John Goodloe Warren Pierson combined his talents of Indian fighter, commander of militia, surveyor, land developer, judge, and lawman during his life in the frontier communities of the Arkansas Territory and Texas. Pierson, the oldest of six sons of John Pierson (1762–1838) and Elizabeth (Warren) Pierson (1774–1852), was born on February 15, 1795, in Person County, North Carolina. He moved in 1805 with his parents to the area of western Kentucky that later became Union County. His father, who had originally come to America from England in 1774, served in Gen. George Washington's Continental Army at Valley Forge, Camden, and in other actions during the American Revolution.
Pierson married Purity Ruffin Pennington on January 17, 1815, in Union County, Kentucky, and they had three children before her death. In 1818 Pierson moved to the Red River area of Texas, which in 1820 became Miller County, Arkansas Territory. The site where he settled was marked in 1936 as the first Anglo-American settlement of Lamar County, Texas. In Miller County, Pierson was a deputy sheriff (1825), coroner (1826), county surveyor (1828), sheriff (1829), commander of the Ninth Militia with the rank of major (1828), and magistrate of the settlement of Pecan Point (1828–29). In 1828, when the Indian situation worsened there, he requested permission of George Izard, governor of Arkansas Territory, to remove the Shawnee Indians with the militia. With the governor's approval Pierson commanded sixty-two volunteers, who with the assistance of Col. William Rector, adjutant general of the militia of Arkansas Territory, forced the troublesome Shawnees to leave the territory peaceably.
On December 11, 1826, Pierson married Elizabeth Montgomery, the daughter of William Montgomery of Miller County. They had three children before her death on September 15, 1833. Montgomery County, Texas, was named for her family. Pierson moved to Nacogdoches, Texas, about 1830 and joined Stephen F. Austin's colony in October 1831, where he continued his surveying activities. He received one league of land in Fayette County through Austin's third empresario contract on November 2, 1832. Sterling C. Robertson, empresario of the Nashville colony (Robertson's colony), appointed Pierson on December 22, 1833, his "true and lawful attorney" to issue certificates to all settlers wishing to settle in the colony and to "do all things relative of said colony." On September 17, 1834, William H. Steele, land commissioner of the colony, appointed Pierson the principal surveyor. In cooperation with Robertson, Pierson laid out in 1834 the capital of the colony, Sarahville de Viesca, on the west bank at the Falls of the Brazos. Pierson assisted Robertson for two years, issuing certificates, surveying, and supervising development activities much of the time while Robertson was absent. To protect the colony, Pierson, Sterling C. Robertson, and James W. Parker signed a friendship treaty with twelve Indian chiefs in February 1835.
In 1835 Pierson married Narcissa (Cartwright) Slatter, a daughter of Peter Cartwright. They had three children. Slatter and Pierson each received title to one league of land in the Nashville colony (Robertson's) on December 10, 1834.
During the early stages of the Texas Revolution, Pierson became a member of the Committee of Safety and Correspondence of Viesca when it was established on May 17, 1835. He was elected on October 5, 1835, a delegate to represent the Municipality of Viesca at the Consultation at San Felipe de Austin, where he served on the "Committee of Five" establishing the Texas Rangers on October 17 and signed both of the "Texas Declaration of Causes for Taking up Arms Against Mexico" on November 7 and the ordinance that established the provisional government of Texas on November 13. He was appointed a commissioner to organize the militia at Viesca in the war against Mexico on November 26 and served as secretary of the General Council. He was the second judge of Viesca in the same year.
J. G. W. Pierson and Colbert Baker proceeded with their plans to develop the town of Independence in Washington County, Texas, when they purchased on October 30, 1834, contiguous parcels of land from Thomas S. Saul. On November 30, 1835, after surveying and “laying off” the townsite consisting of seventy-eight acres, Pierson and Baker sold one-fourth of their undivided interest in the townsite to Amasa F. Burchard. Pierson, Baker, Burchard, and Robert M. Stevenson, a fourth proprietor, executed a bond on December 2, 1835, which spelled out their responsibilities as partners in the development of the town.
During the election held in the Nashville colony on February 1, 1836, Pierson was defeated by Sterling C. Robertson and George C. Childress as a delegate to represent the Municipality of Milam (Viesca) at the Convention of 1836. The acting governor and commander-in-chief of the militia of the provisional government of Texas, James W. Robinson, commissioned Pierson on February 13, 1836, his aide-de-camp for Milam with the rank of colonel. Pierson was ordered to recruit and equip men for military service in the war against Mexico and to report them to the commander at Gonzales. He was "empowered to do all things in the defense of Texas for she must now fight." Pierson informed Robinson that the militia would be ready on March 19 or as soon as arms, ammunition, and provisions were procured. Pierson also provided aid to Robertson's company of rangers at Fort Milam during 1836 and 1837 and the Texas army in 1836 by supplying them with food and other supplies.
After the defeat of Antonio López de Santa Anna at the battle of San Jacinto, Pierson moved his family in June 1836 from Milam to an area of Washington County (later partitioned into Montgomery and Grimes counties) that he named Hi Point, near the present settlement of Stoneham. Pierson built his home at Hi Point, where he farmed, operated a general merchandise store, and raised fine horses and other livestock. He built and operated a racetrack nearby where horse races were held regularly.
Based on reports that the Mexican Congress had repudiated the agreements that Santa Anna had made with the ad interim government of Texas and that Gen. José de Urrea was organizing a large Mexican army to invade Texas, on June 20, 1836, ad interim president David G. Burnet issued a proclamation calling for volunteers to meet the enemy. On June 30 in Washington County Pierson organized a militia company of seventy-four men. He reported his company to Brig. Gen. Thomas Jefferson Green, whose brigade was at Coles Settlement on a campaign against the Indians. On the same day Pierson was commissioned a captain of cavalry, Green's Brigade, Army of the Republic of Texas, by Green and ordered to proceed to the main army near Victoria by way of the La Bahía Road and to provide security to the settlers and chastise any Indians that had committed depredations against them. Pierson sat on the court-martial of Lt. Moses L. Lazeras on July 14 after reaching the army. On August 22, 1845, for his service from June 30 to December 30, 1836, he received a 640-acre land grant in Milam County. Pierson was nominated captain of volunteers of Washington County on May 31, 1837, by President Sam Houston to serve in the Regiment of Mounted Gun Men. During "Archer's War" in June 1840, after most of the Montgomery County Militia had abandoned the chase, Pierson led his militia company in hot pursuit of a band of Cherokee and Kickapoo Indians that had murdered J. M. Tidwell and had taken his wife and three children hostage near the site of present Calvert.
After the capture of San Antonio de Bexar by Gen. Rafael Vásquez and Gen. Adrián Woll in March and September 1842, President Houston ordered Alexander Somervell to organize the militia and volunteers and invade Mexico. Pierson organized a company of volunteers and, at San Antonio de Bexar, joined the South Western Army, later called the Somervell expedition. While on a scouting expedition of the area, Pierson's company skirmished with Comanches on November 9. After the Texas army had captured Laredo and Guerrero, Tamaulipas, Somervell ordered the army on December 19 to return to Gonzales and disband. Pierson, with four other captains and most of the army ignored the order and organized the Mier expedition. The reasons given by the captains for not obeying the order were provided in a letter written by J. D. Cocke and endorsed by the captains on January 12, 1843. Pierson and his company reluctantly surrendered to Gen. Pedro de Ampudia on December 26, 1842, at Mier, Tamaulipas, after a battle of eighteen hours. In 1845 General Green in his book on the Mier expedition gave Pierson and his men "lasting credit" for their united stand against capitulation. On May 20, 1843, Col. William S. Fisher, commander of the Mier expedition, described the morale of his men immediately prior to surrender. He wrote, "I found two of the smallest companies under the command of Captain Reese of Brazoria [County] and Captain Pierson of Montgomery [County] united to a man and prepared to fight to the last extremity. The others were in indescribable confusion."
Pierson was one of the Texas prisoners of war who overpowered the Mexican guards at El Rancho Salado on February 11, 1843, and escaped. He was later recaptured, drew a white bean on March 25 (see BLACK BEAN EPISODE), and was later released from Santiago Prison at Mexico City on September 16, 1844. On their return to Texas, Pierson and thirteen other Texans who had been prisoners of war in Mexico petitioned President Houston to ask Santa Anna "as a personal favor" to release José Antonio Navarro from the dungeon of San Juan de Ullóa, Mexico. Houston agreed to their request and wrote Santa Anna on December 10, 1844. Pierson served in 1844 on a committee that petitioned the Congress of the Republic of Texas requesting compensation for the men who participated in the Mier expedition.
He served in 1848 as county commissioner of Grimes County. He died at Hi Point on May 7, 1849, and was buried beside two sons in the Joel Greenwood Cemetery, later called the Saunder's Cemetery, near Plantersville. He left an estate of approximately 20,000 acres of land in Texas. Pierson’s estate received $2,273 in March 1852 from the state of Texas for Pierson’s service as captain and his losses sustained in the Somervell and Mier expeditions (October 1842 to October 1844). After Texas seceded from the Union in 1861, Pierson's five living sons fought in the Confederate Army. During the Sesquicentennial Celebration of Texas Independence, a monument honoring Sterling C. Robertson, J. G. W. Pierson, and other Nashville colonists was erected on March 2, 1986, at the Falls County Courthouse by the Falls County Historical Commission.