Wednesday, November 4, 2015

James K.P. Miller - The Savior of Deadwood

David Wolff sharing the story of James K.P. Miller
David Wolff adeptly shared the history and story of "James K.P. Miller - the Savior of Deadwood" on Nov. 3, 2015 at the Spearfish Area Historical Society meeting with over 100 people in attendance at the Spearfish Senior Citizen Center.

Born in 1845, James K.P. Miller was an early west entrepreneur moving throughout Montana under the alias name of Sydney Osborne (he had lost family money on a venture in his home state of New York).   He learned the grocery business in the early west while at the same time traveled the world.   In 1876 he came to Deadwood, now under his real name, at a time when Deadwood already had 200 stores and 21 groceries.  James established a grocery with partner McPherson and soon was competing directly with Sol Star and Seth Bullock's store.  The 1880 Deadwood fire took his store down for a uninsured $50,000 loss.   He built again, this time with iron shutters.  Then the 1883 flood came and James encouraged and got a 16' high 1000 ft bulkhead built along the west side of the creek.  James became a major developer in town and with his own funds and with a syndicate of developers he built the Syndicate Block, a flour mill, a reduction plant, and the D&D Smelter, among other investments. He tried to get the Fremont train to Deadwood.  After years of promotion he got frustrated and set in motion a line from Deadwood to Lead in 1889 (the ride cost 25 cents, took 17 minutes and took a grade of 8%).  Unfortunately, James died in major debt in 1891 at age 54.  About the time of his death, the Burlington Northern railroad built 100 miles to Deadwood and this pushed the Fremont railroad to finally come in the final 10 miles through Boulder Canyon.

Monday, October 26, 2015

Murder Mayhem

Presented by Rocky Courchaine, Director of Crook County Museum

Rocky Courchaine told of Murder and Mayhem stories from Crook County to the Spearfish Area Historical Society on Oct. 6, 2105 at the Spearfish Senior Citizen Center.  

"The people who came out west looking for a better life or leaving a life that was ruled by others got a rude awakening with what followed them out." Rocky stated.  Whether it was land feuds, cattle or horse rustling, thievery, distraught lovers or out and out murder, it all really happened in Crook County from 1889 to 1933.

Sunday, October 4, 2015

SETH BULLOCK:  The Spirit of the West, Gordy Pratt

Seth Bullock, as portrayed by Gordy Pratt
Gordy Pratt was the first presenter for the 2015-16 season of the Spearfish Area Historical Society with his performance of "SETH BULLOCK:  The Spirit of the West".  Over 125 people attended the Sept 1 program held at the Spearfish Senior Citizen Center.  The enthusiastic audience gave Gordy Pratt a standing ovation.  Afterwards, comments were heard of "great show", "very informative and fun" and "loved those coat-tails!".   The program was sponsored in part by the South Dakota Humanities Council.  Look on to learn more about this show.  

Saturday, May 9, 2015

History of St. Onge

Completing the official Spearfish Area Historical Society program roster for the 2014-2015 season Joanna Jones and Jeannine Guern presented the "History of St. Onge" to over 80 people at the Spearfish Senior Citizen Center on May 5.   Joanna and Jeannine are co-authoring a book on the history of St. Onge, which they hope to complete in 2015.
Research indicates that St. Onge got its name from Henry P. Saintonge, who was involved in delivery and sales to the area and was an early post master.   Several key events and attractions to St. Onge include:
v  Rough Rider Rodeo - for 50 years from 1947 to 1997, this rodeo was well known for great bronc and bull riding and talented rodeo clowns.  Hundreds of folks sat on the sloped hillside to watch.  The rodeo was the first location for women's barrel racing. 

v  Plowman, Knight and Bullock (yes, that would be Seth Bullock) Race Tracks - early horse racing in the Northern Hills.

v  Woodman Building - built in 1910, this sandstone building supported liquor sales, kerosene sales and the upper story was a dance hall providing live music and dance for decades.

v  Little Dane Church - NE of St. Onge, this picturesque Scandinavian church has been an inspiration for many.  A restoration was completed in 2013.

Little Dane Church, north of St. Onge (Photo courtesy of John Mitchell -

Sunday, April 26, 2015

The History of Wharf Mine

The program topic for the Spearfish Area Historical Society for April 2015 was "The History of Wharf Mine" presented by Meg Manke, HR Generalist from Wharf Resources (USA) Inc.   Of the about 80 people who attended the meeting at the Spearfish Area Senior Citizens Center on April 7, 
many had worked in mines in the Black Hills.

Meg Manke introduced herself and we were off and running through a description and a presentation of the various corporate owners of the Wharf Mine since start in 1980s to the current owner, Coure Mining.  To-date the mine, located just north of Terry Peak, has secured 2.4 mil oz. of processed gold.  Two hundred people are employed on four shifts, 24/7.  They utilize 14-15 haul trucks at a time.  

Safety is a major focus evidenced by a 'fit for work program' where they work only if they are ready and fit.   Workers also perform exercises at the start of every shift. Wharf Mine also has a helipad that is shared with Terry Peak.

Blasting in the open cut mine is done attempting perfect "fluff" blasts where the rock is blasted upward so that it will drop exactly where it came from.   This allows the engineers to properly evaluate how good their pre-estimates were on the quality of the gold in the rock.

Wharf has set up a Sustainable Prosperity Fund to give back to the local communities through qualified non-profits.  

History of Lead (including the subsidence of Lead)

Wayne Paananen, Historical Footprints, presented the topic "History of Lead (including the subsidence of Lead) to the Spearfish Area Historical Society on March 3, 2015 to over 65 attendees at the Spearfish Senior Citizen's Center.   Wayne Paananen's talk focused on the historical economic development in the city of Lead, SD.

Thursday, April 16, 2015

Wild Tales of Black Hills Pioneers

Donna Sachau presenting "Wild Tales of Black Hills Pioneers"
A substantial crowd of Spearfish Area Historical Society attended Donna Sachau's Feb 3, 2015 presentation on "Wild Tales of Black Hills Pioneers".
Donna covered four stories, two from her own family history and two of the wildest tales of the west.  The first tale was of Mrs. Holloway who journeyed with 37 wagons from the Missouri River toward California in 1857.   On Aug 14 near the Humbolt River they were attacked by Indians and she was shot with an arrow and then scalped.   She also had to witness her own child being killed.   Mrs. Holloway survived and found her own scalp to make a wig.   Sadly, her health quickly failed and then her mind.
Big Nose George
The second tale was of Big Nose George Parrott who was a bull team driver from Indiana and Iowa.   In the fall of 1878, George  joined Jessie and Frank James to rob the train at Four Corners, WY.  George was caught and hung . . . three times.    The first two hangings were botched but he died on the third, hung from a telephone pole.    Stranger yet was the culture of the time:  Dr. John Osborne requested and received Big Nose George's body from which he made a death mask and shoes made of human skin.  Dr. Osborne was later elected Governor of Wyoming and wore the shoes to the Governor's Ball. 
Albert Henderson Daniels was related to Daniel Boone.    Albert Henderson’s son was Albert Aaron Daniels who was born on 9/28/1894 just north of Spearfish, SD on their homestead.  He attended school at the Centennial School through the 8th grade.  He served in WWI and then returned to ranch in Crook County where he met and married Cleo M. Scott in 1931.  They moved to the centennial ranch east of Spearfish in 1939. His wife, Cleo, continued to live on the ranch for 14 more years and then moved to town.  Their daughter, Doris, married Joseph M. Schenk (IV) in 1951 and they ranched together 10 miles west of Spearfish for the next 50 years.  Their children in Lawrence County are Dan (Renee) Schenk, Donna (Randy) Sachau, and Ann (Delmar) Brownell.
Joseph Schenk grew up in Germany in a happy hard-working family but rather poor.  He immigrated to America and in 1858 attended the 5th and most largely attended Lincoln-Douglas debate at Galesburg, IL.   Joseph was impressed that Lincoln as poor as he, should, by ability and character, at so early an age, have acquired such leadership.
Joseph age 25 and his brother John headed westward.  They paid $25 to a Captain Stewart for their keep and joined his emigrant party heading to California on April 20, 1859 and arrived Sept 5.  Along the Mormon trail, half of mankind seemed on the move.  During the day, great lines of white covered wagons, drawn by oxen or horses or mules moved steadily westward.  At night, hundreds of campfires glowed under the stars. 
Once while the caravan was passing through the Rockies, it had a real Indian scare.  Word was brought back that while a preceding party had started through a pass, it was ambushed and a number of its party massacred.   Joseph’s job was to take care of a young Morgan stallion that his boss had paid $1000 for and he could run a mile in 3 minutes.  He would run him ahead of the train and let him feed until the others came up.  One day as Joseph was galloping up over a hill he ran into a party of mounted Indian braves in full war paint who immediately gave chase.  But the little Morgan dashed away from them like the wind. With arrows flying their way, they escaped unharmed. 
In 1860 Joseph Schenk completed his American citizenship and that fall cast his first ballot for Abraham Lincoln for president.  He married at the age of 30, bought a farm near Waterloo, Iowa and raised 9 children.  Their son, Joseph Schenk (II) moved his family to the Spearfish area in 1908 and bought land near Chicken Creek.  Three more generations of Joseph Schenk's (III through V) and their families ranched near Crow Creek and Mirror Lake. 

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Gold Mining in the Tinton Region

Chris Hills, Jan 6, 2015, presenting to Spearfish Area Historical Society
On Jan 6, 2015, Chris Hills, author of "Gold Pans and Broken Picks", presented the topic "Gold Mining in the Tinton Region" to over 75 people of the Spearfish Area Historical Society. Chris included old photographs to illustrate his talk.

Gold Bug Nelson, Black Hills
Chris reported that the first gold in the Black Hills was found in Iron Creek and second in Potato Creek. Frank Bryant found gold in downtown Deadwood on Blacktail Creek downstream from Central City. Other sites for gold were Beaver Creek and Sand Creek (photo of Ed Sussingham in the creek with iron soled boots). Thomas Mallory started the Gold Star claim adjacent to the original Homestake Claim; Mallory sold out to Hearst who expanded the Homestake. The miners from Bear Gulch had a favorite donkey and used to bring the donkey to Spearfish. Once when the donkey was left in town, the newspaper called out for "Miners of Bear Gulch, please come get your donkey." Later when the donkey died, it was buried with the miners.

Tinton got its name from "Tin" for the tin mining there and 'ton' from Cornish translation for 'town'. The peak population in 1927-28 was 300 during the week. On weekends the temporary people walked to the railroad to Iron Creek to catch the railroad out. The last person in Tinton left in 1961, making it one of the last Black Hills ghost towns.