Sunday, May 8, 2016

Deadwood Saints and Sinners, by Jerry Bryant

Local historian and author Jerry Bryant now has his book Deadwood Saints And Sinners  available on,, and  Get your copy today!

Monday, April 25, 2016

Spring Meeting 2016!

We are proud to announce our annual Spring Meeting on May 15, 2016 at High Noon, at the Homestake Adams Research & Cultural Center in Deadwood.
$15 gets you lunch and a most unique presentation.  Please contact Donna Watson at 605-578-9770 for reservations and more information.
There will be a fascinating presentation that will focus on the Botanical Legacy of Deadwood's Chinatown District.  Archaeological excavations from 2001-2004 revealed several major structures in Deadwood's Chinatown District.  Also noted were privies and a ceremonial pit that was probably used for disposal of personal items.  The Black Hills State University (BHSU) herbarium – a plant research facility located in Spearfish, South Dakota – has recently analyzed materials collected from the site. 

The presentation will introduce the BHSU herbarium and its botanical research projects, summarize the known history of Deadwood's Chinatown District, report on the composition of plant specimens recovered to date from the study site, and offer preliminary insights on uses of plants by the Chinese population.
u won't get such detailed information anywhere else!

Also in May will be the Whitewood History Dedication Ceremony of the Railroad Main Line that went from Whitewood to Belle Fourche! Keep an eye on our website for the upcoming announcement of the date!

Sunday, September 27, 2015

LCHS members help maintain the Preston Cemetery

An undated photograph of Preston, South Dakota and surrounding environs

Several decades ago the Lawrence County Historical Society (LCHS) adopted the cemetery in Preston.

With materials donated by Wharf Mine, the society erected a chain link fence around all of the known graves. Through the years the society has sponsored several work days to remove trees, saplings, and weeds, as well as set up grave markers and related tasks. During those years and more recently, individuals of the society have performed light maintenance at the site.

Jacke Mitchell, Verla Mae Weaver and Jim Weaver at the Preston Cemetery
Verla and Jim Weaver made several trips to the cemetery this past summer. On one occasion they guided a Black Hills Model T Club tour of the area in and around Preston.  During the stop at the cemetery, Jim and fellow LCHS member Ivan Hovland  along with several members of the Model T club  pitched in to clear the area of saplings, leaning trees, and debris.

On another occasion, the Weavers and LCHS Treasurer Jackie Mitchell visited the cemetery and surrounding area. Jackie and her late husband, Milton, had participated in several of the LCHS sponsored work days over the years to spray the area for weeds, brush, and other undesirable plants.  

Thanks to the LCHS volunteers and members of the Black Hills Model T Club for helping in this effort to "spruce up" the old Preston Cemetery.  And thanks to Jim Weaver for providing these photos and the accompanying information!

Deadwood History hours change November 1st

DEADWOOD – Deadwood History’s Adams Museum, Days of ‘76 Museum and Historic Adams House will be open from 10:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m.Tuesday through Sunday through October 31, 2015.  The museums are closed on Mondays.  

Winter hours will begin in November with the Adams Museum and Days of ‘76 Museum scheduled to be open from 10:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m., Tuesday through Sunday.  Closed Mondays and winter holidays.  The Historic Adams House will be closed November through March, but will open for group tours with advanced reservations.  

Admission to the Adams Museum is by donation; the Days of ‘76 Museum is $5.50 for adults, $2.50 for children ages 7 – 13 and free to children 6 and under; the Historic Adams House is $8 for adults, $3 for children ages 7 – 13 and free to children 6 and under. 

The Homestake Adams Research and Cultural Center (HARCC) is open from 10:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m.Monday through Friday.  

Free admission is offered to the Adams Museum, Days of ‘76 Museum and Historic Adams House for all Deadwood History members.  Membership allows Deadwood History to offer educational programs, create new exhibits and benefit on-going preservation needs.  

Every form of support, whether it is an individual membership or a donation, is deeply appreciated and allows Deadwood History to continue to fulfill its mission to educate and engage our community.  For information on becoming a member call 605-722-4800

Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Badger Clark captured life in the American West

(Editor's Note:  This feature is provided by the South Dakota Historical Society Foundation, the nonprofit fundraising partner of the South Dakota State Historical Society.)

Badger Clark turned four years of cowboy life into a career as one of America’s most successful cowboy poets.

Charles Badger Clark Jr., was born Jan, 1, 1883, in Albia, Iowa. His father, a minister, moved the family to the Plankinton area three months later. The family later lived in Mitchell, Huron and Deadwood.  Clark attended Dakota Wesleyan University for one year and then lived in Cuba for two years before returning to the Black Hills to work for the Lead Daily Call. When he was diagnosed with tuberculosis, he followed a doctor’s advice to move to a dry climate. He went to Arizona, where he tended a small herd of cattle at a ranch near Tombstone.

“I drearily acknowledge that I was no buckaroo worthy of the name,” Clark wrote.

The compensations he found from cowboy life were freedom and the beauty of the desert range. He expressed his feelings for his new life in verse.

His stepmother, Anna, sent a poem he included in a letter to her to Pacific Monthly magazine in California.
When that poem, “Ridin’,” was published and Clark received $10 for it, he decided he had found a job for life.

“If they’ll pay money for such stuff as that, I’m fixed,” Clark said, according to his biographer Helen Morganti.

Badger Clark
After four years in Arizona, Clark returned to the family home in Hot Springs, where his father had taken the job of chaplain at the Battle Mountain Sanitarium. After his father’s death in 1921, Clark continued to live with his stepmother until she moved in 1926 to what was then called the State Soldiers’ Home and Clark moved to Custer State Park.

Returning to South Dakota did not end Clark’s career as a poet. Anna encouraged her stepson to write a poem reflecting the cowboy religion. Clark told her that he had heard cowboys use biblical expressions, but not in the context of a religious nature, according to Jessie Sundstrom in “Badger Clark: Cowboy Poet with Universal Appeal.”

Nonetheless, Clark did comply with his stepmother’s request, which resulted in one of his most popular poems. “A Cowboy’s Prayer” has appeared on postcards, in greeting cards and is read at rodeos.

The fact that the poem is often attributed to “author anonymous” did not seem to bother Clark.

“Mr. Anonymous has written some marvelously good things in the past and when a man reaches a height where he is identified with Anonymous, that’s success,” Clark is quoted as saying.

Clark’s first volume of poems, “Sun and Saddle Leather,” was published in 1915. The novel “Spike,” containing short stories about life on the Arizona ranch, was published in 1925. “Sky Lines and Wood Smoke” was published in 1935, and “boots and bylines” and “When Hot Springs was a Pup” were published after Clark’s death.

The cowboy poet’s work has never gone out of print. The South Dakota Historical Society Foundation, the nonprofit fundraising partner of the South Dakota State Historical Society, oversees the reprinting and distribution of Clark’s work as well as other materials about him.

Clark took his poems to the people, reading them at schools, colleges, clubs, churches and other gatherings. A commanding presence with a Van Dyke mustache and beard, he would recite his verse wearing knee-high boots, riding breeches and a military-style coat.

He is credited with speaking at the first cowboy poetry event in Elko, Nev., where he entertained a large crowd at the Elko High School gym on April 3, 1926. He was honored at the 2013 National Cowboy Poetry Gathering in Elko when an ensemble cast of artists from across the West recited or sang their favorite work of his.

Often speaking for “travel and meals,” honorariums from his speeches and publishing royalties earned him $500 to $700 a year, enough to live at his cabin in Custer State Park. Clark described his home, the Badger Hole, as “four rooms and a path.” It had no running water, no electricity and was heated by burning wood in the range, the fireplace and in a round heater in the living room.

“Sufficient,” he said, “for a bachelor in the backwoods.”

Although never married, Clark was once engaged to a classmate at Deadwood High School, according to Sundstrom.

Gov. Leslie Jensen named Clark the South Dakota poet laureate in 1937, but Clark may have preferred another title, as he signed a letter, “Dutifully your poet lariat, Badger Clark.”

Clark remained the state’s poet laureate until his death from throat and lung cancer in Rapid City on Sept. 27, 1957. He is buried in Evergreen Cemetery, Hot Springs. 

He left a poetic heritage rich in beauty and an understanding of the American West.

Wednesday, July 8, 2015

The day Babe Ruth came to Deadwood

Ruth  was 27 when he came to Deadwood.
By Larry Miller

1922.  It was a pretty fair year for the New York Yankees baseball team.  Despite the "Americans" having lost the World Series to their local rivals, the New York Nationals in four straight games, the New York Americans had handily won the American League pennant.  Even better, they would no longer be tenants in the Polo Grounds, since they were building a new stadium across town that would become known as "Yankee Stadium."

To many, it would become known as the "House that Ruth built."  George Herman Ruth was a slugger extraordinaire.  In that 1922 season, he slammed 35 home runs and amassed 99 Runs Batted In (RBIs), helping the Yankees win 61 percent of their regular season games.

With the major league season over, "The Babe" hit the road with teammate Bob Meusel for a western "barnstorming" tour, and Deadwood, South Dakota was part of their 8-game schedule!  Game day was set for October 19, 1922.

Many businesses across the region closed that day, allowing employees and families to head for Deadwood to see the the legendary slugger play ball.  Ruth and Meusel were "treated royally" while they were in the Hills.  A group of Deadwood businessmen met them in Sturgis and accompanied them to Deadwood by way of the Boulder Park Highway, and they were treated to a luncheon before being escorted to the ballpark.

The Deadwood baseball club had finished at the top of the six-team Black Hills League, which was composed of Lead, Spearfish, Sturgis, Rapid City, Aladdin, and Deadwood.  For this exhibition game, Deadwood would be up against an All-Star Team of top players from the other five teams in the league.  They were dubbed the Black Hills League All-Stars. 

Both Ruth and Meusel played first base that day — Ruth for Deadwood and Meusel for the All-Stars.

Deadwood won the game, 4-2, in what was a relatively lackluster game.  "The Babe" got two hits and struck out once.  Muesel collected just one hit at four bats.  But, alas, there were no home runs — likely a big disappointment to the fans who had packed the Amusement Park that afternoon.

Deadwood's Bill Ewing
The Weekly Pioneer-Times later wrote, "…those who saw yesterday's contest saw nothing that should cause thirty-five thousand New York fans to stand in line from daylight in the morning until two o'clock in the afternoon to secure a ticket, permitting them to see these fellows perform."

Nonetheless, it was heady stuff for local baseball fans.  And Babe Ruth would go on to lead New York to eight pennants and four World Series Championships over a 14 year career with the Yankees. He was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1936.

Playing center field for the Deadwood team that October day back in 1922 was Bill Ewing.  As the game program noted, "Bill was a hard worker and during the season played in nearly every position on the team, pitching two games, winning both; caught three games, played the initial sack three games, and held down second base in three games…he hit in "clean-up" position and his hard hitting, especially early in the season, was often the deciding factor in winning games for the local club."

Ewing's grandson, Bruce Taylor from Oregon, was kind enough to share a copy of his grandfather's program booklet from that day.  Click on the link below and enjoy!

 The program for the Oct. 19, 1922 Baseball Game 

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Remembering a Great American Cowboy

A map of cattle trails and a life-size statue of James A. “Tennessee” Vaughn astride a horse dominate the Founders Room at the High Plains Western Heritage Center in Spearfish. 
Cattlemen like Vaughn were significant in developing the open range and cattle operations in South Dakota and Wyoming.
Remembering a great American cowboy  "Tennessee" Vaughn
The High Plains Western Heritage Center will celebrate the Great Western Cattle Trail Event and the National Day of the American Cowboy on July 3 -5 with a Western art show, saddle displays and American cowboy displays. 
The Western Heritage Center is participating in the Great Western Cattle Trail Project, part of a nine-state effort by the Great Western Cattle Trail Association to identify the general route of that trail. The Great Western Cattle Trail ran from Texas to Dakota, Montana and Wyoming territories. Concrete markers on the High Plains Western Heritage Center’s grounds identify the trail’s route and an extensive floor display at the museum tells the trail’s story. Call the Western Heritage Center at (605) 642-9378 for more information about the Great Western Cattle Trail Event and the National Day of the American Cowboy.
In the years after the Civil War, from the 1870s to the early 1890s, Texas cattle outfits drove their herds north to summer pasture to finish them for eastern markets. According to historian and author Paul Higbee of Spearfish, the land in Texas was overgrazed and the High Plains area offered outstanding grass.
Economics were also a factor, he said. The cattle were used to satisfy federal contracts on the reservations.
As a trail boss, Vaughn was credited with bringing more longhorns up the trail than any other trail boss. One of Vaughn’s responsibilities would be to advance the herd to determine grass and water sources and report back to the drovers to set up night camp.  A trail boss was responsible for the safety of the cattle and had to be skilled in working with both cowboys and the owners of the cattle outfits.
The usual trail drive formation was made up of 11 positions of riders.  Some cowboys were in charge of the herd of horses from which cowboys selected their mounts. There was also a cook. 
It took an average of 90 days to travel from Texas to the forks of the Grand River in South Dakota’s Perkins County.
While most cattle herds on the trail numbered 2,500, Vaughn sometimes trailed twice as many.
Vaughn was born on July 22, 1851, in Lebanon, Tenn. He went to Texas in 1866, at age 15, and was hired as a cowboy by the Ellison Brothers outfit at Lockhart, Texas. 
Vaughn made the first of his nine trail drives in about 1873, driving cattle for the Driskill Cattle Company from Texas to Wyoming. He would be with the Driskill outfit for 18 years before working for A.J. “Tony” Day, general manager of the Turkey Track. Both the Driskill and the Turkey Track were large cattle outfits that had operations in western South Dakota. Vaughn later drove horses to Canada.
Vaughn married Ella Bacon Dorsett in Idaho on Christmas Day, 1887. The newlyweds moved to the Spearfish area, living with Ella’s adoptive parents, David and Amanda Dorsett. In 1904, the Vaughns moved into a house in Spearfish. They raised seven children.
His obituary stated that “Mr. Vaughn had the reputation of being able to take a herd of cattle over the long trail and have them arrive in better condition than any other trailboss on the range.”
An Old Timers’ Annual Picnic was started in 1925 as a way for cowboys to get together. Ed Lemmon wrote that Vaughn attended the Old Timers’ Picnic at Bixby, near the present-day town of Bison, in 1932 and called him an “outstanding figure.” Lemmon was an early-day cattleman after whom the town of Lemmon is named.
Vaughn was active in the Oddfellow Lodge, the Spearfish Social Club and the Congregational Church in Spearfish. He died at his home in Spearfish on Jan. 8, 1934. 
“The present generation can scarcely conceive the life that these heroes of the plains lived and loved,” wrote Vaughn’s son, Ernest, in a 1976 article that appeared in Black Hills area newspapers. “Though ever flirting with danger, they blazed the trail, they opened the way and led the men ever on toward better things.”
- 30 -
Note:  This story was provided courtesy of the South Dakota Historical Society Foundation, which is the nonprofit fundraising partner of the South Dakota State Historical Society.  Photo courtesy of Larry Miller.

Monday, June 8, 2015

Story breaks about "untouched Black Hills cave"

Media from around the globe carried a story last weekend (6/7/15) about an "untouched" Black Hills cave that was discovered by the U.S. National Park Service in 2004 — but only now is being fully investigated by scientists.  Although the specific site hasn't been revealed, officials did divulge that it's in the vicinity of Wind Cave.  Here's a link to the full ABC News story about "Persistence Cave".

Tuesday, June 2, 2015

A profile of Nemo, South Dakota

By Iva Beardshear
(Re-printed from the 1981 book "Some History of Lawrence County")

In the southeast corner of Lawrence County in a small valley surrounded by towering limestone-capped cliffs is the little village of Nemo which came into being in 1877.  The origin of the name is unknown.

Homestake sawmill at Nemo, South Dakota
In 1898 the Homestake Mining Company set up a timber camp in Nemo and began operations of harvesting the timber.  It was the first timber sold by the National Forests and was known as Case One.  The timber camp employees traveled two miles south to the mill at Estes to work until 1912.

In 1898 the Black Hills and Ft. Pierre narrow gauge railroad was extended to Nemo and in 1908 extended to Piedmont.

The 1900 U.S. Census of Nemo Township lists two hundred residents.  The main occupations given are farmer, day laborer, farm laborer, teamster and railroad laborer.  A Swede named Lewis Anderson is listed as working in a meat market, James McLeod was a sawmill engineer and Thomas Stevens was the sawmill foreman.  Among others listed are James Gore, Frank Stevens and Gabriel Fredrickson, all of whom were store clerks; John O’Brien, a mechanical engineer; and James Hoyt, a timber inspector.

Robert O. Robinson, who had been born in Canada in October of 1851, was manager of the timber department from 1891 until his retirement in 1921.  He, too, is listed on the 1900 census along with his wife, Irene, and two children, Hellen and James K.

Nemo continued to thrive and grow, and a new, larger and more modern mill was built in Nemo in 1912.  Housing was provided for employees during these years.  The town contained a hotel for the convenience of the employees, a good two-story elementary school, a branch store of the Hearst Mercantile Company, Woodman Hall, a resident doctor and several summer homes.

W. D. Beardshear succeeded Robinson as manager on January 1, 1921 and continued to add improvement and modern methods.  A booklet published in 1921 and entitled “A Souvenir of Nemo, South Dakota” stated, “The camp is well equipped with a water system and electric lights, and comfortable and commodious houses are supplied to the employees.  The saw-mill is one of the best in the Black Hills, and annually turns out many million feet of lumber and timber, which is shipped by rail to Lead for the use of the mine and its reduction plants.

The Hearst Mercantile Company has a branch store here which has been under the management of Gabe Fredricksen for about twenty-five years.  They carry a large stock of general merchandise, though employees are free to trade wherever they please.

The new Community Church now in process of erection will be built of logs and finished in keeping with the forest.  The Presbyterians keep a resident minister in Nemo, but all denominations receive a cordial reception.”  In 1921 Rev. Mrs. A.E. Deason was pastor of the Community Church.

Undated view of Nemo, South Dakota
The 20’s also saw a new and larger schoolhouse to accommodate the growing population and three-year high school.  The Woodman Hall received a large addition used for high school basketball and community gatherings.  For many years the people of Nemo held a community Thanksgiving similar to that which the Pilgrims had.  This gathering would number from 75 to 200 people.

The railroad was taken out in 1930, giving way to trucking transportation of the mine timbers and lumber.  In the late 30’s the available timber being cut to allow new growth was not large enough for harvesting; the Homestake built a large modern mill in Spearfish.  Of course that took the larger part of the population from Nemo.

Nemo, however, is still a lively place with a population of some thirty-five or forty families.  In 1946 the Frank Troxell family bought the properties and established a resort for hunting, fishing and horseback riding.  There is still a small store there and a good restaurant at the 4T Guest Ranch.  The church continues to have Sunday services and there is a great deal of social activity for the size of the place.