son, the Rev. Preserved, who preached in the same pulpit for forty years. The children born to Rev. Nathan and Lydia Pierce were:
- David Pierce, born April 11, 1739;
- Lydia Pierce, April 1, 1741;
- Freelove Pierce, Oct. 8, 1742;
- Nathan Pierce, Jan. 22, 1745;
- Joseph Pierce, Sept. 7, 1746;
- Benjamin Pierce, Jan. 29, 1748;
- Pardon Pierce, Oct. 23, 1749;
- Mary Pierce, March 23, 1751;
- Martin Pierce, Feb. 15, 1752;
- Judith Pierce, Oct. 23, 1753;
- Hezekiah Pierce, Jan. 25, 1755;
- Peleg Pierce, Nov. 15, 1756;
- Preserved Pierce, July 28, 1758;
- Isaac Pierce, Sept. 22, 1763;
- Chloe Pierce, Nov. 18, 1765.
(VI) Rev. Preserved Pierce, son of Rev. Nathan and Lydia (Martin) Pierce, born July 28, 1758, married May 15, 1784, Sarah Lewis, born in 1765, died Oct. 4, 1823. He married, (second) May 10, 1824, in Dighton, Nancy Cushing. He died June 29, 1828. He resided in Rehoboth and Swansea. His children were:
- Preserved Pierce, born Aug. 1, 1785, married Betsey Davis;
- Lillius Pierce, born in July, 1787, married June 26, 1808, Olney Mason;
- Candus Pierce (or Candace), born March 3, 1789, married Feb. 27, 1821, Daniel Baker;
- Patience Pierce, born March 30, 1792, married March 11, 1810, Samuel Baker;
- Lewis Pierce, born March 11, 1794, married Phebe Wood;
- Martin Pierce, born Feb. 21, 1796, married Betsey Chase;
- Polly Pierce, born Nov. 22, 1799, married Sept. 24, 1818, David Wheaton;
- Lydia Pierce, born Feb. 22, 1802, married May 20, 1821,
- James Wheaton Pierce;
- Otis H. Pierce, born July 8, 1804, married Joanna Lewis (or Levin).
(VII) Martin Pierce, son of Rev. Preserved and Sarah Pierce, born in Rehoboth Feb. 21, 1796, married May 12, 1822, Betsey Chase of Swansea (born April 1, 1801, died Sept. 11, 1885). He died Jan. 1, 1872. He had his home in New Bedford. They had one son:
- Otis Pierce, born March 12, 1827.
(VIII) Otis Pierce, son of Martin, was born March 12, 1827, in New Bedford, and died June 18, 1904. He married Judith C. C. Devoll, and their children were:
- A. Martin Pierce,
- Frank C. Pierce,
- Caroline O. Pierce,
- William Pierce,
- Arthur Whiton Pierce.
(IX) A. Martin Pierce, M. D., son of Otis and Judith C. C. (Devoll) Pierce, born in New Bedford March 14, 1852, was graduated from the New Bedford high school in 1870. He then entered the office of Dr. Edward Payson Abbe, the leading physician of New Bedford, as a student of medicine. Soon after that he went to the College of Physicians and Surgeons, New York City, from which he was graduated in 1873. Having passed a competitive examination for a position in the Charity Hospital, on Blackwell’s island, New York, he served there two years. He then took charge of the small-pox hospital on Blackwell’s island for two months. In January, 1875, he returned to New Bedford, and was associated in the practice of medicine with Dr. E. P. Abbe until July, 1882. He was appointed physician to the Poor department of the city in 1878 and 1879. He joined the Massachusetts Medical Society in 1875, and in 1895 was chosen its vice -president. As a member of the South Bristol Medical Society he held all of the offices within the gift of that organization. He was on the surgical staff of St. Luke’s hospital of New Bedford from its foundation in 1885 to his death, and in 1898 he was president of the local Society for Medical Improvement. Dr. Pierce’s ideals of his calling were the highest. Devoted heart and soul to his profession, he was ever modest in his estimation of his own rare qualities, ever eager to recognize and welcome ability in others, never jealous of another’s success. A wise physician, a skillful surgeon, a trusted friend, he is truly mourned, and his memory is cherished not only by his immediate friends and patients, but by all who knew him.
In his religious connection Dr. Pierce was a member of the First Congregational (Unitarian) Church. He died Nov. 6, 1905, and was buried in Rural cemetery.
Dr. Pierce married Oct. 17, 1878, Lizzie J. Macomber, daughter of Capt. John A. and Jerusha S. (Hart) Macomber. To this union were born four children:
- Edward Abbe Pierce, born Aug. 4, 1879 and died Oct. 24, 1907;
- Elizabeth Pierce, born Jan. 20, 1883, married Oct. 9, 1909, Thomas Wilson Williamson, and resides in Baltimore;
- Alice Pierce, born Aug. 21, 1884;
- Curtis Macomber Pierce, born Feb. 13, 1888.
(V) Joshua Pierce, son of Mial and Judith, married March 24, 1748, Mary Horton. They lived in Rehoboth and Swansea, Mass. Their children were:
- Shubael Pierce;
- Israel Pierce;
- Henry Pierce, born in 1750;
- Barnard Pierce, born Feb. 4, 1764;
- William Pierce;
- Joshua Pierce;
- Sarah Pierce;
- Silence Pierce;
- Hannah Pierce,
- Mary Pierce.
(VI) Barnard Pierce, son of Joshua and Mary Pierce, born Feb. 4, 1764, married Jan. 14, 1786, Mary Rounds, born Nov. 12, 1767, daughter of Chace Rounds. They lived in Rehoboth, Mass., where Mr. Pierce died May 5, 1842, and Mrs. Pierce passed away Nov. 16, 1849. Their children were:
- Jeremiah Pierce, born Aug. 29, 1786;
- Mary Pierce, Dec. 15, 1788;
- Nathaniel R. Pierce, Jan. 1, 1792;
- Hannah M. Pierce, Nov. 19, 1794;
- Barnard Pierce, March 15, 1797;
- Charles M. Pierce, Aug. 9, 1799;
- Otis Norton Pierce, Feb. 3, 1803;
- Chase Pierce (or Chace) R., May 12, 1805;
- Bradford S. Pierce, June 14, 1808;
- Mary A. Pierce, May 7, 1811.
(VII) Charles M. Peirce, son of Barnard and Mary Pierce, was born Aug. 9, 1799, in Rehoboth. He married Oct. 27, 1822, Mary P. Maxfield, who died July 16, 1863. He died Aug. 9, 1880, at his home, No. 75 Elm street, New Bedford.
Mr. Peirce’s first employment was on his father’s farm, but not being satisfied with this work he left home at an early age and began to learn the mason’s trade in Providence, R. I. At the age of twenty-one he came to New Bedford and worked at his trade. In a few years he became a large contractor and builder, and for half a century was identified with the building operations of his adopted city. The private and prominent public buildings of brick and stone which were constructed under his super-vision identified him closely with the interests of the city, and justified the words of one of the city fathers who said, “Charles M. Peirce nearly built New Bedford.” He was foremost in the making and procuring of a patent on cement sewerage and well pipes, the former for many years being the only pipes used for drainage in the city. He was a man of sterling character, whose integrity was never questioned. He was not prominent in politics, but always took a stand for the principles he advocated. His children were:
- Charles M. Pierce, Jr., born July 26, 1823, is mentioned below;
- Mary Pierce, born July 8, 1825, married Robert Allen, of Newport, R. I.;
- Susan P. Pierce, born July 29, 1827, married John P. Nash, of New Bedford;
- Ruby A. Pierce, born Dec. 12, 1829, never married;
- Warren G. Pierce, born April 25, 1832, married Mary M. Manchester;
- Harriet S. Pierce, born June 24, 1834, married Charles E. Hendrickson, of New Bedford, Mass.;
- Averill H. Pierce, born Jan. 6, 1838, died March 11, 1841;
- Emily F. Pierce, born Jan. 16, 1840 married George W. Howland.
(VIII) Charles M. Peirce, Jr., son of Charles M. and Mary P. (Maxfield) Peirce, born July 26, 1823, married (first) March 11, 1851, Susan A. Durfee, born Dec. 27, 1826, died Oct. 6, 1855. He married (second) Nov. 28, 1860, Amanda E. Hill, born Aug. 7, 1836, daughter of Thomas J. Hill, of Providence, one of the best known manufacturers of Rhode Island.
Mr. Peirce was for many years a prominent figure in political and business circles in New Bedford. He was engaged for a long time in an extensive brick and lime business on North Water street. Public affairs consumed much of his time and attention. He was a member of the common council six years, for two of which he was president. He represented his district for several terms in the State Legislature, was for several years a member of the school committee, and at the time of his death, Sept. 12, 1875, a member of the Legislature. He was a man of indomitable energy and possessed the courage of his convictions. Fraternally he belonged to the I. O. O. F.
By his first marriage there was one son:
- Frank C. Pierce, born Jan. 12, 1852, who is unmarried.
By the second marriage there were the following children:
- Annie Calder Pierce, born Aug. 23, 1861, married May 23, 1881, Hubert M. Howland, who died July 6, 1885. They had one daughter:
- Grace Edgarton Howland, who married Nov. 17, 1909, Moses M, Sargeant of New York.
- William Copeland Pierce, born Nov. 21, 1863, married Isabelle Louise Baker, of Rehoboth, on Sept. 27, 1887, and resides in Providence, being president of the Providence Machine Company, of which his grandfather, Thomas J. Hill, was the founder. Their children are:
- Thomas J. H. Pierce,
- Emma I. Pierce married Oct. 5, 1910, William D. Barrows
- William C. Pierce, Jr.
- Ruth C. Pierce.
- Mary Averic Heineken Pierce, born July 21, 1865, married Nov. 6, 1881, Lieut. Percy H. Brereton, United States revenue service, now retired, and resides at Providence. They have one son:
- Peirce Hill Brereton.
- Emily Hill, born Sept. 1, 1867, married Jan. 21, 1892, Thomas Potter Davis, and resides at Edgewood. Children:
- Albert H. Davis,
- Beatrice Davis,
- Thomas P. Davis, Jr.,
- Hope Davis
- Charles M. Davis.
- Albert Brown Pierce, born Dec. 26, 1869, is unmarried and resides in Providence.
- Elizabeth Sawyer Pierce, born Sept. 20, 1871, married Walter D. Wood, of New Bedford, and resides in Edgewood, R. I. Their children are:
- Walter C. Wood.
- Ralph W. Wood.
- Dorothy. Wood.
(VII) Otis Norton Pierce, son of Barnard and Mary (Rounds) Pierce, born Feb. 3, 1803, married Nov. 4, 1828, Susan Grinnell Cross, born May 25, 1805. They lived at New Bedford, Mass., where Mr. Pierce died June 23, 1856. Mrs. Pierce passed away May “24, 1865. Their children were:
- Andrew G. Pierce, born Aug. 9, 1829;
- Sarah Pierce, Aug. 14, 1831;
- Benjamin F. Pierce, Sept. 30, 1833;
- Elizabeth H. Pierce, April 22, 1837;
- Otis N. Pierce, Oct. 28, 1839;
- Ellen N. Pierce, Feb. 26, 1842.
(VIII) Andrew Granville Pierce, son of Otis Norton and Susan Grinnell (Cross) Pierce, was born Aug. 9, 1829, in New Bedford, Mass., where had lived the parents all of their lives, As a boy Andrew G. Pierce attended the public schools and finished by graduating from the New Bedford high school. Soon after leaving school he entered the employ of Edward L. Baker, manufacturer of oil and candles, and a prominent man in financial matters. While in Mr. Baker’s office, in 1847, Mr. Baker was chosen treasurer of the newly organized Wamsutta mills, a position which did occupy his entire time and the duties of which were conducted in the counting room of his factory. Much of this duty devolved upon young Pierce, who thus became rather a factor of the mill than of the candle business. In 1855 Mr. Baker resigned as treasurer of the in 1864, he was one of its original directors, twenty-six years of age, was elected treasurer of the corporation. It established him in a position he occupied more than forty years, and made him the pivotal point around which probably the whole development of New Bedford’s great cotton industry has centered. Mr. Pierce remained treasurer of the Wamsutta mills until 1897, when he retired on account of advancing years, and the feeling that he needed leisure. In all the years of his service the Wamsutta enjoyed wonderful prosperity. From the little mill in 1847 the establishment had grown to be what it is today. Mr. Pierce, had been a great power in that growth and for several years he held the double position of treasurer and president. On his retirement as treasurer, in 1897, the following vote was passed by the corporation at its annual meeting and his son Edward T. Pierce was elected his successor:
“The retirement of Andrew G. Pierce from the position of treasurer of the Wamsutta Mills is an event in its history of more than ordinary significance. He commenced his service when the corporation was organized, in 1847, as clerk under Edward L. Baker, its former treasurer. He was elected treasurer in August, 1855, and has held the office without interruption until now, a period of forty-two years. For a time he held the office of president of the corporation upon the death of Joseph Grinnell. His long service has been marked with the highest fidelity and with exceptional ability. His watchfulness, industry and good judgment have contributed in large degree to the growth and prosperity of the mills. While he has adhered to the conservative methods of earlier years, he has been ready to adopt the improvements and meet the requirements of the present, Under his administration the Wamsutta mills have maintained a foremost rank in cotton manufacture and to Mr. Pierce has been accorded a prominent place among the leaders of that industry.
“The stockholders and directors with great reluctance accede to his repeated request to be relieved from further duty. In retiring from active duty he takes with him the grateful commendation and the heartfelt good wishes of stockholders and directors.”
But Mr. Pierce’s activities were not not confined to the development of the Wamsutta alone. He was interested in the greater part of the city’s most flourishing industries, had much to do with their formation and was generally sought as an adviser. When the Morse Twist Drill and Machine Company was formed Wamsutta mills, and Mr. Pierce, although only and remained such. At the time of his death he was its president and for many years both president and treasurer. When the Potomska Mill was organized, in 1871, he was one of its first directors, and so remained, being at the time of his death its president. He was leader in the formation of the Pierce Mill, of which his son Andrew G., Jr., was made the treasurer, and was its president until his death. When his brother, Otis N. Pierce, formed the Grinnell Mill Corporation he became one of its directors and remained so. Even after his retirement from the head of the Wamsutta Corporation he remained in its directorate. In 1872, when the Fall River Bleachery was projected, he became one of its directors; in 1899, when the New England Cotton Yarn Company was organized, Mr. Pierce became its president and continued as such until his death. While Mr. Pierce was in the office of Mr. Baker he projected the New Bedford, Martha’s Vineyard & Nantucket Steamboat Company, and for many years was its executive officer, finally resigning in favor of his son, Edward T. Pierce. He was also interested in the railroad development of the city, and in 1872 awakened to the need of connecting the north railroad station with the steamboat wharf by a street railway. He thereupon promoted the New Bedford & Fairhaven Street Railway Company, with a capital of $50,000, the first street railway in the city. For many years he was one of its directors, and even after its development into the Union Street Railway Company he remained many years on its directorate. He was vice president of the Mechanics’ National Bank many years; vice president, director and trustee of the Institution for Savings; director of the New Bedford Gas and Edison Light Companies; a trustee of the Swain Free School from its incorporation, in 1880, and a trustee under the Swain will, in 1857; one of the original trustees of St. Luke’s Hospital, and for several years its president. In addition to his local offices he was a director of the Boston Manufacturers’ Mutual Insurance Company and the American Mutual Liability Company of Boston. Upon the formation of the New Bedford Textile School Mr. Pierce became one of the State trustees of the institution and so remained. He died Sept. 11, 1903.
In municipal affairs Mr. Pierce long ago took a deep and active interest. Back in the early sixties and for many years subsequent he was a member of the New Bedford Protecting Society and for several years was its president. Originally a Democrat, he became a Republican early in the party’s history. He was called on to fill municipal offices frequently. He was for several years a member of the common council and for two terms president of that body. Later he was elected an alderman and in 1868 and 1869 served as mayor of the city, furnishing a business-like administration which brought him high commendation. He declined to run thereafter for municipal office, and dropped out of active political life on his retirement from the mayoral chair.
On July 17, 1854, Mr. Pierce was married in New Bedford to Caroline Lincoln, daughter of Zachariah and Sylvia (Jenney) Hillman. To this union were born seven children, as follows:
- Edward Taber Pierce, born May 24, 1855, married Oct. 2, 1889, Maud M. Windrom;
- Mary B. Pierce, born Jan. 3, 1858, is unmarried;
- Andrew G. Pierce, Jr., born March 28, 1864, married Sept. 28, 1897, Helen Parker Haskell;
- Louise Cook Pierce, born April 2, 1866, married Oct. 27, 1897, James Warren Kellogg, of Schenectady, N. Y.
- Albert R. Pierce, born Jan. 26, 1869, married April 21, 1900, Harriett E. Howard, of New Bedford;
- Harry Lincoln Pierce, born March 23, 1872, died aged ten months;
- Elsie H. Pierce, born May 21, 1874, married April 8, 1899, William Almy, of Brookline, Mass.
The three sons are all leading figures in the local mill business.
(VIII) Otis Norton Pierce, son of Otis Norton and Susan Grinnell (Cross) Pierce, was born at New Bedford, Oct. 28, 1839. He was educated in the public schools of his native place. After leaving the high school he entered the employ of the Wamsutta Mills. For a number of years he held the position of chief clerk there, and with the New Bedford and Taunton Railway Company, holding his position with the latter until the railroad was sold. In 1880 he went to Fall River, as treasurer of the Border City Manufacturing Company. He was there two years, during which time he built a new mill of 40,000 spindles, doubling its capacity.
In 1882 he was the leading spirit in the organization of the Grinnell Manufacturing Corporation and he was elected treasurer and returned to New Bedford. He was treasurer of the Grinnell Manufacturing Corporation from that date until a few years ago, when he was elected president, succeeding the late Edward Kilburn. This mill has a capacity of 128,000 spindles and manufactures cotton fabrics of very fine texture, of both plain and fancy weaves. It has been one of the most successful corporations of New Bedford, always paying good dividends, and its stock sells at a large premium. In 1890 Mr. Pierce was one of the corporators of the City Manufacturing Company, and became its first president, serving a short time, when he resigned. He is a director of the Merchants’ National Bank, and vice president, a trustee and one of the board of investment of the Five Cents Savings Bank. He is a member of the Wamsutta and New Bedford Country Clubs, of the Arkwright Club of Boston, and of the Home Market Club of Boston.
In 1870 Mr. Pierce married Anna Thornton, daughter of Elisha Thornton, Jr. She died Feb. 7, 1907. On April 27, 1909, he married (second) Mary A. Thornton, sister of his first wife.