Family History

Pierson Family Bios and Stories

Grandfather Edward T. Pierson was born in Stillwater, N.J. Jan 29, 1875, and moved to Larimore, N.D. with family, and at age 19 became Editor of the Inkster Tribune. He married Jessie M.  Dalton from Wisconsin in 1897, and their first child, Gladys was born in 1898. Ed moved his printshop and homestead to Granville, N.D. in 1900 to publish the Granville Record, and became Postmaster. Camille and Dalton were born in Granville; in 1910 the family moved to Metholius, OR where Jessie died. The widower moved his family again to Chinook, MT and was inducted into the Algeria (Helena) Temple of the Mystic Shrine, and to publish the Chinook Democrat until 1920, then moving to Great Falls. Ed joined the staff of the Tribune, until 1929, when he purchased papers in OR, and published the North Tillamook County News until retiring in 1946; he married Beatrice Towers from Garibaldi and moved to Missoula. From The Missoula Sentinel front page March 23, 1956.

Craig's aunt Gladys Pierson was elected President of her Music Sorority at Cincinnati Conservatory of Music in 1928, where she majored in violin. She remained single, and became a Realtor in Missoula. Aunt Camille gave Craig her penny collection.

Craig's father Dalton T. Pierson visited Charlie Russell during school, and followed Ed's work, becoming a reporter for the Great Falls Leader after finishing High School. He then began his legal practice after UM Law School, and married Bessie Davis in 1941. He enlisted in the US Army Air Corps, and trained to pilot gliders. He was not allowed to complete that training (furnished by Emma Lommasson, future UM Registrar) due to his age, so he earned his commission at the Judge Advocate General's School at U of Ml, Ann Arbor, in 1944.

Craig's step-grandmother Beatrice (Towers) Pierson had an enormous influence on Craig's development of interests in designing projects ranging from modeling clay buildings, to carpentry and masonry, and ultimately designing a solar retrofit of his first Billings home, and architectural upgrade and restoration of his second home.

Craig's mother Bessie developed an interest in Democratic politics during the 1950's, from soliciting precinct committee-persons to becoming State Treasurer 1956-1960. She fiercely managed the treasury, taking it from deficit after the 1956 Stevenson loss to a  surplus in time for the Kennedy campaign, and was invited to his Inaugural event. At a 1960 campaign event in Billings, MT, the State Democratic Party Chairman was complaining to the Kennedy support staff how difficult in-state fundraising was, and Ted Kennedy memorably blurted out a comment in effect "we don't want to hear about your troubles, my job is to elect Jack President".  Bessie, as State Treasurer,  was so upset by this remark, she later told Craig " I held my nose and voted against 'Tricky Dick'. Thirteen years later, she was so upset about the publicity Nixon was receiving about Watergate, she sent the following to the N.Y. Times, the White House, and the Daily Missoulian - which published it as guest opinion, 8/31/73:

New York Times 229 W. 43rd Street
New York, New York 10036


People from Montana are well known for being able to mind their own business, but if I don't publicly express some matters I have been feeling about the news media, I feel I shall surely explode!

During this whole silly Watergate episode, the thing that seems to have escaped everyone connected with the media is that, if Richard Nixon were the worst crook in the world, he deserves better treatment than this. I should think that anyone, Democrat or Republican, would be completely outraged by the absence of fair play which has been demonstrated. The President is being tried and convicted by the press without a hearing, which is contrary to all our American ideals, to say nothing of the law!

Lesley Stahl is the first person connected with the news, as far as I know, who has had the backbone and decency to say something fair about the President. She said the other night that he showed courage and that, to me, is the thing that has been so strikingly evident during this whole Watergate farce, which the French are realistic enough to say is "ridiculous and has nothing to do with affairs of state." I used to think Dan Rather was a person of integrity, but he has joined the rest of the jackals.

You pusillanimous people of the press remind me of nothing so much as hounds chasing an escaped convict through a swamp. Usually the convict has some chance, but President Nixon bas been given none. He is, in my opinion, the only person in public life with the moral fibre, emotional stability and courage to have withstood such a cowardly attack.

Richard Nixon is a strong, emotionally mature, highly intelligent and pragmatic man, and the fact that he has displayed such courage, self­ control and stability should be enough to convince the American people that he is the kind of person we need in this dangerous world. He never lets his emotions overcome his reason, and I have never before had such admiration for his restraint.

Most of my life, I have been prominently identified with the Democrats in Montana but, even I couldn't stomach McGovern and Muskie, whom I thought of as "gutless wonders", and the spectacle of Ted Kennedy courting favor with George Wallace to further his own political ambitions makes me blush with shame. I am beholden to no one and therefore am in the fortunate position of being able to say exactly what I think, and I wish to make it "perfectly clear" that these views expressed are strictly my own.

If you will not publish this in your "Letters to the Editor" section, perhaps you will permit me to purchase the space. While it is obvious that you are not interested in fair play, presumably, you are still interested in money.

I am sending this same letter to the Washington Post, God bless them! Yours very truly, S. Bessie Pierson

The White House sent the following card in response to the above:


The letter was written a week after my mother and I stood by the White House fence in D.C., and I teased her about the Watergate bugs crawling through the fence. I had no idea she was so distraught about Nixon and the Watergate affair. A few weeks later, a student threw trash at the dorm TV as Nixon said "I am not a crook!"

In 1958, Senator Mansfield sent a letter of appreciation to Bessie for her work for the Democrats. [reproduced as the next page]

My father kept a file titled "Humorous pleadings and depositions" and one such item follows: Bessie had been arrested for an illegal left turn heading to the grocery store, and she pleaded with the officer that 'What's wrong - I've been doing that for 15 years' and my father was astounded she, an attorney's wife, would make such a comment.

November 17, 1958
U.S. Mission to the U.N.

Mrs. Dalton Pierson
Missoula County Democratic Central Committee
Missoula, Montana

Dear Bessie:

I want to thank you for your good letter of the 6th and to assure you that it was a pleasure to have been able to be of assistance to your Committee during the past campaign, and I can’t begin to tell you, Bessie, how much I appreciated receiving your con­ gratulations. It is my hope that in the future I will continue to merit the trust and confidence placed in me by you and so many other good friends throughout the State and Nation. I am indeed lucky to have so many friends and supporters, such as you, who have been so kind and considerate to me down through the years.
Again thanking you for your good letter and with best personal wishes, I am
Sincerely yours,
Mike Mansfield

Dalton T. Pierson's humorous pleading to Judge Fox

Hon. Raymond Fox
Police Judge
City Hall Missoula, Montana

Dear Judge:

Here with a traffic ticket given Mrs. Pierson by one of the City's dedicated officers.

The violation occurred when she was traveling north on Higgins and turned in mid­ block across the south bound lanes to go into the Stop 1n Shop parking lot.

Mrs. Pierson discussed the legal aspects of the case with me in an effort to contrive defense.    I told her I didn't think even Clarence Darrow could do that. Irate and not satisfied, she called Melvin Belli long distance.  When he too discouraged her and suggested she pay the fine and have done with the matter, she was really fit to be tied. Incidentally, the long distance call cost $8.40.  Belli tried to impress on her that she didn't help her possible defense by acknowledging to the policeman that she had been making the same kind of a turn several times a week for the last 15 years.

I took refuge in the basement and after the lapse of a considerable time, gingerly ventured upstairs and into the kitchen.  She had calmed down enough so that you could not hear her more than ten blocks away.  I finally asked why she objected so strongly to paying the fine.  She just snorted and turned away.  After some serious meditation, she came around and opined that it was a lousy trick for the officer to inquire of one's

birthdate and added, 11You know they put your age right in that Good Morning Judge column. 11 Well, I finally saw the light.  The real reason for her objection was the fact that her age was going to appear in the newspaper.  I have not paid much attention to the column but my spouse finally confessed that when it first came out and was done in small type, she would get a magnifying glass to read it and was quite pleased when the newspaper started using large type.  I think I will see if the Missoulian wouldn't black-box her item when it appears in the paper.  Except for the age; I think probably she is a publicity hound. My check in the amount of $7.00 is enclosed.

Yours very truly,
Dalton Pierson

DP:cm Enc.
cc: Bessie Pierson
2nd Lt. Dalton Pierson II Russell Smith
Deane Jones - The Missoulian

Craig's mother Bessie H. Davis at age 15
Craig's mother Bessie H. Davis at age 15

Craig, Bessie, and Dalton

Craig and Bessie Pierson
Craig and Bessie Pierson

Craig and Ed T. Pierson
Craig and Ed T. Pierson

Beatrice with Craig

Top right: Beatrice with Craig in 1949 (Married Ed T. Pierson 1944), Bottom right: Father Dalton hunting 1951

Bro. Dalton II, Mother Bessie· and Craig, summer 1951
Bro. Dalton II, Mother Bessie and Craig, summer 1951

"Give 'em hell Harry!" President TrumanTop: Whistle-stop Tour 30,000 miles fall 1948 campaign Mrs. Truman, Margaret, and "Give 'em hell Harry!" President Truman November 3, 1948, Bottom: President Truman in Missoula, May 5, 1950 (Eisenhower dedicated Smokejumper Center Sept . 1954 Pierson family attended both Presidential events.)


E.E. Jeffers/ Truman Library

Dalton T. Pierson 1933, Mother Bessie 1971Top left: Dalton T. Pierson 1933, Bottom left: Mother Bessie 1971

Salk-Sabin Polio vaccine trial 1954
Craig Pierson
And this certificate of membership is hereby presented for taking part in the first national tests of a trial polio vaccine conducted during 1954.
Basil O’Connor PRESIDENT

Brother Dalton Pierson II on his wedding day, July 1969
Brother Dalton Pierson II on his wedding day, July 1969

March 26, 1971: Tributes to Craig's father Dalton T. Pierson

Mrs. Dalton T. Pierson
105 Connell Avenue
Missoula, Montana

Dear Mrs. Pierson:

For some reason, I was not aware of Dalton's passing until I received a copy of the Western Montana Bar Association's Resolution. I knew he had been very ill. I am truly sorry I was not present to pay my respects to a great guy.

I know that you and Dalton and Craig have lost so much more, but I have lost a real friend. Several times when I have been taking my "lumps"; I have gone to Dalton and had a long visit, each time coming away feeling better and often having my problem solved. When I first started to practice law, Dalton always had time to give me a helping hand. When we were on opposite sides, I was most impressed with his representation of his cause; yet he was always a gentleman and we remained friends.

Ruth joins me in extending our deepest sympathy.

Wesley Castles
Wesley Castles Associate Justice




April 1, 1971

Mrs. Dalton Pierson
105 Connell Avenue
Missoula, Montana 59801

Dear Bessie:

Since reception of the deplorable, shocking message of Daltons tragic, untimely demise I have been, more or less, in a state of shock. After pondering at length as to what I could say I find that frustration is inclined to prevail, no doubt because the shock remains unabated. Words are totally inadequate to portray my thoughts or to adequately express my deep sorrow.

A true, deep, everlasting, delightful friendship primarily en­ gendered, no doubt, in the United States District Attorney's Office, between Dalton and myself remains undiminished.

In my mind and in my memory there is firmly cemented all of the exemplary human qualities and characteristics possessed by Dalton that endeared him to me and to all with whom he associated. As I reminisce there comes to my mind his pleasing personality, his integrity combined with gentleness, his consideration of others that compelled the respect of all and endeared him to all, and particularly to me. His courage and loyalty and his rare sense of responsibility to society--these fine, noble and sterl­ing characteristics had earned for him the esteem and respect of all that knew him.

His goals were elevated and his confidence supreme. He possess­ ed prodigious talents linked with inexhaustible energy, both phy­sical and mental. A most gracious and charming never to be for­ gotten friend.

His untimely death has cut short a splendid career while life still had much to give him.

I feel deeply the loss of a good and true friend. A loss that words cannot adequately express although I fully realize my loss is not commensurate to the bereavement you and all the members of his and your family suffer, which cannot be measured or assuaged.

I feel that all of you will take courage, comfort and consola­ tion in that Dalton, my dear friend, heroically met the test of lifewith all honor, achievement and distinction. He was too young to die but not too young to leave the memory of one brave and faithful to the end.

I extend to you and all of the bereaved family my sincere and heartfelt sympathy and condolence in this time of your deep sorrow and bereavement.



United States Senate
Office of the Majority Leader 
Washington, D.C. 20510

May 19, 1971

Mrs. Dalton T. Pierson
105 Connell Avenue
Missoula, Montana

Dear Bessie:

This is the first chance I have had since I learned about the passing of your husband to write and express my condolences on your loss.  Words seem so inadequate at this time, but I did want to extend my deep and heartfelt sympathy to you and your family.

If there is any possible way that I can be of assistance, please know you need only. to call on me.

With deepest sympathy,
DALTON T. PIERSON, Esq. (1906-1971)

Born the son of a newspaper publisher in Granville, N.D. in 1906, Dalton T. Pierson attended grade schools in Metolius, Oregon and Chinook, Montana. He graduated from the University of Montana School of Law in 1932 and began practice with George F. Higgins in Missoula. Mr. Pierson served as Deputy County Attorney under Mr. Higgins.

Mr. Pierson married Bessie Davis in 1941. After the first of his two sons was born, he enlisted in the Army Air Corps, and in 1944 he was commissioned a Lieutenant in the Judge Advocate General Corps. He returned to his Missoula practice in 1946.

President Harry S. Truman appointed Mr. Pierson United States District Attorney for Montana, a position he held for two years. Concurrent with his practice, he served in the United States Army Reserve, attaining the rank of Major.

Mr. Pierson availed himself to a broad cross-section of clients, ranging from injured workers, distraught divorce seekers, ranchers whose property was being condemned for 1-90, and the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes. CSKT awarded him an honorary membership and name, "Chief Buffalo Stands Over Him - The Protector." Mr. Pierson vigorously opposed removal of wartime rent controls.

An avid hunter and sportsman, Mr. Pierson was always fond of Montana. Referring to the state as " God's Country," he wrote during the war, "I'm afraid I miss the elk, deer, and fish up there more than they miss me." Mr. Pierson also admired Montana artist Charles M. Russell, whose studio he visited while attending Great Falls High School. One of his prized possessions was a silver plate Russell engraved for his dog's collar. It reads "Carlo Pierson, Dog of Dalton. How do you do! Whose dog are you?"

Mr. Pierson died in 1971. His son, Craig, established this memorial with these words: "It is entirely in keeping with my father's compassion for those less fortunate that this inclinator has been furnished to the law school in loving memory."

The1979 addition of an inclinator to the new wing and library of the Law School provides for access by handicapped to the lower level of the split-level Law Building. An individual who is confined to a wheelchair can enter the building through one of the main floor doors, and use the inclinator to reach study areas, the Law Review office, and offices of other special programs and the Montana Student Bar Association. Installation of the inclinator and an adjoining stairway was accomplished as part of the reconstruction that accompanied the building of the Law School Wing. An elevator adjacent to the Law Library, in combination with the inclinator, makes all three levels of the Law Building readily access­ ible to the handicapped. Craig's gift was matched 3x by his employer, Exxon Co. USA. The inclinator was gifted to Missoula Children's Theatre during 2008 when the present Law Building was built.

Dalton T. Pierson