The Valley of Heart's Delight
James Pieronnet Pierce.
Prominent among the noted captains of industry who have contributed greatly toward the development of the resources of the Golden State, the late James Pieronnet Pierce will ever be given an enviable place in in California history. His father, Henry Miller Pierce, was born in Axminster, Devonshire, England. His mother, Susan Pieronnet, whose parents were both French, was born in Wayford, England. In 1820, she, with her parents, moved from England to Friendsville, Pa., and was soon followed by Henry Miller Pierce, whose father, John Harvey Pierce, had offered $10,000 to any of his sons who would go to America to live, having great faith in the future of this country. Therefore, Henry M. got both the money and the girl he had wanted before she left England.
James P. Pierce was born at Friendsville, Pa., where he remained until he reached his majority, when he moved west to Michigan and there engaged in the business of general merchandising at Constantine. There he met Miss Amelia Ann Pease, a native of Ann Arbor, whom he married in Jackson on August 25, 1852; he was then just twenty-seven years of age and she seventeen, and together they came to California in 1854, reaching San Francisco by way of the Isthmus. Almost immediately, they went to Yuba County and there at Smartsville, Mr. Pierce engaged in hydraulic mining becoming a leading operator before he sold out in 1878. He might have continued uninterruptedly in that important field, had not the death of a brother-in-law, A.H. Houston, drawn him back to San Francisco to take charge of an entirely different enterprise. Mr. Houston, as early as 1867, had undertaken to build part of the seawall along the San Francisco waterfront, under contract with the board of state harbor commissioners, and when he passed away he had finished only a part of that great undertaking and had gone to great expense in quarrying and cutting granite. Mr. Pierce succeeded to Mr. Houston’s interests and successfully completed 1130 feet of the new sea wall under a new and enlarged contract, receiving as his compensation $240 per lineal foot.
From 1868, for seven or eight years, Mr. Pierce’s family lived in San Francisco, and during that time he established general offices there, although his main interests continued to be the exploitation of hydraulic mining properties in Yuba County, which he still operated for many years after finishing the sea wall. In 1866, he purchased from Mr. Lent a very beautiful country home, occupying eighty-eight acres on the west side of Santa Clara, naming the place “New Park,” after the country home of his grandfather in England. The price paid Mr. Lent was $48,500, a very large sum for those days. It abutted on Franklin Street and included the present site of the Carmelite Monastery and a part of what is now the country home of R.T. Pierce. He continued to own and operate the Blue Gravel Mine, which was enlarged to include a water proposition and a large lot of land, and renamed it The Excelsior Water and Mining Company, under which title it was conducted until sold in 1881 to a syndicate composed of Haggin & Tevis, and others. His interest in this deal amounted to $600,000.
In 1877 Mr. Pierce bought a small planning mill in Santa Clara and changed its name of Enterprise Mill to the Pacific Manufacturing Company, and incorporated it in 1879. He purchased some timber lands in the Santa Cruz Mountains and built a saw-mill at Ben Lomond and put in the first band saw to be operated in California. Mr. Pierce at one time owned the Empire Gold Mine in Grass Valley, which he sold in 1872 to the father of W.B. Bourn for $150,000. This mine was developed by the Bourns to one of the largest and most profitable in the state. Soon after organizing the Pacific Manufacturing Company, Mr. Pierce became quite active as a lumberman and in addition to the Ben Lomond Mill he purchased timber lands and built a sawmill at Ash Creek at the foot of Mr. Shasta. At this time he was a pioneer in the sugar and white pine industry. He founded the Bank of Santa Clara County and erected the building which it occupied on the corner of Main and Franklin streets. He served as trustee of Mills Seminary, afterwards Mills College, for many years, devoting a great deal of time to its interests and making it many gifts.
Seven children survived Mr. and Mrs. Pierce. The eldest son, James H. Pierce, president of the Pacific Manufacturing Company, resides on the Alameda in San Jose; he married Marion P. Thurston, and they had two daughters, Edith, now the wife of J.G. Kennedy of Palo Alto, and Mildred, now deceased, who was the wife of George Corner Fenhagen, a prominent architect in Baltimore, Md. Richard T. is the treasurer of the Pacific Manufacturing Company and resides on one of the finest fruit ranches in the Santa Clara Valley and has a beautiful home. Caroline L became Mrs. W. J. Case, and is deceased. Annie A. married F.D. Goodhue, and resides in Pasadena. Grace I. became Mrs. F.D. Madison and is deceased. Florence is Mrs. F. H. Beaver, and resides in San Francisco, where her sister, Frande, now Mrs. L.L. Morse, is also living. Mr. Pierce passed away on February 26, 1897, and was buried beside his wife in Laurel Hill Cemetery, San Francisco.
transcribed by Susan Traugott from Egene Sawyers _History of Santa Clara_ pub 1922
SANTA CLARA COUNTY BIOGRAPHY PROJECT