Capt. John Mizell Pearce
John Mizell Pearce
John Mizell Pearce was an active participant in the Third Seminole War, 1855-58, serving in several volunteer companies during that conflict. At one time he served as a scout in the Kissimmee valley area surveying Indian activities.
When the Civil War was underway, Mr. Pearce served the Confederate cause in Capt. F. A. Hendrys company of special cavalry, a part of Munnerlyns Cattle Guard Battalion.
During the years after the Civil War, John Mizell Pearce established a large and prosperous cattle business. He was headquartered at Fort Meade until 1875 when he decided to move his family to the Kissimmee River and settle at Fort Basinger on the western side of the river. There he built a log house and set up a ferry operation to serve travelers going across the river.
Capt. Pearce was the last owner of the steamboat Mary Belle which operated along the Kissimmee River until it was sunk about 1884. John M. Pearce also served as Deputy Sheriff for the eastern part of DeSoto County, and was for a number of years the only law enforcement officer in the lower Kissimmee River Valley. When DeSoto County was established in 1887, Capt. Pearce obtained a license to continue operation of his ferry. It was granted Oct. 3, 1887 and contained the following maximum rates: Footman, $.15 Man and horse, $.25 Horse and Buggy or other single team, $.50 Double team, $.75 One yoke of oxen and cart or wagon, $.40 Two yoke of oxen and cart or wagon, $.60 Each additional yoke, $.15; Each additional animal, $.05.
Capt. Pearce continued his extensive cattle operations until his death on Sept. 28, 1897, at Fort Basinger. His widow then constructed a handsome home overlooking the Kissimmee River which is today occupied by their granddaughter, Mrs. Edna Pearce Lockett. Martha (Mizell) Pearce died Sept. 27, 1911. Both Capt. and Mrs. Pearce are buried in a small cemetery on the Pearce property.
Capt. Pearces son, William Sidney Pearce, named for the Southern poet and kinsman Sidney Lanier, continued the family cattle business. He used the P4 brand for his cattle and his daughter Edna continues the use of this brand. W. S. Pearce also was instrumental in the establishment of a school at Fort Basinger. He built the first bridge across the Kissimmee River from Fort Basinger to Basinger in 1916. The bridge which currently spans the river is named for him. William Sidney Pearce died in 1944.
In 1976, in honor of the nations bicentennial, Edna Pearce Lockett had an attractive sign placed at the west entrance to Fort Basinger. On the sign are portraits of Zachary Taylor and Billy Bow-legs III. The sign was erected in honor of Captain John Mizell Pearce.