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. 

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.

dalton piersons letter

Letter from Dalton Pierson


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 Truman
Top: 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

polio and photos pg

Polio and photos sheet


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

Wesley Castles letter

Wesley Castle's letter

Carmicheal letter.jpg

Hugh Carmichael's letter

Whittmore letter


Mansfield letter

Mike Mansfield letter

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."

The 1979 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 access­ible 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