Mr. & Mrs. H.
D. Pearce & Family
Early Pioneers of Brownwood - Paint
Rock & Runnels Co.
Just Ordinary Pioneers - with no claim to Fame.
By Ethel Anna Pearce Hayley
Mr. & Mrs. H. D. Pearce left their home in Grayson Co.
to pioneer Westward in 1875. Mr. Pearce, after serving in the
War between the States, had been a Freighter between San Antonio
& north Texas and also broke wild horses. He broke in 2 wild
horses with a gentle team and drove them with the wagon loaded
with all their household goods, a milk cow tied to the wagon,
and water keg on the side. Mrs. Pearce followed driving a team
hitched to a hack with the children and camping equipment. A
few miles out the unruly wild team completely turned over the
wago. But Pioneers seldom give up. The wagon was reloaded, most
of the Furniture had to be mended. Not a dish was broken, because
of the careful packing of Mrs. Pearce. They camped along the
right of way of the Santa Fe R.R. taking plenty of time to rest
the teams, hobbled out, to graze the grass for this was the only
feed to sustain them over the rough, dim roads. They stretched
their tent in the little town of Brownwood where they bought
200 acres of land at $1.00 per acre and lived there until 1878.
This land was a mile west of the Courthouse. They decided to
precede the Santa Fe further west, where they could file one,
and buy cheaper land. So in 1878 they again loaded the wagon
and hack and followed the dim road westward, locating in the
little town of Paint Rock in Concho Co. Mr. Pearce helped to
survey the lines between Concho and McCoullough Co. His 9 year
old son, Hubert, drove the team to the wagon that carried the
camping equipment, while Mrs. Pearce cooked & served meals,
in their tent, to the Prospectors and Cowboy. Among her regular
boarders were 2 young men, John T. Guion and C.C.F. Blanchard,
who later became prominent lawyers of Ballinger.
It took 6 months to locate and get a title to the 1000 acres
of land. The Pearces bought and paid 50 cents an acre for land
on Valley Creek, 7 mi. from where Ballinger now stands. Lumber
and strong cedar posts were hauled from Brownwood to build a
big room and lean to kitchen with a ducking roof & dirt floor.
The family moved on Jan. 13 to this lonely home on the prairie,
where the antelope played around the door and cayotes howled.
They thought they had reached their goal of starting the big
Ranch that someday they hoped to own in West Texas. Years later,
when reviewing the hardships of those early years Mrs. Pearce
said, she believed the 13th was truly an unlucky day for them,
as that goal was never reached.
The big holes of water on Valley Creek abounded in fish but
Mr. Pearce was too busy to fish. He was riding the ranges, with
Newt. Copeland who went horseback over the dim trails, to hunt
out the settlers, who signed a Petition that was presented to
the Comissioner's Court of Coleman Co. asking and praying that
Runnels Co. be separated from Coleman Co. for judical purposes.
Mrs. Pearce spent much of her time teaching her children to
Read and write. When her husband was away from home they scarcely
ventured outside for Indians, though friendly, roamed Valley
Creek hunting. They sometimes came to the house and taried to
talk, but neither could understand the other. After they passed
on some of the chickens or live stock that grazed near the creek
would be missing. In Feb. when Mr. Peace was away from home,
Mrs. Pearce sat all night with a gun, to shoot the wild animal
that kept lurching again and again against the little shack.
The little watch dog inside kept barking and no doubt but this
animal wanted to make a meal of him. A light snow had been in
the ground several days and as day light came the animal left.
Later hunters came, who had been tracking their animal. They
followed the tracks and killed it a half mile furher, it was
said to be one of the biggest Mexican Lions ever killed in West
On Jan. 10, 1880, at a called session of Coleman Co. Commissioners
Court, the Petition was presented and plea heard and granted.
Runnels Co. in all respects was given full control of all its
governmental affairs. On Feb. 16 the County was organized in
a large 1 room house on the old Gray Ranch 4 miles east of Content.
I visited this Ranch more than a Quarter of a Century ago and
found rooms added so this Room was a part of the Ranch House
in very good preservaton. I just wanted to see the place where
Runnels Co. was organized that I had heard so much about, as
a growing child. The rough, hilly Ranch surrounded by Mountains
still looked like a very lonely place - these long years later.
The 1st. Officers were Sylvesta Adams, County Judge; Wm Guest,
Commissioner of Precint #1; W.G. Preston, Commissioner of Precint
#2; P.S. Turner Commissioner of Princint #3; John Fromalt, Sherriff;
W.N. Copeland, County Clerk. Later in Runnels H.D. Pearce was
made Justice of the Peace. D.C. Underwood, Asessor; H.E. Dickinson
Surveyor; W.R. Spencer, County Attorney - he succeeded Nehe Taylor;
- Capt. W.L. Towner succeeded W.N. Copeland as County & Districk
Clerk. Harding (?) Conner was Constable of Precint No. 1; Col.
T.L. Odom was also an early Commissioner. The Second Commissioner
of Precint #1 was C.H. Willingham later he became Judge. Thad
Thompson was appointed to locate all school lands.
As a Tribute to all Runnels Co. and Coke Co. very early Pioneer
Women, who worked so hard and bravely pioneered I want to tell
you the Story of my birth for it was conceded at a Pioneer Reunion
at Ballinger years ago, that I was the first White Child born
in the new Runnels Co. The County was organized Feb. 16 and I
was born March 2,1880. My partents told me this.
Before daybreak March 1 Mr. Pearce bid goodby to his wife
and 3 children and started, in his wagon, for Coffees Store at
Wallhall (then called Picketsville) for Supplies and on to Paint
Rock to bring back a midwife, for the Pearce's were expecting
a visit from the Stork in a few weeks. At sunup the wind began
to blow and soon a notorious sand storm of that day was raging.
The wind and sand rocked and beat the little shack all day. Late
in the afternoon a wild sow with her litter, sought refuge in
this human abode, the 10 year old son shot into the bunch, the
sow departed immediately, leaving behind a dead pig. The pioneer
mother, ever on the alert for fresh meat for her family, skinned,
salted and put away this meat.
Soon the lean to cook room blew away, scattering untensils
as far as a half mile away. The living room, more substantially
built withstood the storm, but the ducking roof began to rip
away. Mrs. Pearce overturned an empty water barrel, climbed upon
it amd just as she thought it was nailed secure, a harder gust
of wind ripped away all of the roof. Sand poured in the house,
this was when there was no plowed ground.
As the mother put her sleepy children to bed she realized
the Stork had decided to hasten his visit. Realizing she must
depend upon herself for assistance, she made ready as best she
could in the dark, for the kerosene lantern would not stay lighted
in this terrific Storm. About midnight the storm ceased, no doubt
in answer to her prayer, a great calm came upon the land. The
stars came out in all their glory and lighted up every corner
of the roofless room; about 3 a.m. one of the first pioneers
was born in the new Runnels Co. She was myself, Ethel Anna Pearce,
born on March 2, 1880.
Because of her bravery and experience in waiting on her sick
neighbors, in Paint Rock and Brownwood, my wonderful mother was
able to care for herself at this time. She wrapped warmly her
new born babe, and rested until daybreak. Then the 10 year old
son was awakened and sent a mile away where an old German and
his son were camped, improving their land. He was told to take
his wagon and bring some women from the nearest neighbors 5 miles
distant. Upon arriving there and telling his errand, one of the
women became hysterical, for she, too, was expecting a visit
from the stork soon and would not permit the other woman to leave
her. Yes, they were forgiven, for 3 weeeks later my mother carried
her new baby and watched through the long hours of the night
at the dying bedside of this same young mother, who was not strong
enough to endure these pioneer hardships and she helped to prepare
the bodys for burial.
The German returned with no help, my mother said - "Mr.
Nulan, the storm that nearly blew away my home, also blew in
a little baby girl." He said, in broken English, "My
Gott, I am an old man, my children are all grown, if there is
anything I can do for you, Command me?" She modestly replied
"Please nail the roof over my head and help the children
to gather the scattered contents of the kitchen. The wide eyed
children rejoiced when they were shown the neatly dressed baby
sister, for this was the first announcement of the new arrival.
An old batchelor, Major G.W. Perryman of Washington, D.C.
had just arrived in the new Co. (later he became the 1st Judge
of Coke Co.) Hearing of the dilemma, he walked 5 miles to offer
his assistance. Arriving he walked the dirt floor exclaiming
Well! Well! Well! many times.
Apparently as helpless as the new born baby finally he said
"I know what I can do, I'll go to the next neighbor (10
miles distant) and bring her if I have to carry her and her children
on my back." Away he went. Late afternoon, a young mother
came back, while the Major stayed with her children. She spent
an hour, satisfied that the mother and her children had done
all that could be done, she left reaching her home as darkness
The weary and disheartened father reached home at sundown
March 2 with the supplies but had been unable to get a midwife
as the only 2 in the country were already employed. So he cared
for his wife and family until she was strong again. Failing to
get a mid-wife, he planned to take his family in his wagon to
Coleman, where there was a doctor. He was glad that the Stork
had called and all seemed well. A young man, Joe Cotton, came
and spent the night, to see if the family needed anything. They
sat up most all night talking and my Mother told me "It
was like a tonic to her, as he brought all the news." Those
mentioned were the only visitors. A few months later Mr. Nulan
tore down his partly built shack and loaded his wagon, and his
son, came by to say Good bye saying "I am going back to
my home in the East for I will not bring my family to this God
forsaken Country where sick women have to wait upon themselves
and some die for the lack of proper attention."
My father tried to secure the townsite for the County Seat
of the new Runnels Co. on his land. He was located between Maverick
and the Elm. Willet Holmes & Henry Garmon Surveys, a vote
was taken. Maverick receiving 29 votes and the Survey 59 votes.
As soon as the County Seat was selected, the Pearces loaded their
wagon and moved to Runnels City stretched the 1st tent, for these
reasons; so the 8 and 10 year old boy & girl could take advantage
of the first School in Runnels Co. Mrs. Pearce saying "All
the land in the County would not suffice, if her children would
be deprived of an education and association with people. She
had taught them all she could as, growing up, on a Plantation
in Civil War days she had very little schooling, only a teacher
part time on the Plantation. A Cancer had developed on Mr. Pearce's
nose. He went back east to have it removed and Drs. told him
he could never work in the hot sun; so he must give up completely
a Rancher Life for which he had already sacrificed much.
Major G.W. Perryman built the first home in Runnels city,
a small Law Office, just room enough for his bed, desk, &
chair, all the walls lined with book shelves for he had brought
a fine library, mostly Law Books, with him. He told the Pearce's
that he would starve to death if he had to eat his own cooking.
So, Mrs. Pearce had to cook for him, she was the only woman in
the new town for 4 months, so was soon cooking for all the Prospectors
and Cowboys who came.
The Pearce 3 room house and a Saloon went up about the same
time. Lumber had to be hauled by wagon from Abilene and Brownwood.
Roadshad to be designated and cleared. There was no Ice - so
a well was dug in the center of the town, it was weak, but supplied
cool drinking water for the people. Water was hauled from Elm
Creek for household use. I hadn't realized how busy those first
settlers were, until I read part of Newt. Copeland's 1st Records
as Clerk of Runnels Co. I was invited by Will Chastain Co. Clerk
of Ballinger years ago to read these early activiites in which
my father was on many Committees in building and starting of
the new town. It was a sacred and precious Book to me for these
activities were common conversation when I was a growing child.
There was no machinery only a few tools - so those early pioneer
W.Tex was dry and experienced a terrible drouth in the early
1880s. Many were stricken with what they called Slow Fever. I
was stricken with it the summers of 1885 and 1886/ There was
no ice, so my mother kept one of the boys on the path to the
well, in the center of Runnels City, for cold water to bathe
my fevered brow. When my life was despared of, a runner (that
was a man on horseback, who changed horses at ranches for fresh
ones)was sent to Coleman for a Dr. He came horseback, with his
pill bags in his saddle bag. He left a lot of Quinine to be give
me. Too much was given me; so when fever left me, I came back
to a silent world. I was totally deaf two years. I was taken
to every Doctor who came to the new county. All said, "I
might out grow it in a few years." I did regain my hearing
in one ear, but have gone through life with a deficiency in hearing.
Flu 15 years ago, has greatly increased my deafness.
I started in the Ballinger school at the age of 8 years, just
as I had regained partial hearing. I completed the Ballinger
schools in 1897. It wasn't then graded so no diplomas were given.
At the organization of Ballinger Allumi Association 32 years
later, ll of us who had finished the school in the pioneer days,
were invited to a banquet at the Central Hotel and given Honorary
High School Diplomas. This Hotel on South corner of the block
of land my father, H. D. Pearce purchased on June 29th 1886,
the big day the 1st lots were sold.
Runnels County was settled mostly by ExConfederate Soldiers.
They came to reconstruct their lives after the War Between the
States. They came for various reasons, a lot wanted to cure the
whiskey habit only to find plenty of saloons. A wild element
of cowboys came, would often get drunk and shoot up Runnels City.
When Col. Odom and the Wylie Boys and others began to fence their
land - trouble really began. These drunken cowboys, who came
in for 40 or 50 miles, got drunk and cut the wire fences as fast
as they were put up. There was no law against wirecutting so
the Governor ordered a hasty election for the Legislature. Col.
T. L. Odom was elected; my father and Newt Copeland, the County
Clerk, rode horseback to Coleman, to send a telegram to Austin
announcing Col. Odom's election. As I am trying to confine this
paper mostly to Pearce Family History, I will not write of much
other happenings of those early years.
In 1882, a man came claiming he owned the 1000 acres of land
on Valley Creek my father had bought and paid for. They were
preparing a lawsuit, but knew it might drag through the slow
courts for years. Each became convinced the other had as good
title as the other - so they settled it themselves by dividing
it, each got 500 acres. My father had taken up 1200 acres each
for my eldest brother and sister. As guardian, he sold it a few
years later to Rev. J. W. Raby. There was so much trouble over
titles to land that when my brother and sister came of age -
Rev. Raby came and got each of their signatures on the deed.
Runnels City had between 800 and 900 inhabitants and there were
8 lawyers living in the little town when the R.R. came to Ballinger.
They made a living mostly clearing land titles.
There were three rooms in the Pearce home in Runnels City,
until a rock store building went up for a general store and courtroom
upstairs. The court rented our front room for a court room. I
read this in County Clerk Copeland's early records. The next
room was used for the Post Office and restaurant and the family
lived in the back room. When the court moved, the front room
housed the Post Office, little store and restaurant.
The mail, at first, was kept in a tool chest. The stagecoach
only came by occasionally, later it came twice a week. The cowboys
sit on the tool chest to eat, until chairs were procured, and
at times, had to stand when someone called for the mail. Those
very early days getting started made very interesting stories
as my parents told them to me. I have a photo of the store made
in 1885 with some of the customers and even shows the mail boxes
inside. My mother said everything was so much easier with the
coming of the Railroad.
My parents had two daughters born in Runnels City with only
the care of a mid-wife. Then just before the family moved to
Ballinger a third daugher was born, this time with a doctor's
care. They were so happy, they named her Olive for Dr. Oliver,
a new doctor who had moved to Ballinger. Two other baby girls
were born in the early years of Ballinger.
When 2 years of age, I almost severed my foot, near the instep,
on a broken whiskey bottle on the street of Runnels City. With
only my mother for a doctor it was slow heading and more than
a year before I walked again. With drunken cowboys often shooting
up the town and terryfying me, and my two long spells of fever,
in the drouth of the early 1880's, I would not want to live over
the first eight years of my life as I lived it it in the now
ghost town of Runnels City, though there are a few happy memories
Some of the girls about the age of my eldest sister, Mary,
were sent east to college. Those whose names I remember were:
Mamie Sue Tom, Minnie Doose and Maggies Miles and my sister Mary.
She was sent to Sherman, Texas to live with an aunt 2 years to
attend Mary Nash College for Young Ladies. It is now extinct.
When she came home, she taught the Silver, Coke County, School,
perhaps was the first teacher there. Several of these oil rich
old timers now, were her pupils in 1890 or 1891.
The drouth of 1880 was so bad, people had no maney to buy
grub. Wasn't called groceries then, for no can goods and fresh
vegetables, such things as you see in grocery stores today. Coffee,
sugar, flour and meal and dried fruits and bacon was about all
the very early settlers could buy. They had plenty of beef. Neighbors
took turns about butchering and bringing it around to sell. I
can hardly believe these days that a quarter of beef was most
always hanging in our smoke house in early Ballinger, and the
cook sliced big steaks to cook each meal. But I saw it with my
own eyes and was raised mostly on beef. In early Runnels City
there was no milk, for the cows, with only grass to eat, and
mostly Longhorns just didn't give any milk. Many years after
the long drouth, the prairies in Runnels and Coke Counties were
full of bones of the cattle that died in the 1880s.
A happy time for the children of Runnels City was when the
houses of the town were being hauled by wagon to Ballinger with
stout teams of mules and horses. The families lived in the houses
as they were being moved. A lot of them stopped over night on
the way. We would all walk along several miles out to see them
off. My father had to get rid of the Post Office. A Mrs Hutcherson
(A.V. I think) became Postmaster a while, then Mrs. H. E. Dickinson
was Postmaster for years. We moved into the old two story Brandt
Rock Hotel, where we lives nearly a year while my father had
our house and one he bought moved and joined together. They were
placed on inside lots of the Block where the Central Hotel now
stands. He bought this Block on June 29 - 1886. So this was the
first Pearce Hotel in Ballinger.
We moved on into Ballinger when my sister, the last one born
in Runnels City, was a few weeks old. Then the old Brandt Hotel
became the property of the H. E. Dickersons, where they kept
the Post Office and lived many years. The pile of rocks of this
building remained many years as a land mark of the ghost town,
Runnels City. I was told a few years ago, the well, which didn't
afford much water 70 years ago, is still in use; perhaps drilled
Mr. W. S. Proctor was Ballinger's first Postmaster. He was
the postmaster at Paint Rock when the Pearce's lived there. He
wanted to run for County Judge, so my father became postmaster
- just served one year. He was a Democrat, so a Republican got
it, under the Republican Administration.
A wagon yard surrounded by stalls for horses and with 3 small
horses for the stage hands to live were built on the block north
of the Pearce Hotel. H. D. Pearce contracted to carry the mail,
by hack and team, to Menardville and to Abilene one year each,
and made a contract to carry the mail four years to Hayrick with
a Feed and Livery Stable on the corner that was really a busy
place. The teams had to be taken to the river to water. Some
of the old time stage hands, who drove and cared for the many
horses, were pictureques and amusing. They kept their horses
curbed and main combed and talked to them - though some used
very rough language, even though they loved each other horse
There was a stage stand, on the prairie 1/2 way to Hayrick,
run by a widow, Mrs. Marshall, her sons and two daughers, Mel
and Eva. Horses were changed there and good homecooked meals
served to the passengers and drivers. When I was 10 years of
age, I made this trip, to visit my brother who was Postmast and
druggist at Hayrick.
Tragedy struck the Pearce Family on June 29, 1890, when my
brother Elden (16 years of age) was accidently killed at Hayrick.
He had drove the mail hack to Hayrick on Saturday and spending
the Sunday in Hayrick, was to drive the mail hack back Monday.
A man on horseback came to Ballinger to bring the news. There
was no telephone or conveniences of any kind then. My parents
left immediately and left instructions for a grave to be dug
in Runnels Cemetery and arrangements for the funeral there. It
was so hot they could not bring the body back. The grave was
dug and a great crowd assembled for the funeral - awaiting -
when a runner again came horseback to tell us the weather was
so hot (there were no Funeral Homes or embalmers) that the body
couldn't be brought back - so he was buried in Hayrick Cemetery.
I am telling this that the present generation may know of the
real hardships and heart breaking experiences of those, who paved
the way, for you to enjoy living today.
Always through life, we must take the sorrows along with the
pleasures though at times they seem more than we can bear. Two
more sisters were born in early years at Ballinger. In 1892 my
father sold the property of the first Pearce Hotel and bought
a newer 2 story building on the main street of Ballinger, where
the 6 girls- youngest children of the family grew up. I consider
my home, the Pearce Hotel, one of the most interesting homes
we could ever live in. With no hospitals or nurses, but a few
good doctors, people came for many miles and boarded their sick.
Usually it required several rooms for those who came to watch
at the bedside. Many an argument went on in the Hotel Office.
Often brilliant lawyers were boarders during District Court.
Often smart Ballinger lawyers came to join in the arguments about
the government, churches and etc. Insane people were boarded
there a week or so at a time while being tried for insanity,
and waiting for a place in the asylum. One woman from out in
the Maverick country was tried and sent off several times. Always
there was some one to look after them. This woman was harmless
and allowed freedom on the long veranda upstairs; where she danced
and sang all of the old songs of the South and plantation days.
All the children in the neighborhood would gather and sit across
the ditch and watch her. She really liked the applause we gave
her. It is true many women transplanted to lonely homesites in
this western country went crazy from loneliness.
Many immigrants from other states spent days or a week at
the hotel waiting for their household goods and cattle to come
by freight train. Us girls were allowed to associate with them
and make them welcome to the new country. The families were allowed
to use our wash tubs and wash boards and do their laundry, thus
we made warm friends that we have enjoyed knowing all these years.
One family was the big Wm. Cliff family who settled in Coke Co.
Many marriages were performed in the hotel. One of the first
marriages of the late J.J.S. Smith who met his bride from the
east at the Santa Fe Train. My father, as Justice of the Peace
in Runnels City, performed a lot of marriages of couples who
came long distances for at first there were no ministers to perform
wedding ceremonies. Some of the couples sat in their buggy; but
they had to wait for my father to put on his stiff bosom white
shirt and standing collar, for he said a marriage should be performed
with some dignity. He did not serve as Justice of the Peace after
moving to Ballinger so performed no marriages there.
In 1885 my father went from Runnels City to an Ex-Confederate
Reunion in Fort Worth. He learned there that there was no "History
of the Confederacy" or Record of Soldiers who wore the Gray.
I heard him say it "just made him sick". So he decided
to do something about it. A great number of Ex-Confederates were
coming west to re-establish their homes and lives, so every one
who came; he took a brief sketch of their lives. He promoted
all the Reunions and attended all that were nearby. He requested
that the family send all the data he collected to the Daughters
of the Confederacy in Austin, which we did after his death in
Robert Lee in 1911. There were 4 big boxes; during his life time
and some of this data has helped many an old Confederate, or
wife of one, to get a pension or enter the Confederate Homes
in Austin. When I visited grandchilddren attending Texas University,
I was a welcome visitor at the big fire proof "Daughters
of Confederacy" Building. I was told that this history was
of great value to them and was constantly used. His collection
was the biggest of any one person. I was shown many donations
and his photo in the Display Room. I was taken into the locked,
fire proof room and shown 2 long shelves of data in his own hand
writing. I remembered so well the long hours, sometimes for into
the night that he spent writing and collecting the books, flags,
and etc. from their collection. The gray haired custodian told
me she had tabulated all this data and worked with it many years.
She had been wanting to meet some member of his family. I rejoiced
that the long hours of work he so freely gave had fallen in good
hands. Along with this records is a very good History of West
Texas. I want the history minded people to know this and take
advantage of it, if they so desire. My father wanted to be buried
in the Robert Lee Cemetery because the town was named for his
beloved General of the Confederacy, Robert E. Lee. He also requested
that his son, Eldon's remains, be removed from the Hayrick Cemetery
and placed beside him. His requests were granted.
The Ex-Confederate Reunions and Mollie Bailey Show was something
to look forward to as I grew up. There were many dances around,
but our parents wouldn't allow their girls to go to them. All
I ever saw was those dancing on the platform at the Reunion.
We had a school debating society and school parties and were
active in Sunday School and Baptist Young Peoples Union at the
Baptist Church. We had a good time - so interesting was our home
in the Pearce Hotel. My sister, Byrd learned to set type, by
hand at the Ledger Printing Office. Later when I married she
got my job in the Observer Office. She married Will Hamilton,
who was Sherriff of Coke Co. Also Postmaster at different times.
After moving to Alpine she served as Secretary of Chamber of
Commerce for 6 years - also Associated Press, Winters, for many
years. My sister Ollie graduated from Ballinger High School at
the age of 14 (the school's youngest graduate. She taught her
first school near the T.S. Wylie ranch and boarded with them
- has taught in public schools 16 years. Hattie worked in the
Post Office at Robert Lee before her marriage. She has lived
in Colorado, Florida and now in Houston. She has 2 sons in Service
overseas. Her son, Lt. Frederick Henry, Jr, has almost completed
his mission of flying bombers over Korea and will be entitled
to come home soon. He is the H.D. Pearce's youngest grandson.
One of Hubert Pearce's grandson-in-law disappeared two years
ago with his bomber over Korea. Also the Bob McFarlands have
2 sons in Service, one is in Japan now. So we are anxiously awaiting
armistice news of them. A daughter of Hubert Pe arce took time
out and served a year as Red Cross Nurse during War II in McClusky
Hospital in Houston. My own family's Patriotic Activities are
written in the W. L. Hayley History. Hubert served in World War
I in 36th Div. Headquarters Troop. His son, Bert served in Navy
in World War II, his ship docked at Nagasaki, Japan soon after
the Atomic Bobm struck and he saw the havoc it wrought there.
Bill Strom, another Pearce great grandson, volunteered for service
and was in the occupation of South Korea for 13 months. He had
just reached home when fighting broke out there. Many great grandhchildren
and in-laws of H.D. Pearce served their country with credit.
I did so little, in my life, that I'd like to mention it,
as memory has just recalled it. It is about the only honor that
came to me in my school days. Capt. W. L. Towner was County Clerk
of Runnels County in 1897. He wanted to make a new copy of Runnels
County Tax Rolls. There was no typewriter machines in West Texas
then so he came to Prof. J. W. Merchant, Principal of Ballinger
Schools and asked his help in finding a girl or boy who was careful
and a good spellar and wrote a plain hand. We had a 15 minute
writing period in "Copy Books" each day. They were
kept over night in the school room. They were brought out and
examined and Capt. Towner chose mine as the most elegible hand
writing and gave me the job during the summer vacation. It took
about 2 months to copy them by hand, about 3/4 of each day. The
big tax roll books were spread out on the dining room table,
between meals, in my home in the Pearce Hotel, and thus I spent
most of the summer. I was so proud that I was chosen for the
job that I did my best to do a good job. I was rewarded, when
our good friend, Capt. Towner, complimented me on the neatness
and good job I did. There was not an ink blot in it. I used many
blotters and Spencerian pen point and he said there was no mistakes.
I received $25.00 for this job. That was a lot of money at that
time. I saved it nearly 2 years and used this money to buy my
"Wedding Dress" and "2nd Day Dress", as it
was called 1/2 century ago. When I went back to Ballinger to
read the Record of the first years in Runnels County, I asked
Mr. Pilcher if this book or books had been preserved. He said
they probably were packed away with early records of Runnels
Co. I wanted to find out if this was the first book. Anyway it
is all history now.
A lovely 16 year old sister, Pride, died of Typhoid Fever
during an epidemic in Ballinger in 1904.
New hotels were being built all over town. Fine rock buildings
were replacing the wooden buildings along Hutchins Ave. The Pearce
Hotel had served its purpose - West Texas history had been made
in it. Many weary travelers had found it a home like place to
stay where true western hospitality always abounded.
Some men were boarders for years. I recall Capt. Holt a fine
Englishman and surveyor, whom the Thompson Brothers, early ranch
men, brought out to survey their land. He remained on for years.
He was a Catholic, but found no church here. I may still have
some of the Catholic books he gave me, though my parents, who
were Baptist, would not permit me to read them. Also, I recall,
that every yellow back novel left in the hotel was promptly put
into the big wood range and burned. The family did a lot of the
work in dull seasons; but there was 1 or more old down and out
Ex-Confederate soldier as a flunky, to clean spitoons, fill the
pitchers of water upstairs and empty slop jars, cut and bring
in the wood and etc. Many men used the roller towel when cleaning
up. In the office there was no conveniences of any kind. W. O.
Dark, an old batchelor who owned a ranch near Maverick, was a
boarder many years. He was quiet unassuming man. W. R. Plummer,
a carpenter and batchelor, lived in his home near the ice house
but took his dinner and supper at the hotel many years. I could
write pages and pages of interesting happenings a few years ago,
but now with no one familiar with those early years of history
to talk over the times and with the interesting happenings of
oil boom days in Snyder, those distant memories are not so clear.
My brother Hubert H. Pearce was the first postmaster and druggist
at Hayrick, Coke Co. He was at different times later, editor
of Coke Co. Rustler, where I worked setting type and etc. for
a year. He did much for the upbuilding of Coke, Co. He was a
cashier of the first Bank in Robert Lee. Like so many banks of
the early days, it didn't survive the hard years very long. Few
people could ever make and pay back the money they borrowed.
My father sold the Pearce Hotel in Ballinger in 1906. A rock
building soon took place of the old building.
He moved to Robert Lee and bought a Farm one mile west of
the town. Now that it is an Oil Boom town, many nice homes have
been built on it. The H.H. Pearce family moved to Dallas years
ago. Mrs. Pearce and some of the daughters have lived there all
these years. Brother Hubert passed aswa in 1943 at the age of
74 years. His Sunday School Class of teen-age boys, many beautiful
flowers and friends were at his funeral. Many loving tributes
paid him attested to the high esteem in which he was held. He
told me shortly before death called that, when a boy in Runnels
City, he had joined a "Band of Hope" Society and made
a pledge to "never smoke or drink intoxicating drinks, or
take the name of the Lord in vain" - all the years he had
kept that pledge.
Few of the Pearce descendants now live in West Texss. Most
of them live in and around Dallas, Houston, San Antonio, Lufkin,
Tyler, Texas and Oklahoma. Several in service in foreign countries
now. We are just the ordinary Texas family with our joys and
sorrows, pleasures and heartbreaks. All have high ideals and
cultivate right living and usefulness. We are journeying along
the road of life, we have tried to make it better by passing
along. Today we journey along the road, pause and look back to
see what we have accomplished, then with renewed determination
to improve the remaining way let us travel on. Maybe the Maker
of the road and Guide of Travelers will send some special grace
to the road because we desired to do good. We have rested, now
let us go on along the road.
Written by Mrs. W. L. Hayley, 2707 Ave. R., Snyder, Texas
DIARY OF HENRY
DAVIS PEARCE 1863
William Pearce's Grave,
Adams Co, IL - H. D.'s Grandfather
For Pictures of the Pearce Family click here!
Jo Collier found this manuscript in the Jail
Museum, Robert Lee, TX, and sent me a copy of the handwritten
copy. Much of this material has been published in the San Angelo,
Ballinger, Bronte and Robert Lee Newspapers, but this is the
most complete manuscript that we have of her writtings. She mentions
a lot of other folks besides her family because my grandparents
had more friends than anyone I ever knew. You might want to check
out another paper on the Holiday
Hyde Hayley Family. And a very special
thanks to Jo - I couldn't do Coke County without her!
A very proud granddaughter - Mary
Copyright 2002-05 by Mary Love Berryman. All rights reserved. This site may be freely linked to but not duplicated in any fashion without my consent.