It is doubtful that many of the people who evert regular patrons of Pierce's Bowling Alley and Pool Hall on Mill Street during the the 1920's and 30's knew what an illustrious athlete the owner had been before moving to Berwick. Burns Wesley Pierce at the turn of the century had been one of the most famous and gifted competitors in the demanding sport of endurance bicycle racing — one of the most popular spectator sports during the 1890's and early part of the 1900's.
As an amateur rider, Pierce quickly became a fan favourite because of his highly competitive nature and great athletic ability; but, because of restrictions on prize money, many of the best cyclists, including Pierce, formed the professional National Cycling Association in 1896. This new organization quickly gained control of cycle racing in the United States and Burns Pierce became one of the brightest stars in this new professional
circuit. At one time, Pierce held the records for the 100 mile race (both in 1896 and 1899). American records at 1/2 mile,2,3,4,and 5 mile distances and the record for greatest distance covered in one hour. Pierce's greatest athletic feats took place in the endurance categories which held a special fascination for him and his fans. He once won the San Francisco 24 hour race without ever dismounting from the bicycle covering an astounding 467 miles — a record that stood long after his retirement. Pierce's great strength and stamina were legendary which made him a much sought-after racer in the 3- day and 6-day races so popular during the 1890's and early years of the 1900's. In one such individual 6-day race, Pierce fell on the first day and injured a hand but strapped the hand to the handlebars and despite this obvious handicap, completed the race (another 5 days!) covering 1732 miles and finishing sixth. In another 3-day event, Pierce won while covering an amazing 809 miles. Pierce also competed in special time trials in which cyclists paced by a motorized bicycle tried to break time records for particular distances.
Pierce's many fans generally agree that his greatest race was the world middle distance championship in 1898. In this race, watched by over 20,000 spectators, Pierce dethroned the reigning world champion, Jimmie "Midget" Michael, by completing the 20 miles in 37 minutes — a time that would still be very respectable today.
Burns Pierce retired from racing in 1905 and moved his family back to Nova
Scotia. In 1923, the Pierce family moved to Berwick where Burns purchased the distinctive red brick house at #107 Foster Street. He opened a popular combination bowling alley/pool hall and tobacco shop on Mill Street, across from the railroad station, which he operated until 1939. He was an avid outdoorsman and was said to be a "star curler" with the Berwick Curling Club. Burns Pierce passed away at his Berwick home in November, 1944 at the age of 76.
Burns W. Pierce's cycling World Records
- 100 miles in 3 hours, 24 minutes, 5 seconds
- 1/2 mile in 37 seconds
- 2 miles in 3 minutes, 9 seconds / 3 miles in 4 minutes, 46 seconds
- 4 miles in 6 minutes, 23 seconds / 5 miles in 8 minutes, 2 2/5 seconds
- World middle distance (20 miles/37 minutes) championship, 1898
- World 25 mile record (amateur) in 1896
Inducted June 2001