Small Town Memories

Recording memories of the SHARPSVILLE, PA, AREA from the 1940s to the 1970s, one story at a time.

Tag: Pierce Mansion

DR. BAILEY’S SHARPSVILLE 1920s, Part I

by Ann Angel Eberhardt

There were two doctors in Sharpsville, PA, in the 1950s that I can remember: James A. Biggins, M.D., (born c. 1909) whose office was at 5 North Walnut Street, and Nelson J. Bailey, M.D., (born 1892) at 61 East Main Street. Some of the other doctors who practiced in Sharpsville in the early days were William Twitmeyer M.D., P.E. Biggins M.D., Addison E. Cattron, M.D. and Benjamin A. Frye, M.D.

When Dr. Bailey retired in 1979 after 56 years of practice, Peter Joyce gave a speech at the Sharpsville Service Club in which he honored Dr. Bailey’s many years of commitment to the health concerns of the community.

Joyce’s words paint a detailed picture of the borough in the 1920s when Dr. Bailey was just beginning his practice and when Joyce himself was a student at Sharpsville High School, graduating in 1929. “Pete” Joyce (1911-2006) lived a long life of dedication to Sharpsville government, church and community. He served as councilman and mayor of Sharpsville for numerous terms and was owner of Isaly’s Dairy on the corner of Main and Third streets.

Joyce describes a vibrant little town bustling with people and activities, where everyone knew your name. You may remember some of the businesses and family names as still around in later years. Or maybe you’ll recognize someone from your own family tree. 


Reminiscences of Sharpsville
In Honor of Dr. Nelson Bailey

A speech presented by Peter Joyce to the Sharpsville Service Club, 1979
(The text has been slightly edited for clarity.)

Peter Joyce, January 4, 1956. [Excerpt from a photo in The Herald]

Dr. Nelson J. Bailey, c. 1979. [Excerpt from an article in The Herald]

My Dear Friends:

How does one assess a lifetime of service? What does one say of a person who has spent 56 years in intimate dedication to healing bodies and sometimes giving peace to the mind of those grieving the loss of a loved one….. Let‘s wander back 56 years and look at the Sharpsville of that time [1923] and some of the people who have gone to their reward, whom Dr. Bailey first met.

Mercer Avenue

Dr. Bailey occupied Dr. Cattron‘s old office, so we’ll start down Mercer Avenue to Jackson Tin Shop where we‘ll see John Jackson and old Mr. McDowell making the famous Jackson oiler for locomotives. Then on down to the corner of Shenango and Mercer to Reichard‘s Drug StoreDr. Twitmeyer occupied the back office. He was tall and thin with white hair and a trim goatee. He drove a buggy pulled by a pure white horse. Then there was Skip himself, the inimitable Skip, short, partly bald, and quick-witted. He would never let the coffees stir long enough—Mike McNerney always did it better. That building was the original Odd Fellow TempleTom West, who started the Valley Mould, held the first convention of the American Anti-Accident Association, the parent of Safety First, meeting there in 1907.

sharpsville_oiler

The famous Jackson self-closing engine oiler.

The Pierce Mansion was across the street with old Jim Pierce who was Burgess. Then there was the very reserved Mrs. Pierce and Mrs. Pierce‘s sister, Aunt Cissy. Their maiden name was Pomplitz, and they were from Baltimore. The family had manufactured organs.

Across the street at the First National Bank was brother Frank Pierce, the president. And, he was president of the Sharpsville School Board. There were five Pierce brothers. They all had six fingers and six toes, except Frank. Then there was Mr. Wickerham, also a new arrival as the cashier. There was also Lloyd Bartleson, Howard Merchant, Fred Bartleson, and Mrs. Lee. The bank was staid, sound, conservative—a bank was a bank then and not a hardware store with gimmicks.

Nearby was Barlett‘s Hardware and the Bloch Bros., Morris and Jake, in business since 1907. Karl Smith was the postmaster. Then Locke and Cattron for gasoline and auto repairs. Then Mehl‘s store with old John—tall, thin, reserved, deliberate. He said to me once, “Before you spend a dollar of the people’s taxes, just imagine that it is coming out of your pocketbook— because it truly is.” If only we could recapture those values today.

Across the alley was Shaner‘s Jewelry Store and then Charles Hites Hardware. Charlie was slow, patient, smoke a pipe and was a Socialist. He had everything, but only he could find it. Over the hill was Frye‘s Store, then the Valley Mould and Iron Co., the biggest manufacturer of ingots in the world. Flanked on all sides by company houses occupied by Slavs and Italians. The Irish had been there earlier and moved up on the hills. The Slavs and Italians [followed] them to the hills…. [and were replaced by the African Americans.] I guess that was the story of America then, as one moved up the economic ladder.

Pierce Mansion, built in 1874 by James Pierce in Sharpsville, PA. Demolished in 1952.

It was a raw American, bursting with energy and zeal, but Sharpsville was in a Depression. Most of our blast furnaces were not working and some of the people were moving off to Youngstown and others to Detroit where Henry Ford was starting blast furnaces and promising $5 a day to labor. The Depression lasted several years and was a forerunner of what was to happen in 1929 that precipitated the Great Depression.

Shenango Street

Then along Shenango Street was Perry‘s Shoe StoreElsmore‘s Store and Joe Moscowitz for children and ladies apparel. And then the Colonial Theatre owned by Charles Blatt with Jennie Davies as ticket seller. Nearby Steve Gates, the tailor. Then the Parkway Apartments, formerly the Pierce House when the country was wet. For that period they were luxurious apartments. There were 39 rooms.

The town park was cared for tenderly by Johnnie Keats. His tulips were just out of this world in beauty. Across the tracks was the Pennsylvania RR with Sam Morris and nearby the B & O with old Mr. Wert – Charles Miller as yardmaster and Mr. McElvaney as the big boss. The town park was home to Turkey Murphy, the Blair Boys, Mike Tobin, Pete Johnson and many others. …

First National Bank of Sharpsville, c. early 1950s.

The Stahls had a restaurant at the alley. Then Mehler‘s Barber Shop with Charlie Collins nearby in his corduroy suit. Then Davis Tailor Shop with Dave and John Gavin sitting with crossed legs on the counter. Next to them Muscarella‘s Fruit Stand and the Graber‘s Jewelry Store. His minutes of the Borough Meetings are an example of handwriting at its best. Then, Bob McFarland‘s house and McLaren‘s Drug StoreLaMont‘s Market, Roth‘s Market and Dick Patterson‘s sodas, candy and confections. Above him was old Whig Thompson‘s Print Shop and across the street Dickson‘s Furniture StoreShannon‘s Hardware, where Martha sat on the swing, and Homer Sheasley helped Clair Plum. Homer always had a chew of tobacco in and sometimes it used to escape down the corners of his mouth. Well, everybody chewed, at least all the kids in Irishtown carried J.T. Plug.

A section of the Parkway Apartments, formerly the Pierce House, Shenango St., Sharpsville, PA.

Then there was Pat Connelly‘s Bicycle Shop where he entertained the Robinson Brothers, Charlie Carney, Billy Young. Across the street, the Odd Fellows with a bulging membership, and on down the street Cora Fuller gave music lessons. Elmer Masterson managed the A & P Store with Bob McFarland‘s Drug Store nearby with Bill Seifert always there to run errands. One of Bill’s legs was shorter than the other and he had to have about a six-inch sole and heel on the short leg.

First and Main Street

Harry E. Pebly, Superintendent of, Sharpsville (PA) Schools. [Source: “Devil’s Log” Yearbook 1956]

Then there was Ralph Miller‘s Soda Shop, then Squire Turner as the Justice of the Peace dispensing justice. Then, on down to First Street to the new Ritz Theatre with Charles Gable and his diamond rings and a powerful hoarse voice which we heard later in his famous nephew, Clark Gable. Across the street was Love Funeral Home, the Presbyterian Church and then Al Warren‘s store. Once again the indoor swing with two old people who held hands in between selling groceries.

Mahaney’s, a men’s clothing store on the corner of Main and Walnut streets. Torn down in the early 1970s. Source: Donna DeJulia.

Then there was Sam Sing the Chinese launderer. We all believed Sam had designs on us as we collected our fathers‘ collars. We never knew how or why, but fear is inherent and can play tricks on little boys and girls.

Then there was J.R. Hum‘s Grocery Store and Mahaney‘s Clothing Store with Paul Buchanan, and Harry Pebley working there in the summertime. It might be said that Pebley put Sharpsville on the map athletically. He was a strong-willed man, probably the best teacher I ever had. In football, he could make you want to die to win. Those teams in the early 20s, in football and especially basketball, for the size of the school, were in my opinion, Sharpsville‘s greatest. If you had been a freshman in 1921, 1922, 1923, 1924—the total enrollment was 101, yet the athletic record was of real champs. Harry had come recently as high school principal, football coach, basketball coach, faculty manager, athletic director, teacher of physics and chemistry. He would get in the scrimmage himself to show how it should be done.

During this period Dr. Bailey was a new kind of champ: He delivered the Welch triplets[To be continued….]

— Permission to reprint Peter Joyce’s speech was granted by
The Sharpsville Area Historical Society.

For a wealth of information about Sharpsville in the 1920s, see
Sharpsville Golden Jubilee Supplement to the Sharon Telegraph (1924),
in the collection of the Sharpsville Area Historical Society.

Click here (1901) and here (1912) for vintage maps of Sharpsville, Pennsylvania.

For additional references to Dr. Bailey, see:
Main Street Memories” (also includes the Robisons)
Immunizations & Home Cures

Many thanks to Gail Nitch Hanes, whose PowerPoint presentation of “Sharpsville, Our Home Town — Then & Now” provided the following photos: Jackson Oiler, Parkway Apartments, First National Bank and Pierce Mansion.

The photographs of Peter Joyce and Dr. Nelson Bailey originally appeared in these newspaper articles in The Herald (Sharon, PA): “Jamestown Horse-and-Buggy Days Recalled,” July 17, 1979, page 28 (courtesy of the Sharpsville Area Historical Society) and “New Sharpsville Council Elects Nelson President: Burgess Joyce Administers Oath…,” January 4, 1956.

— Ann Angel Eberhardt (SHS 1958), Goodyear, AZ, July 1, 2018.


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PIERCE MANSION

by Ann Angel Eberhardt

During my earliest years in Sharpsville, 1950-1952, I would sometimes walk past a curious 5-acre lot adjacent to East Shenango Street. Standing in the middle of the lot, surrounded by large trees, was a long-abandoned but still elegant building that dated back to the mid-19th century. We kids knew it as the Pierce Mansion, but that’s about all we knew. After many years, it seems about time to learn more about the mansion and the man who built it.

The story of the Pierce Mansion is best detailed in General James Pierce’s biography that is part of a PowerPoint presentation, “Sharpsville: Our Home Town — Then and Now.” This extensive history of Sharpsville was researched and assembled by Gail Nitch Hanes. She began the project in late 2012 and completed it in time to present CDs of it as gifts to her fellow classmates at her 50th reunion of the Sharpsville High School Class of 1964. The following are excerpts from that presentation.


sharpsville_james_pierce

General James Pierce, born in New Hampshire in 1810, died in 1871.

PIERCE MANSION

General James Pierce was a truly remarkable man whose life ended abruptly but one whose accomplishments and contributions to Sharpsville were almost endless. He touched every life in some way and left a legacy befitting a man of his integrity, innovation, imagination, and, above all, unwavering ambition.

One need only to look around town to see evidence even today of General Pierce’s phenomenal success. Originally, there was his magnificent mansion which he built on five wooded acres on the north side of Shenango Street between North Mercer Avenue and Walnut Street. Many of us still remember it.

Much generic information about the Pierce mansion is readily available from several sources, but perhaps the most interesting is from first-hand knowledge of Mrs. Anna Garnack Zielke, [aunt of SHS ’64 grad, Mike Garnack] who, at age 16, began working at the mansion for sisters Ellen Pierce and Cecelia Pomplitz, the only remaining family.

sharpsville_mansion

Pierce Mansion, built in 1874 by General James Pierce in Sharpsville, PA. Demolished in 1952.

Anna worked for the sisters for 10 years until she left to be married. In a nostalgic article about Mrs. Zielke [run in The Sharon Herald on November 21, 2004], she recounted how the mansion rose three stories high with ornate decorative wrought iron along the roof edges, a tower located at the top center front of the house, and tall pillars along the edges of the roof — all characteristic of that era. The mansion consisted of 30 rooms, each having brick walls, heavy oak woodwork, and 13-18-foot high frescoed ceilings.

Mrs. Zielke recounted, “That house was beautiful inside. You could see your face in the woodwork.” The floors on the first level were of polished marble and ran from the front door to the kitchen. In every room of the house, there was a marble mantle of a different color. Oriental rugs were placed throughout the mansion. There was a library where the sisters enjoyed reading. The third floor was a large ballroom, which had been closed off, where the family had once entertained visitors. One room on the second floor was a laboratory where younger James, a chemist who lived in Charleston, West Virginia, worked when he visited Sharpsville.

Mrs. Zielke fondly remembered the Pierces as being very kind and simple people despite their wealth. They used large sums of their money to help the community, including setting up a special fund for people who could not afford food or for those in jail.

The mansion is long gone now, as are all the Pierces. However, stories will always be told of the family and the magnificent structure that was a Sharpsville landmark for many generations. [One very sad note: the General died without ever having lived in his mansion; Chloe moved in alone when it was completed in 1874.]

After Chloe died and the last Pierce left Sharpsville, the General’s mansion lay vacant and progressively deteriorating. Suggestions were made to convert it into a hospital or some other public building because, according to standards at that time, it was too large to continue as a single residence. None of these plans were carried out, and, sadly, the mansion was demolished in 1952 to make way for Sharpsville Gardens public housing which was part of the urban renewal project.

The remarkable life of General Pierce came to an abrupt end at age 64 on December 2, 1874. While Chloe was in Baltimore buying furniture for their almost completed new mansion, the General was walking through the house and somehow accidentally fell down the steep cellar stairs. He was moved to Mount Hickory where a week later he succumbed to complications and shock resulting from those.

He left behind his beloved Chloe, who died on August 16, 1886. at age 70, and five sons — Jonas J., twins Walter and Wallace, Frank, and James B., all of whom followed in their father’s footsteps, maintaining his various enterprises, and growing into prominent businessmen.

When General Pierce came to this area, there was but a handful of homes. His genius stimulated the coal, iron, railroad, and banking industries; his philanthropic endeavors built schools and churches, and funded social and civic organizations; his community concern and awareness created an atmosphere that promoted a way of life in which all Sharpsville residents thrived.

Because of the Pierce family, Sharpsville rapidly became one of the chief centers of the iron and coal industry in the country, especially this part of Pennsylvania. General Pierce left a remarkable legacy to the people of Sharpsville and the Shenango Valley. His “footprints” and those of his sons are obvious in every corner of our town and many areas far beyond its borders.

[An interesting fact: General Pierce is the great-great-grandfather of Barbara Bush [maiden name Pierce], wife of President George H. W. Bush. Jonas Pierce, the General’s eldest son, is her great-grandfather. Barbara visited Sharpsville in 1982 for the 100th anniversary of the building of the Universalist Church.]

– Gail Nitch Hanes, Sharpsville High School Class of 1964.

“Pierce Estate, Sharpsville, PA.” Postcard depicting Pierce Mansion.


Read more about General Pierce’s life, the family’s other Sharpsville residences (including one that now houses the Sharpsville Area Historical Society), brief biographies of the Pierce children and grandchildren, Barbara Pierce Bush’s genealogy, and Riverside Cemetery, the final resting place for many members of the Pierce family. All this on pages 11-21 of “Sharpsville: Our Home Town — Then and Now” by Gail Nitch Hanes. 

Also by Gail Nitch Hanes: Sharpsville and the Ritz Re-Discovered.

See “Pebly and 13th Street Schools” for Pat Angel’s memories of visiting his friend in Sharpsville Gardens, the housing development that replaced Pierce Mansion.

If you have memories of the Pierce Mansion, please share them with us. After all, those of us who grew up in the 1950s may be the last who can tell those stories.

–Ann Angel Eberhardt (Sharpsville High School Class of 1958), October 2017.

SEE ALSO: Pierce’s Iron Banking Building