Fremantle Stuff > People > William Silas Pearse 1838-1908

William Silas Pearse 1838-1908

wm silas pearseWilliam Silas Pearse (1838-1908) was the eldest son of the first William Silas Pearse (1808-1866) and Susannah Hallett Glyde (1818-1897). The patriarch is usually known simply as William Pearse. His son with the same name is usually referred to as Silas, to distinguish between the two.

Silas married Johanna, who is called Hannah on her tombstone, which is in Fremantle Cemetery. They had one child, a daughter called Amelia, also known as Minnie, who married George Yorke Hubble in 1890 in Johnston Memorial Congregational Church, and then died one year after her mother, in 1892. Silas married again the next year, 1893, to his cousin Alice, Edward Higham's widow.

ws pearseFHC image #890 (right) with this caption.

William Silas Pearse was born in Fremantle 21.05.1838 and died in England 30.12.1908. He married first Johannah Hawkes (1842-1891) and second Alice Higham, nee Glyde, widow of Edwin [Edward?]. He was Chairman of the Fremantle Town Trust 1870-1871 and the Fremantle Town Council 1871-1872; Councillor 1873-1874; Member of the Legislative Council June 1872-February 1880, October 1884 to December 1890 and Member of the Legislative Assembly from December 1890 to May 1905.

William Silas Pearse (1838-1908), merchant, was born on 21 May 1838 at Fremantle, eldest son of William Pearse and his wife Susannah, née Glyde. Educated at local private schools, he embarked on a business career which included butchering, shipowning, importing and the development of the Western Australian leather industry. ... On 23 April 1863 Pearse married Johannah, daughter of John Hawkes of Warwick, England. She died in 1891 and their only daughter next year. In 1893 he married his cousin Alice, widow of Edward Higham, a fellow Congregationalist and political associate. His only unexpected action was resignation from parliament in 1895 when he disposed of his business interests to his brother and lifelong partner, George (1839-1914), and went to England with his wife. He died of cancer on 30 December 1908 at Clifton, Bristol. Part of Geoff Bolton's entry for the ADB.

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.

hannah pearseWilliam 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. ...
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. (Lee 1979: 207-8)

References, Links and Acknowledgements

Bolton G.C. 1974, 'Pearse, William Silas (1838-1908)', ADB, from which the first photo comes.

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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