Shanghai LbNA # 51821
|Placed Date||Dec 29 2009|
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. 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. 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. 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. 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 appreciate it. It was sculpted by noted artist Frank Teich. Teich came to the Pierce ranch to measure and sketch the man for the statue. He was told that if the finished piece wasn’t a good likeness, he wouldn’t get paid. When it was delivered, a young black man who worked for him remarked that, “It looks just like you, Master Pierce.” Shanghai chuckled and told the sculptor that “I reckon that’s good enough for me, so I guess I’ll have to pay you.” He had negotiated the price down from $2500 to $2000, but Frank Teich later said that he got even by making Pierce’s hat too small for his head. Shanghai 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 hands. 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. His cheapness is revealed 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. 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 asked: "Do you belong to that Church, Mr. Pierce?" The reply was - "No, That church belongs to me." 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 in June. He is buried in Hawley Cemetery near Blessing, Texas, underneath the Frank Teich marble statue.
Directions: Hawley Cemetery is located in Matagorda County, Texas, 3 miles NE of the town of Blessing. The town was established by the Pierce family, who petitioned for it to be named “Thank the Lord”. The Postal Service thought “Blessing” was adequate. From Blessing, go east on Highway 35 about 3 miles, past the intersection with Highway 71 and turn left on CR 459 Hawley Cemetery Road. In about 1/2 mile, you’ll see the cemetery is on the left (west).
To the box: Drive into the cemetery and you won’t have any trouble seeing the tall white marble statue of Shanghai Pierce. Drive around and park next to it. Stand in front and admire the work of Frank Teich. Go back out through the opening in the hedge and turn left to the first large oak tree on the left. The box is at its base next to the curb with debris and a rock on top of it. Replace and hide it well. Thanks.