Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Deadwood, South Dakota

Some of our family may be wondering what we are still doing in the Black Hills when we need to be at Heather's wedding by Saturday.  Well, for one thing I am a day behind in my postings, and secondly we did leave for Fort Collins, Colorado today and are currently residing in Wyoming.  As we drove into Cheyenne, on Interstate 25 we passed by two pronghorn grazing close to the highway.  I was so tempted to have John stop our rig and try to get them to go over the fence and back to wherever they came from, but common sense stopped me.  Surely the local people know how to deal with that situation!  I did question the owner of the rv park where we stopped for the night about the antelope.  He asserted that for some reason there are not all that many accidents with the pronghorn.  He also said, with a grin, that they are known around here as "speed goats".  They are more goat than antelope, and belong to that family.  Also, according to him, they do not have the muscles to go over fences, but under them.  Well, I did promise to write about Deadwood, once known as Deadwood Gulch by the early miners.  They noticed many dead trees around their camps and so named it Deadwood.  The town is totally surrounded by the Black Hills, quite a beautiful setting, and does not deserve its name!  The second building in the picture below is the old courthouse.
 Deadwood was first settled in 1876, by miners hoping to strike it rich by panning for gold.  It very soon became the commercial center for the Black Hills.  The town's prosperity was  linked to and stimulated by its advance mining technology.  Also in its first year the postal service, stagecoach and telegraph came to the town.  They were followed by the railroad which brought in the equipment for the first saw mill and ore processing plant.  One of the old mine buildings is pictured below- it is the slime processing plant of the Homestake Gold Company.  Now it is a hotel and casino as well as an antique mall.
In its early years Deadwood gained the reputation as "the wickedest camp on earth".  John and I had picked up a map which provided us with a walking tour of the town, and we first went to what once was called the  Badlands.  It is an area of Deadwood populated in the 19th century with brothels, gambling halls and opium houses.  On August 2,1876 in Saloon Number 10 on this street Wild Bill Hickok was shot in the head.
He slumped forward and out of his hand fell black aces and eights, which has been forever more since then been called "a dead man's hand".  In 1879 a fire swept through the town and destroyed 300 of its wooden buildings, followed by other fires in 1982 and 1987.  Major flooding has also occurred in Deadwood over the years so that many of the buildings are only replicas of what once stood there.  A sign at Saloon Number 10 notes that it is the "site" where the  "Prince of Pistoleers" died at the age of  39 years.  After touring Deadwood we drove to Moriah Cemetery where Hickok is buried.  Near his monument (pictured below) is also where Calamity Jane (1850?-1903) is buried.  Her dying wish was to be buried next to Wild Bill, as she claimed to be his lover- supposedly not true.  We found buried near her Dora Dufran, a much beloved madam and owner of many brothels.  She befriended Martha Canary (Calamity Jane).  We discovered our walk through the cemetery to be as fascinating as our tour of Deadwood.  There are several potters fields there, as well as sections where the more notable citizens of the town are buried; successful business and mining men as well as statesman, editors, publishers and South Dakota's first woman lawyer.

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