Upon This Rock: Part III-Famous Pearces

Larry Pearce
4/21/01 rev. 5/9/13

I’d like to share with you some information on the most famous Pearces who ever lived and are still living. As a teacher, I visit various libraries and keep a file of biographies on our namesakes. The Internet has made my hunting and gathering much easier, and I see this research as an ongoing process. You can expect additions, corrections, and especially news that one or more of these folks is/are directly related to the Pearces of Bourne. Meanwhile, why not help? Send me ( LRYPEARCE@GMAIL.COM ) any leads that you find, and I’ll include them in updates periodically. Notice that not all the surnames here are spelled as we do. I’ve included some of the earlier “others” of note. But, I haven’t included all the famous Pearces under the different spellings. If you read Part I in this series, “The Origins of the Pearce Name,” you know that that would take forever. Also, while I’ve tried to keep these folks in chronological order, some dates refused to be discovered. I’ve placed those in proximity to their relatives of that time period. Let’s begin by going back to the De Percy references of the past two articles and their citations by William Shakespeare:

HENRY De PERCY (1341-1406/7) Earl of Northumberland, born in Alnwick Castle. After taking his son Henry (1364-1403), the legendary “Hotspur” in Shakespeare’s writings, to safety, he gathered military forces to defend his castle(s), but was defeated and slain at Branham Moor by Sir Thomas Rokeby, Sheriff [Pearce Genealogy by Frederick Pearce (1888)/ WWW.FAMILTYTREEMAKER.COM].

SIR HENRY PERCY (1364-1403), son of the above, an English rebel upon whom Shakespeare’s fictional “Hotspur” is based in Henry IV (1597). He was an honorable, but impatient, soldier who sought fame on the battlefield in the most serious threat to King Henry (1399-1413) by powerful nobles [see WWW.BRITANNICA.COM].

EDWARD PEARCE (1560-1613), born in London, he spent most of his boyhood and adult life at Canterbury as singer and composer. His compositions are for choir and lute. At age 28 he was named Gentleman of the Chapel Royal. In 1600 he became the Master of Children at St. Paul’s in London. His most famous pupil was Thomas Ravenscraft, whose Brief Discourse was published in 1614.

WILLIAM PEARCE/PIERCE (1580-1670), Bishop of Peterborough, Lincolnshire, probably not the Wiltshire Bourne where our family originated; Bath, a famous old Roman town in Wiltshire near Aldbourne, the possible home of our family; and Wells [county unknown]. He was appointed to the rectory of Grafton Regis, Northamptonshire in 1609; served as Vice-Chancellor in the Christ Church at Oxford where he used his authority to crush the Calvinist Party [Reformed/Presbyterians] from 1621-24 [around the time that Puritans arrived in America to escape similar persecution]. He became a bishop in 1630.

GEORGE PERCY ( ?-1 32) landed in Jamestown, Virginia, with Captain John Smith in 1607) [see Part I].

JOHN PIERCE/PEIRCE (?), creator of and lobbyist for the “Pierce Patent, 1621,” the document that gave official English governmental approval for the Pilgrims to remain in Plymouth after their arrival in 1620. He was a stockholder in the Plymouth Plantation company, which was called the Merchant Adventurers. His document actually superceded the famous and historic Mayflower Compact. Some family sources mistakenly credit him as owner of the original ship, the Mayflower, but this is unfounded.

ABRAHAM PIERCE (?), one of the passengers on the ship Little James that arrived in Plymouth, MA, bringing new settlers in 1623, just three years after the Mayflower brought the original Pilgrims.

“MR.” PEARCE (1635-?), passenger on the ship Defense of London to New England June 20, 1635. He carried a certificate from two justices of the peace and a minister of Towchester, Northampton, as to his identity and good character.

SIR EDWARD LOVET PEARCE (? -1733), architect of the Irish Papal House. He was also a military leader whose executrix was Lady Anne Pearce.

LT. GENERAL THOMAS PEARCE ( ? ), brother of Sir Edward and Governor of Limerick, Ireland.

NATHANIEL PEARCE (?), London goldsmith, granted a Coat of Arms in 1720 for “being a person of good reputation, loyalty and affection for His Majesty and Government; and hath a Sufficient Estate to support the condition of a Gentleman” [This is the Coat of Arms with the unicorns in Part II]. Apparently, Nathaniel raised a regiment of foot to defend London “against the advance of the old Pretender, the warring for baby, son of James II”.

ZACHARY PEARCE (1690-1774), Bishop of Rochester. He published the following works: Cicero (1716); Review of Text of Milton’s Paradise Lost (1732); Autobiography (c. 1770); Commentary on the four evangelists and Acts of the Apostles (1777). He is buried at Bromley College in Kent but has his bust at Westminister, where he served in the Deaconry.

THOMAS PEARCE (1722?-1756?), legal author. He published the following works: Laws and Customs of the Stannaries in the Counties of Cornwall and Devon (1725);
The Complete Justice of Peace and Parish Officer (1756); and The Idstone Papers – Articles and Observations on Sport and Things in General (1772?).

SAMUEL PEARCE (1766-1799), son of a Plymouth, UK, silversmith who became famous as a hymn writer. He was appointed minister of Cannon Street Baptist Church, Birmingham in 1790 and was one of the 12 ministers to sign the resolution founding the Baptist Missionary Society in 1792.

NATHANIEL PEARCE (1779-1820), adventurer whose biography, Salt’s Voyage to Abyssinia (1814), became famous around the world.

HUGH SMITHSON PERCY (?), 1st Duke of Northumberland and husband of Elizabeth Keate Macie, a lineal descendant of Henry VII. He was the biological father of the illegitimate James Smithson (1765-1829), the English scientist who provided funds for the founding of the Smithsonian Institution in Washington D.C. When Smithson’s nephew died without issue, his will gave everything to the U.S. for the museum. Smithson stated, “My name shall live in the memory of a man when the titles of the Northumberlands and Percys are extinct and forgotten.” He resented the circumstances of his illegitimate birth. In 1904, his remains were brought to and interred in the museum by Alexander Graham Bell [WWW.BRITANNICA.COM]. Some Pearce family history may mistakenly indicate that a PEERCE ( ? ) owned the ground in Washington D.C. in 1826 where the Smithsonian Institute now sits. It says he was “acquainted” with James Smithson, the benefactor.

GEORGE PIERCE ( ? ), the Quaker from Bristol, sold his estate near Philadelphia to the DuPont Family, which later became the beautiful Longwood Gardens, a public conservatory.

JOSEPH PEARCE, JR. ( ? ) wrote Violins and Violin Makers (1866).

SIR WILLIAM PEARCE (1833-1888), naval architect in British government service. Born in Chatham, he served an apprenticeship in the town’s dockyard. In 1861, at the time of the American Civil War, he was put in charge of building the first iron-clad ship in any of the royal yards, the Achilles. Later, in 1864, he joined Robert Napier and Son as general manager to build most of the vessels for the Cunard Line, which is still famous for its cruise ships. [The ill-fated Titanic, of the White State Lines, was constructed to compete with Cunard ships.] His engineering career ended in 1885 as chairman of the Fairfield Ship Building and Engineering Company. His works were all great iron steamers known for their speed crossing the Atlantic. Just before his death he entered Parliament, becoming Deputy Lieutenant and Justice of Peace for Lanarkshire in 1887 where he was crowned a Baronet.

STEPHEN AUSTEN PEARCE (1836-1900) was born in Kent, UK, and died in New Jersey. He earned his doctorate in music at Oxford in 1864 and taught at Columbia and Peabody. He was known for his skill as organist at churches in New York City but composed many works including “Celestial Visions,” “Psalm of Praise,” and the opera LaBelle Americana. His pocket dictionary of musical terms (1872) has been translated into 21 languages.

RICHARD PEARCE (1837-1927), metalurgist born in Camborne, Cornwall, England, to Richard D. and Jenifer Pearce. Following in the footsteps of his father, who was superintendant of the local tin mine, he studied the uses of metals, but soon moved to Colorado where he became famous as a researcher and entreprenuer.

CHARLES SPRAGUE PEARCE (1851-1914), American Painter from Boston.

CHARLES WILLIAM PEARCE (1856-1928) was born in Salisbury and died in Bournemouth, both in southwest England. After earning his doctorate of music from Cambridge, he served as organist and music theorist at Trinity College. As a member of the Royal College of Organists he edited the journal Organist and choirmaster. Known for his outspoken views on liturgical worship, his works include Notes on English Organs of the Period 1800-1810, Textbook of Musical Knowledge (1901), and Evolution of the Pedal Organ (1927).

REV. E. H. PEARCE (?) wrote The History of English Festivals (1904).

WILLIAM PEARCE (1862-?) was born in Cornwall, England to John Richard and Ann Thomas Pearce. He served the Methodist Church.

ERNEST HAROLD PEARCE (1865-1930), Bishop of Worchester, England.

RICHARD MILLS PEARCE (1874-1930) was the son of a Royal Canadian Mounted Policeman. His mother was Sarah Smith Pearce. This physician and researcher became the first Chair at the University of Pennsylvania’s School of Medicine in 1910 in Philadelphia.

PATRICK PEARSE (1879-1916) President of the Provisional Irish Republican Government who was executed by British firing squad on Easter day for signing a declaration of independence from England [see Part I].

WILLIS L. PEARCE ( ? ), World War I hero of Manhattan, Kansas, has the American Legion Post there named after him.

JOHN PEARCE (1831-?), probably the most internationally known from our immediate family, my Great Uncle, son of our Great-Great Grandparents Richard and Susan Austen Pearce, and brother to my Great-Grandfather Charles (1834-1914) and Alfred (1816-95), the Harmony, PA, banker. His Pennsylvania mills in Harmony, Greenville, and Latrobe produced blankets and carpeting for automobile manufacturers including Ford and Peirce-Arrow. Son William and grandson Joseph later ran the operation. In the 1950s the mill provided blankets for soldiers in the Korean War. He sold out to Woolrich in the 60s [see article on the Pearce Woolen Mill].

HARRY PEARCE (?), son of William and brother of Joseph, mentioned above with the Pearce Woolen Mill, was a civil engineer on the Panama Canal project in 1904.

McLEOD MILLIGAN PEARCE (1874-1948), born in Bellevue near Pittsburgh of William and Margaret McKinney Pearce. He is a distant cousin. He attended Geneva College, Beaver Falls, and the Pittsburgh Seminary where he earned a Doctor of Divinity degree in 1915. After serving at the First Presbyterian Churches in Philadelphia and St. Louis he served as president of Geneva College from 1923-48. [See article devoted to the Rev. Dr. M.M. Pearce.]

DR. E. K. VICTOR PEARCE (?-2010), adopted and raised in Bourne, Lincolnshire by the late Mrs. Adelaide Pearce [see the article, “A Visit to Bourne”]. His letters include B. Sc., Dip. Anth., ALCD, M. R.E., D. Ed., FRAI, and CF. His world-wide Christian ministry to millions via radio, video, and publications, located in Stoke-on-Trent, is known as “Evidence for Truth.” His books include Who was Adam?, Origin of Man, Origin of the Bible, and Advent or Atom?.

BILL PEARCE (1926-2010), native of Carlisle, Pennsylvania, and Minister of Music. As a trombonist with dozens of albums to his credit, his radio series, Night Sounds, is still heard over hundreds of stations around the world [WIKIPEDIA.ORG]. Enjoy Bill on YouTube.

GUY PEARCE (1968- ), a native of Australia who idolizes his late father, a military test pilot who flew the first Harrier jets. After attending an exclusive private high school, he skipped college to pursue acting. His first notices came as he played an outrageous drag queen in The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert (1994). More recently, he starred with Kevin Spacey and Danny DeVito in LA Confidential (1997).

MARCY MORRISON PEARCE and MATTHEW, mother and son/wife and husband? duo who produced and announced an afternoon program of religious features on a 40-station international network out of Oakland, California, called Family Radio [see WWW.FAMILYRADIO.COM].

PHYLLIS PEARCE (1920- ), author of children’s literature.

JOHN B. PEARCE (1927-2000), professional actor and native of Gainesville, GA, appeared with Paul Newman in Cool Hand Luke (1967) and in an episode of The Waltons (1975) [WWW.FANDANGO.COM].

JONATHAN PIERCE ( ? ) popular Christian recording artist. This Texas native now resides in Nashville with his wife Denise [IMUSIC.ARTISTDIRECT.COM].

Q.L. PEARCE (?) author of the series for young people Scary Stories for Sleepovers and books on dinosaurs [see WWW.AMAZON.COM].

ADAM PEARCE (?) better known as “Scrap Iron” to his professional wrestling fans.

CHRISTIE PEARCE (1975- ) played for the United States in Women’s World Cup Soccer and is now playing professionally. She was born in Point Pleasant, NJ, and attended Monmouth College. She has set many records in women’s soccer [WWW.WOMENSOCCER.COM].

SIMON PEARCE (?) an internationally-known glassblower from Vermont [WWW.SIMONPEARCEGLASS.COM].

JOHN PEARCE (?) is a world class Canadian equestrian show jumper. Holding many records, he still competes in the World Cup [WWW.JOHNPEARCE.COM].

JOHN PEARCE (?) Internationally acclaimed classical guitarist and composer who currently lives in Sacramento, CA, with many albums to his credit.

HARRY PEARCE (?) Former Vice-President of General Motors featured in Fortune magazine.

BETSY PEARCE (?) fashion designer recently featured in Harper’s Bazaar.

ROBERT PEARCE (?) contemporary British historian whose publications includes Atlee.

Stay tuned for additional names and details. Have we missed any? Well, there’s Larry Pierce, the famous Hollywood producer, and we haven’t mentioned the Internet sites for the Pearce Pistol Grip in Texas, the Pearce real estate agents in Connecticut, or the Pearce insurance underwriters in South Carolina. And, please forgive me for not listing your family or business website – yet. If I may, I’d like to save those for a future article. But, please send additions and corrections to the above to me at LRYPEARCE@GMAIL.COM .

Return to PART I (Origins of the Pearce name)

Return to PART II (Heraldry)

Go to PART IV (More recent celebrities)

E-mail address revised 3/25/22

2 Responses to Upon This Rock: Part III-Famous Pearces

  1. Tina says:

    Ernest Harold Pearce was my great uncle. Please let me know if you are related.

    • admin says:

      I don’t recognize the name. Have you Googled the name? Can you give me the names, dates, and locations of other ancestors? Thanks for your interest!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Time limit is exhausted. Please reload the CAPTCHA.