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John D. Peirson

Early De Smet livery owner.

Messrs. White & Peirson, the new livery men, are building a very large barn at the south end of Calumet Avenue. – 1883 De Smet Leader

From the dooryard at the Ingallses’ homestead, Laura Ingalls could apparently see across the slough and into town, being able to spot Almanzo Wilder’s buggy when it came into view at the south end of Calumet Avenue as it passed Peirson’s Livery Barn. She incorrectly spelled the owner’s name as “Pearson,” and it’s also frequently misspelled with the more common spelling of “Pierson.” Occupying Lots 10 and 11 on Block 6 (near the northeast corner of Calumet and 4th Street SE), the barn stood for many years; a car / farm implement dealer now has vehicles for sale on those lots.

John Peirson and Horace White built the livery barn in the fall of 1883, selling it to Thomas Brothers and John Fonger shortly after Laura and Almanzo were married. He was one of the officers of The Kingsbury County Bank (Thomas Ruth’s bank), a “cartman” in the fire department, a founding member of De Smet Odd Fellows, and vice president of De Smet Stove Company, organized in 1893 to manufacture straw-burning stoves. Beginning in 1882, John Peirson had a meat market on Calumet, in partnership with Herbert H. Cooley. It was Peirson & Cooley who bought Almanzo Wilder and Peter Ingalls’ two hundred and twenty head of sheep in May 1890, the sheep-raising described in The First Four Years (see “A Year of Grace”).

In 1887, the firm of Peirson & Cooley was described in the local paper: PEIRSON & COOLEY, Dealers in live stock, and the proprietors of one of the best appointed and best stocked meat markets in Southern Dakota, are worthy of more than a passing notice. This firm commenced business here about five years ago, and, everything considered, is one of the important features in the business interests of the place. For the past two or three years they have done an extensive business in the live stock traffic, and have undoubtedly handled more cattle and hogs than any other firm in the county. Their local market trade is also extensive. No business enterprise in De Smet has better deserved past success than this one.

About ten years later, John Peirson and Herbert Cooley sold their shop to Charles Rehfeld (correct spelling!), a butcher born in Germany. Several doors south of the Carroll lot on which Charles Ingalls’ town building once stood, Rehfeld Meat Market for many years sported a large painted “cow” sign. Of interest in the photo above is the fact that the peaked wooden building to the south (right) is the former Fuller Hardware building of the Little House books. It was moved across the street from its original location when Mr. Fuller replaced it with a brick building. Both buildings burned in 1922.



John D. Peirson was born September 4, 1855, in Stewartville, Minnesota, the son of Senira and John S. Peirson. He married Luthera “Thera” Rice in October 1879, the couple settling in Kingsbury County in 1881 after filing on a tree claim and a preemption in neighboring Clark County. They had two children born in De Smet: Blanche (born in 1881) and Bert (born in 1882). John Peirson’s sister, Nora, married grocer Delbert Wilmarth, brother of George Wilmarth from The Long Winter.

In 1900, the Peirsons left De Smet and moved to Mankato, Minnesota, soon relocating to St. Paul, then to Gascoyne, North Dakota, where Bert was in the land business and his father was agent for the Dakota Tractor, a business started by De Smet resident G.W. Elliot.

Due to ill health, John Peirson moved to San Diego, where he died on November 15, 1930. He was buried in High Forest Cemetery in Olmstead County, Minnesota. Thera Peirson made her home with daughter Blanche for a number of years. She died at Lake Preston, South Dakota, in 1951, and was buried in Wabasha, Minnesota.


John D. Peirson
     Pearson’s livery barn (THGY 19-20, 33; PG)
     livery barn (THGY 21, 23; PG)
     livery stable (LTP 37; PG)