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Matagorda County TX
Matagorda County


Texas Ghost Town
Matagorda County, Texas Gulf Coast

Highway 71
3 Miles NE of Blessing
SW of Bay City the county seat
Population: 0

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Wharton Hotels | El Campo Hotels | Port Lavaca Hotels
Old Hawley Cemetery Shanghai Pierce statue and monument for his wife, Hawley Texas
Shanghai Pierce statue (left) and the marker for his brother, Jonathan Edwards Pierce (right).
Photo courtesy Ken Rudine, October 2003
History on Pecan Shell

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 1899.

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.

Abel “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 town.

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 City.

Pierce, 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.” Pierce died in the last days of 1900 but his statue stands today like a sentinel in mufti, gazing unblinckingly toward the gulf.
1854 Hawley Cemetery Sign, Hawley Texas
Photo courtesy Ken Rudine, October 2003

Old Hawley Cemetery
Shanghai Pierce Statue

Photographer's Note:

Matagorda County: Old Hawley Cemetery
The Old Hawley Cemetery is located about 3 miles northeast of Blessing....

The Shanghai Pierce Statue is said to be taller than any statue of a Confederate General. - Barclay Gibson, February 17, 2009

Old Hawley Cemetery Shanghai Pierce  statue,  Hawley Texas
Shanghai Pierce statue
Photo courtesy Barclay Gibson, February 2009
Old Hawley Cemetery Shanghai Pierce  statue close up,  Hawley Texas
Photo courtesy Ken Rudine, October 2003
Old Hawley Cemetery Shanghai Pierce  monument base, Hawley Texas
Photo courtesy Ken Rudine, October 2003
Old Hawley Cemetery Shanghai Pierce  statue, plot and tombstones,  Hawley Texas
Shanghai Pierce statue
Photo courtesy Barclay Gibson, February 2009
Old Hawley Cemetery, Hawley Texas
Marker for Jonathan Edwards Pierce, Shanghai Pierce's brother
Photo courtesy Barclay Gibson, February 2009
Old Hawley Cemetery historical marker, Hawley Texas
Old Hawley Cemetery historical marker
Photo courtesy Barclay Gibson, February 2009
Historical Marker:

Old Hawley Cemetery

Known 1838-1899 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.
Hawley Texas - 1854 Hawley Cemetery Sign
1854 Hawley Cemetery
Photo courtesy Barclay Gibson, February 2009

More about "Shanghai" Pierce's, see:

  • Ten Things you should know about Shanghai Pierce by Brewster Hudspeth

  • Pierce, Texas by Brewster Hudspeth
    An informal history of Pierce, Texas: Containing barely- related facts on neighboring towns in Wharton, Jackson and Victoria Counties.

    Readers' Comments:
    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

  • TX Matagorda County vintage map

    Matagorda County map showing Deming's Bridge
    Tres Palacios River & Blessing
    W of Bay City
    near Jackson County line

    Modification of Texas General Land Office 1920s map

    Take a road trip

    Hawley, Texas Nearby Towns:
    Bay City the county seat
    Port Lavaca | El Campo | Victoria
    See Matagorda County | Texas Gulf Coast

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    Texas 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 us.


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