Pearce-Lockett Homestead

The pioneer, Pearce, carved a home from the Florida wilderness. John Mizell Pearce, founder of the present-day homestead, settled with his parents in the Peace River Valley around 1846. In 1858 he married Martha Lanier. John left his business to serve in the Confederate Army in 1863, returning to Fort Meade at the conclusion of the Civil War. After the death of his father Levi in 1874, he moved his family and business to the location of the present Pearce Homestead location.

John was deeded 157 acres through the State of Florida Internal Improvement Fund in 1880. The land included the abandoned Fort Basinger General Zachary Taylor had built between 1837 and 1838 as his headquarters. At the end of the War in 1842, the Fort was closed, to be reopened during the Third Seminole War as a supply depot and transfer point, closing for the final time at the end of the War.

Basinger School House

As John increased his acreage, he expanded his cattle herd into what was to become the Pearce Cattle Empire. In addition to running the cattle business, John Pearce operated a ferry, the Mary Belle, across the Kissimmee River. He also served as Deputy Sheriff for the eastern part of Desoto County. John and Martha’s nine children were all familiar with the family’s cattle business, and several settled on this homestead property.

In 1894, William Sidney (Sid) married Meroba Virginia “Mellie” Hollingsworth of Arcadia. They had four children. When Sid’s father, John Mizell died in 1897 leaving the estate to his family, his wife and son, Sid, assumed management of the business. Martha built the frame house that remains today. At his mother’s death in 1911, Sid purchased the main house and surrounding land from the estate and managed the business. Sid’s wife Mellie died in 1932 and Clifford, the eldest son worked with his father until 1934 when he was killed in a car accident.

Sid donated the land and building for the Fort Basinger School in 1910. Edna Pearce taught school at the Fort Basinger school from 1934 to 1944. After her father’s death in 1944 she took control of the ranch. Edna, one of Florida’s largest cattle owners, was the largest rancher in the South.

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