Robert Pierce, president of the Chicago Lumber Company, Topeka, was born in Cincinnati, Ohio, Dec. 14, 1852, a son of William Blake Pierce, a lawyer in the early part of his career, and later the founder of the Tappan-McKiIlop Commercial Agency at both Cincinnati and Chicago. This Tappan-McKillop Commercial Agency was the parent of both the Dun and Bradstreet agencies and when William Blake Pierce was associated with the Tappan-McKillop agency, he was a co-worker with both Dun and Bradstreet. William Blake Pierce was born in Brookline, Mass., in 1815, being the son of John Pierce, a Unitarian clergyman. In 1860 William Blake Pierce removed from Cincinnati to Chicago, where, besides establishing and having charge of the Tappan-McKillop Commercial Agency for several years, he became the founder and first editor of the "Chicago Journal of Commerce." In 1869 he retired from business, and after that he spent most of his declining years in traveling, his death occurring in 1888. The Pierce family is an old one in Massachusetts, being founded by Robert Pierce, who came over from England in the ship "Mary and John" in 1624, very shortly after the coming of the "Mayflower." In England the family possessed a coat of arms, a copy o which is in Mr. Pierce's possession. It consists of a phoenix bird, picking itself. In England the name was spelled, "Pearce," and was pronounced as if spelled "Purse," but the spelling of the name was changed to "Pierce" by some of the Massachusetts members of the family. William Blake Pierce's mother was a Miss Holmes, a relative of Benjamin Franklin by marriage. The mother of Robert Pierce was Elizabeth Frances Peck, who was born in Albany, N. Y., in 1824, and died near Chicago, Ill., Nov. 13, 1901. She was a daughter of Capt. Henry Peck, who for a number of years was the captain of a Hudson river steamboat plying between Albany and New York City. On his paternal side Mr. Pierce descended from Revolutionary stock, and is a member of the Sons of the American Revolution.
In 1869, when his father retired from business, after a residence of nine years in Chicago, the family removed to Philadelphia. Robert Pierce was but eight years old when the family went to Chicago, and he received his education in the public schools of that city and in Sanders' Institute of Philadelphia. At the age of seventeen he quit school, and for a short time was a book salesman. In 1870 he returned to Chicago, where for seven years he was connected with a house that did both a wholesale and a retail business in sporting goods and shelf hardware, first as a clerk and later as traveling salesman. In 1877 he entered the employ of the Chicago Lumber Company, a very large concern of Chicago, founded by M. T. Green, who was one of the best known lumbermen of Chicago. This company placed Mr. Pierce in charge of its branch yard, located at Nebraska, City, Neb., but in 1878 he was transferred to Topeka, and placed in charge of the Topeka branch of the company. Upon Mr. Green's death, in 1894, the Topeka branch of the Chicago Lumber Company became an independent corporation, and of this company Mr. Pierce has been president ever since. The name, however, has never been changed. The Chicago Lumber Company of Topeka, which was established by Mr. Pierce in 1878, as the Topeka branch of the Chicago company, has, therefore, been under the personal charge of Mr. Pierce for one-third of a century. It does a wholesale and a retail business, and is one of the principal lumber companies of Topeka.
On Feb. 6, 1877, Mr. Pierce married Miss Mary Hand Farnham, of Clinton, Conn., also a descendant of an old New England Revolutionary family. They have two living childrenWillard Blake and Robert Stevens. The latter is now treasurer of the Chicago Lumber Company, and the former is a student in the Culver Military Academy, Culver, Ind. Mr. Pierce is a Republican in politics, but has never held political office. He is one of the founders of the First Unitarian Church of Topeka, of which he and his family are members. He is a past exalted ruler in the Benevolent and Protective Order of Elks; a member and ex-vice-president of the Commercial Club; and a member of the Country Club. He has been a director of the Merchants' National Bank ever since its organization, and is a member and director of the Lake View Club, located near Lawrence, where he secures his diversion from business cares, by fishing and hunting, two sports of which he is very fond. During the third of a century that Mr. Pierce has lived in Topeka he has become one of her foremost and best known business men. He is a strong man, strong in his honor and good name, strong in accomplishment and character; his life record winning him the admiration of his business contemporaries and the respect of all who know him. Mr. Pierce has a beautiful home at 709 Taylor street, Topeka.Pages 741-742 from volume III, part 2 of Kansas: a cyclopedia of state history, embracing events, institutions, industries, counties, cities, towns, prominent persons, etc. ... / with a supplementary volume devoted to selected personal history and reminiscence. Standard Pub. Co. Chicago : 1912. 3 v. in 4. : front., ill., ports.; 28 cm. Vols. I-II edited by Frank W. Blackmar. Transcribed December 2002 by Carolyn Ward. This volume is identified at the Kansas State Historical Society as microfilm LM195. It is a two-part volume 3.
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