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Deadwood South Dakota

If you a young and eager prospector back in the day, old timers would have told you about the rumors of gold hidden in the Black Hills of South Dakota. Writings were found on a slab of rock with a carved message from a prospector named Esra Kind stating that there had been a raid on his small prospecting party in 1833. The message stated that he and his men were attacked by a band of Indians and that his men and horses were packing all the gold they could carry. Years later there would be stampeders who had came through the area on their way to the California gold rush. The men noticed gold in the small creeks, however none of them hung around because there was a much bigger prize waiting down in California. In the 1860's, a priest by the name of Father De Smet is said to have seen local Sioux Indians carrying gold which was said to come from the Black Hills.

Then in the early 1870's, some soldiers who were stationed in the area because of government talks and deals with native indian treaties were said to have found gold. In fact, it was during this time, that some of Custer's men were said to have found gold in the French Creek area, which is close to modern day Custer. After negotialtions with local natives, the area became open for more prospecting and settling.

Like all mining booms back then, word traveled fast, and it wasn't long before the Black Hills area was crawling with prospectors and miners. The town grew fast and by June of 1876 the towns first newspaper, Black Hills Pioneer was printing the news. Around 2,000 miners, and merchants were in Deadwood by August. By September, Deadwood had a total of 166 businesses in which twenty seven were saloons and a year later there were seventy five. By the end of that year the town had a couple banks and telegraph office and by the end of 1877 it is said that the population was 12,000 although some records indicate that it could have been as high as 25,000. Pretty much all the mining at the time was alluvial mining. Work was hard and the hours were long. Wages for miners were anywhere from 4 dollars a day to as high as 7 bucks a day.

Then like almost every old mine camp we read about, in September 1879 a fire broke out in a bakery and close to 300 buildings were lost. The town started rebuilding right away however this time the buildings were constructed out of brick and stone. Of course during the rebuilding time a lot of people left and by 1880 there were less than 4,000 residents. By 1883 the town got electricity and by 1888 a narrow guage railway was built to the town. This railway was built to connect Deadwood to the mines that were working around the town of Lead. Lead became home to the famous Homestake Mine.

It wouldn't take long however that a few of the creeks started to peter out and some of the mining operations shut down and this prompted some of the miners to start looking at hard rock mining. One of the problems with hard rock mining was the fact that there was no way to crush the ores at first so in 1888 the Deadwood Reduction Works company built a stamp mill on the outskirts of town. With the mill ore could be crushed but there was a problem when it came to smelting. Lead and copper were needed to help with the smelting process however these materials were not handy so the smelters tried using iron pyrite and a new smelter, the Deadwood and Delaware Smelter was built. This process was used for a few years until cyanide was started to be in the extraction of gold.

In 1890 the railroad came to town and that replaced the stagecoach service that had been used until that time. This railroad brought in ores from mines from further away to be processed. Then in 1894 another fire that was said to have started in a boarding house burnt a lot of the town down.

Deadwood was a town that saw some characters that would go down in the history books. Gunman Wild Bill Hickok was killed here on August 2, 1876. Both he and Calamity Jane were buried in the Mount Moriah Cemetery. Eleanor Dumont, also known by her nickname Madame Moustache was a notorious gambler on the American Western Frontier. Jack McCall the infamous murderer who On August 2, 1876, walked into Nuttal & Mann’s Saloon #10 and shot Wild Bill Hickok point blank in the back of the head. Let's not forget Wyatt Earp who arrived in Deadwood on September 9, 1876.

Then there was Seth Bullock who arrived in Deadwood two days after wild Bill had been shot. Seth became the first sherrif in town and eventually built Deadwood’s first hotel, the Bullock Hotel. It was Deadwood's finest most luxurious hotel of its time being a three story building with steam heat and indoor bathrooms on each floor.

Deadwood today is a tourist town. The population today is a far cry from the booming gold rush days with under 2,000 residents. Although the town had it's share of fires over the years, a lot of the orginal town still stands. There are casinos, guided tours of the town, eateries and bars and the list go on and on.