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John P. Pearce

As published in the "Commemorative Biographical Record of Prominent and Representative Men of Racine and Kenosha Counties, Wisconsin containing Biographical Sketches of Business and Professional Men and Many of the Early Settled Families", The J. H. Beers & Co., Chicago, 1906.

Transcribed by Michelle Laycock

John P. Pearce (deceased) was for twenty-five years curator of Racine College, and its stanch [sic] and invaluable supporter and advocate when its future was insecure, as well as during its later period of prosperity. He was born in Hounslow, County of Middlesex, England, Nov. 19, 1846, son of John Pearce, also a native of that country. The father learned the manufacture of gunpowder in all its branches, and after emigrating to America acted for several years as superintendent of the Hazzard Powder Company, at Canton, Conn., having some interest in the company. There, in 1858, he was killed by an explosion, his wife having died three years before. They were the parents of four children (all deceased), and were members of the Episcopal Church.

John P. Pearce was but an infant when his parents brought him to America, and after his father's death he located at Enfield, Conn., where he attended the public schools, and later the Suffield Literary Institute. He was then a pupil at the Wesleyan Academy, spent a year in Eastman's Business College, and pursued the regular course at the Cheshire Military School, preparing for Trinity College at Hartford, Conn. After leaving the military school he learned the duties of the different junction and station agents of the then Hartford, Providence & Fishkill (now the New York & New England) railroad. He became chief clerk and afterward was promoted to the position of paymaster of the entire system, which he held until he became secretary and treasurer of the St. Paul (Minn.) Lumber Company. He relinquished that position in 1875, and selling out his interestes, joined with certain New York and Maine parties, and through the counsel of Benjamin Butler gained the right of sluicing logs over the Holyoke dam, to their great manufacturing plant at Hartford, where they supplied spruce lumber for wholesale dealers. A few years later Mr. Pearce severed his connection with the firm, and in 1880 located in Racine, Wis., becoming curator of Racine College, an office which he filled until his resignation shortly before his death, on Oct. 3, 1905.

Mr. Pearce had resigned his position because of needed rest, as he had not enjoyed a vacation for many years, and was considering the feasibility of entering again into business. At the time of his death his wife was in Tacoma, Wash., visiting her sister, and Mr. Pearce was stopping at the "Hotel Racine." He was found dead, and partly dressed, on the floor of his room, on the morning of the date named, valvular heart disease being pronounced the cause of death.

As stated, Mr. Pearce had been curator of Racine College since 1880; he was also secretary of its board of trustees for five years, and altogether the value of his labors in behalf of the institution cannot be overestimated. He lived to be of material assistance in bringing the college through several critical periods to such a substantial condition that it had an attendance of about 170 pupils, with large, finely eqipped buildings. Personally he owned valuable mining interests in the Black Hills, British Collumbia (Lardeau Valley) and San Juan, and was president of the Dunton Gold Mining Syndicate which had been organized with a capital of $100,000. He also owned considerable business and residence property in Racine.

In 1874 John P. Pearce married Miss Elizabeth Hart Ely, daughter of Alfred and Mary (Bull) Ely, the former a native of Connecticut and the latter of Massachusetts. Mr. and Mrs. Pearce were the parents of one daughter, Elizabeth Brewster, the wife of First Lieutenant Edwin Bruce Floyd, now residing in Dixon, Illinois.

Notwithstanding his energy, pertinacity and executive ability Mr. Pearce was a quiet man, of pleasing and naturally retiring manners. He was a strong member and active worker in the Episcopal Church, ideal in his domestic relations and absolutely honorable in all his dealings. His death was a heavy blow both to the college and the city.

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