Rice Bolton Pierce of Halifax County, N.C.

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.

Rice B Pierce, Captain Pierce’s Co, 65 Va. Mil., War of 1812


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.) Some similarity in names with the Pierce family of York County led to an investigation of this family as possible ancestors of Spencer Pierce, but the available evidence now points to the Pierce family of Mulberry Island in Warwick County as the most likely ancestors.

Spencer Pierce was in Warwick County by 1749 when he was security for the estate of William Folks in the hands of Argal Blastone. Warwick Court 7 August 1760 records the 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.
Warwick Court order for 5 March 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, say 20 years old at this time. William Wills was probably a relation, possibly an uncle. A Spencer Pierce served in the Revolutionary War in the 7th Virginia Regiment commanded by Daniel Morgan. There are several copies of his record available from https://www.familysearch.org/search/ by searching for his name. In 1776 he was a private but in the 1779 record he was in drum & fife. The 7th Regiment was raised in 1776 at Gloucester County Courthouse. Warwick County is not shown as one of the counties the men who enlisted were from but its not far from Gloucester County. It seems probable that Spencer Pierce the constable was the same who served in the 7th.

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.

A suite 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. It seems likely that Rice Bolton Pierce got his name from this person.

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. Possibly Martha Pierce, wife of Spencer, was a member of the Wills family.

Thomas Iken, mentioned above, was married 21 Oct 1665 to Grace Harwood, legatee of Capt. Thomas Pierce and by 1669 was residing at the former dwelling house of Captain William Pierce . He had married as her fourth husband Elizabeth Wills (Adventurers of Purse and Person, 3rd Edition, p. 364). Possibly all the Wills children lived at one time in the former dwelling of Capt. William Pierce. It is the close connection of the Wills family to the Mulberry Island Pierces that shows that this is the most likely ancestry for Spencer Pierce.

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.

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). If this was not deeded to him or someone he was heir to after 1713 then he must have inherited part of the 155 acres mentioned above. Even if it was not part of the 155 acre grant, the connection with the Wills and the fact that there were no other Pierce families living in Warwick County that owned land suggests he was a son 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.

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. If Spencer Pierce was the same as Spencer constable of Warwick he would have been over 50 years old. Possibly it was his son.