Thomas Jefferson Pearce was born February 1, 1845 at Atawomba County, Mississippi. He was the fifth child, the third son of Harrison and Henrietta Cromeans Pearce. His father was born December 17, 1818 in Jackson County, Georgia, and his mother was born in Kentucky. His parents were married July 5, 1836.
Harrison Pearce was baptized a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, November 1, 1845. His mother became a member of the same church, November 2, 1845. At that time Thomas was about eight months old. February 1, 1846, when he was one year old, the family moved from Mississippi to Nauvoo, Illinois, arriving at their intended destination March 15th to find that Brigham Young and sons of the people who followed his leadership of the Church had left to find a place of security somewhere in the west.
Harrison, his family and others, who were travelling with him, joined in the westward journey. The trip across Iowa was not completed until in 1852, as stops on the way must be made to earn means to finance and support the family. Most of this work was accomplished by the father teaching school of which he was capable. He was a lover of music and during his entire life as he moved from place to place he had with him a clarinet, which he loved to play for his pleasure and to entertain those with whom he was associated.
By 1852 the family had arrived at Kanesville (Council Bluff) Iowa, ready to make the trip across the plains to join the body of the church in Utah. Thomas was now seven years of age. He had spent those seven years on the move from place to place. On June 15, 1852, a sister, Henrietta was born to the family at Kanesville. Soon after in June the move to Utah was started. While crossing the plains, a sister twelve years of age died of cholera and was buried by the side of the road. Salt Lake City was reached in September, 1852.
Soon after their arrival Harrison, with his family moved to Utah County, locating at Payson. Here they were prospered and doing well but not for long.
It had been learned by the Church leaders and President Young that cotton could be grown in the south of the Territory along the Virgin River and Santa Clara Creek. If the people were to be made self-supporting, cotton must be grown. Who was to grow it? The members of the Church who had come from cotton-growing states of the south. In 1857 a call was made which included Harrison Pearce. (John D.L. Pearce had married the daughter of James Pace and was not included in this call). The call was made at the April Conference 1857, and the company arrived at the then called Adair Springs, May 6, 1857 under the direction and leadership of Robert D. Covington. A town was laid out and named Washington. At that time Thomas Pearce was just past twelve years of age when the family arrived in and helped establish the town of Washington.
It was recorded in James G. Bleak annals that "Robert D. Covington was appointed to preside over the settlement with Harrison Pearce and James B. Reagon as assistants. This group of settlers were mostly from the southern states and had been familiar with the growing of cotton. A small amount of cotton seed had been brought which was planted and yielded a fairly good crop the first year." By 1858 Washington was made the County seat. In the election held August 1, 1858, Harrison Pearce was elected County Sheriff of Washington County. A term of the county court was held on March 7, 1859 at which Harrison Pearce was appointed one of a three member board to examine school teachers.
During the spring of 1859, the first post offices were established south of Cedar City, at Toquerville and at Washington. Harrison Pearce was appointed Post Master at Washington.
Thomas Jefferson Pearce, by 1860, was fifteen years of age; he with the family had lived a pioneer life and knew the trials of helping build the section known as the Dixie Cotton Mission.
At the March term of the county court at Washington in 1860 mention is made of the lower Clara precinct known at Toniquent. Here at this time Harrison Pearce and family, James Richey and James Mangum were farming in land in the south west of the valley north of the junction of the Santa Clara Creek and Virgin River using the water of the west spring which ran through the valley. This stream was diverted before it entered a large slew, or pond, known as the "Duck "pond" just north of the virgin River. To the east of this pond, George W. Adair was using the water of a spring flowing from the north east of the valley through what was called the "Adobe Yard".
President Young desired the Latter Day Saints to take up and use all land and water so people who were not of the church would not come and make trouble for the Saints as was done in the states from where the people had been driven.
After the call was made in 1861 and the people began to arrive in the valley they selected the place for the city of St. George, they made a survey and a city was laid off. It was provided that the water of the west spring, used by the settlers of Toniquent, should be used for all the lots and blocks west of Main Street and the water of the east spring, used by George W. Adair, would be used to irrigate all lots and blocks east of Main Street in Plat A city survey. The people who had been using these springs were to be furnished water for their farms when the Virgin River canal was finished. This canal was to bring water into all the south of the valley.
When the city survey was completed and the lots selected, Harrison Pearce received lot A, block 3, plat A of the city survey. This location was at the north west corner of third south and main street. Here with the help of his boys he built a home. When the call was made to the Dixie Mission, John D.L. Pearce and his wife were called and moved from Payson to make their home in St. George. Now all of the members of the Pearce family were together to take an active part in the growth and progress of St. George and the surrounding country.
One of the first great needs was to find a way to take care of the surplus cattle and horses of the settlers. Pasture must be found at a place secure from their being driven off by the Indians. Part of this task was assigned to John D.L. Pearce. A location was found with pasture and water twelve miles south and east of St. George on a wash which carried the flood water from a large section in the Arizona Strip north of the Colorado River. At that place a large rock corral was built to protect the stock at night. Later a protective fort was built. The fort and wash were named "Fort Pearce" for John D.L. Pearce, who was a Major in the Military organization formed for the protection of the people and their property, throughout the southern part of the Territory.
At this time Thomas Pearce was sixteen years of age.
A letter dated February 25, 1863, was received by the Mission Leader of St. George from President Young asking that the southern settlements furnish fifty-five ox or mule teams, four or six mules or four yoke of oxen to each team. An equal number of teamsters equipped for five or six months with provisions, to go to the Missouri River for emigrants. D.D. McArthur was to be captain of the group and James Andrus captain of the guards. To fill this request young men were asked to go. They would be gone most of the year. Thomas was then eighteen years of age. He, with Charles F. Foster, George Fawcett, Samuel Wittwer and others left St. George, March 15th and were to be in Salt Lake City ready to leave from there April 15th. This trip was made, returning on October 3rd to Salt Lake City with a group of five hundred immigrants. The pay for this work was to be a credit for labor tithing.
When Thomas was nineteen years of age his mother, Henrietta Pearce died, April 17, 1864. From this time on he was on his own to shape his life and works. His father married a girl from Switzerland named Magdelena and with her was called to join Henry S. Miller at a settlement in Arizona, where the Beaver Dam wash entered the Virgin River. This was the first agricultural Mormon settlement in Arizona located in the north west corner of that Territory.
About this time Thomas was twenty or twenty-one years of age; he started for himself in ranching and cattle industry and the raising of houses. He first located at a spring, afterwards called the Tom Pearce spring in the north west of Dazeron Valley.
On December 28, 1867, Thomas Jefferson Pearce and Angenetta Electa Hendrx were married. His wife was a daughter of Daniel and Lucy Allen Hendrix. Later he became associated with the two brothers of his wife, Daniel Lester and Edmond Hendrix. This joint working together continued during the remainder of the life of Thomas.
On December 27, 1870, when twenty-five years of age he left Salt Lake City to fill a mission to the Southern States. In the family records there is a letter personally signed by Brigham Young, George A. Smith and Daniel H. Wells, commanding him to the people as a man of God, a personal letter of like nature from Erastus Snow and a certificate of ordination as an Elder of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints signed by Walter Granger, bishop and Joseph Oxborrow. To fill this mission he left his wife and a daughter, Lucy. How long or to what extent this work was performed is not known.
After completing his mission to the states from where his parents had come, it was deemed best by him and his brothers-in-law to move their cattle interests to the Arizona section south of St. George. The attitude of the Indians here had been such that springs in this section had not been put to very little beneficial use. The use of a spring was obtained from the Indians about twenty miles north of Parsshonte (Water Big) Spring. Here at Ivinpatts springs successful ranching operation was carried on until after the death of Thomas.
This work required almost watchful care of the horses and cattle continually to prevent the Indians from molesting and taking any of the stock they desired to use or kill to eat. This great task was taken mostly by Thomas Pearce as he had no fear of the Indians and they knew of his determination to protect his property and his rights.
The growth and progress of the Dixie Mission depended not only upon the vision of the leaders but they must have the support of men out on the frontier taking the hardships and adventures of pioneer work like Thomas J. Pearce.
Before the completion of the railroad to Utah in 1862, the people living rather isolated in the south must, if they had certain goods and acricles for progress, freight such as needed from the Pacific Coast. When the St. George Tabernacle was finished to the extent that window glass and hardware was needed, young men like Thomas Pearce and others were sent, with large freight teams to California, where the ships would land bringing the needed goods from eastern ports of the United States and China. It was on one such trips for freight for the St. George Co-op Store that Franklin D. Woolley was killed by the Mohave Indians. These were dangerous trips and required brave men to take them.
When in 1871, work was started on building the St. George Temple and the Church leaders had taken over the ranch at Pipe Springs, after Whitmore and McIntire had been killed by the Indians, men of experience and courage must be selected to man the work and care of the herds of cattle that was to provide food for the workmen engaged in the work of building the Temple. In connection with such leaders as Anson P. Winsor and Charles Pulsipher young men must be selected to help do the work. To accomplish this task Thomas took his wife and children to live at the fort for some time. The fort had been built under the direction of Bishop Winsor. In 1872 when Major Powall and his men made this place their headquarters that called it Winsor Castle.
Thomas in his extensive ranching work came into cooperation with such cattle man as J.W. Nixon and Frederick and Benjamin Blake of Mount Trumbull and other early ranchers of that section of territory living south and east of St. George which was hemmed in by the Grand Canyon of the Colorado River. Thomas did not confine his labors to his own cattle but was interested in helping his fellow stockmen protect their herds from thieves and wild animals.
On April 1, 1881, Thomas Jefferson Pearce and a group of stock owners gathered at Washington, Utah to attend to some business pertaining to the cattle industry. As the group returned late at night from Washington to St. George, Thomas fell, was pushed or knocked from the wagon, falling on his head and shoulders. He was killed in the fall.
This life sketch is given to present what was accomplished in the thirty-six years of the life of Thomas Jefferson Pearce.
He left a wife and five children: Lucy Henrietta, Daniel Nelson, Mary Angenetta, Thomas Harrison and Nancy Emeranda.