Monday, June 2, 2008

"Uncle" George Pearce, Baldwyn Icon

From the Memphis Commercial Appeal, about 1938(?):
Booneville, Miss. Jan 4. -
Fifty one years is a long time to work on one job, but that's the record ''Uncle'' George W. Pearce, porter, holds at the Home Hotel in Baldwyn, Miss. “Uncle George” is in his 89th year and has worked as porter and dinner-bell ringer there since 1896. During that time he has witnessed many changes and says, "times and folks are much better" than they were when he was young.
Recalls Battle
He recalls hearing his parents tell about the battle and the big guns at (Brices) Cross Roads, which was not far from his home at that time, and says "I was six years old then and I 'members hearin' them guns.'' This would make him 91, but 88 years is as far back as he says he can recall. When ''Uncle George” first went to the hotel he was given a fine Prince Albert suit which he wore with pride for many years. He grew in favor with the hotel guests and says he “came acrost” lots of travelers that “was hard to please, but none of 'em ever kicked on me or complained. Many a time they'd leave a pocket book under the pillow and write me a note to save it for 'em- and I did it, too" he said.
The railroad station in Baldwyn is near the hotel, and for many years, "Uncle George" used a two-wheeled cart for baggage of the guests. “Mr. Franklin Roosevelt came through here one time, “Uncle George” says, "but he didn't git off the train, so I didn't git to carry his baggage".
Looks to Good Book
Uncle George has rung the dinner gong at the hotel for 51 years, and if he should happen not to be at the post when it is time to ring the bell and someone else assumes that duty, he hurries there and rings it over again.
Many things of international note that are happening in the world today are "right there in de Good Book for folks to read" according to "Uncle George”. '' There won' t be no end of time until they gets peaceful all over the world" he declares. He says the preachers preach better than they used to.
Folks at the hotel were "sorter worried" about "Uncle George" last week when "hit seemed like my heart was gwine to take out on me'' he said. But he's back at his post, jolly as ever.
"I was sick with rheumatism when I first come here" he said. "But they gimme good care and a good livin' and I got well. I like my work and expect to be here 'til I cain't work no more."

Claude Gentry wrote of the times that Uncle George, who was the son of slaves, and another former slave, Joe Stubbs, would sit around the hotel and sing some mournful songs; George played the fiddle, and Joe played the banjo. Joe was forcefully taken from the Stubbs plantation by Union forces and used somehow in the battle of Brice's Crossroads, but didn't go with the troops on their escape back to Memphis.
When Uncle George died in 1949, he was 100 years old. All the stores in town closed for his funeral.

His beautiful handwriting in the hotel log recorded the weather for that day, and the guests’ names were entered in Old English style. The hotel register can be seen at the Brice’s Crossroads Museum.
Many of you do not remember this old Home Hotel servitor. He was one of the most respected citizens of the town. The only time I recall being in his close presence was while sitting for a traveling photographer at the hotel when I was eight. The blinding lights and impatient photographer were more than I could stand, but Uncle George was distracting and prompting me in a way that we got the pictures right. –Carl H.
Thanks to Simon "Buddy" Spight for the material.


  1. I was only 10 when he died, wish I had known him, sounds like he would have fit right in on a "movie set"-- however, I was there when the building burned, I remember the heavy black smoke, it hugged the ground and Edward Kesler who was helping fight the fire was overcome by that smoke, wish someone had pictures


  2. I remember him coming into the newspaper office to get papers. It was under McElroy's store at the time.
    Very well mannered gentleman who attracted mutual respect and attention when he was present.

  3. The time stated on the CA article may not be correct ('38). My thoughts are that it is from about 1947. 1896 (work started) + 51 years on the job service makes 1947.
    So evidently the photo was made at age 98, 2 years before he died.
    Does anyone know where he is buried?

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  5. I always liked to run down and see the trains and engine up close. He would always be at the depot waiting for passengers to get off, dressed to the nines even in the hottest weather.
    The hotel really was busy during the 30's and 40's.

  6. duke said:
    "wish someone had pictures". If you are referring to the fire, I believe there are some photos. I have seen the after-fire photo and used to have one. I will check on it ASAP and if I get some I'll send or post them.