Fremantle Stuff > People > William Silas Pearse 1808-1866

William Silas Pearse 1808-1866

The first William Silas Pearse (1808-1866) is usually known simply as William Pearse. His son with the same name is usually referred to as Silas, to distinguish between the two. (There was also a third, but his work was done in NSW.) William Pearse arrived in 1829, ship tba. His wife Susannah Hallett Glyde (1818-1897) arrived the next year 13 February 1830 on board the Egyptian.

William Silas Pearse [the first, 1808-1866] came to the colony with one of the 1829 contingents of settlers, and was a member of the first Town Trust in Fremantle. His eldest son, William Silas [the second, usually known as Silas] was the first chairman of the [Town] [C]ouncil in 1871, and also represented the town in [state] Parliament. Another son, George, was a member of the Town Council and later of the Municipal Council, as was also the youngest son, James [Glyde], who later was a mayor of North Fremantle. Another of the Pearse family [Francis] engaged in business at an early age and was reported to have amassed a fortune of over £750,000. Through the generosity of his widow [Emma] a goodly portion of that huge estate was devoted to private benefactions and to charitable institutions. Hitchcock: 104.

pearse gravestone

Gravestone of William and Susannah Pearse in Fremantle Cemetery at Congregational D397: In memory of William Pearse who departed this life 6th April 1866 aged 58 years and Susannah Hallett who died 6th November 1878 aged 60 years who arrived in the colony in the year 1829 and 1830 respectively also Thomas Andrew and Walter children of the above who died in infancy.

The Pearse family owned the land known as Plympton, between East and Silas Sts (Lee: 127), now the SW ward of the Town of East Fremantle, containing the former Town Hall (1899) and (originally Plympton) Post Office (1898). It was the earliest area of development in East Fremantle. The current Tradewinds Hotel was formerly the Plympton Hotel (1898). The George St Precinct is in Plympton. When the Pearse estate was subdivided, many of the new streets were given Pearse family names [including Silas, Glyde, and George] (Lee: 175-6). Plympton is a village in Devon between Plymouth and Dartmoor, but I do not yet know of any connexion between the village and an EF resident — though WS Pearse the first must be the most likely. (By the way, the Plym River is named after Plympton, the village, rather than the other way around.)

William Pearse also owned land in North Fremantle where he kept a dairy, east of where the railway is now. (Hitchcock: 27) He was a member of the Fremantle Town Trust from 1848 when the first civic body was set up. William Silas Pearse was Chairman of the Town Council from 1867. (Hitchcock: 87, 88) He was the first president of the Fremantle Building Society, Feb 1875–April 95. (Hitchcock: 59) He was elected to the Legislative Assembly in December 1890, in the first election under responsible government, as the Member for North Fremantle. Pearse owned Town lots 424 and 425. (Hitchcock: 106)

The name of Pearse looms large over the district of East Fremantle and the members of this pioneer family, including George Ernest, who served on the Council from 1922 to 1932, did a great deal towards developing the southern side of the town.
The other main landowners were the Eastons (on the northern side of Canning Road) and the Moores (on the southern side and to the east of the Pearse holdings).
The Pearses had a multiplicity of interests and various member family were at one time or another engaged in pastoral and business pursuits, in council or parliamentary duties and also in the field of community welfare.
William Pearse and his wife Susan arrived in WA in one of the 1829 contingents of settlers. Their children and the dates of their births were: William Silas (1838), George (1839), Mary (1842), Francis (1847), Priscilla (1850), James (1852), Anne (1854] and Andrew (1856).
By far the most prominent of the Pearses was the eldest son William Silas, who was an MLC and a Justice of the Peace, a chairman of the Town Trust, the first chairman of the Town Council, the first chairman of the Board of Directors of the Fremantle Building and Benefit Society, a member of the Parliamentary committee that had advocated the building of the Fremantle Harbour and with his brother George partner in pastoral properties and a butchery.
George was also a member of the Fremantle Town Council and a member of the committee appointed to prepare the way for the erection of the Town Hall.
Francis, who was assistant pupil teacher to G. Bland Humble at the Fremantle Boys School, later became one of the richest men in the colony. He as reported to have amassed a fortune of £750,000 ($1,500,000), the bulk of which, through the generosity of his wife, eventually went to charity.
James, who, the family records are careful to note, was born on Good Friday. took up residence in North Fremantle and was one of that town's early mayors.
The best-known member of the Pearse family in the past 70 or 80 years [ie, to 1979] was George Ernest, born in 1878, the son of George. After a brief spell in  the world of banking where he learnt accountancy, he became manager of the pastoral property in the Murchison which was owned by his uncle William Silas and his father George.
Returning to Fremantle, he settled in East Fremantle. He married Deborah Wingate, and the family home was built on the corner of the street that was named after the Hamilton family and Reserve St (now known as Fletcher).
He also served on the board of the Building Society and served his fellow-citizens as a member of the East Fremantle Council from 1922 to 1932. His second son Frank was secretary of the Building Society for 32 years. His other children were George Silas, Albert and Deborah.
The Pearse family made a gift to the town of East Fremantle of five acres of land, part of the area now occupied by the East Fremantle Oval, the East Fremantle Bowling Club and the East Fremantle Croquet Club.
Though only John Pearse, the son of George Silas, and his family remain in East Fremantle to represent the Pearses, other reminders are still there in the names of such streets as George, Silas, Hamilton and (according to one source) Glyde, Hubble and Sewell.

PEARSE'S HALL

One of the facilities provided by the Pearse family was the hall built next to the Plympton Hotel. Known, naturally, as Pearse's or the Plympton Hall, it was used variously as a meeting-place, a church, a billiard and snooker room and, when taken over by an illegal bookmaker of the starting-price variety, an "SP joint". Male customers could also get a shave and a haircut at the barber's shop in the building.
But as far as the Anglican community of East Fremantle was concerned, Pearse's Hall reached the heights early in its existence - on September 2, 1900, in fact - when it was the venue of the first Church of England service to be held in the town.
Three weeks later, Archdeacon D. Glyn Watkins reported that collections for the first three Sundays had amounted to 3/11/6 (about $7.15), and that indicates that the attendances were reasonably good. If each person had contributed a halfpenny, there would have been 1,717 present: a penny each represented 858; threepence represented 284: and sixpence represented 142 - and contributions were usually in the vicinity of threepence and sixpence.
William Silas Pearse and his brother George had earlier presented the Church with two blocks of land near the intersection of King and George Streets, but the Church committee (the Archdeacon, E.A. Allnutt and W.A. Payne) tried to exchange the two blocks for one, owned by another Pearse brother, James, on the corner of Canning Road and Duke Streets.
In the end, the two blocks were sold for £120 ($240) and the other bought for £180 ($360). A little later, a block was purchased in Alexandra Road as the site for a Rectory.
On October 25, 1903, the first service was held in the new Church by the Rev F.G. O'Halloran, and the following children were baptised by Bishop (later Archbishop) C.O.L. Riley: Donald Henry Johnson Hames, Dulcie Dorothea Cole and George Maxwell Hamilton.
The first wedding, between William Thomas Frederick Simcock and Olive Muriel Stella Kingswood, was solemnised on December 9, 1903.
For the next 67 years, the Church, named after St Peter, and the hall beneath it served the spiritual, cultural and recreational needs of the Anglican as well as many other parts of the community.
Among the various bodies associated with the Church, all catering in some way to the interests of the numerous groups within the congregation, were: the Ladies' Guild, Girls' Friendly Society, Fellowship of Marriage, the Mothers' Union, Boys' Club, Men's Society, Girls' Gymnasium and the Sunday School. (Lee: 207-8)

References, Links and Acknowledgements

Bolton GC 1974, 'Pearse, William Silas (1838-1908)', ADB.

Lee, Jack 1979, This is East Fremantle (The story of a town and its people), East Fremantle Town Council.

Thanks to Alan Thompson (personal communication) for some details about the Pearse family.

Welcome Walls page for Wm Pearse 1808-1866, giving the arrival date as 1830 on board the Egyptian, occupation as farmer, ten children with Susannah Hallett Glyde

Ancestry.com.au page, with names and dates of children of the patriarch


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