Sunday, March 5, 2017

Ranch A and Sand Creek Histories by Nels Smith

Leo Orme (right) introduces Nels Smith (left) on Mar 7, 2017
Nels Smith shared the "History of Ranch A and Sand Creek" at the March 7 Spearfish Area Historical Society at 7:30pm at the Spearfish Senior Center with approximately 130 people attending.  

Nels organized his review of Snad Creek properties by going down Sandcreek, starting with the head of Sandcreek ath Tinton mines

1) Tinton Mines, tin mining into the 30's
2) Harvey Talley Ranch with landmarks Red Canyon and Grand Canyon
3) Sandcreek and Ranch A
    Started as a fish Hatchery by George LaPlante.  Moses (Mo) Annenberg, newspaper publisher, was on this way to Yellowstone with his son, Walter, and stopped to eat at Buelah, WY. Mo thought that the trout he was served was excellent, so he asked where it came from.  Then answer came back "Sandcreek".  Mo investigated further and bought the 650 acre Ranch A on the spot for $27,000.   Mo and Walter were the chief users of the ranch and their guests would arrive by rail to Aladdin, WY.  Walter later became US Ambassador to Great Britain.  Ranch A was filled out with Thomas Molesworth furniture.  Molesworth later became known as the pioneer of Western Design. 
Ranch A lodge designed by architect Ray Ewing

Shortly after Mo died in 1942, Nels Smith (speaker Nels Smith's father) bought the ranch with two other partners.  Ranch A was used  as a dude ranch for 20 years.  It was featured in the Oct 1956 National Geogrphic in an article titled "Back to the Historic Black Hills".  It was sold to Ford Motor Co. from Mitchell for awhile.  Then, in 1963 the Fish and Wildlife Service bought the ranch and used it as a genetics lab for research on salmon ids, fish diet & growth rates, and pesticide resistance. In 1996 the property was deeded to the state of WY for educational purposes.

Back to Sandcreek going downstream:
4) Sandcreek Country Club
5) Reneke Ranch - 2 miles of public fishing.  Banks of creek are maintained by special grass with long roots that resist erosion.
6) Toomey Mill

Note:  some pieces of Molesworth furniture can be viewed at the High Plains Western Heritage Center in Spearfish, the Crook Co Museum in Sundance and the Cheyenne Museum.

Wednesday, March 1, 2017

The History of Home Economics -- Ida Marie Snorteland

A Home Economics class receiving instructions on cooking. Ottawa, Ontario, 1959.
Ida Marie Snorteland presented "The History of Home Economics" to an appreciative audience of the Spearfish Area Historical Society on Feb 7, 2017.  

The term "Home Economics" began as a government training program to improve the living conditions at home with emphasis on Science and common sense.

Home Eeconomics, now known as Family and Consumer Sciences (FCS), is the field of study that deals with the economics and management of the home and community. 

One of the first to champion the economics of running a home was Catherine Beecher, sister to Harriet Beecher Stowe. Catherine and Harriet both were leaders in mid-19th century North America in talking about domestic science. 
The Morrill Act of 1862 propelled domestic science further ahead as land grant colleges sought to educate farm wives in running their households as their husbands were being educated in agricultural methods and processes. IowaKansasNebraskaIllinoisMinnesota and Michigan were early leaders offering programs for women. There were women graduates of these institutions several years before the Lake Placid Conferences which gave birth to the home economics movement.
Ida Marie took the group through the changes in time and changes in discplines of Home Economics, including:
  1 - science, technology, economics, mathematics
  2 - child development, housing, fashion merchandising, journalism, interior design, nutrition
  3 - gardening, sewing, water sanitation
  4 - entreprenuership, wellness
1993 New Name Family Consumer Sciences
  -- energy crisis, food insecurity, food deserts (cities where nurtritional food stores are not found in poor communities), again, sustainable farm agreculture

June 1, 2 and 3 History Symposium "Forts, Wars and Treaties of the Northern Plains"

Announcing a new History Symposium June 1, 2, 3 in the Northern Hills
photo courtesy of Case Library

The Leland D. Case Library for Western Historical Studies in cooperation with the Old Fort Meade Cavalry Museum is pleased to sponsor “Forts, Wars and Treaties of the Northern Plains” 

check out the details at

Saturday, December 31, 2016

"The Beginnings of Black Hills Skiing" -- Paul Higbee

Paul Higbee presented the first 2017 program for the Spearfish Area Historical Society on Jan 3 at the Spearfish Senior Center.   The topic was "The Beginnings of Black Hills Skiing".

Paul Higbee presenting "The Beginnings of Black Hills Skiing"
It all started in 1938 when the Bald Mountain Ski Club was formed by a group of interested citizens.  The cost to join was $2.50 plus $1.00 per month.   The name was selected because the group thought that Bald Mountain had the best opportunity to provide skiing.  However, that same year, Bertha Stewart (Stewart Slope) donated a plot of land, mostly-treeless, on Terry Peak.  Homestake Gold Mine donated a long fat rope and an engine.  Bud Irish, a Homestake engineer, put up the first tow and Ken Keller, Homestake Attny., defined the first legal needs for the Terry Peak slope.   1938 was the same year that the Passion Play came to Spearfish and the same year that the first motorcycle rally came to Sturgis.  In 1942, Homestake donated the Terry Peak rope and engine to the WWII efforts, and the slope was shut down during the war.
Bart Trucano's collection of photos and history

In 1952, a private corporation was allowed in to build the ski lift on Terry Peak.  The last national competition was held in 1968 in a year when there was a lack of snow in other ski states but the Black Hills had great snow.  In the late 1960's Deer Mountain skiing was opened.  By the late 60's Terry Peak was making snow; this was enhanced in 1971-72 when a well was drilled to provide the water source for the snow machines.
Today, there are over 70 runs in the Black Hills on the two mountains and Black Hills skiing is known for its beautiful location and lower crowds where there is opportunity to make many runs, up to 50, in a single day.

Bart Trucano's vintage skiis

Local Spearfish Area Histoical Society
member, Bart Trucano, brought in a collection of ski photos and history along with a pair of vintage skiis.

Tuesday, December 13, 2016

Black Hills, Yesterday and Today - Paul Horstead

Paul Horsted describing his photography for Spearfish Area Historical Society on Dec 6, 2016
Paul Horstead, photographer, presented the Spearfish Area Historical Society program "Black Hills, Yesterday and Today" to over 70 people on a cold Dec 6 evening.

Paul described how he obtains old photos from many sources including museums, online, or individual contacts.  Then he searches the landscape to find the exact location that the old photo was taken and takes a new photo from the same spot.  He first finds the backdrop scenery and then searchs for the exact foreground.  For the Black Hills, his source of origin is mostly the 1874 Custer Expedition.  Paul described the expedition and its variety of people in the party including 995 enlisted men, 70 scouts, 5 press, 2 miners, 2 scientists, a female cook, a mapmaker and a photographer.  Lucky for us that the photographer, William Illingworth, a British photograper, had excellent camera equipment for the time and was skilled both in artistic photography and in use of the equipment and developing process (accomplished in a dark tent set up on site).

Paul's five books include four on the Black Hills and a new one titled "Yellowstone, Yesterday and Today".

Check out his website for more information

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

New Interpretive Center at Historic Homestake Opera House

Spearfish Area Historical Society and visitors in the Historic Homestake Opera House foyer -- Oct 30, 2016 

Forty-six members and visitors of the Spearfish Area Historical Society toured the Historic Homestake Opera House in Lead, SD on Sunday, Oct 30, 2016.  Sarah Carlson, Executive Director of the opera house talked of the history of the 24,000 sq ft structure built in 1914, and how the opera house has been involved with the northern Hills community ever since.  The group also toured the new Interpretive Center and was given a special tour of the swimming pool in the lower level.

Sarah Carlson, Executive Director of HHOH - Oct 30, 2016
The Homestake Opera House was built by Phoebe Hearst (mother of William Randolf Hearst) with the help of Homestake Mine superintendent, Thomas Grier.  The architectural firm was Shattuck and Hussey from Chicago and the original cost was $250,000.   The building included a 1,000 seat theater, a library, billiard hall, social rooms, a bowling alley and a heated pool.  Through the years the opera house was a venue for opera theatre, ballet, musical theater, concerts, dances, vaudeville shows, and eventually became a movie house with a shooting range in the basement.  On April 2, 1984 a fire collapsed the roof of the theater and destroyed the stage, theater and lobby and the building went dark for many years.  In the early 2000's the foyer and balcony foyer were restored to original glory, floor heating installed in the theater, 450 seats put in place, and modern bathrooms built.  Since then regular restoration and improvement projects have included:  cloak room, ladies lounge, men's smoking lounge, chandelier, and the original cherub angels re-set.  In 2016, an Interpretive Center museum of the history of the opera house was completed.

The tour was enjoyed by all, as our group spread out in the lovely environment.  Two ladies were chatting comfortably in the ladies lounge.  A group of seven at the back of the theater were laughing at stories.  Others were still on the tour of the swimming pool and we heard that some enjoyed a special tour of the furnace room.  Thanks Historic Homestake Opera House!      

Thursday, September 29, 2016

October Program - Vore Buffalo Jump with Ted Vore

The Spearfish Area Historical Society members visted the Vore Buffalo Jump off I-90 near Beulah, WY on Sunday October 2nd from 1-3pm.  In addition, Ted Vore and Jackie Wyatt presented the history of the Vore Buffalo Jump at 7:30pm on Oct 4th at the Spearfish Senior Citizen Center with 80 people attending.

The Buffalo Jump was used by Plains Indians from 1550 to 1770/1800 when horses and guns came into the Native Americans possesion.   From studies of the type of flint found and from the style of arrowheads found, the following tribes used the buffalo jump:  Crow, Cheyenne, Shoshone, and Kiowa or Kiowa/Apache.

Jackie Wyatt, Vore Buffalo Jump Foundation President
Ted Vore
On a good wet year in late fall, approximately 100 braves would herd the buffalo into the natural draw towards the jump site.  Some would disguise themselves as decoy buffalo.  At about 100 yards away, they would stampede the herd so that about 200 buffalo would fall into the drop-off.  Many buffalo would die with the fall or suffocation and the rest would be killed with an arrow to the rib cage puncturing the lungs.  This history was determined by scientific research at the Vore Buffalo Jump.  For instance, they know that there were 200 buffalo killed in a single jump by determining buffalo in a layer and then counting the number of a single unique bone found behind the neck.  

The site was discovered in 1969 during construction of I-90 on the Vore family ranch.  In 1989 it was deeded to Wyoming for education purposes in conjunction with the University of Wyoming.  However, it was never funded by the University of Wyoming.  It was given back to the Vore family in 2001 and is now owned and managed by the Vore Buffalo Jump Foundation.  7,000 visitors pay to see the site during tourist season which pays for the staff during the summer.  More information can be found on

Sunday, September 11, 2016

Rim Rock Lodge, Its History and Future

 Geoff Ziebart presented the program "Rim Rock Lodge, Its History and Future" to an audience of 95 people at the Spearfish Area Historical Society on Sept 6, 2016.  This was the kick-off program for the 2016-2017 season.
     The land in Spearfish Canyon where Rim Rock Lodge is located was initially a mining claim by Marcus Edgerton.  Marcus moved on from mining and became the first clothier in Spearfish.   Edgerton built a cabin on the site in 1919.   He sold the land and cabin to Margaret Bridge, Dean of Black Hills Normal, for $1 in 1932.
     Even though it was the middle of the Great Depression, Margaret immediately hired Fred W and Fred E Shields to build six cabins, a 3-story lodge and a restaurant on the site.  The Spearfish Canyon railroad was washed out by a flood that same year, but Margaret kept going, completing the construction in 1934.  She started a Boys & Girls Camp at Rim Rock in conjunction with another camp called Lapped Circle Ranch (location unknown).   Margaret was also known in the area for
holding birthday parties for 80 year olds at the cabin in Spearfish Park.  Margaret died in 1994 at age of 57.
    There have been many owners since:  Willard Crane in 1944, Donald Hair in 1948, Bruce Yarborough in 1952, Benjamin Sprecher in 1955, Esa Haataja in 1970, and Walt Ziebart in 1977.   In Feb 2015, Geoff and Lori Ziebart secured the family business and have done extensive renovation to the cabins and 6.25 acre property.   Rim Rock Lodge is open from mid-June to mid-Sept.  See more on their website
    When asked about any memories from Rim Rock Lodge, SAHS members recounted enjoyable stays at Rim Rock Lodge, the tasty pancakes and oatmeal cooked by Mrs. Ziebart, the mountain goats on the rimrock, and the 1950's square dancing by musician Glenn Yarborough.