|Today, Dick & Lou and Larry & I traveled about 50 miles to visit the town of Deadwood. A bit of history for you: In 1874, Colonel George Armstrong Custer led an expedition into the Hills and announced the discovery of gold on French Creek near present-day Custer, South Dakota. Custer's announcement triggered the Black Hills Gold Rush and gave rise to the lawless town of Deadwood, which quickly reached a population of around 5,000.
In early 1876, frontiersman Charlie Utter and his brother Steve led a wagon train to Deadwood containing what were deemed to be needed commodities to bolster business, including gamblers and prostitutes, which proved to be a profitable venture. Demand for women was high, and the business of prostitution proved to be a good market.
But,the town really attained notoriety for the murder of Wild Bill Hickok, and remains the final resting place of Hickok and Calamity Jane, as well as slightly less famous figures such as Seth Bullock. It became known for its wild and almost lawless reputation, during which time murder was common, and punishment for murders not always fair and impartial. The prosecution of the murderer of Hickok, Jack McCall, had to be sent to retrial because of a ruling that his first trial, which resulted in an acquittal, was invalid because Deadwood was an illegal town. This moved the trial to a Lakota court, where he was found guilty and then hanged.
As the economy changed from gold rush to steady mining, Deadwood lost its rough and rowdy character and settled down into a prosperous town. In 1876 a smallpox epidemic swept through the camp, with so many falling sick that tents had to be set up to quarantine them. Also in that year, General George Crook pursued the Sioux Indians from the Battle of Little Big Horn on an expedition that ended in Deadwood, and that came to be known as the Horsemeat March.
A fire on September 26, 1879, devastated the town, destroying over 300 buildings and consuming everything belonging to many inhabitants. Without the opportunities of rich untapped veins of ore that characterized the town's early days, many of the newly impoverished left town to try their luck elsewhere.
Another major fire in September 1959 came close to destroying the town. About 4,500 acres were burned and an evacuation order was issued. Nearly 3,600 volunteer and professional firefighters, including personnel from the Homestake Mine and Ellsworth Air Force Base, worked to contain the fire, which resulted in a major regional economic downturn.
Then, in 1961 the entire town was designated a National Historic Landmark. Gambling was legalized in 1989 and immediately brought significant new revenues and development. Today the main street is lined with small casinos including "The Midnight Star" owned by film actor Kevin Costner. International versions of many of his films' posters line its walls.
But we spent most of our viewing time in the Celebrity Hotel. Millions of dollars were spent restoring this Deadwood hotel. The Casino in the Grand Lobby has Las Vegas style gaming excitement. On a much quieter level!
We really enjoyed the Car Museum, which features one of Magnum PI's Ferrari's, the Batmobile, James Bond's Aston Martin, Herbie the Love Bug, a MASH Jeep, and one of Evel Knievel's Jump Bikes.
We also enjoyed seeing over 70 displays of Movie Memorabilia from some of Hollywood's greatest movies. They are very difficult to photograph because of the reflection from the glass cases, but you'll get the idea. There were also numerous guitars used by famous folks mounted on the walls. A very interesting casino to be sure!
The weather was perfect so we decided to have lunch outdoors at Mustang Sally's. They serve a mean cheeseburger and we enjoyed chatting with the waitress, a young lady born and raised in Deadwood. She commented that even though they suffer cold, tough winters, she loves living there. I think this small town might be just a bit too small for us to want to live here year round! But come to think of it, we haven't found the place we want to live 'year round' any more! We truly have become nomads, a part of the people who move from one place to another, rather than settling permanently in one location. A wonderful life indeed!