Pierce statue (left) and the marker for his brother, Jonathan
Edwards Pierce (right).
Photo courtesy Ken
Rudine, October 2003
Once known as Deming’s Bridge,
after Edwin A. Deming, who constructed a crude bridge over the Tres
Palacios River in 1857, the community underwent a change of name in
There had been a community in the area since the 1850s but it went
unnamed until a post office opened in 1858 – with Deming as postmaster.
“Shanghai” Pierce and his brother Jonathan had their ranch headquarters
just south of the bridge around the time of the Civil War. The post
office closed after the war but reopened in 1872.
By the mid 1880s, Deming’s Bridge had a thriving population of 300
which grew to 500 by the early 1890s.
The town had 17 business at this time, including two stores and a
wagonmaker. Jonathan Pierce had taken over as postmaster for the town
by this time and when his son Abel received an appointment in the
Navy, Pierce repaid the kindness of his son’s benefactor by renaming
the town in his honor. Robert Bradley Hawley was the namesake, although
the local school retained the name of Deming’s Bridge.
In 1903 the New York, Texas and Mexican Railway was advancing across
the prairie and Jon Pierce donated land to insure the railroad would
pass through the region. The town of Blessing
appeared that year and Hawley’s post office and Masonic Lodge moved
to the new town, cutting Hawley loose to become an eventual ghost
Today the most notable reminder of the town is the well-kept Hawley
Cemetery whose most famous resident is Abel
“Shanghai” Pierce. His statue, ordered far in advance of his death,
is one of the tallest landmarks in Matagorda County outside of Bay
who was fiercely proud of his thrift, got the sculptor to give him
a hefty discount and erected the statue in Blessing
so that he could admire it before it was put to use. Pierce
was an early believer in what funeral directors now refer to as “pre-need.”
died in the last days of 1900 but his statue stands today like a sentinel
in mufti, gazing unblinckingly toward the gulf.
Shanghai Pierce Statue
Matagorda County: Old Hawley Cemetery
The Old Hawley Cemetery is located about 3 miles northeast of Blessing....
Pierce Statue is said to be taller than any statue of a Confederate
General. - Barclay
Gibson, February 17, 2009
|Marker for Jonathan
Edwards Pierce, Shanghai Pierce's brother
Gibson, February 2009
|Old Hawley Cemetery
Photo courtesy Barclay
Gibson, February 2009
as Deming's Bridge Cemetery. Second post office in Matagorda
County was located nearby in 1858.
Two acres donated by Emelius Savage and his son Norman for the cemetery
and Tres Palacios Baptist Church, founded 1852. More land given by
Jonathan E. Pierce, who in 1900 named area Hawley, honoring United
States senator Robert Bradley Hawley.
Buried here are the brothers Jonathan E. and Abel
H. ("Shang") Pierce and many other famous early cattlemen; also,
more than 50 veterans of Civil War and all U.S. wars since 1865.
"Shanghai" Pierce's, see:
Things you should know about Shanghai Pierce by Brewster Hudspeth
Texas by Brewster Hudspeth
An informal history of Pierce, Texas: Containing barely- related
facts on neighboring towns in Wharton, Jackson and Victoria Counties.
I first learned about Shanghai Pierce last February when I was asked
to be part of the entertainment for the First Annual Shanghai Days
Cowboy Gathering in Wharton in April. And then what I was told was
not nearly as interesting as Hudspeth's
account. ..... Well, thanks for the skinny behind Pierce. -
Lou Ann Herda
Escapes, in its purpose to preserve historic, endangered and vanishing
Texas, asks that anyone wishing to share their local history
and vintage/historic photos, please contact