Rice B. Pierce died in Halifax County. Cousin Pierce Howard in a booklet titled Other Mama — A life of Mary Virginia Pierce which he wrote for the Pierce family reunion states he was born in 1788 in Southampton County, Virginia, and died in 1874 and that he served in the War of 1812. Below is his grave site at Pierce’s Crossroads south of Weldon. A search of War of 1812 records found him in Muster Rolls of the Virginia Militia in the War of 1812. He was Captain of 65th Regiment of Southampton, which was called into service for 13 days in August and September of 1814.
I have been able to trace his ancestry back from Southampton County to his grandfather Spencer Pierce of Warwick County. However, Warwick County suffered loss of records during the civil war and remaining records give only partial information (All references to Warwick County records are from Warwick County, Virginia, Colonial Court Records in Transcription, Richard Dunn, ed.)
Warwick Court 7 August 1760 records the administration estate of a Spencer Pierce:
On the motion of Martha Pierce ordered that John George Wills, Benjamin Wills, Samuel Wills and John Pate Wills, or any three of them do examine & settle an account of the admon of the estate of Spencer Pierce deceased and report the same to the court.
At the same court Spencer Pierce was appointed constable of Stanley Hundred Precinct. Presumably Stanley Hundred Precinct corresponded approximately to the parish of Stanley Hundred or Mulberry Island although the parishes in Warwick were merged in 1725 (Parish Lines, Diocese of Southern Virginia, Charles Cocke, p. 158), so he was appointed constable of the area of Mulberry Island and the land formerly owned by Capt. William Pierce.
Warwick Court order for 2 April 1761 gives:
An Indenture of Apprenticeship from Rice Bolton Pierce to William Wills was with the Approbation of the court acknowledged by the parties and ordered to be certified.
I think the explanation for these records is most likely that Spencer Pierce the constable and Rice Bolton Pierce were the sons of Spencer Pierce who died in 1760. Assume that Rice was 15 when apprenticed to William Wills then Spencer Pierce would have been his older brother.
A Spencer Pierce (IGI) served in the Revolutionary War in the 7th Virginia Regiment General Woodford’s brigade, commanded by Daniel Morgan. The muster and payrolls for 1779 show he was a private and variously assigned as a waiter on Lord Sterling and also in the drum and fife unit. The muster for April was at Middlebrook and later ones at Ramapough. The 7th was mustered at Gloucester County Courthouse in 1776 but it is unknown if Spencer Pierce joined at that time. A Warwick County court record of 1761 mentions Spencer Pierce and his wife Elizabeth (Dunn, p. 543). Since Revolutionary War soldiers were usually young then Spencer Pierce the soldier was probably the son of Spencer and Elizabeth and born perhaps a few years before 1761.
Rice Bolton Pierce had moved to Southampton County by 1767 when he purchased 282 acres from Arthur Arrington. Since he was apprenticed in 1761, he served as apprentice for less than six years. If the same law applied to apprentices born in Virginia as those that were immigrants he must have been older than 12 since those younger that 12 served for 7 years. Apprentices 12 to 21 served 5 years.
Captain William Pierce lived at Mulberry Island in Warwick County and as an early immigrant has a genealogy in Adventurers of Purse and Person. A footnote in this geneaolgy mentions that he may have left a son Thomas Pierce of Mulberry Island. There was a connection between the Pierce family and William Spencer at this time, which might possibly account for the name Spencer Pierce. A descendant of this Thomas Pierce left a will in Warwick County in 1696 naming sons Jeremiah and William and daughter Elizabeth. In 1685 an account of the horses belonging to the estate of John Wills was given by Jeremiah Pierce. In 1669 Thomas Iken patented 1350 acres in Mulberry Island ‘nere his now dwelling house, formerly the dwelling house of Capt. William Pierce’ (Nugent, v2. p. 56). Thomas Iken was married to the widow of Emanuel Wills, the immigrant ancestor to the Wills of Warwick County. This land escheated on the death of Thoma Iken and was regranted to John and Emanuel Wills (Adventurers of Purse and Person, 3rd Edition, pp. 364, 604). Hence, the Wills family lived or owned land adjacent to the former house of Capt. William Pierce.
In Warwick Court January 1752 Benjamin Wills presented the will of Thomas Wills, Jr, Gent. of which he was executor. The witnesses to the will were Thomas Cary and Spencer Pierce. In Warwick Court 1761 Benjamin Wills, Samuel Wills and Thomas Wills the elder were appointed to appraise the estate of Matthew Wills, gent., who had been a justice in Warwick County. The records show the Wills family were connected either by location of marriage.
Thomas Pierce of Warwick County, possible grandson of Capt. William Pierce, left a will in 1696 with this bequest to his wife:
I bequeath unto my loving wife Elizabeth my own plantacion with fifty acres of land dureing her life and afterward to my son William Pierce if my wife marryes the plantacion to be deliverd forwith (Dunn, p. 275).
Thomas Pierce was granted 155 acres in Mulberry Island in 1673 (Nugent, v.2, p. 144). The 1704 rent roll for Warwick County has widow Pierce listed for 155 acres. The 1713 rent roll for Warwick County has William Pierce listed for 155 acres (The Colonial Williamsburg Foundation, John D. Rockefeller Jr. Library, William Blathwayt Papers, MS1946.2, VOL XIII). Neither rent roll has any other listings for Pierce. Clearly William Pierce was the son of Thomas Pierce and his widow had died or remarried. As late as 1694 the Wills family owned land adjacent to Thomas Pierce, when Emanuel Wills was granted 155 acres on the line of Thomas Pierce (Nugent, v.2, p. 348), possibly the same land that was owned by William Pierce in 1713.
Spencer Pierce owned 100 acres in Warwick County at some time as shown by the deed from John George Wills & Mary his wife to William Wills, dated 1768 (Dunn, p. 581). This court record was evidently taken by a union soldier as a souvenir during the Civil War and by the 1930s was held by the New York Public Library (Tylers Quarterly, 1943, pp. 52-64). A copy is presently at the Library of Virginia (Warwick County Miscellaneous 1646-1915, Barcode 7417689).
A Memorial of Bargain and Sales Mortgages, Marriage Settlements Deeds of Tracts & other Conveyances/ which have been proved or acknowledged & recorded in the County Court of Warwick from the last Day of Dec. 1768/ to the last day of Nov. 1769.
Deed & Date of Conveyance – Feoffment 2nd May 1768
from whom – John Geo. Wills & May (Mary?) his wife of this County
to whom – Wm. Wills of Isle of Wight County
Consideration – One hundred & ten Pounds
Quantity of Acres Situation & Bounds of the Land and other etc. conveyed – one hundred acres of land in the County of/ Warwick formerly in the Posson of Spencer Pierce/ who sold the same to Mr. Wills who conveyed the same/ to the sd. J.G. Wills and bounded by the most known/ ancient & reputed bounds thereof
when ack. or proved – Nov. 10. 1768
There are several possibilities for how Spencer Pierce might have acquired the 100 acres. One possibility is that he purchased the land himself. Another is that he inherited the land as part of the 155 acres owned by William Pierce in the 1813 tax list as an heir of William Pierce.
The 1781 will of Elias Williams of Southampton County named his nephew Matthew Pierce and friend Rice B. Pierce to be his executor. Possibly Matthew was the oldest child of Rice B Pierce, and the will shows that Elizabeth Pierce’s maiden name was Williams.
Rice B Pierce and his son Matthew were both dead by May 1793 when a court order struck the name of Matthew Pierce for his share of the estate of RB Pierce. The estate of Rice Pierce in 1796 mentions Matthew Pierce, decd. The other children mentioned in the will and estate of Elizabeth Pierce are Rice (or Bolton), Peter, Spencer, Nathaniel, Martha Cobb and Elizabeth Lewis. A 1794 chancery suit gives a good overview of settlement of the Rice Bolton Pierce estate. Court of Southampton from Feb. 1793 the admin of the estate of Rice Pierce was granted to Michael Cobb and the record names Spencer Pierce as the eldest son of the decedent (Southampton MB 1793-99, p. 1).
Southampton County marriage records record the marriage of Spencer Pierce to Mary Calvert in 1793 and Rice B Pierce to Fanny Cook in 1809. Mary Calvert was a member of a seafaring family of Calverts from Norfolk County.
Given that there are no wills or other records found in Warwick County that specifically state the relationships of the Pierces, it is useful to consider the family names and what we can assume from onomastics, or the study of naming patterns. The book Albions Seed gives a overview of common colonial Virginia naming patterns. Often the first son was named for his paternal grandfather, and the second was named after his father, and a simliar pattern for the daughters. Names of uncles, aunts or cousins could also be used. Another common pattern was the use of surnames as given name to show connection to a family, often the mothers surname.
We see that the 1793 Southampton record names the eldest son of Rice B Pierce as Spencer Pierce. Son Matthew was dead at the time of this record so possibly he was the eldest, but assuming Spencer was the oldest then this is consistent with Rice B Pierce being the son of Spencer Pierce. This is supported by the fact Rice B Pierce named a daughter Martha which was the name of the widow of Spencer Pierce of Warwick. Children Elizabeth and Rice were named for their parents.
This leaves the names Nathaniel, Peter, and Matthew as unexplained. They could have been chosen because the parents liked them or they were names used in the family of Elizabeth Pierce. The name Peter Pierce appears in Elizabeth City County as a testator in 1689 and also owning 50 acres in the 1704 quit rents for Eliabeth City County. The name Matthew Pierce was used in the Pierce family of York County . However, no connections could be found of Spencer Pierce of Warwick or Rice B Pierce of Southampton to either of these families. The name Matthew could be a reference to Matthew Wills who died in Warwick County in 1761.
The names of the children of Rice B and Elizabeth Pierce strongly support the conclusion that Rice B Pierce was the son of Spencer Pierce of Warwick County.
Part of the difficulty in determining the ancestry of Spencer Pierce of Warwick County is the loss of records. There are some records in order books up to 1714. If we look in these records we see the names Thomas, William, and Jeremiah. After that except for a few records around 1730 which there were no Pierces, the minute book records start in 1748 in which the only Pierces appearing were Spencer or his family. First, we notice that the names appearing before 1714 are not being used after 1748. This a fact that does not seem to support Spencer being of this family of early Mulberry Island Pierces. Possibly there were children of this name that died young or moved.
However, looking at the names Spencer and Rice Bolton does support this connection to the Mulberry Island Pierces if we consider the pattern of using the Mother’s surname as a given name.
The name Spencer might be a reference to the family of William Spencer. There was an early connection of William Spencer and Capt. William Pierce. In 1638 William Spencer and Capt. William Pierce were chosen to select a cow that Thomas Pierce was to give to his son William. This record is incorrectly shown in Adventurers of Purse and Person as dated 1655, but the original clearly shows 1638, and in 1668 William Pierce (same son of Capt. Thomas) patented land in Warwick County formerly granted John Rolfe, William Pierce, Thomas Pierce and William Spencer. The Spencer genealogy in Adventurers of Purse and Person does not show a marriage of a Pierce and Spencer, but it seems possible.
A suit in Warwick Court May 1707 shows a Rice Bolton living with Richard Hatton in Mulberry Island without being declared a taxable. In Sept 1714 Warwick court Rice Bolton was mentioned as assignee of a deed and later that year was a guardian for orphans of Randolph Crew and Samuel Crew. The name Rice Bolton then must be a reference to Rice Bolton who was living at Mulberry Island in 1707. The suit seems to imply that in 1707 he was a single man living in another household. If Rice Bolton was born say 1745 then his mother (probably Martha) should have been born by 1725 especially if she was also the mother of older brother Spencer. This seems to imply that Martha Pierce was the daughter of Rice Bolton of Mulberry Island and supporting the conclusion that the family of Spencer Pierce was related to the Pierces of Mulberry Island.
The fact that Martha Pierce was possibly a daughter of Rice Bolton gives another possibility for how Spencer Pierce acquired the 100 acres that was sold to Mr. Wills. Warwick court of September 1714 records a deed from John Cook to Rice Bolton. The 1713 tax list shows John Cook with 50 acres, so it was presumably this 50 acres that Rice Bolton acquired. Perhaps he acquired another 50 acres after March 1714/5 which is the date of the last surviving court record. If the 100 acres was willed to Martha Pierce or she was an only daughter, then this could be the 100 acres that Spencer Pierce sold. Possibly this might have been sold by her husband Spencer Pierce, or she had died between 1760 and 1768 and the land was sold by her eldest son Spencer Pierce.