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Jerome Beardsley family

First hotel keeper in De Smet; the Beardsley House was operated by Jerome Beardsley from 1880-1882.

Beardsley House. J.C. Beardsley, Proprietor. Every attention will be paid to the wants of guests and special pains taken to make everybody comfortable. Table supplied with the best the market affords. Good stabling. Good hostlers. Charges reasonable. De Smet, Dakota – April 5, 1880, Kingsbury County News

In By the Shores of Silver Lake (see Chapter 26, “The Building Boom”), after Pa files on his homestead claim (his historical filing date at the Brookings land office was on February 19, 1880) and before the first spring goose was sighted (historically, this is in late February or early March), an unnamed man eats with other men at the surveyors’ house and tells Pa that he has come with a load of lumber from Brookings and he will be building a hotel on the De Smet townsite.

In the next chapter (see Chapter 27, “Living in Town”), Annie and Louizy, with no surname given – two little girls who live across the street from the Ingallses – come to play with Carrie, and Ma suggests that Laura teach the three girls some school-lessons while they are there. In one of her Hard Winter manuscripts, Laura Ingalls Wilder wrote that Annie and Louizy were the Beardsley daughters, and that the hotel keeper is Mr. Beardsley, and his wife is living in town while the hotel is being built around her. In The Long Winter (see Chapter 9, “Cap Garland”), the little Beardsley girls (unnamed) are classmates of Carrie and Laura, and in Little Town on the Prairie (see Chapter 14, “Sent Home from School”), Carrie’s seatmate is Mamie Beardsley.

Jerome Curtis Beardsley was born May 12, 1841, in Ausable (Clinton County) New York, the son of Eleanor and Charles Beardsley. By 1860, Jerome was living in Pierce County, Wisconsin, and working as a laborer. On October 5, 1861, he enlisted as a private in Company B (the Prescott Guards), Wisconsin 6th Infantry; Jerome was discharged in September 1862 due to disability (a hernia).

February 18, 1865, Jerome married Martha Viona Wheeler in Waukesha, Wisconsin. Martha was born June 30, 1850, the daughter of Asneth (Lyon) and Paul Wheeler. The Beardsleys had seven children: Walter C. (1867), George (1869), James Henry (1870), Mary Elizabeth (1876), Lettie D. and a male twin who died shortly after birth (July 22, 1881), and Alice Pearl (December 22, 1891). Although Mary Elizabeth was probably the inspiration for the name of the character(s) “Mamie” and/or “Louizy” Beardsley in De Smet; she didn’t have a sister who could have been the little girl named Annie. It’s hard to imagine that Carrie Ingalls’ seat-mate was so much younger than she; is it possible that Laura was remembering Grace’s seatmate from later years?

In 1876, the Beardsleys had moved to Dakota Territory, and daughter Mary Elizabeth was the first white child born in Brookings County. The family settled on a soldier’s claim close to the south shore of Lake Oakwood, the W-NE and SE-NE 17-111-51. First filing was made in August 1878 with final proof in November the following year. In May 1880, they moved to the townsite of De Smet to run the Beardsley House, what Laura Ingalls Wilder called the Beardsley Hotel in the Little House books. When writing about the early settlement of De Smet, Carrie Ingalls later wrote: “At the time [1880] there was just one other little girl in town my age. The first Sunday services were to be held in the depot- the men fixed the benches early in the morning and father came home and said the seats were all ready. So this little girl and I went over to take a look. No one was there and we we went in and found that the seats were just a good jump apart. We started. I was the best jumper, could go the whole length without a miss or stop, the other girl did her best which was not bad, and I suppose we yelled our best too. Fun, never have had so much since. Then in the door came Rev. Woodworth who was to preach that morning, and he said ‘I don’t think that(‘s) a very good way for little girls to act in the House of the Lord.’ We disappeared…” (It’s unclear just who Carrie was writing about, since no name is mentioned.)



The Beardsley Hotel was built on part of Lots 12 and 13, Block 1 of De Smet, on the west side of Calumet Avenue. The property had originally been sold by Western Town Lots Company to Thomas Reed of Nordland (now Arlington) and contracted to be sold to Martha Beardsley for $100 on June 29, 1880. Mr. Reed may have been involved in the running of the hotel, as he was in De Smet during the Hard Winter and paid at least one year of property taxes on the property during the Little House years. Reed also had a homestead in Kingsbury County, and his sons Robert (born 1872) and George (born 1874) may have been classmates of Laura and Carrie in school.

When the Kingsbury County News went to press in April 1880, it recorded that the Beardsley House was full and running. Mr. Beardsley’s ad read:

Beardsley House.
J.C. Beardsley, Proprietor.
Every attention will be paid to the wants of guests and special pains taken to make everybody comfortable.
Table supplied with the best the market affords.
Good stabling. Good hostlers. Charges reasonable.
De Smet- Dakota

The Beardsleys only ran the hotel for about two years, then business was taken over by John Sturgeon, who ran it for several years as the Kingsbury House, making many improvements on the building. There is no known photo of the hotel in its earliest years; John Sturgeon moved the original structure back from the street and added an 18×30 foot two-story addition on the street side of the original hotel building. He gave this portion a flat roof in 1887, what is seen in existing photographs. The 1883 bird’s-eye drawing by Henry Wellge seems to show the original hotel with its addition.

The hotel was operated by John Sturgeon until 1901, when his son George purchased it and ran the business until about 1930. The hotel building was torn down in 1959 prior to construction of the Post Office. In the photo above from about 1915, you can see the corner of the stone Healy Block (built in 1904) to the left of the hotel; it is now Klinkels III.

Martha and Jerome Beardsley lived in Chamberlain (Brule County) and Bryant (Clark County) after leaving De Smet, later returning to Pierce County, Wisconsin. Martha died in February 1903. Jerome died on November 27, 1908, in Bryant, where son James Henry (Harry) was editor of the Bryant Herald. They are buried in Trimbelle Cemetery, Beldenville, Wisconsin.


Beardsley family (SSL 26-27; TLW 9-10; LTP 6; PG)
     Jerome (SSL 26; LTP 6)
     Martha (SSL 26, 27; LTP 17)
     Mamie (LTP 11, 14)
     little Beardsley girls (TLW 9, 14)
     Annie, Carrie’s friend in De Smet (SSL 27)
     Beardsley Hotel (SSL 26-27; TLW 9, 10; LTP 6; PG)