Thursday, March 26, 2015

Jenny Berry Pierce Fuller (1870-1948)

Jennie Berry Pierce Fuller was one of the leaders  Gig Harbor decided to honor with a named street; this street is located in the Finholm District of downtown Gig Harbor.  It is one street below Harbor Ridge Middle School (formerly Goodman Middle School). 

One of the many ways cities and counties honor their citizens is to name streets and/or roads after those citizens.  Gig Harbor has such a program and it is spelled out in the City’s Municipal code.  The Gig Harbor Peninsula Historical Society plays a major partnership role in this program.  The criteria is stated as:

Chapter 12.12

K. All proposed names for new or existing ways-of-travel and private roads must be reviewed and approved by the Gig Harbor city council; however, private driveways are exempted. All proposed names within the “historical name area” as designated by the official map shall come from a list submitted by the Gig Harbor Historical Society or from other lists as approved by the Gig Harbor city council. All proposed names outside the “historical name area” as designated on the official map shall conform to the current Pierce County addressing grid numbering system. Ways‑of‑travel which extend beyond the historical name district may be designated by the historical name if approved by the Gig Harbor city council.

Below you will find a brief glimpse into Jennie’s life.

Jennie was born in 1870 to Scottish parents, Thomas and Christina Berry in Lexington, Lafayette County, Missouri.  We don’t know too much of her early life but in 1905 she married George S. Pierce (1857-1913) on January 25th.  There is a little confusion as to when they arrived in Pierce County, but in the 1910 census, they are shown as living on Fox Island.  I was unable to find the 1900 census.

But what l did find and was able to confirm is still most interesting.  

In 1904 at Sylvan Glen a dock and store were built by Charles Johnson 50 yards south of the Fox Island Congregational Church.  A year later, Mr. Johnson sold the store to George and Jennie.  Caroline Perish told the story in her book “Fox Island, Pioneer Life on the Southern Puget Sound”    on page 131 was that Johnson “. . . sold the store to Mr. and Mrs. Pierce, also from St. Louis, Missouri.  The Pierces had come west to visit their newly settled friends, the Wines, and decided to move to the island as well. ‘We see no signs of their regretting the move, wrote Lucy Herrick (Lucy Herrick, History of the Sylvan Historical Society), for the year ending February 22, 1906, FIHM..  George Pierce also purchased the delivery boat *Fernacre* used by the earlier store owner, Mr. Johnson to deliver groceries. . . .”  The Pierces added a small warehouse and they delivered groceries to families all around Sylvan Bay and Hales Passage.  Their delivery service was so popular that they had to add a second boat “Fernacre II”.  The post office housed in the Bixby home and in the Macklin community were then consolidated into the new store at Sylvan Glen and Jennie became the postmistress.  

We run into a bit of confusion as to the length of time the Pierces owned and operated to store.  Don Edgers in his book “Fox Island” (Images of America) published in 2008 (page 16) he writes “. . . The Pierces profitably ran the business for another 13 years.  When they sold the business, they moved to Fox Point at the eastern end of Fox Island.”  But, George S. Pierce died on January 10, 1913.  

And, in Jennie B. (Pierce) Fuller’s obituary it states “She and her first husband operated a grocery store at Sylvan, Fox Island and later operated a telephone company at Burton on Vashon Island.  Once again because the incomplete supporting background on this part of the biographical information I have contact the Vashon-Maury Historical Society to see if they have any information or can verify when and for how long the Pierces were involved with their telephone company.  

What I did discover about the telephone service on Vashon Island was:

  • 1891 - Vashon Island’s telephone service was one mile long and was similar to the tin-can telephone service you might have used as a child if you grew up before the 1950s
  • 1904 - Farmers Mutual Telephone Company installed the first telephone on the island; in June that year the service was connected to Seattle; and in July, service was connected to Tacoma
  • 1908 - 80 of the 125 subscribers signed a petition to quit service until the cable to the mainline was established as promised.
  • 1911 - Telephone service was extended to the North end of the island (Vashon Heights)

In 1915, following George’s death, Jennie moved to Gig Harbor and assisting in installing a telephone system on the Peninsula.  She was employed as the manager.  (In 1925 Leander Finholm purchased the telephone company with his son, Hugo.)  Then, in 1919, she married Cassius D. Fuller (1854-1923) and they installed a water system for North Gig Harbor (not to be confused with the shopping center now called North Gig Harbor).  

Jennie was an active member of St. John’s Episcopal Church and donated land on a hill above the harbor for the proposed new church to be built in Gig Harbor in 1948.  Right Reverend Stephen Bayne broke ground for the construction of a log cabin church on the property that same year.  The logs had been donated by a Presbyterian, John Galbraith.  The church was completed in 1951; in 1953, Reverend H. Frederick McLauchlan became the first full-time vicar at St. John’s.  Prior to that, St. Johns was served by part-time pastors.
St. John Episcopal Church Groundbreaking, 3/14/1948
St. John's Episcopal Church, a log cabin church, 11/12/1955 

Jennie was president for two years of the Gig Harbor Improvement Club, and about that time, donated the land for a club house which, after constructed was later turned over to the Fortnightly Club of which she was also a member.  Jennie was a charter member of the Amateur Garden Club and the Tacoma Manuscript Museum, as well as allowing the Fortnightly Club to maintain their library in her home.   

Jenny’s obituary goes on to explain that although Jenny was a private person she was very active in community efforts and exerted ‘substantial force’ for the good of the community.  

  Note:  Lucy Herrick, History of the Sylvan Historical Society, for the year ending February 22, 1906, FIHM.
  Note:  Fox Island, Pioneer Life on the Southern Puget Sound, Caroline Perish
  Note:Van Olinda’s History of Vachon-Maury Island by Roland Carey, AB Co.
  Note:  Images of America, Fox Island, Don Edgers


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  1. The author of Fox Island, Pioneer Life on the Southern Puget Sound is Caroline Perisho, not Perish

  2. "The post office housed in the Bixby home"
    Please elaborate. I am a Bixby and want to place all in my Bixby-Stewart tree.
    Jim Stewart