Oliver Peirce

Peirce had several residences in Rome. They were: 105½ West Park; North James Street corner West Park (now the old city hall), 25 Embargo Street and James Street corner of Plank Road (now Turin Street). His home on Whitesboro Street included a barn & shed that was situated on the Erie Canal. It was sold when the Black River Canal was proposed to run next to the property.

He ran a small Elementary School and authored books on grammar, geography and arithmetic. His motto was: Never Too Old To Learn, Never Too Poor To Be Wise. He also published a Newspaper “The Rome Vigilant” in 1852 that lasted 5 months. He later published “The Rome Excelsior.”

A member of what is now the First United Methodist Church in Rome, Peirce and his family members were listed in the church’s old roll book with the “ei” spelling. Peirce was a man of strong and unwavering opinions. He was so disliked President Franklin Pierce, who had a pro-slavery attitude, and signed the Fugitive Slave Law of 1850, that he reversed the spelling of his last name to Peirce. Family members followed suit.

During the Civil War, Peirce did his part by organizing the NY 81st infantry Regiment called the “Mohawk Rangers”. By 1852, 350 men from Oneida County formed three more regiments. The 81st was the first Infantry Regiment to enter Richmond.

A niece of Peirce claims that he ran an UGGR station although there is no other proof. We are in possession of two papers by Peirce that were written more on temperance issues, than abolition. However, his house on the canal was the perfect place to receive escapees coming up the canal.

The Reverend Henry Ward Beecher, brother of Harriet Beecher Stowe, wrote his obituary stating that “He was like a locomotive with a full head of steam on, but no engineer on board.”

He commanded a steamboat in the St. Lawrence River during the Patriot War of 1838. The term “inventor” on his monument refers to plans he drew up for a submarine. The monument, located in Rome cemetery, is easy to find. Approaching the cemetery from the east, it is in the beginning corner, very near the front and right side of the boundary line.