Biography of Edmond Pearcy

Edmond Pearcy, whose history is one of close connection with the pioneer development of the state as well as its latter-day progress and prosperity was born in Bedford County, Virginia, on the 22d of March 1832, and is of Scotch and Dutch descent. His ancestors were early settlers of Virginia, and for many years the families were represented in Bedford County. His father, Nicholas Pearcy, was born there, and having arrived at years of maturity he married Rebecca Hardy, a native of Maryland. They became the parents of twelve children, eleven sons and one daughter, and of the number but three are now living.

Edmond Pearcy was the youngest of the family. He was reared on his father’s farm and received a common-school education in his native state, after which he taught school for one term. In 1852, at the age of twenty years, he started for California, but arrived in Missouri too late to join an emigrant train en route for the Golden state, and consequently spent the winter with a relative in Pike county, Missouri. In the spring of 1853 he started with a company of sixteen. They drove a band of cattle across the plains and mountains to California, but on reaching the mountains were greatly retarded by the deep snows, and were without food for two days. It was the middle of November when they at last reached the Sonora mines, and from that point they pushed south to the San Joaquin valley, where Mr. Pearcy was for a short time engaged in teaming. He then went to San Francisco, and on the 1st of January 1854, sailed for Portland, Oregon, in search of his brothers, Nathan and James. He found them on the Willamette and remained with them through the winter. He engaged in shipping lumber and hay on a flatboat, and in the spring of 1855 in company with his brother James, he went to Scott’s valley, in northern California, where his brother engaged in mining and he in ranching. They met with only moderate success there, and accordingly determined to return to Portland, Oregon. On the way Mr. Pearcy was taken dangerously ill. At this time the Rogue river Indian war broke out, and James left his brother’s bedside to participate as a volunteer against the Indians, and was killed in the battle of Grave creek, in which the white troops were defeated and compelled to retreat. When Mr. Pearcy had sufficiently recovered to travel, he left Umpqua and proceeded on his way northward, saddened by the death of his brother, yet fortunate himself in meeting with no Indians, for they were still on the warpath.

After arriving in Portland Mr. Pearcy engaged in taking contracts for supplying the government with wood and hay. In that enterprise he made money and remained there until 1859, when he was driven out by chills and fever. He then removed to The Dalles, and shortly afterward joined Lieutenant Mullan’s party in constructing the Mullan road from Walla Walla to Montana, it being still the main road between those two points. While at Walla Walla, in 1856, he volunteered in a company to fight the Indians, but no engagement took place. Later in the season the red men captured a supply train. They were then followed by the volunteers, were defeated in Grande Ronde valley, and the supplies recovered. Mr. Pearcy did not participate in the battle, but was in charge of the camp at Walla Walla. He also secured a government claim in that locality, but in the spring of 1861 abandoned his ranch and went to the Oro Fino mining region, that being the time of the great excitement there. There were fourteen men in his company and they each took out on an average ten dollars per day, thus meeting with satisfactory success. Later they went to Florence, but found nothing there to repay them for their trouble, and Mr. Pearcy returned to Walla Walla, passing on the way through Lewiston, which then consisted only of a few tents and rude shacks. He spent the winter of 1861-2 at Walla Walla, the hardest winter in the history of that country, snow lying two and a half feet deep on a level, and the mercury for thirty days registering twenty-six degrees below zero. With a company of nine he occupied a board cabin lined with paper, but they were strong and vigorous young men and did not mind the cold, enjoying themselves with cards and other amusements.

On the 14th of March 1862, Mr. Pearcy, with a party of fourteen, set sail in a large bateau for a prospecting tour up Snake River. This was a perilous trip, because of the numerous ice jams, but notwithstanding the fact that the river was so full of ice they reached Lewiston safely. They prospected up Salmon River twelve miles and then, with packs upon their backs, went into the country, but found nothing of value. After this they went to Pittsburg Landing on the Snake River, twenty miles above the mouth of the Salmon River, where they hired horses of the Indians and went up Little Salmon to the head of Salmon valley, whence they started for Snake River. They camped at the big canyon and discovered the Peacock country copper and gold mine, which afterward sold for sixty thousand dollars. That was the first discovery of the Seven Devils. The party camped out, killed mountain sheep to supply their table with meat, and enjoyed life there, although they celebrated the Fourth of July with snow, six inches deep, upon the ground. When their provisions gave out they returned to Lewiston and then went up the Clearwater River and made a large drive of logs for the agency at Lapwai. All through the winter Mr. Pearcy made shingles for the government, working in his shirt sleeves, and with his partner, Mr. Allen, manufactured shingles and cordwood for the government. In 1866 Mr. Allen lost his life by drowning in the big eddy of the Clearwater, but Mr. Pearcy continued to operate his sawmill, at the Lapwai agency, in the manufacture of lumber for the government until 1871.

In the meantime he had purchased a fourth interest in the ferries, and in that year began to operate them. He made his headquarters at the ferry six miles below Lewiston, there remaining until the spring of 1872, when he commenced the road north to the Palouse country. About this time an ice jam carried away the ferryboat at Lewiston. It drifted a mile down the river and lodged upon the ice fifteen feet high. Mr. Pearcy undertook the arduous and dangerous task of securing the boat, and brought it safely back to Lewiston, after which he managed the ferry across the Snake River at this point. Becoming convinced that Lewiston would one day be an important commercial center, he took up two government claims on the west side of the river about a quarter of a mile above the ferry, made a number of improvements upon the place and subsequently sold it to the Vineland Company for nine thousand dollars. It is now subdivided and has become very valuable, bringing high prices. Through all the years Mr. Pearcy continued his connection with the ferry. In the early days that business brought high prices, three dollars being received for taking a team and wagon over and back; a man on horseback paid one dollar for the round trip; on foot fifty cents; and sheep and hogs were transported for twenty-five cents each. Mr. Pearcy also built the road to Asoten, putting in twelve hundred dollars of his own money in the enterprise, which has proven of great practical benefit to the town. He has always taken a deep and active interest in the development and growth of this section of the state, is a public-spirited and progressive citizen, and his labors have been an important factor in the substantial progress and improvement of northern Idaho. In politics he has been a Jeffersonian Democrat from the time he reached mature years.

Mr. Pearcy was married, in 1881, to Miss Jane Davis, a native of South Carolina, and they have one daughter, Edna G., who is now fourteen years of age, and is attending school in Alameda, California. Mr. Pearcy has erected a good residence on the bank of Snake river, near the ferry landing, and there lives in the enjoyment of peace and plenty, held in the highest esteem by all as one of the bravest and best pioneers of Idaho.



Illustrated History of the State of Idaho. Chicago: The Lewis Publishing Company. 1899.

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