Scituate finally fixing misspelled street sign named for colonial soldier

Dennis Tatz

It’s Captain P-E-I-R-C-E Road, not P-I-E-R-C-E. And it’s pronounced “purse.”

Even mapquest.com can’t get it straight.

For a number of years, the street sign has mistakenly read “Captain Pierce.” The town’s public works department is having another street sign made with the correct spelling.

Officials believe that is the right thing to do, as an honor to Capt. Michael Peirce, a Scituate resident killed March 26, 1676, during King Philip’s War.

The Bristol, England-born Peirce, whose family settled in Hingham in 1646 before moving to Scituate a year later, died at age 61 in one of the bloodiest massacres of the two-year conflict, according to militaryhistoryonline.com (which also misspells his name).

Peirce led a company of 63 English and 20 Wampanoag Indians from Rehoboth to the Blackstone River above Pawtucket Falls in Rhode Island. There, nearly all of them were killed by 500 to 700 Narragansett who ambushed them.

“Although they were annihilated, they went down fighting and killed three times their number,” said Peirce descendant George White, who lives at 110 Captain Peirce Road.

White said his late parents were proud of the family’s heritage and had to put up with misspellings and mispronunciation of the Peirce name. Some Peirce family members are buried in Groveland Cemetery off Mann Lot Road.

“My father’s middle name was Peirce and so was my uncle’s,” White said.

During a town meeting on March, 12, 1917, Scituate voters decided to change Charles Street to Peirce Road.

“At that time a number of street names were changed,” Albert Bangert, public works director, said. “I don’t know the motivation.”

At some point, the aging street sign was replaced. And in the process, Peirce became Pierce.

Bangert believes that when he moved to 108 Peirce Road in 1990, the sign was spelled correctly.

“The fire department knows how to get there,” he said.

White said the family’s name has led to confusion elsewhere over the years.

For instance, Silas Peirce, a Boston politician, started a wholesale grocery business, Silas Peirce & Co., Ltd., in 1815. The business, which folded in 1926, was sometimes confused with the now more well-known S.S. Pierce & Co., which another Boston grocer, Samuel Stillman Pierce, began 178 years ago.

Silas Peirce’s grandnephew, also named Silas Peirce, had a stint as president of the Peirce business and was treasurer of Boston University from 1912 to 1922.

The pronunciation of the family name is straight out of the Yankee heritage. Robert Frost cited it in "New Hampshire": 

Reach Dennis Tatz atdtatz@ledger.com.