you should know about...
Beef - it's
what's for dinner - again.
by Brewster Hudspeth
Photo courtesy Barclay
Gibson, February 2009
|1. Born in Rhode
Island, Abel Head Pierce claimed he had to move when his 6-foot
four-inch height made him sleep with his head in the lap of a person
in Massachusetts. He stowed-away on an Indianola-bound ship and arrived
in Texas a 19-year old with seventy-five cents in his pocket.
2. His name of Shanghai had nothing to do with China. Given
by childhood friends - it was promoted in Texas
by Pierce himself. It was said his height and too-short trousers made
him resemble a Shanghai Rooster. Shanghai roosters were noted for
being long-legged and scrawny. The resemblance was strongest when
he wore spurs.
3. He worked his first year in exchange for $200 worth of cattle to
start his own herd. When the time came for payment the few cows he
was given were overvalued by 100% and past their prime. Several soon
died. Cattle-Barons were self-taught and in lieu of books titled:
"So You Want to be a Cattle Baron?" other future Barons gave lessons
to one another - harsh lessons. Pierce was a fast learner and eventually
got even with the man who paid him in worthless cattle.
4. His involvement in the Civil War consisted of being
present. Although he was a Northerner, Pierce and his brother enlisted
in "D" Company, 1st Texas Cavalry at Texana,
Texas. His commander made him "company butcher" and his knowledge
of "acquiring" cattle guaranteed his unit was supplied with beef.
He later bragged about his role being equal to that of a Major General
-"always on the rear in advance, always in the lead on retreat." He
saw the war merely as an interruption in his cattle empire plans.
5. In dress and manner he bordered on the theatrical with brocaded
vests, monogrammed shirts and broad-brimmed high-peaked hats. He ordered
his gravesite statue long before his death so he would have time to
Pierce started out branding stray cattle - despite previous brands.
It wasn't then a crime since everybody was doing it. By the time it
became a crime - most of the stray cattle had the Pierce brand and
he took it personally when his cattle or hides were found in other
7. His lynching of several men for rustling (the men were on the Sutton
side of the Taylor-Sutton duel) necessitated his leaving the state
for a period of time.
8. His cheapness is reveled in some of his correspondence. After completion
of a cattle drive where he netted 25,000 dollars - he added a note
to his ranch boss to collect .50 from a cowboy he had loaned a pair
of socks to.
9. Occasionally he was afflicted with generosity and he once bought
the lumber for a church that was being constructed. Later while riding
by the church - a visitor once asked: "Do you belong to that Church,
Mr. Pierce?" The reply was - "No, That church belongs to me."
10. Cowboys often carried an alphabet of branding irons. One day Pierce
spotted one of his cows that had been branded: AHP is a SOB. It amused
Pierce and he didn't sell the cow. He let it range for life since
he said it was a good advertisement.
Pierce died the day after Christmas, 1900. His empire underwent a
huge loss after the 1900
hurricane that destroyed Galveston
First published December 2001
|Abel H. Pierce
Photo courtesy Barclay
Gibson, August 2011
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
Texas & Hawley Cemetery
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