Sunday, October 25, 2009

...about Crook City

It’s hard to believe that the sleepy little Lawrence County by-way known as Crook City was once a teeming community that overshadowed other towns in the Black Hills region of Dakota Territory.

Some accounts reported as many as 10,000 inhabitants in and around Crook City.

Understandably, the history of this community is woven with fascinating stories that help add to the mystique of the gold rush era in Lawrence County.

The Lawrence County Historical Society publication Some History of Lawrence County contains considerable, if not cohesive, information that helps tell the story of Crook City. Society member Jim Weaver penned an article entitled Crook City - Dakota Territory for the LCHS Historical Marker newsletter some time back. He also assembled a nice collection of photographs of Crook City and its cemetery. We've aggregated just a few of them for display in this Crook City Gallery.

Our thanks to LCHS president Jerry Bryant for alerting us to the Crook City materials, and to Jim Weaver for pulling much of it together for the Historical Marker.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Davis cops history award

Tireless cemetery guru Vernon Davis of Beulah, Wyoming, a Lawrence County Historical Society member, has been duly recognized for his hard work in cemetery preservation and restoration.

First, Davis was one of several Black Hills region folks featured in stories published last summer by the Rapid City Journal and the Lawrence County Journal. Staff writer Tim Velder noted that Davis and others are working with youth organizations like 4-H and Boy Scouts in an effort to get their assistance in taking care of neglected cemeteries.

“All of our history is in those cemeteries,” Davis was quoted as saying. “All of those people are our history. If we’re not going to take care of the cemeteries, then we aren’t going to take care of anything else.” Read the entire “Cemeteries” story.

Davis, who is a lifetime member of the society, was also honored in late September at the West River History Conference in Rapid City for his work related to cemeteries. He was presented with 2009 Herbert W. Blakely Award.

In the photo above, society member Jeannine Guern of Deadwood helps Davis admire the award during the LCHS meeting October 18th in Lead.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

LCHS gets museum update

The old “Days of ’76” museum building in Deadwood will soon come tumbling down, giving way to a modern two-story structure with climate control and room to expand the museum’s venerable collection of Old West and Native American artifacts.

Museum Board President Jon Mattson told some 40 members of the Lawrence County Historical Society Sunday (10/18) that the museum has raised about $4.5 million in cash and pledges. That’ll allow workers to proceed with demolition of the old museum beginning in November, and bids on a new structure will likely be opened in February 2010.

Mattson, along with Deborah Gangloff from the Days of ’76 Museum, spoke with society members during the LCHS fall meeting at Lewies’ Eatery in Lead. Deb and Jon (at right) paused for this photo after their presentation.

Mattson is hopeful that construction on the new building can begin as early as next March and be complete by March of 2011. The history of the Days of ’76, which dates back to 1923, is one of three major components for the new museum, along with the more than 50 old horse-drawn wagons and the historic Don Clowser collection of Old West artifacts.

The wagons, many of which have been featured in Days of ’76 parades over the years, date back to 1876 and include stage coaches, buckboards, and a variety of other horse-drawn carriages. While the old museum – which started as a storage shed – has provided a roof over the historic wagons, Gangloff says there is very little in the way of interpretive material because of limited space. That will be remedied with the new 32,000 square foot structure.

The Days of ’76 parade and rodeo are the oldest continuing historic attraction in Deadwood. The Deadwood Days of ’76 and the Days of ’76 Museum are incorporated separately, and each has its own board of directors.

After providing a narrative to an excellent Power Point presentation, Deborah Gangloff led a group of LCHS members on a special tour of the old museum. For many, this proved to be the highlight of the day! Take a glimpse in our Old Days of ’76 Museum gallery.

For many of the tour group, it was the first time in the facility – and likely the last – before the structure is demolished.

It was a rare opportunity to take one last peek at the building which has been home to these historic collections – soon to be replaced by a more spacious facility that can better accommodate the preservation and restoration of some of the best Old West artifacts in the country.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

A look back at hydro-electric power

With much emphasis upon wind energy across the country these days -- and other ways of furthering a "green environment" -- we thought it might be interesting to reach back a few decades to see what was going on with power generation in Lawrence County.

Of course, Homestake Mine was still going strong, and they were producing their own electricity at two hydro-electric plants along Spearfish Creek.

The first one built was #1, located adjacent to the City Campground on the edge of Spearfish, and it still is generating electricity for the City of Spearfish.

The other plant, #2, was farther up Spearfish Canyon. This is a recent picture of the dormant facility, which still attracts curious travelers as they sojourn up and down the canyon.

Here is a link to "Hydro-Electric Plants #1 and #2" written by Bob Parker and Tom Mayer. It was included in the 1981 tome Some History of Lawrence County, which was produced by the Lawrence County Historical Society and is now out of print. Copies of the book are available in area public libraries.