Someday, hopefully soon, our FHS Colleague Glen Pierce will write the complete history of Fairfield’s Pearce / Pierce Family. But for now, I’ll relate just enough historical facts to get you through the annual FHS final exam :- ) :- )
Born in 1851, Stephen Pearce was the son of William M. Pearce a former Caldwell Township Freeholder and Roba Davis Pearce. At age eighteen (1869), after attending Sunday Services at the Clinton Methodist Church, young Stephen and his sixteen year old cousin Sarah Ann Vanderhoof were returning to her home a mile away. It was then that “a profound sensation was caused by a terrible calamity.”
The Clinton Methodist Church (L) was built in 1852, and was on a five-point charge that included Denville, Little Falls, Parsippany, and Pine Brook. The 1750 Peter Spear Homestead (R) is located at the intersection of Fairfield Road and Horseneck Road about one mile east of the Clinton Methodist Church.
Caught in a thunderstorm, Stephen and Sarah Ann were just about to enter her home when “suddenly the lightning flashed across the black sky, illuminating with a strange light the whole village and a prolonged roar of thunder followed” ( Sounds like part of a fire-and-brimstone sermon to me, but this was actually a Camden Democrat news article published six days later August 21, 1869 ).
The article continues: “With the lightning flash young Pearce and his companion fell to the ground. The latter was somewhat stunned ( somewhat ? ) but she soon recovered, and her cries attracted assistance to the spot.
“Of the unfortunate man nothing but mangled remains were found. He must have been instantly killed ( ya think ? ). His boots were stripped from his feet, his clothing singed and torn, and the body so fearfully mangled that recognition was impossible.
Psalm 97:4 His lightning flashes out across the world. The earth sees and trembles.
“The remains were conveyed to his residence by his sorrowing friends. A most remarkable fact is that the most vigilant search for the hat worn by the young Pearce at the time, but with fruitless results. It is reported that the unfortunate young man is the third one of his family who has been killed by lightning.” ----- It seems to me the ‘most remarkable fact’ was that Stephen was the third Pearce Family member who was killed by lightning. I guess they found the hats of the first two electrocuted Pearce’s huh ? :- ) :- )
Two years later young Sarah Ann married Stephen Pearce’s cousin Francis Henry Pierce. All are buried at the Hillside Cemetery on Horseneck Road. The Hillside Cemetery was once the Pearce/Pierce Family Cemetery located on the western end of the 100 acre family farm. The long flag shaped roadway forms a large letter “P” for the Pearce/Pierce Family.
Sarah Ann Vanderhoof Pierce 1853 – 1934. Sarah Ann’s mother was Sarah Ann Margaret, her father was Cornelius R. Vanderhoof and her step-father Cornelius E. Speer. ( No wonder they used middle names so much in those days :- ) :-)
For about three generations the Cemetery was fully intended for Pearce/Pierce relatives. In 1899 the Family represented by Jane Pearce Mulford deeded the property to the Hillside Cemetery Company, Inc. However a portion of each plot sold went to Jane until her death in 1914.
The Find-A-Grave website lists 519 persons interred at Hillside. We are indebted to those who created these entries and photographed the many monuments there:
Hillside Cemetery (One of 64,535 Find-A-Grave photos added by ‘Rich H.’ over the last 18 years). Oh, and it looks like a thunderstorm is moving in from the north. So if your name is Pearce or Pierce, I have some friendly advice.............make that “P” an “R” for RUN !
Dedicated to the Pearce / Pierce Families and their many wonderful Fairfield Ancestors. May they all forgive me for making light of Stephen’s shocking death.
..............Paul Pollio March 23, 2020