Scope and Content of Collection
Language of Material:
University of California, Davis General Library, Dept. of Special Collections
Title: Pierce Family Papers,
George W. Pierce, Sr.
Susan Gilmore Pierce
Dixwell Lloyd Pierce
George Gardner Pierce
George W. Pierce, Jr.
Identifier/Call Number: D-022
0 Cubic Feet
Date (inclusive): 1841-1940
Abstract: The Pierce Family Papers (1841-1940)
were created or collected by this prominent, pioneering Davisville, California (Davis)
family. The collection is divided into 8 series: George W. Pierce,Sr.; Eunice Pierce; George
W. Pierce, Jr.; Susan Gilmore Pierce; George Gardner Pierce; Dixwell Lloyd Pierce; The
Pierce Family; and Photographs. Series named for individuals contain items created or
collected by that individual family member. The series titled, The Pierce Family, is made up
of items not attributed to just one family member or items that cannot be identified as
belonging to any certain family member. The Photographs series consists of photographs
(1878-1929) of the Pierce Family; Yolo County and Sacramento Valley sites; agricultural
activities on the Pierce Ranch near Davisville and other Yolo County locations; the
California Almond Growers' Exchange; the University of California; and other topics. The
bulk of the records in this collection are those of George W. Pierce, Jr. He is especially
known for playing a significant role in the founding of the University of California, Davis
by energetically campaigning to have the University Farm located in his hometown of
Davisville. Records relating to the selection of Davis as the site for the University Farm
as well as records relating to the purchase of land and water rights for the farm can be
found in this collection. Many types of materials make up the Pierce Family Papers including
correspondence, legal documents, financial records, diaries, printed material, artifacts,
creative works, notes, travel guides and brochures, and photographs. The numerous diaries
included in the Pierce Family Papers are a particularly rich source of information for
researchers of any number of topics such as late nineteenth and early twentieth century
agriculture; labor issues; Yolo County and California history; the almond growing industry;
and the history of the University of California.
10 linear feet, 2060 items, 9 archives boxes, 2 folio boxes, 1 wrapped volume, and 1
Collection is open for research.
The Library can only claim physical ownership of the Pierce Family Papers. The literary
rights to the works of Pierce Family Papers are protected by the copyright law, chapter 17,
of the U.S. Code. Unpublished manuscript materials including journals may not be copied
without express permission from the copyright holders. It is impossible for us to determine
the identity of other possible claimants of literary property. Responsibility for
identifying and satisfying such claimants must be assumed by users wishing to publish the
[Identification of item], Pierce Family Papers, D-022, Department of Special Collections,
University of California Library, Davis, California.
During the mid to late 1960s, two important gifts were given to the Library by Mrs. Muriel
Pierce Worden on behalf of the Pierce Family including Mrs. Marjorie Pierce Celio, Mrs.
Dixwell Lloyd Pierce, Mrs. George Edward Pierce, Mrs. George Gardner Pierce, and Mrs. Susan
Pierce Stewart. The first gift consisted of a collection of letters and documents relating
to efforts of George W. Pierce, Jr., to locate the University Farm in the Davis, California
area. The second gift consisted of manuscript diaries written by members of the Pierce
Professor Emeritus, Richard N. Schwab, of the University of California, Davis, History
Department, has transcribed the majority of the George W. Pierce, Sr., and George W. Pierce,
Jr., diaries. The remainder of the diaries are in the process of being transcribed by the
Library's Special Collections staff. Due to the difficulty of reading old-fashioned
handwriting and the fragile condition of the Pierce Family diaries, using the transcriptions
of these diaries may be preferable to reading from the actual diary books. Arrangements may
be made with Special Collections staff to obtain copies of transcriptions of certain Pierce
The descendants of Mr. and Mrs. George W. Pierce, Jr. retained ownership of the materials,
now known as the Pierce Family Papers, until the 1960s. During the mid to late 1960s, the
members of the Pierce Family made several donations of their family's diaries, printed
materials, photographs, papers, photocopies, and artifacts to the Library at the University
of California, Davis. For example, in 1964, Dixwell Lloyd Pierce, son of George W. Pierce,
Jr., discovered a sheaf of papers and legal documents in his late father's bank vault. Mr.
Pierce allowed Frederick L. Griffin to present the papers to the Regents of the University
of California as a gift of the Pierce Family. Another gift was made to the Library by Mrs.
Muriel Pierce Worden (granddaughter of George W. Pierce, Jr.) on June 1, 1968. The Pierce
Family Papers have remained in the Special Collections Department of the Library since the
time of their donation. More information about the custodial history of the Pierce Family
Papers can be found in the control file available at the Special Collections Department at
At the time that the Pierce Family Papers and diaries were given to the Library, Special
Collections staff arranged and described the paperes and prepared a detailed list of items
in the collection. The Pierce diaries were cataloged as rare books. In 2002, the diaries
joined the rest of the Pierce Family Papers, and the whole collection was reprocessed.
No Subnote Content
Members of the Pierce Family were prominent, pioneering citizens of Davisville (Davis),
George Washington Pierce, Sr. (Nov. 17, 1814-Feb. 24, 1890) was born in New York State to
Jonathan R. and Electra Buttolph Pierce. George W. Pierce, Sr., left New York on April 20,
1835 to go west. He stopped in Chicago and a settlement near Joliet before he arrived in
Pike Creek, Wisconsin on July 8, 1835. Pike Creek was also known as Southport and then
incorporated as a city in 1850 as Kenosha, Wisconsin. In 1842, Pierce served in the 4th
Regiment of the Wisconsin Militia.
Eunice Pierce (Oct. 24, 1821-Oct. 26, 1908) was born in Connecticut as Eunice French.
George W. Pierce, Sr., met Eunice in Wisconsin and married her on Sept. 29, 1846. Two sons
were born to George and Eunice Pierce while they lived in Wisconsin: Henry Albert (Aug.8,
1848-April 15, 1850) and George Washington, Jr. (Dec. 10, 1850-March 10, 1930). The couple's
third son, Frank Alonzo (Dec. 23, 1859-Sept. 10, 1863), was born in Yolo County, California.
Mr. and Mrs. Pierce left Kenosha, Wisconsin on April 19, 1852 and began their move to
California. They traveled across the Plains and arrived in Placerville, California on August
4, 1852. After mining in El Dorado County, California for a short time, the Pierces settled
near the banks of Putah Creek on the "Big Ranch" then owned by C. I. Hutchinson and C. E.
Greene. The Big Ranch was near what was to become Davisville, California (now Davis). The
Pierce cattle brand was registered in Yolo County, California on December 20, 1859. In 1860,
the "Big Ranch" failed, and Mr. Pierce purchased 1200 acres of land. George W. Pierce, Sr.
owned cattle and other livestock as well as a large grain farm. Later, the Pierce Family
also became involved in the almond growing business.
Mr. and Mrs. George W. Pierce, Sr., were very active in early Davisville life. Mr. Pierce,
Sr. was a long-time member of the Woodland, California Lodge of the Independent Order of Odd
Fellows, and in 1870 he helped to organize the Odd Fellows lodge in Davisville. The Pierces
were members of Davisville Presbyterian Church from its founding in 1869. A strong
Republican, George Sr. was an early Yolo County Justice of the Peace (1856-1862) and public
administrator (1865-1869). Eunice Pierce was a member of the Women's Christian Temperance
George Washington Pierce, Jr., (Dec. 10, 1850-March 10, 1930) had been left with relatives
in Wisconsin when his parents moved west. In 1859, his mother, traveling alone, returned via
the Isthmus of Panama to bring him on to their new home in California. George developed into
a serious student but also spent a good deal of time helping his parents on their ranch. A
proud member of the Class of 1875, he was the first graduate of the University of California
from the Sacramento Valley. He received a degree in civil engineering and then went on to
study law. Despite his career-related dreams, out of family loyalty and because of his
father's ill health, George, Jr., returned home to manage the Pierce Ranch. On September 18,
1888, George W. Pierce, Sr. and his wife Eunice moved off the Pierce Ranch and into the town
of Davisville, California. Their newly married son then assumed full control of the Ranch.
George W. Pierce, Jr., had married Susan Gilmore on August 15, 1888 at the Glen Alpine
Springs resort near Lake Tahoe. Susan Gilmore Pierce (Oct. 29, 1858-Oct. 1, 1918) was the
daughter of Nathan Gilmore (the discoverer and founder of Glen Alpine Springs) and Amanda
Gray Gilmore. Nathan Gilmore had emigrated from Indiana to California during the 1849 Gold
Rush. Susan had graduated from San Jose State Normal School and had taught school in Central
California. George, Jr., and Susan Pierce had four children: Gilmore Wellington (Dec. 2,
1889-March 8, 1890), Eunice Evelyn (Feb. 11, 1895-Feb. 16, 1895), George Gardner (Nov. 11,
1891-?), and Dixwell Lloyd (Sept. 11, 1897-Aug. 22, 1964).
George W. Pierce, Jr. was an energetic man of many talents: farmer, scholar, businessman,
politician, civic leader and booster, and entrepreneur. Besides the numerous
responsibilities of running a large farm, Pierce gladly took on other challenges. One of his
business ventures was the Putah Creek Water Company, a corporation that H. M. LaRue,
Chairman and George W. Pierce, Jr., Secretary formed in 1882 in order to take water from
Putah Creek for irrigation purposes. Some of the other companies that Pierce was involved
with were the Silica Brick Company and the Sacramento Valley Electric Railroad Company.
Pierce worked to organize area farmers in an effort to better market and receive higher
prices for their crops. In 1897, he became a charter officer of the Davisville Almond
Growers' Association. Pierce was (circa 1901) the organizer and president of the California
Grain Growers' Association, and he was president of the California Almond Growers' Exchange
(1913-1923). A Republican like his father, George W. Pierce, Jr. was elected to the
California State Assembly in 1898. He was also a Trustee of the San Jose State Normal School
and an executive member of the Yolo County 1915 Panama-Pacific International Exposition
committee. One of Davisville's strongest boosters, Pierce served 1905-1906 as chairman of a
promotion committee and organizer of the first Davisville Chamber of Commerce as he worked
along with the citizens of Davisville to persuade the State Farm Commission and the
University of California that Davisville was the right site for the proposed University
Farm. Davisville won the approval of the State Farm Commission, and so George W. Pierce,
Jr., played a major role in the founding of the University of California, Davis. Pierce was
an avid traveler, and near the end of his life he sailed away on several world cruises.
George Gardner Pierce (known as Gardner) graduated from the University of California in
1915. He returned to Yolo County and lived on the Pierce Ranch until he and his wife Harriet
Brigden Pierce moved to Berkeley, California in the mid 1920s. Harriet died in March 1927.
Harriet and Gardner had three children: George Edward, Thaya Muriel (Mrs. Maurice Worden),
and Marjorie Eunice (Mrs. Charles L. Celio). Dixwell Lloyd Pierce graduated from Woodland
High School in 1915. He graduated from the University of California in 1917 and later
received a law degree.
Dixwell married the former Katherine Bradley. A daughter, Susan Louise (Mrs. Charles
Stewart), was born to the couple on October 21, 1927. Another daughter, Janet, died in
infancy. The family made their home in Sacramento, California. Dixwell Lloyd Pierce was
executive secretary of the State Board of Equalization for 37 years and on the board of
trustees of the Federation of Tax Administration for 25 years.
The University of California, Davis now occupies the land that was once the Pierce Ranch.
- Gregory, Tom.
History of Yolo County California with Biogrpahical
(Los Angeles, CA: Historic Record Co., 1913).
- Larkey, Joann L.
Davisville '68 (Davis, CA: Davis
Historical and Landmarks Commission, 1969).
Scope and Content of Collection
The Pierce Family Papers (1841-1940) were collected or created by members of this prominent
Davisville, California (later Davis), family. The earliest records in this collection were
created in Southport, Wisconsin (later Kenosha), from where the Pierce Family moved in 1852
to become one of the pioneering families of Davisville. The Papers are divided into eight
series: George Washington Pierce, Sr.; Eunice (French) Pierce; George Washington Pierce,
Jr.; Susan Gilmore Pierce; George Gardner Pierce; Dixwell Lloyd Pierce; The Pierce Family;
and Photographs. Series named for individuals contain items collected or created by that
individual family member. The series titled, "The Pierce Family," is made up of items not
attributed to just one family member or items that cannot be identified as belonging to any
certain family member. The Photographs series contains all the photographs in this
collection except for 7 photographs of farm machinery that are pasted into a Baker and
Hamilton ledger that is held in the creative works subseries of Series III. Because the
Pierce Ranch was still owned by George W. Pierce, Sr., and his wife Eunice while it was
being managed by George W. Pierce, Jr., there was a period of time when both father and son
were conducting ranch business. Using the date September 18, 1888 (a date noted in the
senior Pierce's 1888 diary as when his recently married son formally took over ownership of
the Ranch), I assigned all ranch business records from before this date to the George W.
Pierce, Sr., series and all records from after this date to the George W. Pierce, Jr.,
1.5 linear feet of records (1841-1905) are in Series I, George W. Pierce, Sr. Items in this
series are incoming letters, legal documents, financial records, diaries, and printed
materials. The diaries cover the years: 1852, 1867, 1870-1874, and 1877-1890.
The items (1867-1908) in Series II, Eunice Pierce, take up only .5 linear feet of space;
but they include correspondence, legal documents, financial records, diaries, and printed
material. Mrs. Pierce's diaries are from the years: 1891-1892 and 1895-1900.
The 6 linear feet of materials (1864-1931) in Series III, George W. Pierce, Jr., make up
the bulk of items in the Pierce Family Papers. This series is arranged in seven subseries:
correspondence; legal documents; financial records; diaries, notes, and meeting minutes;
creative works; printed materials; and artifacts. Such notables as California Governors
Hiram W. Johnson and George C. Pardee and University of California's James Forsyth Hunt,
Benjamin Ide Wheeler, and E. J. Wickson are among Pierce's correspondents. Numerous records
including correspondence, legal documents, financial records, diaries, and creative works
point to work that Pierce did in 1905-1906 to promote Davis as the site for the proposed
University Farm. Some of the other topics covered by series III are the promotion of Yolo
County Pierce's business ventures, the California Almond Growers' Exchange, labor issues,
and world travel. George W. Pierce, Jr. continued the family tradition of keeping diaries
that recorded ranch, family, travel, and business activities. These diaries cover the years:
1866, 1871-1874, 1889-1919, 1921-1924, and 1927-1930. This series is also quite rich in
printed material such as advertising materials for the California Almond Growers' Exchange
and travel guides.
Series IV, Susan Gilmore Pierce (Mrs. George W. Pierce, Jr.) contains 9 items (1906-1918).
They are a letter, receipts, yearbooks of the Woodland Shakespeare Club, a poem, and the
notice for her funeral.
Series V, George Gardner Pierce, is made up of .25 linear feet of materials (1901-1915).
The outgoing telegram, financial records, notes, and printed material are all from Gardner's
childhood or his time as a student at the University of California.
Series VI, Dixwell Lloyd Pierce, is also made up of .25 linear feet of records (1898-1940).
Drafts of childhood letters and photocopies of letters from author Edwin Markham's family
make up the correspondence. Printed materials are from both Dixwell's childhood and adult
years: clippings about Mr. and Mrs. Edwin Markham, Dixwell's school records, and 2 issues of
Woodland High School's student publication, "The Ilex" (the 1913 issue features Dixwell's
photograph). There are five printed items that relate to the formation of the Davis Joint
Union High School District in Yolo County. Dixwell Lloyd Pierce acted as Attorney for
Appellants in that court case.
Series VII, The Pierce Family, contains .5 linear feet of records (1852-1928). The series
is divided into 4 subseries: Legal Document (an 1852 contract for a schoolteacher), Notes
(handwritten note fragments and addresses), Printed Material, and Artifacts (two empty
checkbooks). The bulk of material in this series belongs to the Printed Material subseries.
Arranged by format the printed material includes books, brochures, pamphlets, programs,
newspapers, schedules, and a student publication. Two of the subjects touched on by the
printed material are religion and household activities.
Series VIII is Photographs. These 131 photographs (1878-1929) document the life and
activities of George W. Pierce, Jr. The Photographs are divided into the following
subseries: California Almond Growers' Exchange, Sacramento Valley (on the Pierce Ranch and
in other Valley locations), University of California, and Other.
The Pierce Family Papers could be used for research in any number of areas. Those looking
for information on travel during the early twentieth century should peruse the collection.
For researchers interested in the history of subjects such as California, Yolo County, CA,
farming, agricultural technology, farm labor, the almond industry, water rights, the
University of California, and the University Farm at Davis, the collection is an especially
Many books and pamphlets orginally found in the Pierce Family Papers were incorporated into
the Special Collections Library. A list of the separated materials can be found in the
Pierce control file available at the Special Collections Department at the Library.
Subjects and Indexing Terms
Yolo County (Calif.) -- History -- Archival resources
California -- History -- Archival resources
Agriculture -- California -- Yolo County -- History -- Archival
Travel -- Guidebooks.
Pierce, Dixwell Lloyd--1897-1964--Archives.
George W. Pierce, Sr.
Pierce, George Gardner--b. 1891--Archives.
Pierce, George W., Sr.--1814-1890--Archives.
Pierce, George W., Jr.--1850-1930--Archives.
Susan Gilmore Pierce
Pierce, Susan Gilmore--1858-1918--Archives.
University of California, Davis--History--Archival resources.
Dixwell Lloyd Pierce
George Gardner Pierce
George W. Pierce, Jr.