Biography of Porter Pascal Peck

Biography of Porter Pascal Peck

This biography appears on pages 907-909 in
"History of South Dakota" by Doane Robinson, Vol. 1 (1904)

Porter Pascal Peck was born in the village of Caledonia Springs, province of Longale, Canada, on the 16th of April, 1843, being a son of Hosea and Susanna (Southworth) Peck, the former of whom was born in Massachusetts and the latter in Middlebury, Vermont, where her father was one of the first professors in the Middlebury Academy, having been one of the leading educators of the state. The parents of the subject removed from Canada to Southport, Kenosha, county, Wisconsin, in the early 'fifties, the father there engaging in brick manufacturing and there he passed the remainder of his life, his death occurring in 1855.

His widow surviving him by many years, her death occurring in Harvard, Illinois, in 1897. The subject of this review was about ten years of age at the time when his parents removed to the new state of Wisconsin, and he continued to attend the common schools in an irregular way until he had attained the age of eighteen years, having in the meanwhile been employed in farm work the major portion of the time. At the outbreak of the war of the Rebellion he manifested his intrinsic loyalty by enlisting, in April, 1861, in the Geneva Light Guards, a company which was attached to the Fourth Wisconsin Volunteer Infantry, with which he served ninety days. After his discharge he re-enlisted, becoming a member of Company K, Second Wisconsin Volunteer Cavalry, with which he remained at the front until the expiration of his three years' term, when he veteranized and rejoined the same company and regiment, with which he continued in active service until the close of the war, having been mustered out in the fall of 1865, when he received his honorable discharge. His was known as one of the best cavalry regiments in the service and was at various times in command of all the noted cavalry leaders except General Pleasanton, being under command of General Custer at the close of the great conflict which determined the integrity of the Union. Mr. Peck was never seriously wounded, nor was he ever taken prisoner. He participated in many of the most notable engagements of the war and was ever found at the post of duty, being first lieutenant of his company at the time of his final discharge.

Soon after the close of his military career Mr. Peck located in West Union, Iowa, where he engaged in the livery business, also being identified with agricultural enterprises in the locality. In 1872 he visited Sioux Falls and was so favorably impressed with its attractions and surroundings, though it was but a small village at the time, that he decided to take up his residence here. Early in the following year he located in the town and at once established himself in the livery business, being one of the pioneers in this line of enterprise in the town. He brought the first two-seated covered carriage into the state, and also introduced the first omnibus and the first landau in Sioux Falls. In 1878 he was associated with Col. Melvin Grigsby in the erection of the substantial building opposite the Cataract hotel, on Phillips avenue, and in the construction of the same were utilized the first pressed brick, metallic cornice and plate glass used in the city of Sioux Falls. He has done much building in the city and in this way has contributed very materially to its progress and attractiveness, having undoubtedly erected more buildings here than has any other one man except C. K. Howard. A previously published resume of his career has spoken as follows: "He has also done his share in farming, having broken fourteen hundred acres of prairie land contiguous to the city. He is a man of great energy and force and has been identified with nearly all the public enterprises of the city. While in Iowa he was deputy sheriff several years. The Dakota National Bank was organized through the efforts of Mr. Peck and his long-time friend and associate, Mr. Grigsby, and he was its first cashier. He was a director and vice- president of the Minnehaha National Bank at the time of the death of its president, J. M. Bailey, Jr., and was subsequently elected president, holding this office until June, 1898. He has also been prominent in municipal affairs, serving as alderman and treasurer and receiving two elections as mayor. No one will claim that Sioux Falls ever had a citizen of greater activity and energy than Porter P. Peck. He never 'sent a boy to mill.' As a 'single-handed talker' he stands in the front rank, and the language of which he makes use on extra occasions, although somewhat unique, is always explicit and full of meaning. His administration as mayor of the city of Sioux Falls was beset with difficulties that would have baffled a man of less self reliance and determination, owing in part to the desire of some of the good people to push public enterprises, while others wanted to go slow. Again, the enforcement and non-enforcement of the prohibitory law had been zealously championed by the friends and foes of the measure, respectively, and he had this disagreement to contend with. But he has never been found 'on the fence.' He is always on the ground fighting out the battle, right or wrong, and always showing a spirit of sturdy independence. At his first election for mayor he defeated Captain W. E. Willey, and at the second the Rev. E. B. Meridith, which fact alone offers full proof that he has a host of friends among the people that know him best. Still in the prime of life, with unabated zeal and enterprise, it can safely be predicted that he will for a long time to come be an important factor in public affairs."

Mr. Peck has capitalistic interests of wide scope and variety in the city and county and is at the present time a member of the directorate of the Minnehaha National Bank. In politics, Mr. Peck gives an unfaltering allegiance to the Republican party, in whose cause he takes an active interest. Fraternally, he is identified with the various bodies of York-Rite Masonry in Sioux Falls, and has also attained the thirty second degree in the Ancient and Accepted Scottish Rite, being a member of Oriental Consistory, No. 1. He is identified with the Loyal Legion in St. Paul, Minnesota, and of Jo Hooker Post, No. 10, Grand Army of the Republic, of which he has been commander for three years.

On the 30th of March, 1866, Mr. Peck was united in marriage to Miss Alice G. Caskey, of Farmington, Minnesota, and she passed away on the 18th of November, 1875, being survived by three children, Ella M., who is now the wife of Frank B. Snook, of Mankato, Minnesota Florence L., who remains at the parental home and Porter C., who is a resident of Minneapolis Minnesota. On the 12th of July, 1877, Mr. Peck was married to Miss Catherine W. Corune, of Linn, Wisconsin, and they have two sons, Harry C., who resides in Moline, Illinois, and Clifford H., who is a student in the historic old Phillips Academy, at Exeter, New Hampshire.

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