Bonnie & Larry have arrived!
Sep 8, 2011
|Bonnie & Larry arrived Monday morning right on time. After loading their luggage, we made our way down I-90 to our first stop, Sturgis. We had decided earlier that our schedule would be very full while they were here, and since we were close to both Sturgis & Deadwood we would go ahead & visit them today. Wow, there's quite a difference in Sturgis when the rally isn't in town! It was quiet as a mouse. We did stop for a few photo opportunities before moving on to Deadwood. Now this is a town with quite a history!
The settlement of Deadwood began in the 1870s and has been described as illegal, since it lay within the territory granted to Native Americans in the 1868 Treaty of Laramie. The treaty had guaranteed ownership of the Black Hills to the Lakota people, and disputes over the Hills are ongoing, having reached the United States Supreme Court on several occasions. However, 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. 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. The wagon train brought gamblers and prostitutes, resulting in the establishment of profitable ventures. Demand for women was high, and the business of prostitution proved to have a good market. The Gem Variety Theater was opened on April 7, 1877 by Al Swearengen who also controlled the opium trade in the town. The saloon was destroyed by a fire and rebuilt in 1879. It burned down again in 1899, causing Swearengen to leave the town.
The town attained notoriety for the murder of Wild Bill Hickok, and Mount Moriah Cemetery remains the final resting place of Hickok and Calamity Jane, as well as slightly less notable 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 Dakota Territory 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. Many of the newly impoverished left town to try their luck elsewhere, without the opportunities of rich untapped veins of ore that characterized the town's early days.
Another major fire in September 1959 came close to destroying the town. About 4,500 square miles 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.
The entire town was designated a National Historic Landmark in 1961. However, the town underwent additional decline and financial stresses during the next two decades. Interstate 90 bypassed it in 1964 and its brothels were shut down after a 1980 raid. A fire in December 1987 destroyed the historic Syndicate Building and a neighboring structure. This fire spurred the "Deadwood Experiment", in which gambling was tested as a means of revitalizing a city center. At the time, gambling was legal only in the state of Nevada and in Atlantic City. Deadwood was the first small community in the U.S. to seek legal gambling revenues as a way of maintaining local historic qualities. Gambling was legalized in Deadwood in 1989 and immediately brought significant new revenues and development.
Today, in addition to the gaming, there are numerous trails for hiking, mountain biking, and horse back riding in the Deadwood area. The northern end of the George S. Mickelson Trail starts in Deadwood and runs south through the Black Hills to Edgemont. Several man made lakes, including Sheridan Lake, provide fishing and swimming. Spearfish Canyon to the north has many places to rock climb. In early June the Mickelson Trail Marathon and 5K, as well as accompanying races for children, are held. During the winter there are two ski areas just a few miles outside of nearby Lead, SD – Terry Peak and Deer Mountain. A great area for visitor's, like us!
"The Midnight Star" casino in Deadwood is owned by American film actor Kevin Costner. International versions of many of his films' posters line its walls. The Celebrity Hotel is one of our favorites so we stopped in to check out the display cases before taking a lunch break. Afterward Larry & Larry visited while Bonnie & I attempted to do a bit of shopping. Can you believe we didn't buy one thing?
Afterward we made our way up the steep hill to the cemetery to visit Wild Bill's final resting place. All of you poker players out there realize that his murder is responsible for the dead man's hand, a two-pair poker hand, namely "aces and eights". This card combination gets its name from a legend that it was the five-card-draw hand held by Wild Bill Hickok, when he was murdered on August 2, 1876, in Saloon No. 10. Calamity Jane is buried right there next to him. Four of the men who planned her funeral (Albert Malter, Frank Ankeney, Jim Carson, and Anson Higby) later stated that since Wild Bill Hickok had “absolutely no use” for Jane while he was alive, they decided to play a posthumous joke on him by giving Calamity an eternal resting place by his side. Too funny...
All too soon it was time to head for home. Bonnie & Larry had left their house for the airport at 4am & it was now 4pm. We got them checked into their cabin and left them to unpack & take a short nap before dinner. Tomorrow I'll post our drive on the Needle's Hwy & our visit to Crazy Horse later that evening. They did an evening blast as well as the laser show on Tuesday, perfect timing for their visit. See you then....