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Collection Details
Table of contents What's This?
  • Access
  • Publication Rights
  • Preferred Citation
  • Acquisition Information
  • Alternate Formats
  • Custodial History
  • Processing Information
  • Biographical Narrative
  • Scope and Content of Collection
  • Separated Material

  • Language of Material: English
    Contributing Institution: University of California, Davis General Library, Dept. of Special Collections
    Title: Pierce Family Papers
    creator: George W. Pierce, Sr.
    creator: Susan Gilmore Pierce
    creator: Dixwell Lloyd Pierce
    creator: Eunice Pierce
    creator: George Gardner Pierce
    creator: George W. Pierce, Jr.
    Identifier/Call Number: D-022
    Physical Description: 11.2 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.
    Physical Description: 10 linear feet, 2060 items, 9 archives boxes, 2 folio boxes, 1 wrapped volume, and 1 document case


    Collection is open for research.

    Publication Rights

    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 materials.

    Preferred Citation

    [Identification of item], Pierce Family Papers, D-022, Department of Special Collections, University of California Library, Davis, California.

    Acquisition Information

    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 Family.

    Alternate Formats

    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 diaries.

    Custodial History

    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 the Library.

    Processing Information

    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.

    Biographical Narrative

    Members of the Pierce Family were prominent, pioneering citizens of Davisville (Davis), California.
    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 Union.
    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-Aug. 5, 1934), 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.


    1. Gregory, Tom. History of Yolo County California with Biogrpahical Sketches(Los Angeles, CA: Historic Record Co., 1913).
    2. 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., series.
    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 rich resource.

    Separated Material

    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 resources.
    Travel -- Guidebooks.
    Pierce, Dixwell Lloyd--1897-1964--Archives.
    Pierce, George Gardner--b. 1891--Archives.
    Pierce, Eunice--1821-1908--Archives.
    Pierce, George W., Sr.--1814-1890--Archives.
    Pierce, George W., Jr.--1850-1930--Archives.
    Pierce, Susan Gilmore--1858-1918--Archives.
    University of California, Davis -- History -- Archival resources