Jo R. PEARCE. The subject of this sketch bears a name that has been closely connected with the history of Harrisburg, Illinois, from the time the town was laid out up to the present. Mr. Pearce's brother, Captain James H. Pearce, is one of the few men now living who witnessed the laying out of the town, and their father, Dr. Harvey R. Pearce, who donated the ground on which the court house stands, was the first physician here. It is therefore of specific interest to review the Pearce family history in this connection.
Dr. Harvey Rice Pearce and wife, Sally Elvira (Davis) Pearce. were both born in North Carolina, and with their respective families, early in life, moved from that state to Tennessee, from whence later they came to Illinois and settled near Roland in White county. This last move was about 1829 or 1830. Dr. Pearce was born April 17, 1818, and consequently was about twelve or thirteen years of age when he landed in Illinois. His father, Elder Jesse Pearce, had married Polly Davis, the widowed mother of Sally Elvira Davis, the latter's father having died of cholera when she was a child. Sally Elvira was born February 22, 1822. Elder Jesse Pearce was a minister of the Missionary Baptist church, and his work covered a wide area and resulted in much good to the communities he visited. He and his wife both died in White county, and three of their children died there. Dr. Harvey R. Pearce had five brothers and two sisters, as follows: Mack, Elijah, Moses, Alexander and James, and Mrs. Polly Ann Blair and Mrs. Mary Ann Mitchell. Mack was the last to pass away. His death occurred near Roland, White county, in 1908, at a ripe old age.
Harvey R. Pearce in early life read medicine in the office of his brother, Dr. Alec Pearce, at Roland, and remained at Roland until
he reached his twenty-fifth year, when he removed to Galatia, Saline county, which was his home until October, 1855, when he came to Harrisburg. All this time he was engaged in the practice of medicine. Also at Galatia he had mercantile and sawmill interests, his store and mill being under the management of Moses McGehee, his brother-in-law. He had large landholdings at Harrisburg and vicinity, a portion of which he sold in lots, and some of which he donated to the town, the ground on which the court house stands and five acres of the city cemetery being gifts from him. Indeed, it was largely through his influence and efforts that the county seat was removed from Raleigh to Harrisburg. The site of his old home, which was one of the first houses built in the town, is now occupied by the drug store of Gregg & Gregg. Here Dr. Pearce died August 17, 1884, at the age of sixty-six years. His wife was eighty-seven years of age at the time of her death. Politically he was a Democrat, and his religious creed was that of the Cumberland Presbyterian church, of which he was a member for many years. He took a deep interest in Masonic work, especially in the lodge at Harrisburg, No. 325, for which he went to Springfield to secure a dispensation for a charter. Of his family of thirteen children, we record that Mahala Jane is the deceased wife of Thomas Webber of Galatia; Catherine is the deceased wife of Captain Axel Nyberg; Polly Priscilla is the widow of Dr, E. M. Province; Sarah Ann, deceased, was the wife of Captain C. K. Davis; Margaret Ellen is the wife of W. G. Sloan, of St. Louis; Kate is the wife of Hon. W. V. Choissier, an attorney of Harrisburg; John, a printer, died at the age of sixteen years; Jo R.; and Thomas J., who died in boyhood.
Captain James H. Pearce was born February 26, 1846, and, as already indicated in the first paragraph of this review, is one of the few men now living who was present when the town of Harrisburg was laid out. From that date to the present time he has been in various ways identified with its best interests. For sixteen years he served as county clerk, continuing in that office up to 1892. He was master-in-chancery for two years and since that time he has been a justice of the peace, having his office in the court house. In the Civil war he gained the title of captain. He enlisted at the age of fifteen years, the youngest man in Company F, Sixth Illinois Cavalry, and was promoted through all the ranks from private to second lieutenant, and then to captain this last honor being conferred upon him in December, 1863, before he was quite eighteen. The term of Captain Davis, his brother-in-law, had expired, and it was to fill his vacancy that young Pearce was made captain, and he was in command of the company during the rest of the war. While on their way to the relief of Rosecrans they were driven back by Hood from Atlanta to Nashville; was in all the actions from Chattanooga, and finally chased Hood through Alabama, being at Selma at the close of the war. A portion of this time he was in command of the regiment. During his service he was twice wounded, once as a private and again as second lieutenant, and of the original two hundred and eighty-four men who formed the company he was one of the five that were left.
Jo R. Pearce was born at Galatia, January 11, 1855. He accompanied his parents to Harrisburg, and has ever since made this place his home. In his youth he learned the printer's trade, and later from type-setting he turned his attention to merchandising, in which he was engaged until 1893, during the panic of which year he met with financial loss. During the past sixteen years he has devoted his energies to the insurance business, being general agent in the district
of Southern Illinois for the United States Life Insurance Company of New York, and having a fine line of business with agents throughout this district.
On January 28, 1877, Jo R. Pearce and Miss Margaret Ellis Goodrich were united in marriage, and their union has been blessed in the birth of five children, of whom record is as follows: Genevieve, who died in childhood; Lilie Estella, now employed as bookkeeper in the First National Bank of Harrisburg; Robert G., of Harrisburg; Jo Raymond, road salesman for the O'Gara Coal Company; and Sibyl Kate, a musician.
For over thirty years Mr. Pearce has been a member of the Masonic order, and for nineteen consecutive years he has filled the office of high priest of Saline Chapter, No. 165. He is thrice illustrious master of Saline Council, No. 70, also a member of Oriental Consistory, Scottish Rite, and of Medina Temple, Mystic Shrine, both of Chicago.