Clay County

Biography - JOHN A. PEIRCE

Who is there who is not proud of his family tree, be it of ever so short a growth? A great many find a fascinating pleasure in looking back over the vista of the years with their memories of Plymouth Rock and Revolutionary struggles to trace their line of ancestry through the labyrinths of history. The family memory of the subject of the present sketch runs back to the sixteenth century when its originators emigrated from England, and some members of his family hold an heirloom in the form of a Bible printed in 1608, the pages of which have been thumbed by succeeding generations of the Peirce family down to the present time. John A. Peirce, the member of the family whom we wish to refer to at present, however, is not content to allow the memory of the past to overshadow the future. As a practical and industrious skilled mechanic he has upheld the family tradition of progress and push, and the activity of his life has won him a front place in the industrial world. His business today is the best equipped on the Baltimore & Ohio Railroad line of any of its kind between St. Louis and Vincennes.

John A. Peirce was born in the vicinity of Xenia, on March 12, 1843, his father being John Peirce, a native of Portsmouth, New Hampshire, who came west in 1835, and locating first at Rock Island, Illinois, thence coming to Clay county in 1837. His father followed the occupation of farmer and printer, being a farmer most of the time. When the present Baltimore & Ohio Railroad was built, his father owned forty acres of land on the site of the present railroad station and which is part of the original town of Xenia. John Peirce, Senior, was the first station agent of the Baltimore & Ohio, filling the position for two years, becoming the agent in June, 1855, the Baltimore & Ohio people running their first train through on the 4th of July following. The subject of the present sketch has in his possession a freight order sheet one of the first written issued in his father's handwriting. Upon leaving the employ of the Baltimore & Ohio, the elder John Peirce went into the woolen mill industry, which business was disposed of in 1863. The grandfather of the subject of our sketch was Thomas Peirce, who is thought to have been a native of New Hampshire, the family having come as we have already stated, from England, their ancestors emigrating to America in 1697.

The mother of John A. Peirce was born Jane Catherine Davenport. Her people were natives of Virginia. She died in October, 1855, having given birth to three children, of which the subject of this sketch is the only survivor.

The education received by John A. Peirce was of the common school variety. It took place in the old common schools in Xenia. At eighteen years of age he enlisted in Company G, Twenty-first Illinois Volunteers (infantry) for service in the Civil war, his term of service running over four years and eight months. During that period he passed through the hardest part of the conflict, participating in the battles of Chickamauga, September 19-20, 1863; historic Frederickstown, October 21, 1861; Perryville, Kentucky, October 8, 1862; Stone River, December 30-31, 1862; Franklin, Tennessee, November 30, 1864; Nashville, Tennessee, December 15-16, 1864. He emerged from the Civil war uninjured, and on January 25, 1866, he obtained his discharge. He then came back to Xenia and went to work as an engineer in the woolen mills. Later on he applied himself to the painting trade and also as a tinner. In 1878 he interested himself in machine shop work and in 1880 established himself in his present location in the machine industry. His plant at the present time is equipped with all the most up-to-date machines and appliances and contains lathes, shapers, etc., of the most improved type. Mr. Peirce is a skilled and experienced machinist and superintends as far as possible the output of his factory.

His marriage took place January 12, 1868, to Fidelia Westmoreland, who is a native of Illinois. Mrs. Peirce bore her husband five children: Helenora (deceased); Mary Elizabeth, (deceased); Nellie, Mrs. Amanda Jane Bradley, of Xenia, Illinois; Mrs. Mary Stout, of Taylorville, Illinois. Mrs. Peirce is still active in life and conducts a millinery store in Xenia, on her own behalf.

John A. Peirce is a member of the Methodist Episcopal belief, being a trustee of the local church. Mrs. Peirce is also of the same religion as her husband. In fraternal life, John A. Pierce belongs to the Independent Order of Odd Fellows, at Xenia. He was a charter member of the John A. Logan Post of the Grand Army of the Republic, but has now retired from active participation in same. In politics he is a Republican. He contents himself in voting his party's ticket at election times, and does not dabble in local political affairs. He is progressive and intelligent citizen and a man whose record in private as well as in every-day life is peculiarly free from taint of all that is undesirable. He is known to be a charitable and friendly neighbor and a man whose success in life is looked upon with pleasure by his large circle of friends and by his townspeople in general.

Extracted 21 May 2019 by Norma Hass from 1909 Biographical and Reminiscent History of Richland, Clay and Marion Counties, Illinois, pages 435-437.

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