Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Old footage of downtown Spearfish



From the intersection of Main & Hudson, looking north..  The old American National Bank is in the distance at left; the Matthews Block is on the right.

Saturday, May 23, 2015

HBO's Deadwood series still lures visitors


Rich in flavor but short on facts, the HBO television series Deadwood keeps bringing new visitors to town.  One of the folks quite smitten with the series was Emilie Rusch, who wrote about Deadwood in this story for the Denver Post.  Read Searching for the ghosts of old Deadwood in the Black Hills.

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Society gathering in Lead a "huge success"

It was one of the more enjoyable meetings in recent memory, and society president Norma Kraemer dubbed it a "huge success."  And much of that success had to do with the special historic venue for the Lawrence County Historical Society and its 2015 spring meeting.

Homestake Opera House in about 1914
It was a step back into time as we gathered at the Homestake Opera House at 313 West Main in downtown Lead.  Built in August of 1914, the Homestake Opera House and Recreational Building was reportedly the brainchild of Phoebe Apperson Hearst and long-time Homestake Mine Superintendent Thomas Grier.  Phoebe's husband, George Hearst, was the force behind the Homestake Mining Company — and it was Phoebe Hearst's financial support that allowed the facility to be completed.

In this historical setting, LCHS members enjoyed a scrumptious buffet luncheon that was catered by the folks from Cheyenne Crossing, and their boss — David Brueckner — was there to make sure everything was as it should be.  And it was.

LCHS Norma Kraemer reaffirmed the society's recently-acquired status as a 501 (c)(3) nonprofit organization in the eyes of the Internal Revenue Service.  This is a move that is expected to bolster LCHS activities and fundraising capabilities.  She also heralded the most recent LCHS publication, "Lawrence County, South Dakota, Timelines," spearheaded by board member Mary Gallup-Livingston.

Three directors of the society were re-elected to new three-year terms.  They were Norma Kraemer, Jacke Mitchell, and Mary Gallup-Livingston.  Additionally, Norma Kraemer and Kim Keehn were selected as President and Vice-President, respectively.  Donna Watson was again tapped to serve as Secretary and Jacke Mitchell as Treasurer.  Congratulations and thanks to these good folks for their willingness to serve!

LCHS members enjoy the Opera House lobby
As a special bonus, door prizes were presented to several lucky members. These were historic topographical quadrangle maps produced years ago by the U. S. Geological Survey.  A tip of the hat and thanks to Mary Gallup-Livingston, who's been spending much time with maps of late, chronicling the schools of early Lawrence County.

The next general membership meeting for the Lawrence County Historical Society will be held at the Homestake Adams Research and Cultural Center in Deadwood on Sunday, September 27th.  Mike Fosha from the South Dakota Archeological Center will be featured on the program.  You'll be learning more about that in the weeks to come.

Attending "The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas" was the highlight of the day for many attendees.  The Gold Camp players did a fine job tickling our funny bones and demonstrating some exceptional acting and singing abilities.  It was very well done, and — of course — the venue made it really special.

Sarah Carlson provided a first-rate tour!
For other society members, the tour of the Historic Homestake Opera House was most special.  Sarah Carlson, Executive Director of the Opera House provided us with a guided tour that was rich in revealing great artistry and craftsmanship — both in original construction of the building, as well as in restoration work that has been ongoing since the Historic Homestake Opera House Society was formed in 1998.

This old building really is a treasure.  Homestake started construction in 1912 to include a library, swimming pool, bowling alley, meeting rooms, and of course the Opera House.  The facility was completed in 1914 and it became the hub of social and cultural activity in Lead and the surrounding area for some 70 years.    It was in 1984, however, that fire destroyed much of the theater, and it lay dormant for 11 long years.

We've posted a few photos of our visit to the Homestake Opera House in our LCHS Photo Gallery.  But what you'll see is just the tip of the iceberg.  

In the pool!  Look in our LCHS Gallery
So much has been done, and Director Sarah Carlson underscored that the next big step will be restoration of the Opera House stage, which is a focal point for activities in the facility.  To illustrate its heightened level of use, Carlson noted that some 70 performing arts events are on the calendar, along with five weddings, and more than two dozen bus tours.  They're also anticipating tours for some 600 elementary school students.  The ongoing restoration has definitely spurred increased activity and interest in the historic building. 

The restoration has given the Opera House new life, and you can learn more about it and the Homestake Opera House Society by visiting their website at HomestakeOperaHouseSociety.org   



Thursday, April 16, 2015

Sunday, February 22, 2015

New book covers history of Black Hills forestry

When Wyoming historian John F. Freeman once drove from Rapid City westward into the Black Hills, he became a bit frustrated with what he saw.

"My first impression was.....this is the most crass, commercialized area I've ever seen.  I couldn't really see the Black Hills, because of the billboards."

To be sure, Freeman was among many people who agonized over the manifestations of blatant commercialism in our region.  But over time, his views took on a new perspective, which he reveals in his book, "Black Hills Forestry -- A History," just published by the University Press of Colorado.

We just learned of the book after hearing Freeman interviewed by Wyoming Public Radio reporter Melodie Edwards.  (We've had a long and supportive relationship with South Dakota Public Broadcasting, but we sometimes re-tune our radios to listen to Wyoming Public Radio -- a bonus for folks living on the northern slopes of the Black Hills, not far from WPR's transmitter near Sundance.)

Gifford Pinchot
Freeman shares his views on the unique development of the Black Hills -- not just as a tourism magnet, but also as a rather successful experiment in becoming the first national forest in the country where timber was sold commercially without selling the land.

In many ways, Black Hills National Forest has become something of a model for the management of all national forests.

And Freeman gives much historical credit to French forester Gifford Pinchot, who today is regarded as the "Father" of the U. S. Forest Service.  Pinchot had visited the Hills in the wake of the Gold Rush years and focused his attention on ways to turn things around using "scientific forestry."  He was appointed by President Theodore Roosevelt to be the first head of the U.S. Forest Service, leading the agency from 1905 to 1910.  He later served two terms as Governor of Pennsylvania.

Hear a short interview with Freeman at this link to Wyoming Public Radio.

Thursday, January 29, 2015

LCHS Past-President Jerry Bryant dies at 69

Editor's Note:  Friend Jerry Bryant, whose enthusiasm for and pursuit of Black Hills history was widely recognized, died last weekend (1/24/2015) in Rapid City.  His passing came after several years of declining health.  His published obituary follows.  On this LCHS website, you'll find several stories reflecting Jerry Bryant's activism in local history.  May he rest in peace. Our condolences to Linda and the entire Bryant family.

Jerry Bryant
(October 22, 1945 - January 24, 2015)


Jerry Lynn Bryant, 69, Deadwood, SD died January 24, 2015 at Rapid City Regional Hospital with his family by his side. Jerry and his wife Linda had been residents of Deadwood for the past 15 years.

Jerry Bryant (October 1945-January 2015)
He was born in Muscatine, IA on October 22, 1945 to Lysle and Norma (Cotton) Bryant, he was an only child. He married Linda Harano on April 1, 1975 in Tokyo, Japan.

Jerry was a decorated Navy Senior Chief, he retired in 1988 after 24 ½ years of service. He then pursued a bachelor’s degree in anthropology and a master’s degree in cultural resources management from Eastern Washington University in Cheney, WA. After moving to Deadwood in 1999, he worked at the Bureau of Land Management, the Forest Service in Spearfish and then the Adams Museum in Deadwood. After retiring for a second time, he became involved in Deadwood's Historic Preservation and the Lawrence County Historical Society, where he served as president for a few years.

He is survived by his wife Linda, Deadwood; son, Mitsuo and fiancée Megan Petersen, Salt Lake City, UT; daughter, Sumie fiancé Brent Adams, Pewaukee, WI; granddaughters, Kaia, Mika, Hana and mother-in-law, Mary Ann Harano. He was preceded in death by his parents, Lysle and Norma Bryant and granddaughter, Amaya Lynn Bryant-Gonzales.

Services for Jerry will be held at a later date. In lieu of flowers, the family suggests memorials be sent to the Deadwood Trust for Historic Preservation PO Box 198, Deadwood, SD 57732.

Thursday, January 1, 2015

A New Year's celebration on the prairie

Ancient Greeks served them as an incentive to drink. Romans imported and fattened them. American Indians on both coasts considered them a staple in their diet. Abraham Lincoln served them to guests at parties at his Illinois home.
And in Dakota Territory in 1880, oysters were a New Year’s Day treat for some famous settlers.
Charles and Caroline Ingalls, their daughters Mary, Laura, Carrie and Grace, and their fellow homesteaders and friends near De Smet, Robert and Ella Boast, began the new year with a special dinner.
“There were oysters and honey and sauce [from] home dried fruit the Boasts had brought with them. We told stories and joked and had a happy New Year’s day,” Laura Ingalls Wilder wrote in Pioneer Girl: The Annotated Autobiography.
Charles Ingalls referred to the occasion as “the first oyster festival in Kingsbury county.”
Pioneer Girl is Wilder’s original nonfiction account of her life. It is the true story behind both her fictional “Little House” books for youngsters and the long-running Little House on the Prairie television series starring Michael Landon. The autobiography was recently published by the South Dakota Historical Society Press.
In Pioneer Girl, Wilder describes 16 years of the mostly westward journey that the Ingalls family took from 1869 through 1885. In 1879, the Ingalls family was living near Walnut Grove, Minn., when Charles accepted a job as bookkeeper and company storekeeper for A.L. Wells and Co., which sold goods to the graders on the Dakota Central Division of the Chicago & North Western Railway Co. The railroad was expanding its rail service west from Tracy, Minn. The family arrived at Silver Lake, near De Smet, in September.
The Boasts homesteaded about a mile east of De Smet. The Ingalls family had New Year’s dinner at the Boasts’ house.
“It was all the more fun because their one room was so small, that with the table set, we had to go in the outside door and around to our place at the table one by one and leaving the table we must reverse the order and go out the door following the scripture that, ‘The first shall be last and the last first,’” Wilder wrote in Pioneer Girl.
It was probably canned oysters on which the Ingalls and Boasts dined. Fresh or canned, oysters had soared in popularity in the 19th century, according to an annotation in Pioneer Girl. Packed in hermetically sealed cans, oysters “traveled the breadth of the wide trans-Missouri region almost as soon as Americans ventured there,” according to historian Paul Hedren. Railroads brought oysters almost everywhere by 1880.
In her fictional account of the New Year’s Day meal in By the Shores of Silver Lake, Wilder described how they dined on oyster soup and that Laura had never tasted anything as good as the “sea-tasting hot milk” with oysters at the bottom.
The first day of 1880 ushered in a winter that Wilder described in Pioneer Girl as passing quickly and merrily.
Individuals may order copies of Pioneer Girl: The Annotated Autobiography through the South Dakota Historical Society Foundation at (605) 773-6346 or www.sdhsf.org. More information about Wilder’s autobiography can be found at www.pioneergirlproject.org.

Sunday, December 21, 2014

A 'visit to Deadwood' is definitely on his bucket list!

by Larry Miller

One of the most beautiful roadways in the country, the Blue Ridge Parkway, cuts across western North Caroline.  It offers locals and tourists alike some delightful automobile excursions.

But for Earl Daniels, who lives in nearby Lenoir, North Carolina, there might be a way to improve upon that experience:  enjoy it from a horse-drawn coach!

Earl Daniels owns reproduction #17 of a stage coach built by North Carolinian Tom Winkler.  Daniels, who has his own museum, also has an 1890 vintage Doctor's Buggy and an
Overseer Buggy from about 1850.
A few weeks ago, Daniels contacted our Lawrence County Historical Society in an effort to track down a route map for the historic Cheyenne-Deadwood Stage Line.  He's still working to lay his hands on one.  After all, it would be a perfect complement to the Conover Coach reproduction he owns (No. 17) that was built by his neighbor down the road a ways, Tom Winkler.

"I estimate he is about 85 years old, and he has two full-time helpers and one part-timer who does the interior work.  All are in their late 70's or 80's.   The coach is totally handcrafted" notes Daniels, who observed that Winkler does all the metal work himself.

"It takes about six months for him to build one, and he does all the metal work himself.  He works from blue prints of the Abbot-Downng Concord Coach, which he obtained from the Smithsonian."
Daniels says the original coaches were built between 1826 and 1899.  There are approximately 157 original coaches remaining.

Winkler has also reportedly done reproductions of fully operational chuck wagons.

"He is an interesting man to talk to, and he truly loves his work," Daniels says of Winkler. "He is practicing what I believe to be a dying art."

Daniels has his own museum, which includes a vintage 1890 doctor's buggy and one of only 46 overseer buggies that date back to about 1850.  He says his interest is "simply the love for the mode of horse-drawn travel during the 1800s."

And with that in mind, Daniels says a visit to Deadwood is definitely on his "bucket list."

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Alonzo Edgerton and 1889 South Dakota politics

The name Alonzo J. Edgerton might have been linked with that of Richard Pettigrew or Gideon Moody’s as the first to represent South Dakota in the United States Senate.

“Edgerton was very popular throughout the state and he might have been able to secure the nomination (for U.S. senator) had he pressed hard enough to get it,” stated an article in Volume XXXIV of the “South Dakota Department of History Report and Historical Collections” compiled by the South Dakota State Historical Society.

Edgerton arrived in Dakota Territory in 1881, having been appointed chief justice of the territory’s Supreme Court by President Chester Arthur. He brought an impressive record of service with him from Minnesota, where he served as state senator, regent of the University of Minnesota, United States senator and was appointed the state’s first railroad commissioner. He organized a company of militia and served in the Civil War.

The movement for statehood was already underway when Edgerton came to Dakota Territory. Edgerton served as the president of the second constitutional convention of 1885. Voters in the southern half of Dakota Territory approved the constitution and elected a full roster of state officers. Edgerton and Gideon Moody of Deadwood were elected to the U.S. Senate and Arthur Mellette of Watertown was elected governor.

“Judges Moody and Edgerton were easily the outstanding figures in the convention, both of them slated to serve as the state’s new United States’ Senators later on,” wrote L.W. Lansing of the 1885 constitutional convention in a document contained in the South Dakota State Historical Society – State Archives.

Edgerton, Moody and Mellette went to Washington, D.C., in 1886 to plead the case for statehood before the House of Representatives, according to John R. Milton in “South Dakota: A History.” They were unsuccessful, as the Democratic-controlled U.S. House of Representatives feared that the new states would send Republicans to Congress.

The Enabling Act, also known as the Omnibus Bill, signed by President Grover Cleveland on Feb. 22, 1889, authorized constitutional conventions for Washington, Montana, North Dakota and South Dakota. This act cleared the way for South Dakota to become a state. Edgerton presided over this third constitutional convention in Sioux Falls. Later, the political parties held conventions to select candidates for all state offices.

Edgerton was again a candidate for U.S. Senator, under the banner of the Farmers’ Alliance party. When the time came to select senators for what would be the new state, Republicans Moody and Richard Pettigrew of Sioux Falls received the nod over Edgerton and fellow Farmers’ Alliance candidate Alonzo Wardall.

“When Edgerton refused to push his candidacy and finally withdrew from the contest, accepting the results of the caucus, he was accused by (W.H)  Loucks (of Moody County) of having betrayed the Alliance,” stated the Department of History article.

Lansing wrote that Edgerton withdrew his candidacy when Mellette extracted a pledge from Moody and Pettigrew that they would secure the federal judgeship for Edgerton.

“Edgerton denied that any ‘corrupt bargain’ had been consummated, but Loucks concluded that his acceptance of the judgeship proved he was a ‘traitor,’” the Department of History article stated.

Whatever the truth, Edgerton seemed to have support for being appointed federal judge.

According to an article in the Nov. 2, 1889, Black Hills Weekly Times, published in Deadwood, “By the terms of the omnibus bill the president is required to appoint a judge for the district of South Dakota … The question, ‘Who is the man for this exalted position?’ virtually has but one answer. The answer is, Hon. A.J. Edgerton of South Dakota. The press and the people unite in their opinion that no man in the state stands higher as a jurist, nor is so well fitted for the judgeship by education, and by life-long experience at the bar, on the bench and in the senate as is Judge Edgerton.”

Edgerton served as federal judge until his death from Bright’s disease at his home in Sioux Falls on Aug. 9, 1896.

A notice about Edgerton’s death in the Sioux Falls Press stated, “It was inevitable that a man of his positiveness and with his opportunities should inspire widely diverse sentiments among those with whom he came in contact – and it is therefore not strange that in his active lifetime, while thousands were bound to him personally and politically as with hooks of steel there were those whose relations with him were not so cordial – and he never took any pains to conciliate an enemy. But in all the clash of affairs with which he was connected no one ever alleged against him anything which was an impeachment of his personal integrity. His character as a man and citizen was absolutely above reproach, and there are multitudes throughout this new empire who will experience profound and sorrowful regret at his demise.”


This moment in South Dakota history is provided by the South Dakota Historical Society Foundation, the nonprofit fundraising partner of the South Dakota State Historical Society. Find us on the web at www.sdhsf.org. Contact us at info@sdhsf.org to submit a story idea.

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

"Deadwood Alive" to offer off-season performances

(photo courtesy of LindyLou)

Off-season performances of "Deadwood Alive" are being added for this fall and next spring  in historic Deadwood.  Read all about it in this Black Hills Pioneer story.  To learn about other history-related activities and events across the region, check out our "LINKS TO REGIONAL HISTORY NEWS" in the left-hand column. 



Monday, September 22, 2014

Railroading highlights the fall meeting of LCHS

by Larry Miller

Reed Richards
More than 50 people gathered yesterday (9/21/14) at the Homestake Adams Research and Cultural Center in Deadwood for the fall meeting of the Lawrence County Historical Society.  Balmy weather, a program about railroading in Lawrence County, and another fine lunch catered by Cheyenne Crossing's Stage-Stop Cafe combined to lure one of the larger turnouts in recent memory. Guest speaker for the event was railroad historian Reed Richards  of Spearfish.

Richards gave a photographic tour of railroad history in the county, sharing a myriad of photographs that depict the important role that the rail industry played in the growth and development of the northern Black Hills — particularly as it related to mining.

Born in Deadwood in 1944, railroading seems to have been a life-long passion for Richards, and he recalled youthful activities that exposed him to the many rail routes, depots, bridges, and other infrastructure that once abounded throughout the area.  An attorney, Richards left the region for schooling and a stint in Sioux Falls because of his father's job in 1975, but otherwise has lived in Lawrence County all of his life.

Black Hills & Ft. Pierre train in Elk Canyon
"I've lived in Centennial Prairie since 1975…and still do some legal work, if my client can find me and it's the kind of work that I still want to do," he says.  "I enjoy putting up hay in the summer and studying history and archaeology in the winter."  And his lingering passion for railroad history is quite evident.

His extensive collection of railroad photos spurred much conversation among the attendees. From rail route maps, mines and old bridges to depots and roundhouses, there were dozens of photos that kept most of the group focused on the screen throughout his presentation.  Find a few more photos related to this presentation in our LCHS Gallery.

President Norma Kraemer took a few moments to unveil the new LCHS booklet  Town Timelines of Lawrence County, South Dakota.  The publication has been compiled under the auspices of the Lawrence County Historical Society as part of celebrating South Dakota's 125 Anniversary of Statehood this year.  Mary Gallup-Livingston of Whitewood has served as chairperson of the committee that has worked on the project. 

LCHS "Town Timelines" booklet
The Town Timelines booklet includes information and photos from Central City, Deadwood, Lead, Nemo, St. Onge, Spearfish, and Whitewood. Among those participating in production of the booklet were Rocky Mattson, Donna Watson, Mary Livingston, Cynthia Harlan, Jean Martin, Don Toms, Norma Kraemer, Jeannine Guern, and Joanna Jones.

The booklets have been distributed free of charge to the public libraries in Deadwood, Lead, Spearfish, and Whitewood.  Also, copies have been given to the elementary schools in Whitewood, Lead-Deadwood, and Spearfish, where South Dakota history is taught in 4th Grade.  Individuals interested in purchasing a copy of the booklet should contact the Lawrence County Historical Society.  The cost for the booklets is $15.00 each.  Send an  e-mail to Town Timelines