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
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
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
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
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 document case
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 materials.
[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 Family.
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
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.
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
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.
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.
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
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.
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
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 Sketches(Los Angeles, CA: Historic Record Co.,
- 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
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
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
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
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.
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, 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