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Pierre was a Cowtown


PIERRE, S.D. – Cowtowns flourished from 1867 until the 1890s when railroads ended the necessity for long cattle drives. By the 1870s, cattle drives resulted in dozens of other cowtowns, including Pierre, S.D., by replacing log huts with saloons and gambling parlors to entertain the hard-working cowboys.
During the cowtown days, Pierre was roaring with action. With 14 saloons and cattle bawling long into the night, many folks in this cowtown had sleepless nights and long days of work. Sidewalks were built two feet off the ground to keep the cows from spattering on them and making them a mess to walk on. The stockyards ran the river for half a mile and three ferries were busy night and day fetching cows over from the holding grounds, where cattle came from as far away as Montana.
West River ranchers wintered in Pierre and the brand books of 1901 (and prior) listed 75 brand owners with over 200 brands.
The Marks of History series is a project of the South Dakota Office of Tourism designed to highlight historic markers all across South Dakota. Click on the special “Marks of History” link at to access the complete list of articles.
The Marks of History series is part of Goal 1 of the 2010 Initiative to double visitor spending in South Dakota and Goal 4 to enhance history and arts as a tool for economic development and cultural tourism in South Dakota. The Office of Tourism serves under the direction of Richard Benda, Secretary of the Department of Tourism and State Development.

Please Note: The South Dakota Office of Tourism is not responsible for the text included on these markers. Some of the language used at the time of production may not be appropriate by today's standards. Please view the markers at your own discretion.