"Ten Things you
should know about...
Beef - it's what's for dinner - again. by
Pierce statue close-up|
Photo courtesy Barclay
Gibson, February 2009
in Rhode Island, Abel Head Pierce claimed he had to move when his 6-foot
four-inch height made him sleep with his head in the lap of a person in Massachusetts.
He stowed-away on an Indianola-bound ship and arrived in Texas a 19-year old with
seventy-five cents in his pocket.|
2. His name of Shanghai had
nothing to do with China. Given by childhood friends - it was promoted in Texas
by Pierce himself. It was said his height and too-short trousers made him resemble
a Shanghai Rooster. Shanghai roosters were noted for being long-legged and scrawny.
The resemblance was strongest when he wore spurs.
3. He worked his first
year in exchange for $200 worth of cattle to start his own herd. When the time
came for payment the few cows he was given were overvalued by 100% and past their
prime. Several soon died. Cattle-Barons were self-taught and in lieu of books
titled: "So You Want to be a Cattle Baron?" other future Barons gave lessons to
one another - harsh lessons. Pierce was a fast learner and eventually got even
with the man who paid him in worthless cattle.
4. His involvement
in the Civil War consisted of being present. Although he was a Northerner,
Pierce and his brother enlisted in "D" Company, 1st Texas Cavalry at Texana,
Texas. His commander made him "company butcher" and his knowledge of "acquiring"
cattle guaranteed his unit was supplied with beef. He later bragged about his
role being equal to that of a Major General -"always on the rear in advance, always
in the lead on retreat." He saw the war merely as an interruption in his cattle
5. In dress and manner he bordered on the theatrical
with brocaded vests, monogrammed shirts and broad-brimmed high-peaked hats. He
ordered his gravesite statue long before his death so he would have time to appreciate
| 6. Pierce started
out branding stray cattle - despite previous brands. It wasn't then a crime since
everybody was doing it. By the time it became a crime - most of the stray cattle
had the Pierce brand and he took it personally when his cattle or hides were found
in other hands. |
7. His lynching of several men for rustling (the men
were on the Sutton side of the Taylor-Sutton duel) necessitated his leaving the
state for a period of time.
8. His cheapness is reveled in some of his
correspondence. After completion of a cattle drive where he netted 25,000 dollars
- he added a note to his ranch boss to collect .50 from a cowboy he had loaned
a pair of socks to.
9. Occasionally he was afflicted with generosity
and he once bought the lumber for a church that was being constructed. Later while
riding by the church - a visitor once asked: "Do you belong to that Church, Mr.
Pierce?" The reply was - "No, That church belongs to me."
often carried an alphabet of branding irons. One day Pierce spotted one of his
cows that had been branded: AHP is a SOB. It amused Pierce and he didn't sell
the cow. He let it range for life since he said it was a good advertisement.
Pierce died the day after Christmas, 1900. His empire underwent a huge loss
after the 1900
hurricane that destroyed Galveston
First published December 2001
An informal history of Pierce, Texas: Containing barely- related
facts on neighboring towns in Wharton, Jackson and Victoria Counties. By Brewster
I first learned about Shanghai Pierce last February when I
was asked to be part of the entertainment for the First Annual Shanghai Days Cowboy
Gathering in Wharton in April. And then what I was told was not nearly as interesting
account. ..... Well, thanks for the skinny behind Pierce. - Lou Ann
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