Matagorda County Historical Marker Narrative

Blessing State Bank

761 FM 616           285217.62N        961316.64W
 


BLESSING
 STATE BANK

Written by Mary Belle Ingram

Blessing, Texas, a small town situated in the western part of Matagorda County was formerly part of the vast holdings of Jonathan Edwards Pierce and his brother Abel Head "Shanghai" Pierce who had acquired the land after the War between the States. The area was mostly ranch land and did not really see economic growth until the Galveston-Harrisburg and San Antonio . (G.H. & S.A. ) railroad reached there in 1903. Jonathan E. Pierce had given the railroad a right of way through his ranch.

When the railroad was pushing southward at the turn of the century, it followed the custom of granting each landowner who had offered rights of way the privilege of naming the post office established on his land. Jonathan was granted that privilege. When the delegation of railroad officials asked if he had picked a name for the station, the story is told that Pierce answered firmly, "I sure have. THANK GOD!" The official convinced him that name would never do and told him it was a blessing that the railroad was right there on his ranch, a blessing to the whole region, and a blessing that a man of Pierce's perception had lain in wait for the rails. Pierce gradually became convinced and so named the new town "Blessing."

Jonathan Edwards Pierce was born in Little Compton, Rhode Island, on December 6, 1839 , and joined his brother, Abel, in 1858 to work on the ranch of W. B. Grimes near the present town of Blessing . He became a rancher and cattleman with large holdings. On May 2, 1867 , Pierce married Nannie Deborah Lacy who was born August 11, 1845 , and they built their home, "Rancho Grande," on the Tres Palacios River . Four children were born to Jonathan Edwards and Nannie Deborah Lacy Pierce at "Rancho Grande:" John Phillips, Abel Brown, Pearl and Grace Harriett. Nannie Lacy Pierce died in 1896. Jonathan Edwards married second Grace Lawrence and their children were James Lawrence and Evelyn. After Grace's death, he married Laura Duffield and they had a son, Jonathan E. Jr. Jonathan Edwards died in 1915 in Galveston and is buried in Hawley Cemetery . Abel B., the second son of Jonathan Edwards and Nannie Lacy Pierce was born December 4, 1874 , at "Rancho Grande" and married Adelaide Hall January 19, 1909 , in St. Paul , Minnesota . Adelaide , born in 1885, came to live in Blessing for the remainder of her life until her death in 1967. Abel B. Pierce died in 1944. Abel Brown Pierce, Sr., and his wife, Adelaide , were active in the early life of Blessing, Texas , and were instrumental in the establishment of the Blessing State Bank. Adelaide was a historian and due to her writings and knowing the value of preserving records, the early history of Blessing has been preserved. Many of her articles have been placed in the archival holdings of the Matagorda County Museum .

"Rancho Grande" at Deming's Bridge community was the site of the Pierce ranching headquarters with many buildings, including a store, an office building, etc., on the site. With the beginning of the new town of Blessing, between 1903 and 1905, Jonathan moved his small business office which was used by the ranch bookkeeper to the new town. This small building housed the new town's banking operations until the 1907 building was erected. Other buildings moved to the new town were the Masonic Lodge Hall and the old Moore store building. The Moore store became the site of the first post office in Blessing.

By 1904 a second railroad line, the St. Louis , Brownsville , and Mexico had pushed its way through the Blessing area. That line is still in existence and today (1996) is known as the Union Pacific. In 1905 the magnificent and imposing "Rancho Grande" home burned, and by 1907 Colonel J. E. Pierce had begun construction of the Hotel Blessing on Block 35 facing 10th Street .

The first plat of the Blessing townsite was made by J. A. Donaldson on May 17, 1907 . On September 1, 1907 , the Blessing Townsite was surveyed and stakes were driven marking the streets and alleys. Provisions were made for a school and churches and a block called "The Common" was set aside as required. Across the street from the "Common," at the corner of Avenue B and 10th Street on Block 22, plans for construction of the Blessing State Bank were underway. To the west across the street was "Hotel Blessing" which is now on the National Register of Historic Places.

With two major railways coming through the new town, land speculators from the north promoted the area as a place where "happy farmers are picking strawberries every day" prompting people from the cold north winters to come flocking into Texas with many settling in the Blessing area. The Burton D. Hurd Land Company set up an office in Blessing to promote the sale of lots. By early 1907 there were six buildings in Blessing, the Jesse Laramore Store, the D. A. Wheeler Hotel, the A. B. Pierce office which also served as a bank, and the two railroad stations. All the land around was a waving field of prairie grass.

The remainder of 1907 witnessed a construction boom. According to an invitation to the public, the Blessing State Bank announced that "it would open as a Bank of Deposit and Discount at Blessing, Texas October 1, Nineteen Hundred and Seven." On the announcement a list of the directors was noted: A. B. Pierce, Joe Pybus, John W. Gaines and Jesse Laramore. In the deed records of the Matagorda County Courthouse a document #21410 filed for record September 23, 1907 , read in part:

 Know all men by these presents, That we, A. B. Pierce, John W. Gaines, H. B. Farwell, John M. Corbett and Jos. Pybus, have and do hereby associate ourselves together by articles of agreement in writing, as provided by law, for the purpose of establishing a bank to be incorporated under the laws of the State of Texas, for the object and purposes and in the manner hereinafter set forth.

The name of this Corporation shall be the Blessing State Bank. The amount of capital stock is hereby fixed at Ten Thousand ($10,000).

 Corbett and Gaines were prominent lawyers and citizens of Bay City , the county seat of Matagorda County ; Pybus and Farwell were prominent citizens of Palacios. Farwell had come to the region from Minnesota and was a friend of the Pierces. Abel B. Pierce, Sr., was the son of Jonathan E. Pierce. The application was approved by Secretary of State L. T. Dashiell and Charter #18363-0 was issued.

A January 1909 Blessing newspaper listed the "Blessing State Bank built in 1907, capital stock $10,000, J. E. Pierce, President; J. A. Williams, Cashier; Directors: J. E. Pierce, J. W. Gaines, H. P. Farwell, Jos. Pybus, Sr., and C. H. Crandall.

The November 26, 1909 , Blessing paper reported the Blessing Bank with resources of $83,753.48 with A. B. Pierce as President, J. E. Pierce, Vice President; J. A. Williams, Cashier; and J. B. Leaman, Director.

Blessing State Bank served this rural agricultural community until it was closed in February 1932 as the Great Depression affected the entire country. The bank closed with a capital stock of $25,000 and no loss to its depositors. Operations were then taken over by the Palacios State Bank. One of the reasons given for the bank failure was that of a $20,000 rice loan with old farm machinery as collateral to Kiyaki Saibara, a Japanese-American. Saibara used the money to buy land near Galveston and left the bank with the rusted machinery.

From 1932 until 1995 the Blessing State Bank building served as an office for Lee M. Pierce and his Ace of Clubs Ranch. It also served as a post office and fine arts workshop. Through the years the architecture of the building remained the same, and most of the original fixtures and furnishings remained in the building.

During the time the bank building was under construction in 1907, the Blessing Hotel was erected. The renown architect Jules Leffland of Victoria designed the hotel building as well as the Blessing Bank. Two banks built in Bay City in 1903 with Jules Leffland as the architect have a similarity in style with the Blessing Bank.

The First State Bank of Louise purchased the building in 1996 and bought the adjoining lot for parking. In June of 1996 restoration of both the interior and exterior was begun to restore the building to its original early 20th century grandeur. William R. Jenkins, III, Assistant Vice President of the First State Bank of Louise at the time and now (1997) in charge of the Blessing Bank, was the driving force in the restoration. The new name for the historic bank became "First State Bank - Blessing Branch." Jenkins consulted the state for assistance and completed an application to the National Register of Historic Places for recognition of this building. The following quoted from the National Register application submitted in regard to the physical appearance of the building:

Building with a potential listing in the National Register in Criterion C, an early 20th Century bank building. This one story, flat roofed, unpainted, yellow brick building was built in 1906. (Note: records indicate it was begun in 1907.) The bank is rectangular in shape and features nine feet tall regularly spaced arched windows along the west side of the building, and one window on the north side. There are three doors on the building, one at the main entrance (northwest side), another built into the third arched window on the west side, and the last door in the rear of the building (south end). The east side of the building has no windows or doors because it was once up against an adjacent building. The interior of the building is separated into three rooms.

The front of the building was the original bank area while the back of the building was mostly used for storage and office space. The front room features an antique teller line with steel bars, marble slate, and etched glass. Also in the teller area there is a large antique vault which inside features an early 20th Century money vault. The front room has been modernized with a drop ceiling and a ceramic tile floor, but other wise most of the material in the bank is in its original form. Mr. Lee M. Pierce, the son of one of the men, (A. B. Pierce, Sr.) that helped to start the bank, made these changes when he used the building for his personal office. The back room was an addition to the original bank, built between 1907 and 1912. The addition has the same type brick, architecture, and windows as the original building. The original bank and the addition are separated by a large brick wall with only one door opening. The addition features another 20th Century vault which holds the original safety deposit boxes. The bank's walls in all rooms have painted stucco with some spots of deterioration revealing the original brick. There is other historical fabric in the building, such as, antique furniture, original wainscoting on some walls, and all solid wooden doors.

  First State Bank - Blessing Branch, a branch of the First State Bank of Louise , Texas , was completed and had its formal opening January 29, 1997 . The restored building has retained many of its original features from the mosaic tile floors to the pressed tin ceilings. The windows feature mahogany frames, attractive lattice work and tasteful awnings. The original teller lines and much of the antique furniture are now part of the new but old bank - now called FIRST STATE BANK - BLESSING BRANCH and once again meets the needs of a rural agricultural community.
 


BLESSING STATE BANK
 

BUILT DURING THE BOOM OF 1907, THE

BLESSING STATE BANK IS ONE OF

THE FEW REMAINING COMMERCIAL

BUILDINGS FROM THIS PERIOD. POSSIBLY

DESIGNED BY VICTORIA ARCHITECT JULES

LEFFLAND, DESIGNER OF THE BLESSING

HOTEL, THE BANK OPERATED UNTIL

1932. BLESSING WAS WITHOUT A BANK

UNTIL 1996, WHEN IT WAS RESTORED

TO ITS ORIGINAL FUNCTION AND AP-

PEARANCE. AN ASYMMETRICAL ENTRY,

ARCHED WINDOWS, FLAT ROOF, AND

STATELY FEELING REFLECT A CLASSIC

EARLY 20TH-CENTURY BANK BUILDING.
 

RECORDED TEXAS HISTORIC LANDMARK-1997
 

 

Copyright 2004 - Present by Carol Sue Gibbs
All rights reserved

Created
Jan. 10, 2005
Updated
Apr. 13, 2013
   

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