John H. Pearce Jr., 69, researched My Lady's Manor

August 23, 1998|By Fred Rasmussen | Fred Rasmussen,SUN STAFF

John Homer Pearce Jr., a retired insurance executive whose interest in history and family genealogy led him to become an expert on the history of My Lady's Manor, died Thursday of respiratory failure at Greater Baltimore Medical Center. He was 69 and lived in Butler.

Mr. Pearce was born and raised on My Lady's Manor, which straddles Baltimore and Harford counties.

Charles Calvert, who became the third Lord Baltimore in 1675 and the second Lord Proprietary of Maryland, had visited the area from 1667. Though he returned to England several years later, he retained a deep affection for the land in northeastern Baltimore County.

In 1713, he made a gift of 10,000 acres to which he had claimed title to his fourth wife, Margaret Charlton of Northumberland, and proclaimed that it would be known as "My Lady's Manor."

Mr. Pearce's wife of 46 years, the former Jane Akehurst, said: "I think because he had grown up there and his family had been there for over 200 years, he just got interested in its history."

He began combing the Hall of Records in Annapolis and the Maryland Historical Society. He walked through old graveyards checking tombstones. He painstakingly examined land records. He visited other genealogical societies seeking information on his ancestors.

In the course of his research, he met Margaret Keigler, also a genealogist, who lives in Hereford. The two are related to William Pearce, who had lived in the 1640s on the land that became the Manor.

"The Pearce family has lived on the Manor for eight generations," Mrs. Keigler said Friday. "He knew that he was from an early family and wanted to trace it. And after we discovered that we shared William Pearce, we began to trade genealogical information."

Mrs. Keigler described Mr. Pearce as a "very, very thorough genealogist, who made sure that what he discovered was backed up by original documents and references. He didn't rely on speculation."

A studious and quiet man, Mr. Pearce worked in a book-filled study piled high with reference books -- anything to do with Maryland history.

In 1992, his book "Tombstone Inscriptions at St. James Protestant Episcopal Church, My Lady's Manor" was published by the Baltimore County Genealogical Society. The church's oldest headstone is dated 1773.

Mr. Pearce was a member of the Maryland Historical Society, the Baltimore County Genealogical Society, the Harford County Genealogical Society and the Baltimore County Historical Society.

In 1984, he retired from Alexander & Alexander, an insurance brokerage firm, where he had been vice president and manager of the loss control department in the firm's Baltimore office.

Mr. Pearce joined the insurance company in 1966 as a fire protection engineer and traveled throughout the world examining and assessing buildings and new construction for fire hazards. He made sure that they met fire safety codes. He also designed fire protection systems.

"He was highly respected in the field," said Wilbur H. Harris of Timonium, who worked with Mr. Pearce for many years.

A 1946 graduate of the Severn School, Mr. Pearce earned a bachelor's degree in geology from the Johns Hopkins University in 1951. In 1952, he was commissioned an ensign in the Naval Reserve and served aboard the USS San Pablo during the Korean War. He was discharged in 1955 with the rank of lieutenant.

In addition to genealogy, he enjoyed rock climbing, sailing and making jewelry.

He was a founding member of the Butler Volunteer Fire Company in the the mid-1950s.

He was a lifelong member of St. James Episcopal Church in Monkton, where a memorial service was held yesterday. In addition to his wife, he is survived by a son, William Morgan Pearce of Monkton; a daughter, Hope Rutledge Pearce of Glen Arm; and two grandchildren.

! Pub date: 8/23/98

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