Thursday, May 1, 2014

Immigrant artifacts shared at LCHS spring meeting

Ronette Rumpca
About 40 people braved some nasty weather to enjoy the spring meeting of the Lawrence County Historical Society last weekend (4/30/14) at the Homestake Adams Research and Cultural Center in Deadwood.  But what's a little snow and ice to South Dakotans in the spring?  We can always use the moisture, right?

Speaker for the event was South Dakota Humanities Scholar Ronette Rumpca from the State Historical Society in Pierre, who provided some keen insight into the varied immigrant groups that settled in South Dakota.

Many immigrants found their way into Dakota Territory in 1863 after passage of the first Homestead Act.  Few places had the enormous ethnic diversity found in early Lead, due largely to the concentration of peoples who had come from near and far to find their fortunes in gold mines of the area.  In his book, Deadwood,  the late Watson Parker observed that 41 percent of the original members of the Society of Black Hills Pioneers were foreign-born.

A "troll doll"
 Although their concentrations were far more prevalent in eastern South Dakota, Scandinavians could be found statewide -- along with Germans, Germans from Russia, Irish, Italians, Greeks, Chinese, and many others.  The wonderful patchwork quilt of ethnic groups was an important part of Dakota diversity -- evidence of that diversity is still found throughout the Black Hills and across the state.

It was an opportunity to not only hear about the immigrants, but also to get a close-up look at many of the artifacts that they brought with them from the old world.  Ranging from Swedish Dala horses and Chinese guardian lions to Norwegian lefsa sticks and other unusual items, many of which were passed among the audience for closer inspection.

Milton and Jacke Mitchell
An outstanding buffet luncheon was served by Dave Brueckner and his staff from the Stagestop Cafe at Cheyenne Crossing.

A special presentation was made to long-time society treasurer Jacke Mitchell of Spearfish.  An engraved coffee mug -- noting her significant contribution to the society -- was presented by LCHS president Norma Kraemer.

By the way, you can see more photographs -- and in higher resolution -- by following this link to our LCHS Photo Gallery.

There was also a reminder of the forthcoming spring tour to the Hydro-electric plant in Spearfish on Sunday, May 18th.  The tour will also include a downtown walking tour of the historic Spearfish Commercial District.  Watch this site for details!