Bio Sketch: John Elliot Peirce, Sr. (1861-1940), Dayton businessman

John Elliot Peirce, Sr., usually known as J. Elliot (or simply “Elliot” to family), was born April 17, 1861, in Dayton, Ohio, the son of Jeremiah H. Peirce (1818-1889) and Elizabeth H. Forrer (1827-1874).[1] Elliot was apparently named after his great-grandfather, Dr. John Elliot.

Elliot received his education at Cooper Academy and continued his studies until he was about 20 years old.[2]

J. Elliot Peirce, 1883

J. Elliot Peirce, 1883 (Dayton Metro Library, FPW, Box 28, Folder 9)

About 1881, Elliot began working as a clerk at Peirce & Coleman, the lumber business in which Elliot’s father J. H. Peirce was senior partner.

On September 10, 1885, J. Elliot Peirce married Mary Frances “Fanny” Harsh, daughter of Mr. and Mrs. J. V. Harsh of Findlay, at the Methodist Episcopal Church in Findlay, Ohio.[3]

Mary Frances (HARSH) Peirce on her wedding day, 1885

Mary Frances (HARSH) Peirce on her wedding day, 1885 (Dayton Metro Library, FPW, Box 28, Folder 16)

After Elliot’s father J. H. Peirce died in 1889, Elliot soon became president and treasurer of the Peirce & Coleman Company, which he incorporated in 1891. Under Elliot’s presidency, Peirce & Coleman did business in general contracting and building, especially in dealing hardwood lumber. Elliot remained president of Peirce & Coleman until 1896, when the company was dissolved.[4]

Beginning about 1891, Elliot was secretary and treasurer of the Superior Stone Company, which produced cement sidewalks and marblelithic work. This company ceased to exist about 1895.[5]

After the Peirce & Coleman Company dissolved in 1896, Elliot turned his attention more fully to the Dayton Marblelithic Company, of which he was then vice president. By 1900 he was manager of the company and would continue to be associated with it until his death. The Dayton Marblelithic Company (later simply “Marblelithic Company”) initially dealt in marblelithic, clay tiles, mosaics, and marble; it later dealt also in ceramic, rubber, asphalt and cork tile, structural glass, and linoleum.[6]

J. Elliot Peirce, undated

J. Elliot Peirce, undated (Dayton Metro Library, FPW, Box 28, Folder 9)

In the late 1890s, Elliot embarked on another type of business venture, when he hired Dayton architect Charles Insco Williams to design and build the Algonquin Hotel (now the Doubletree Hotel), which opened at the southwest corner of Third and Ludlow Streets in 1898. The Peirce-Williams Company, of which Elliot was president and general manager, were proprietors of the hotel until about 1917.[7]

Algonquin Hotel, southwest corner Third and Ludlow, Dayton, Ohio

Algonquin Hotel, southwest corner Third and Ludlow, Dayton, Ohio (Dayton Metro Library, Local History Postcards, postcard #0462)

For many years, the J. Elliot Peirce family lived near Elliot’s childhood home, Five Oaks. Elliot’s home, like Five Oaks, was described as being on the west side of Forest Avenue, except Elliot’s was north of Rung Road, rather than just opposite it. In the early 1900s, Elliot’s house was described as being at the southwest corner of Broadway and Old Orchard, later southwest corner of Homewood and Old Orchard. For many years while Elliot operated the Algonquin Hotel, the family lived at the hotel but kept their home in the Five Oaks neighborhood as a summer house. In 1918, Elliot’s house was identified as 551 N. Old Orchard. In 1922, the family residence was 1037 N. Old Orchard, a house that still exists at the southwest corner of Homewood and Old Orchard. About 1930, Elliot and Fanny moved to 339 Kramer Road in Oakwood, where they lived until death.[8]

Fanny H. Peirce died on November 4, 1936, at her home, 339 Kramer Road, Oakwood, Ohio; she was 73 years old. She was buried on November 6, 1936, in Woodland Cemetery in Dayton, Ohio.[9]

J. Elliot Peirce died on June 6, 1940, at his home, 339 Kramer Road, Oakwood, Ohio; he was 79 years old. He was buried on June 8, 1940, in Woodland Cemetery in Dayton, Ohio.[10]

Grave of J. Elliot Peirce family, Woodland Cemetery, Section 77

Grave of J. Elliot Peirce family, Woodland Cemetery, Section 77 (Photo by the author, 29 Oct. 2011)

J. Elliot Peirce and his wife Fanny Harsh had five children:

  1. Elizabeth Forrer Peirce (1886-1973);
  2. Virginia O’Neil Peirce (1888-1985);
  3. Mary Frances Peirce (1890-1969);
  4. Dorothy Howard Peirce (1900-1986); and
  5. John Elliot Peirce, Jr. (1900-1959)
Virginia, Elizabeth, and Mary Frances Peirce, 1898

Virginia, Elizabeth, and Mary Frances Peirce, 1898 (Dayton Metro Library, FPW, Box 28, Folder 10)

*

Jack and Dorothy Peirce, 1902

Jack and Dorothy Peirce, 1902 (Dayton Metro Library, FPW, Box 28, Folder 10)

Elizabeth Forrer Peirce, usually called Bess, was born August 7, 1886, in Dayton, Ohio. On June 29, 1911, at Five Oaks, she married Joseph Bradford Coolidge (1886-1965), a lawyer from Medford, Massachusetts. They had two children: Mary Elizabeth Coolidge (1912-2008), who married Robert Schantz Oelman (1909-2007); and Dorothy Peirce Coolidge (1916-2000), who first married Robert R. Woodward (1909-1955) then married John D. Runyan (1912-1994). Elizabeth F. (Peirce) Coolidge died May 5, 1973, in Dayton, Ohio.[11]

Virginia O’Neil Peirce was born January 28, 1888, in Dayton, Ohio. She graduated from Smith College in 1910. On June 29, 1910, at Five Oaks, Virginia married General George Henry Wood (1867-1945), son of Major General Thomas J. Wood (1823-1906) and Caroline (Greer) Wood, of Dayton. They had two children: Thomas John Wood, III (1911-1996), and Peirce James Wood (1914-1987). Virginia O. (Peirce) Wood died October 26, 1985, in Brevard County, Florida.[12]

Mary Frances Peirce was born July 24, 1890, in Dayton, Ohio. She graduated from Smith College in 1912. She worked at the Marblelithic Company with her father and brother. She never married. Mary F. Peirce died on August 26, 1969, in Brevard County, Florida.[13]

Dorothy Howard Peirce was born September 6, 1900, in Dayton, Ohio. On June 14, 1924, at Five Oaks, she married Robert Alexander Johnston Morrison (1898-1976), a trainmaster from Cincinnati. They had several children. Dorothy H. (Peirce) Morrison died June 3, 1986, in Cincinnati, Ohio.[14]

John Elliot Peirce, Jr., usually called Jack, was born September 6, 1900, in Dayton, Ohio. He worked at the Marblelithic Company with his father. He was unmarried. John E. Peirce, Jr., died in April 1959 in Brevard County, Florida.[15]

*****

This biographical sketch was originally written by Lisa P. Rickey in April 2012 for the Forrer-Peirce-Wood Collection (MS-018) finding aid at the Dayton Metro Library, 215 E. Third St., Dayton, Ohio, 45402; phone (937) 496-8654.

Additional information about the sketch’s subject can be found in that collection. For more information about the manuscript collection’s contents, please see the original PDF finding aid available in the Local History Room of the Dayton Metro Library, the OhioLINK EAD Repository entry, or the WorldCat record.

Please contact the Dayton Metro Library or this blog’s author for more information about how to access the original finding aid or the manuscript collection.


[1] Frank Bruen, Christian Forrer, the Clockmaker, and his Descendants (Rutland, VT: Tuttle, 1939), 126; Frank Conover, Centennial Portrait and Biographical Record of the City of Dayton and Montgomery County, Ohio (Chicago: A. W. Bowen, 1897), 305; Augustus W. Drury, History of the City of Dayton and Montgomery County, Ohio, (Chicago: Clarke Publishing Co., 1909), vol. 2, 663.

[2] Conover, Centennial Portrait, 305; John Elliot Peirce, Sr.: Report cards from Cooper Academy, Forrer-Peirce-Wood Collection (hereafter cited as FPW), 28:7, Dayton Metro Library (Dayton, Ohio); Drury, History of the City of Dayton, vol. 2, 664.

[3]. Bruen, Christian Forrer, 124-125; John Elliot Peirce, Sr.: Newspaper Clippings, FPW, 28:8.

[4] Drury, History of the City of Dayton, vol. 2, 664; Conover, Centennial Portrait, 305; Dayton City Directories.

[5] Dayton City Directories.

[6] Drury, History of the City of Dayton, vol. 2, 664; Dayton City Directories.

[7] Curt Dalton, Dayton (Charleston, SC: Arcadia, 2006), 62; Dayton City Directories.

[8] Dayton City Directories; Sanborn Fire Insurance Maps.

[9] Bruen, Christian Forrer, 124; Woodland Cemetery & Arboretum Interment Database, accessed 20 Dec. 2011, http://www.woodlandcemetery.org. Fanny is buried in Section 77, Lot 20.

[10] “J. E. Peirce Funeral Set” (obituary), Dayton Journal, 7 June 1940; Woodland Cemetery & Arboretum Interment Database, accessed 26 Oct. 2011, http://www.woodlandcemetery.org. Elliot is buried in Section 77, Lot 27.

[11] Bruen, Christian Forrer, 125; Social Security Death Index (database), Ancestry Library Edition; Woodland Cemetery & Arboretum Interment Database, accessed 15 Feb. 2012, http://www.woodlandcemetery.org; Obituary of Robert S. Oelman, 16 May 2007, New York Times; Obituary of Mary Elizabeth (Coolidge) Oelman, [July 2008], Scobee-Combs-Bowden Funeral Home web site, accessed 17 Feb. 2012, http://www.funeralplan2.com/scobeecombsbowdenfuneralhome/archive?id=140657; Obituary of Dorothy (Coolidge) Runyan, Dayton Daily News, 27 Jan. 2000.

[12] Bruen, Christian Forrer, 125; Social Security Death Index (database), Ancestry Library Edition; Florida Death Index, 1877-1998 (database), Ancestry Library Edition.

[13] Bruen, Christian Forrer, 125; Dayton City Directories; Social Security Death Index (database), Ancestry Library Edition; Florida Death Index, 1877-1998 (database), Ancestry Library Edition; Death notice of Mary Frances Peirce, Dayton Journal Herald, 7 Oct. 1969; Dayton City Directories.

[14] Bruen, Christian Forrer, 126; Ohio, County Births, 1856-1909 (database), FamilySearch, accessed 17 Feb. 2012, http://www.familysearch.org; Dorothy Howard (Peirce) Morrison: Newspaper Clippings, FPW, 30:3; Spring Grove Cemetery Interment Database, accessed 17 Feb. 2012, http://www.springgrove.org; U.S. Passport Applications, 1795-1925 (database), Ancestry Library Edition.

[15] Bruen, Christian Forrer, 126; Dayton City Directories; County Births, 1856-1909 (database), FamilySearch, accessed 17 Feb. 2012, http://www.familysearch.org; Florida Death Index, 1877-1998 (database), Ancestry Library Edition; Dayton City Directories.

5 responses to “Bio Sketch: John Elliot Peirce, Sr. (1861-1940), Dayton businessman

  1. Pingback: Bio Sketch: Joseph Peirce (1786-1821), pioneer, merchant, & banker in Dayton, Ohio | Glancing Backwards

  2. Pingback: Bio Sketch: Elizabeth H. (Forrer) Peirce (1827-1874), wife of J. H. Peirce | Glancing Backwards

  3. Pingback: Bio Sketch: Jeremiah H. Peirce (1818-1889), Dayton lumber dealer and founder of Five Oaks | Glancing Backwards

  4. Thank you so much for the biography!! Fanny Harsh is a distant relative of mine. I was so thrilled to see the pictures!!! Her father’s name was James Harsh. He was an attorney. James died July 19, 1870 in Massillon, Ohio at age 35 and is buried in the Massillon Cemetery. James’ father was George Harsh (1810-1897). George was a well-known businessman, banker, & senator in Massillon, OH. He was also in the coal mining business. I have his bio including a picture from a book from our library if you are interested in that. Fanny was the only descendant to outlive her grandfather George and inherited about a half a million dollars upon his death.

    • Hi, Denise- Thank you so much for this additional information about Fanny. That is very interesting indeed. I wonder if that’s where they got the money to build the Algonquin Hotel or if that was already in the works when Fanny’s grandfather died? I am not clear on the exact timeline of the hotel’s construction & completion. I’m so glad you enjoyed the post! I loved researching and writing about this family.

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