U.S. Hwy 59
8 miles W of Wharton
the county seat
5 miles NE of El Campo
ZIP code 77467
Area code 979
Population: 49 Est. (2000)
barely-related facts on
neighboring towns in
"There stands Ol' Pierce"
- quote from Shanghai Pierce himself.
Photo courtesy TXDoT >
Don't look for the statue (right)) of Pierce to be in Pierce, Texas.
The staute stands in the beautifully maintained Hawley
cemetery just north of Blessing,
is located along the former railroad tracks, which have been taken
up in recent years. The roadbed is still in place although the line
had been abandoned in 1940. The towns along this stretch of Highway
59 were named after the Hungerford/ Telferner families.
"Colonel" Hungerford was a Mexican War veteran with two daughters
- Edna and Louise.
Louise married, widowed, and had a child named Eva. Her next husband
was named Mackay who had made a fortune in mining in Colorado. Louise
Mackay took her daughters to Europe where daughter Edna married an
Italian Count named Telferner. With Mackay's money and 600 of Telferner's
paisanos to do the work, they formed the New York, Texas and Mexican
Railway. The locals named it the "Macaroni Line" from the diet of
the Italian laborers.
The Count was president of the railroad and "Colonel" Hungerford was
Courtesy Texas General Land Office
(Shanghai) Pierce was a Yankee from Rhode Island. He arrived in
Texas with .75 cents to his name. Some say that the following year
he still had 60 cents left. Pierce's self-admitted cheapness was legendary.
(For some amusing highlights, see Ten
things you should know about Shanghai Pierce.)
agreed to take his first year's pay in cattle. When the year was up
- Pierce got the culls of the herd - and a lesson in cattle raising.
After a year's work in the saddle - Shanghai
was the proud owner of a herd of six cows. 30% of his "herd"
died shortly after delivery. It was a lesson Pierce
never forgot. He became wealthy the old fashioned way - one cow at
a time. These were rounded up in a fashion that later came to be called
rustling. All of Pierce's
acquisitions were in the Matagorda / Wharton County region - land
that would later be owned by Pierce.
became one of Texas' most flamboyant
characters. His blustery demeanor and legendary cheapness alone would've
earned him a place in Texas history - but for good measure he also
possessed an ego that would make Donald Trump look like he had an
By the time the railroad
business was getting started - Pierce
already owned most of Matagorda County and part of Wharton.
Always a fast learner, Pierce picked up on the town-naming trend and
modestly named the three stations planned for his property to be Pierce,
Shanghai, and Borden (after his nephew). Only after wrangling with
the railroad for two years did Pierce get the railroad to live up
to 1/3 of their bargain of building depots.
The towns of Shanghai,
Texas and Borden died on the drawing board. Pierce also had a
spur for Podo,
Texas - a siding named after a former slave who oversaw that portion
of the Pierce holdings. Podo
was a Zulu and Pierce used to send him supplies via the railroad -
including bi-annual deliveries of 40 gallon barrels of whiskey for
in his twilight years, started worrying about his legacy. He ordered
his full size "likeness" carved in marble from none other than German-born
San Antonio sculptor
After getting Teich
to lower his price, Pierce
had the statue erected with the inscription: Shanghai Pierce - Born
1834 - Died 1900. He told Teich
that Mrs. Pierce would fill in the blank when the time came. The price
had been $2,500, but Pierce got Teich to reduce the price to $2,250
(Teich made up the difference by making the hat smaller).
|Frank E. Borden
Home in Pierce
| "The photo
is the house my Grandmother lived in while her father, Frank, worked
for his uncle Abel
Head Pierce. She told many stories of her life in Pierce. She
married and moved to Victoria,
Tx. She married the telegraph operator on the train, Walter Vernon
Greer. The house still stands." - Edith Smith, September 03,
Today, the town
of Pierce consists of eight or ten houses, a post office, church,
and a former post office that is now labeled "The Pierce Country Club".
The entrance to the Pierce ranch is just across from where the railroad
tracks used to be. Pierce's statue
is in the Hawley cemetery near Blessing,
|The former post
office, now the Pierce "Country Club"
TE photo, 2001
pictured from the Pierce School in 1910. The school was built by A.
H. “Shanghai” Pierce. Pierce Ranch imported the first Brahman
herd in the United States around 1900."
Photo courtesy Wharton County Historical Museum
of significant events in Pierce, Texas
1881: The New York
Texas and Mexican Railway lays tracks between Rosenberg and Victoria.
1883: Depot designated Pierce's Station
1884: One of Pierce's steers derails train - Pierce demands payment
1886: A post office was granted under same name
1890: population reaches 40 persons
1894: 160 acres surveyed and town platted
1895: Name changed to simply Pierce, Texas
1900: Shanghai Pierce dies and is buried beneath his pre-ordered monument
1921: Brick school was built
1950: Pierce reaches highest population of 150
2000: Population is reduced to only 49
Pierce had planned to make the town of Pierce the county seat by giving
a right-of-way to another railroad - making it a railroad crossroads.
He built a large hotel in anticipation, but the deal never came through.
A marker today stands where The Pierce Hotel once stood.
|Abel H. Pierce
Gibson, August 2011
Marker is at the Pierce Ranch headquarters, about a mile southeast
Gibson, August 2011
More Texas Centennial
|The sign for
the Pierce Ranch
TE photo, 2001
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