Biography of Andrew Pierce

Andrew (3), son of Andrew (2) and Betsey (Wentworth) Peirce, was born July 31, 1812, in Dover, New Hampshire, and began his business career at the age of twelve by becoming for a time clerk in a country store. He afterward resumed his studies at the Stratford Academy, but found soon that his inclination was for business. This youthful ambition was heartily approved by his father, who took him to Boston in one of his packets and purchased a small stock of goods on four months’ credit becoming responsible for the payment, April 22, 1831. He thus inaugurated his mercantile career, and in the short space of four years had an extensive business, wholesale as well as retail, and had thoroughly established his credit. Up to 1834 the business had been carried on in the name of his father, but in that year the son placed his own name at the head, turned over to his father one-half of the accrued profits and assumed the entire responsibility. In 1837 he erected a large, commodious warehouse. During subsequent years several partners were, from time to time, associated with him, none of whom put in any capital though all drew from the profits. During his business career in Dover Mr. Peirce conducted, in connection with his father, an extensive shipping enterprise, dispatching vessels to Thomaston, Maine, New York, Philadelphia and southern ports. They were pioneers in the shipment of merchandise to Texas prior to its admission to the Union, and they furnished iron for the first railroad constructed in that state. Several vessels were built for them, one of them being a brig chartered by the United States government during the Mexican war which was wrecked near Vera Cruz.

In 1840, under the “Individual Liability Act,” Mr. Peirce became a prominent figure by successfully organizing the Dover Bank which succeeded an older institution whose charter was about to expire, he and his fattier subscribing one-fifth of the capital stock. Later Mr. Peirce secured a charter for the Langdon Bank and was chosen its president. He was largely instrumental in organizing a Five Cent Savings Bank, of which he was president. Early in 1851 Mr. Peirce removed from Dover to Boston to become a partner in the firm of Peirce & Bacon. This firm acquired an extensive trade in the south, particularly in Texas, which proved an excellent field for mercantile development. Their facilities for the shipment of goods were ample, consisting of a large fleet of vessels constantly plying between New York and Galveston, carrying goods and returning with cotton to be sold to large manufacturers. The breaking out of the civil war completely paralyzed this business and caused the firm severe losses. In 1866 the partnership was dissolved and Mr. Peirce’s attention was gradually drawn into other channels. Before coming to Boston he had been one of the original stockholders of the Cocheco railway and for a number of years had charge of its operating department. He took a conspicuous part in its lease to the Boston & Maine railroad in which he had been interested. In 1856 or 1857 he acted as reform director for the Boston & Maine railroad and was asked if he would become its president, but his business interests at that time made it impossible for him to consider the question. About two years after the failure of Fremont in the Southwest Pacific railway, Mr. Peirce, having been a promoter and a bondholder, he and his associates, called “The Boston Party,” went to Jefferson City and secured the railroad charter, a company being formed of which Mr. Peirce was elected general manager with power to continue the construction of the railroad. The Southwest Company were to control the Atlantic & Pacific charter by which they could connect with any road going to San Francisco, provided the railroad was extended to Springfield within a specified time. This was accomplished and under Mr. Peirce’s management the line was pushed forward from Arlington, Missouri, to Vinita, Indian Territory, a distance of two hundred and thirty-seven miles. During the process of constructing it, he many times passed over every mile of the way, either in the saddle or on foot, before putting it in the hands of contractors. The name was subsequently changed to the St. Louis & San Francisco railway. Commissioners from San Francisco had begun to consider commencing a road from that end to connect with this road, but financial pressure all over the country interfered with their plans. In 1872 Mr. Peirce was elected president and moved with his family to New York City, where he held that office or that of general manager until July, 1879, when he resigned.

On February 22, 1877, he had taken his family to The Clifton Springs Sanitarium, thinking that a sojourn there might restore his wife’s health which had become impaired. After his long and arduous business career he himself felt the need of rest and for this reason decided to resign his position and make the Sanitarium a temporary home. He became deeply interested in Dr. Foster and the work in which he was engaged, and desired to do something to aid in his grand plans for the benefit of the weary and sick. In 1880 he had a pavilion built over the largest Sulphur Springs, then he caused to be filled in and graded, from a foot and a half to two feet in depth-twenty-five acres of the Sanitarium’s grounds. Walks were made and other improvements by the construction of masonry and by setting out trees, shrubs and flowers. All this work he superintended-constantly, through summer’s heat and winter’s cold. He expended of his own means fifteen thousand dollars. For several years he served with ability as a trustee of the institution and as chairman of the executive committee. Nor was his benevolence confined to the Sanitarium. He was a promoter of the Peirce Library Association, connected with the Young Men’s Christian Association, donating for the purchase of books the sum of fifteen hundred dollars.

In 1885, after residing nearly nine years at the Sanitarium, he took his family to Boston where they remained for a year and a half. He held a mortgage on the Clifton House and when it was to be sold was obliged to purchase the property in order to realize his investment. This made it necessary for him to return to Clifton Springs in order to renovate the building which was destroyed by fire during the blizzard of March, 1888. He immediately began building the Peirce Block, which is on the site of the hotel. Having now (1910) decided to make Clifton Springs a permanent home, Mr. Peirce purchased a house on the corner of Kendall street and Hibbard avenue. This he remodeled and enlarged. occupying it until his death, which occurred December 19, 1891.

Mr. Peirce was twice married, and is survived by his widow, Mary Frances (Gilman) Peirce, and three daughters. Mrs. Peirce continues to reside in Clifton Springs.



Ontario County NY,

Milliken, Charles F. The History of Ontario County, New York, and Its People Lewis Historical Publishing Co., New York. 1911.

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