ByJerry L. Bryant
The fascinating history of the beautiful village of Deadwood and the surrounding Black Hills have generated a virtual multitude of legends, controversies, myths, outright lies, and documented histories. Perhaps one of the most perplexing controversies concerns gunfights and violent deaths in Deadwood. The myth is that someone met their doom everyday on the streets of Deadwood in a violent manner in the first year of the gold rush.
.That sure would add up to a lot of folks in very short time. Checking with other historians, the number falls short of that, Bob Lee gives an estimate of 77 violent deaths through out the entire Black Hills region during the first 2 years. Having said that, I would like to put emphasis on the word “estimate.”
Who knows how many men and women ran away from home in 1876-77 and never returned? Are some of their bones at the bottom of some abandoned mineshaft with a hundred tons of mill tailings on top of them? How many fell victim to foul play in the wilderness of some forgotten gulch only to have their bones scattered by coyotes and rodents? Sometime the victim could even die in the center of town and pass un-noticed, never to be recorded, leaving a family to wonder; “why don’t he write?”
Such is the case of “The Waif of Deadwood.” This article was published in the Black Hills Champion, on August 27, 1877. Was it a true story, or an ill-advised spot of frontier journalism designed to entertain the mining masses?
Click here to read: THE WAIF OF DEADWOOD