Pierce City, Missouri
|Pierce City, Missouri|
St. Mary's Catholic Church (Pierce City, Missouri)
Location of Pierce City, Missouri
|• Total||1.28 sq mi (3.32 km2)|
|• Land||1.27 sq mi (3.29 km2)|
|• Water||0.01 sq mi (0.03 km2)|
|Elevation||1,217 ft (371 m)|
|• Estimate (2016)||1,297|
|• Density||1,000/sq mi (390/km2)|
|Time zone||Central (CST) (UTC-6)|
|• Summer (DST)||CDT (UTC-5)|
|GNIS feature ID||0724319|
Pierce City, formerly Peirce City, is a city in Lawrence and Barry counties, in southwest Missouri. The population was 1,292 at the 2010 census. In 2010, the town annexed property along Route 97 into Barry County to a point just north of U.S. Route 60.
It is notable for its white residents having driven out virtually all of its 300 black residents in 1901, after a lynch mob killed three black men who were suspects in a murder of a white woman. Whites took over the land and property left by the blacks, and the events were treated as secret for decades. The city has remained overwhelmingly white in population.
Pierce City is located at (36.946996, -94.002430).
|U.S. Decennial Census|
As of the census of 2010, there were 1,292 people, 538 households, and 343 families residing in the city. The population density was 1,017.3 inhabitants per square mile (392.8/km2). There were 602 housing units at an average density of 474.0 per square mile (183.0/km2). The racial makeup of the city was 95.9% White, 0.8% Native American, 0.2% Asian, 1.8% from other races, and 1.3% from two or more races. Hispanic or Latino of any race were 4.6% of the population.
There were 538 households of which 33.3% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 45.0% were married couples living together, 13.8% had a female householder with no husband present, 5.0% had a male householder with no wife present, and 36.2% were non-families. 31.8% of all households were made up of individuals and 13.9% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.39 and the average family size was 2.97.
The median age in the city was 37.4 years. 26% of residents were under the age of 18; 8.4% were between the ages of 18 and 24; 24% were from 25 to 44; 25.6% were from 45 to 64; and 16.2% were 65 years of age or older. The gender makeup of the city was 48.5% male and 51.5% female.
As of the census of 2000, there were 1,385 people, 574 households, and 378 families residing in the city. The population density was 1,133.3 people per square mile (438.3/km²). There were 646 housing units at an average density of 528.6 per square mile (204.4/km²). The racial makeup of the city was 96.46% White, 0.22% African American, 1.08% Native American, 0.22% from other races, and 2.02% from two or more races. Hispanic or Latino of any race were 1.01% of the population.
There were 574 households out of which 33.3% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 48.4% were married couples living together, 12.5% had a female householder with no husband present, and 34.0% were non-families. 28.6% of all households were made up of individuals and 12.9% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.41 and the average family size was 2.96.
In the city the population was spread out with 25.8% under the age of 18, 10.8% from 18 to 24, 28.2% from 25 to 44, 22.1% from 45 to 64, and 13.1% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 35 years. For every 100 females, there were 94.0 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 84.7 males.
The median income for a household in the city was $24,186, and the median income for a family was $34,219. Males had a median income of $23,429 versus $17,857 for females. The per capita income for the city was $12,310. About 18.3% of families and 20.6% of the population were below the poverty line, including 20.8% of those under age 18 and 29.5% of those age 65 or over.
There was once a small village called St. Martha about two and a half miles west of Pierce City. It was surveyed for William Robert Wild on Section 30, Pierce Township, May 9, 1870. Wild committed suicide there on June 8, 1870. Nothing remains of the village.
Founding and spelling
Pierce City was laid out in 1870 as a stop on the Atlantic and Pacific Railroad. It was originally spelled Peirce City, named for Andrew Peirce, Jr. of Boston, president of the St. Louis–San Francisco Railway.[nb 1] The Pierce spelling was used erroneously by the United States Postal Service and adopted officially in the 1930s. A 1982 attempt to revert to Peirce was rejected by the United States Census Bureau.
On August 19, 1901 a large white mob took three African American men from jail in Pierce City and lynched them. French and William Godley, and Peter Hampton were suspects in the murder of a young white woman. Two of the men were quite aged and were unlikely suspects; none had a chance at a trial. These were the total number of recorded lynchings in Lawrence County.
Unrest continued, and the white mob burned five black homes, and drove "30 families into the woods", affecting the roughly 300 black residents in the town. (It had about 1,000 white residents.) Most of the African Americans lost all their land and property; whites simply took over the empty properties.
This was part of a pattern of violence in southwest Missouri in the early 20th century; there were also large public lynchings in Joplin and Springfield, resulting in many African Americans abandoning the region for less hostile territory. By 1910 only 91 African Americans remained in Lawrence County and their numbers continued to decline.
In the 21st century, some descendants of the people who had been driven out of Pierce City threatened to file a lawsuit for the city's failure to protect their families and to recover the value of their families' properties, but none was filed. There have been other grassroots efforts to acknowledge these crimes and injustices.
May 2003 tornado
One of the most notable tornadoes of the May 2003 tornado outbreak sequence was the one that hit in Pierce City. According to reports, nearly all of the buildings in the town were damaged, destroyed, or liable to collapse. Damage was most severe in the historic downtown business district, where approximately 90 percent of the businesses and homes nearby were severely damaged, and they later had to be torn down. A nearby National Guard Armory, regularly used as the town's storm shelter, sustained heavy damage. J. Dale Taunton was killed; he was one of the several dozen people who had fled to the shelter. Raging Winds...
But, outside the main path of the tornado, many Pierce City structures, including homes and the Harold Bell Wright Museum, sustained little or no damage. The Pierce City tornado was an F-3 on the Fujita scale.
Pierce City R-VI School District operates one elementary school, one middle school, and Pierce City High School.
Representation in other media
- A 2007 PBS documentary, Banished: American Ethnic Cleansing, featured the 1901 events in Pierce City and other expulsions of African Americans from Southwest Missouri and other regions.
- Kimberly Harper wrote a history, White Man's Heaven: The Lynching and Expulsion of Blacks in the Southern Ozarks, 1894-1909, University of Arkansas Press (2012), that explores these and related events.
- "US Gazetteer files 2010". United States Census Bureau. Archived from the original on 2012-01-24. Retrieved 2012-07-08.
- "American FactFinder". United States Census Bureau. Retrieved 2012-07-08.
- "Population and Housing Unit Estimates". Retrieved June 9, 2017.
- "American FactFinder". United States Census Bureau. Retrieved 2008-01-31.
- "US Board on Geographic Names". United States Geological Survey. 2007-10-25. Retrieved 2008-01-31.
- "US Gazetteer files: 2010, 2000, and 1990". United States Census Bureau. 2011-02-12. Retrieved 2011-04-23.
- "Death of Mr. Robert Wild". The Neosho Times. Neosho, Missouri. 1870-06-23. Retrieved 2017-11-24.
- Moser, Arthur Paul. "A Directory of Towns, Villages, and Hamlets Past and Present of Lawrence County, Missouri". Springfield-Greene County Library. Retrieved 2017-11-24.
- "Lawrence County Place Names, 1928–1945 (archived)". The State Historical Society of Missouri. Archived from the original on 24 June 2016. Retrieved 27 October 2016.
- Brown, Miriam Keast (1970). The Story of Pierce City, Missouri, 1870-1970. M.K. Brown. p. 21.; cited in Morrow, Lynn (2013-12-29). The Ozarks in Missouri History: Discoveries in an American Region. University of Missouri Press. pp. 173, fn. 1. ISBN 9780826273031. Retrieved 31 May 2014.
- Eaton, David Wolfe (1916). How Missouri Counties, Towns and Streams Were Named. The State Historical Society of Missouri. p. 184.
- United Press International (1 September 1982). "Bureau sticks with 'i' before 'e'". The Bulletin. Bend, Oregon. p. 15. Retrieved 28 February 2011.
- "Lynchings in Missouri", Saline County, Missouri: GenWeb Project, n.d.; accessed 12 April 2018
- "Pierce City: August 19th, 1901". oaahm.omeka.net. Ozarks Afro-American History Museum Online. Retrieved 2016-10-31.
- Lynching in America/ Supplement: Lynchings by County, 3rd edition, Montgomery, Alabama: Equal Justice Initiative, 2015, p. 7
- Kimberly Harper, White Man's Heaven: The Lynching and Expulsion of Blacks in the Southern Ozarks, 1894-1909, University of Arkansas Press (2012), p. 253
- National Park Service (2010-07-09). "National Register Information System". National Register of Historic Places. National Park Service.
- "Pierce City R-Vi School District". Great Schools. Retrieved 17 March 2018.
- "Locations". Barry-Lawrence Regional Library. Retrieved 17 March 2018.
- Banished (film)|Banished: American Ethnic Cleansing, Independent Lens, PBS