Thursday, March 6, 2014

"The Sampson of the Black Hills"

Maurice Walsh
Maurice Walsh was a native of Limerick County, Ireland, who came to the Black Hills in1876, arriving in Deadwood in time to help lay out the town on April 26, 1876.

Walsh undertook many things during his lifetime that brought him a reputation for being the "strong man" of the Black Hills.  En route from Cheyenne, one of the horses died on the trail, which made it necessary to pull one wagon by hand.  Walsh, along with several others, did the job, taking 21 days to accomplish the unbelievable chore.  Walsh continued to Deadwood where he got a job operating a placer mine for seven dollars a day.

There he lived in a cave under a bank.

He was in Deadwood at the time Preacher Smith was killed, and years later was to reveal that he felt the good preacher had been done in by gamblers who felt their livelihood threatened by "Bible-toting" Smith.

In 1877 Walsh homesteaded near Spearfish but then went to work in the mines at Central City.  It was there that he performed a feat of strength that added to his reputation as the "Sampson of the Black Hills."

As the story goes, he was offered $125 to clear a site for the building of a hotel.  The area was covered with spruce trees and thick underbrush.  He engaged the help of one man and a wheelbarrow.  The helper dug around the base of the trees and then Walsh, using his powerful arms as a stump puller, jerked the trees out by the roots.  By 6 p.m. that day the job was finished, and he went to collect his $125.  The man who had hired him objected to paying $125 for just one day's work, but Walsh told him, "You'll pay me according to the agreement or I'll twist you like I did the trees."  One look at the six foot plus, 240-pound man convinced the employer.

Walsh was married to Mary Lynch at Deadwood in 1891 and the couple moved to Redwater ranch, and later to Spearfish.

(Excerpted from the Deadwood Pioneer Times, May 26, 1976 and reprinted in the 1981 LCHS book  "Some History of Lawrence County")