Pierce was platted in 1894 along the New York, Texas and Mexican Railway line as a sixty-four-block townsite by the largest cattle rancher along the lower Colorado River, Abel H. Pierce, better known as Shanghai Pierce. Ranching in Wharton, Matagorda, and Jackson counties from the 1860s until his death in 1900, Pierce, a native of Little Compton, Rhode Island, who came to Texas in 1853, was a pastoral big businessman. He, his brother Jonathan E. Pierce, and his nephews Abel P. Borden and G. C. Gifford rode the crest of the Texas cattle boom of the 1870s and 1880s. In addition to family partnerships, Pierce participated in stock-raising investment partnerships as managing partner, and he branched out into banking and railroad development.
Shanghai Pierce had several blocks in the town plan marked as public reserves, including a “Courthouse Square,” indicating his ambition that his new town should supplant Wharton as county seat of Wharton County. Today, U.S. 59 makes a wide bend around Pierce, which consists of a few scattered houses on the remaining town blocks.
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