By Mr. and Mrs. A. B. Pierce, Jr.
Because there was no hospital near, Adelaide Pierce went home to her parents in St. Paul, Minnesota, to have her first born. Although he was named for his father, Abel Brown Pierce, his prenatal nickname “John Henry” remained. Born on October 20, 1909, he was brought home to Blessing as an infant. He had three brothers: Hall Edwards Pierce (September 24, 1911 – November 24, 1932), Lee Mudge “Tick” Pierce (November 11, 1913 – July 12, 1998) and Clinton Lacy Pierce (October 3, 1918 – January 18, 1934). The family was Episcopalian and was of English-French extraction.
They lived in the new Blessing Hotel while their home at Avenue C and Eight Street in Blessing was being built; but spent many summers at White Bear Lake, Birchwood, Minnesota.
Abel was Secretary in 1958 and Vice-President in 1964 of the Houston Chapter of the American Institute of Architects; was a member of the Planning & Zoning Commission, later the Board of Adjustment for Piney Point Village, Harris County, Texas, from 1963-75; was a vestryman of the St. Francis Episcopal Church, Houston, and the Bishop’s Committee for St. John’s Mission, Palacios; a member of the Matagorda County Historical Society & Historical Survey Commission in 1979; a member of the building committee of the Matagorda County Cultural Association; and chairman of the Matagorda County Museum Association for 1983-84.
Abel and Ruth Perla Harrison were married on October 3, 1942, in St. John’s Episcopal Mission in Palacios. Their children were Adelaide Pierce Carter, Sally J. Pierce and Jonathan L. Pierce. Ruth was born on July 21, 1916 on a farm about ten miles from Palacios, and walked the one and one-half miles from the “Viets Place” to the Prairie Center School with the children of the Lees, Johnsons, Dannels, Powers, and Margaret Hill. Sometimes they caught rides on “Baldy,” the horse of the teacher, J. R. Laslie. Robert Margerum was Ruth’s first teacher. The farm had interesting outbuildings, a stocked pond, a dipping vat, and a big red barn with hay and drying peanuts in the loft.
The family moved to Palacios when it was still much like the country; and kept a cow, chickens, and had ice delivered in blocks by the iceman. The children rode their horse, read and traveled in summer. The Harrison family purchased the C. B. Truitt house at Second and Morton Streets, which was still owned by the family in 1984. Another activity remembered was the cake sales held to help pay the expense of moving Grace Chapel, which became St. John’s Episcopal Mission, from Collegeport to Palacios in 1928.
Ruth was graduated from Palacios High School in 1933, and attended Rice Institute for two years, and then joined her sisters, Naomi and Marion, at The University of Texas where she was graduated. She worked for Dr. Homer Prince in Houston as a Medical Technologist before returning to college to complete her M. A. in Bacteriology. She was member of Iota Sigma Pi, an honorary fraternity for women in Chemistry. She was a member of the Eastern Star, and after her marriage worked with the Cub Scouts, Girl Scouts and Boy Scouts.
Ruth was a member of the Board of the St. Francis Episcopal Day School, was on committee at the Kinkaid School and was President of the Piney Point Garden Club. She was a member of the Women’s Auxiliary to the Houston Chapter, American Institute of Architects, and the State and local chapters of the Contemporary Handweavers of Texas. She studied Spanish at the National University of Mexico and handweaving in Darlarna, Sweden. She joined her husband as Secretary of the Matagorda County Museum Association, Secretary-Treasurer of the Blessing Historical Foundation and membership in the Heritage Societies of Harris and Gillespie Counties, Matagorda County Historical Society and Commission and the National Trust for Historic Preservation.
Historic Matagorda County, Volume II,
Longtime Blessing and Matagorda County civic leader and avid historian, Abel “John Henry” Brown Pierce, Jr., died July 3 at the age of 93.
Funeral services held July 7, 2003 at St. Mark’s Episcopal Church in Bay City. Interment was at Hawley Cemetery.
In addition to establishing the Blessing Historical Foundation with his wife, Ruth Harrison Pierce, he had served as president of both the Matagorda County Museum Association and the Matagorda County Historical Society. He also belonged to the Sons of the Republic of Texas.
He was a retired architect and member of St. John’s Episcopal Church in Palacios.
Mr. Pierce was born Oct. 20, 1909 in St. Paul, Minn., to Adelaide Hall Pierce and Abel Brown Pierce.
He was the grandson of Jonathan Edwards Pierce and Nannie Lacy Pierce of Blessing (Tidehaven); and of Lee and Alice St. Germain Hall of St. Paul, Minnesota. His great-grandfather, William D. Lacy, signed the Texas declaration of independence from Mexico. His grandfather was Jonathan E. Pierce and his great-uncle was the legendary Abel Head “Shanghai” Pierce.
His pioneer ancestors came to Texas with Stephen F. Austin’s “Old Three Hundred.” He was a direct descendant of John Alden and Priscilla Mullins. He married Ruth Perla Harrison, daughter of George A. and Lena Dickert Harrison, in 1942 at St. John’s Episcopal Church in Palacios by the Reverend Gray Blandy.
As an infant, he and his parents lived in the Hotel Blessing while the A. B. Pierce residence in Blessing was being built. The hotel had previously been completed in 1906 by his father and by his grandfather, Jonathan B. Pierce, who founded the town of Blessing.
Mr. Pierce attended grammar school in the original old two-story Blessing School and graduated from high school as “Head Boy” in his class at Shattuck Military School in Faribault, Minnesota.
A graduate of Rice Institute in 1930, he earned his degree in architecture at the University of Pennsylvania in 1932, winning two medals from the Beaux Arts Institute of Design.
Licensed as an architect, he worked for a year for County Engineer and Surveyor E. N. Gustafson producing the Matagorda County block system maps. He worked for two years for Houston architect Harry P. Payne who had designed several area schools, including those in Bay City, Blessing, Midfield and Palacios.
In 1935, surgery for a detached retina of the right eye caused him to lose almost a year of work, during which time he painted the mural hanging at the Blessing Elementary School. He used his brother Lee M. Pierce and Angela Vaclavick as youthful models.
Working in the firm of Nunn and McGinty Architects of Houston, he helped to produce the River Oaks Shopping Center, Glenn McCarthy’s estate, De Pelchin Faith Home and the first federally funded low-rent housing projects built in Houston—Cuney Homes and Kelley Courts.
He was a second lieutenant in the 360th Infantry Reserve. However with the onset of near blindness, he resigned his commission. During World War II, he served at Brown Shipbuilding Co. in the Materials Control Dept. where he worked on designing subchasers and destroyer escorts. He also helped design the first landing craft infantry vessels which were used on D-Day at the landing in Normandy.
After the war, he returned to work at Nunn and McGinty Architects and later entered into partnership with George F. Pierce to form the firm of Pierce and Pierce Architects in Houston. The firm’s principle projects included the master plan and the two terminal buildings of the Houston International Airport (now Bush Intercontinental); South Texas Headquarters of Southwestern Bell Telephone Co.; six buildings at Rice University; University Center and the Hilton Hotel School buildings at the University of Houston; Umphrey Lee Student Center at SMU; among many others. His architectural work included Layton Hall, an addition to the historic Christ Episcopal Church in Matagorda.
After moving to Blessing from Houston, Mr. and Mrs. Pierce formed the Blessing Historical Foundation (BHF), with the Hotel Blessing as its principle property. The hotel had been closed for many years and was in bad condition, however the Pierces refurbished and reopened it and its restaurant so that the foundation property would remain an active hub of the Blessing community beyond their lifetimes. He served as BHF president for many years and, with the help of local citizens on the BHF board, operated the hotel and restaurant as a non-profit organization. The hotel was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1977.
Mr. and Mrs. Pierce also restored and expanded the cast-iron fence surrounding the old family burial area at historic Hawley Cemetery, continuing a family tradition of service to the cemetery and the community begun by his mother, Adelaide Hall Pierce.
He was always happiest with his family who took pleasure in his loyalty, honesty and consideration. He was an avid and talented watercolorist—painting scenes of ordinary life and occupations wherever he happened to be. His work includes scenes of old Houston, earlier Matagorda County, fishing boats in the Palacios and Port Lavaca areas, scenes abroad in Sweden, and landscapes in the Texas Hill Country.
He is survived by his wife of 60 years, Ruth Harrison Pierce, of Blessing; daughters, Adelaide Pierce Carter and husband Jon Gary Carter of Valley Center, Calif., and Sally Jeannette Pierce of Blessing; a son, Dr. Jonathan Lacy Pierce and wife, Anna-Maria of Nevada City, Calif., and nephews Lee Hall Pierce and Fredrick Pierce of Blessing.
He was preceded in death by his parents, and his brothers Lee M. “Tick” Pierce, Hall E. Pierce and Clinton L. Pierce.
Pallbearers were Jon Gary Carter, Holly Claybourn, John L. Harrison, Lee Edward Pierce, Lee Hall Pierce and Harley G. Robinson. Honorary pallbearers were Alan Brown, Dr. James Davant, Dr. Scott Kellermann, John Pierce Kenner, Albert Niccolai, Frederick Pierce, David G Robinson, John S. Runnels and George Shafer.
In lieu of flowers, memorials may be made to the St. John’s Episcopal Church Building Fund, P. O. Box 895, Palacios, TX. 77465.
Palacios Beacon, July 19, 2003
Ruth H. Pierce, 94, died peacefully in her home in Blessing, TX on August 13, 2010. She was born in Palacios on July 21, 1916 to George A. Harrison and Lena S. Harrison. As a child, she lived on the family farm at Prairie Center, between Blessing and Palacios. Her father was a long-standing county commissioner during the difficult years of the Great Depression. She was the oldest sister to four siblings: Naomi Brown, Marion Robinson, George “Bill” Harrison, and Laura Huddleston. She attended Palacios High School and graduated as valedictorian of her class. After attending Rice University and the University of Texas, she earned a BA in Chemistry with honors and a subsequent Masters degree in Bacteriology. These were uncommon accomplishments for women at that time. While employed as a medical technologist in Houston, she met her future husband Abel B. Pierce, Jr., of Blessing. They were married at St John’s Episcopal Church on October 3, 1942. From 1938 to the present she was a member of the Iota Sigma Pi Honorary Fraternity for Women in Chemistry. She was an avid historian and co-founded the Blessing Historical Foundation, a non-profit organization aiding the upkeep of the historic Blessing Hotel. Her interest in history was secondary only to her interest in genealogy, prompting her to commission a Pierce family history that when unrolled spilled over the edges of a ten-foot table. She was a lifetime member of the Matagorda Co. Historical Museum Board, as well as the Contemporary Handweavers of Texas, serving as President from 1966-67. She was a lifelong member and devoted supporter of St John’s Episcopal Church, Palacios. She is survived by: daughter Adelaide Carter and her husband Gary, daughter Sally, son Jonathan, his wife Anna-Maria, and their daughter Jennifer. She is also survived by her dear sister Naomi Brown. She is lovingly remembered by all who knew her as a remarkable woman and will be sorely missed. Memorial Service: St Mark’s Episcopal Church, Bay City, at 11 am on Thursday, August 19, with Dr. Jim Ely officiating. Burial will follow at Hawley Cemetery. Pallbearers will be: Fred Brown, James Drew, John Harrison, Lee Edward Pierce, Harley Robinson, and Logic Tobola. Honorary pallbearers will be: Preston Bolton, Guy Claybourn, Jim Lovett, Frances Parker, Lee Hall Pierce, and Michael Pierce Jr. Visitation will be Wednesday, August 18th from 6:00-8:00 P.M. at Taylor Bros. Funeral Home in Bay City. In lieu of flowers donations may be made to the Blessing Historical Foundation or St. John’s Episcopal Church of Palacios.
Bay City Tribune, Wednesday,
August 18, 2010
Copyright 2013 -
Present by Carol Sue Gibbs
May 31, 2013
May 31, 2013