Updated: Oct 7, 2021
H.B. Pierce like many abolitionist or conductors of the underground rail-road is like a ghost when it comes to documented history about his life. What we do know has been gathered from census records, property transactions, maps and news paper articles like the ones below. Mr. Pierce was an early European gold rush pioneer who owned a significant amount of property, comprised of fruit orchards that surrounded the Coloma Emmanuel Church, built in 1856.
1855-Mountain Democrat advertisement
Mr. Pierce was also a successful inventor that created an agent for preserving fruit. Considering his massive orchards and land that were cultivated well before the gold rush this is not surprising. We are not sure if his inventions combined with trade were the reasons for him being located as a passenger on a number of vessels up and down California and returning to the gold hills, or his connection to the Underground Rail Road.
What we do know is Mr. Pierce only sold land to American Descendants of Slaves (Black) and he retired as an inspector out of the San Francisco port. He left Coloma and was said to be living in El-Dorado county (mud springs) in the 1860's. It is unknown how Josephine Burris became Josephine Pierce Burgess; however her uncle Samuel Burris was a direct connection to the underground railroad.
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