Saturday, February 10, 2018

"140 Years of Spearfish Irrigation System" -- Billy Evans and Paul Higbee

Billy Evans (L) and Paul Higbee (R) Feb 6, 2018
On Feb 6, 2018, Billy Evans and Paul Higbee presented "140 Years of Spearfish Irrigation System" for over 110 people at the Spearfish Area Historical Society.   Billy Evans is the grandson of Robert Evans, one of the founding pioneers of Spearfish valley and the man who designed and organized the other pioneers to dig the irrigation system for the town.  Paul Higbee used an interview style with Billy Evans and special guest, Billy's brother Marvin Evans.

Early accounts of Spearfish before any settlers came along describe a barren site with a light amount of trees along Spearfish Creek.

Robert Evans (from the Evans family collection)
Robert Evans came to Spearfish in 1876 from with a group of 200 men from Montana headed for Crook City in the Black Hills looking for gold.  Robert's experience in Montana was with the the Bannick mines in Idaho Territory and the Last Chance Gulch mine near Helena, MT.  The work for the Last Chance mine involved digging a 300' tunnel and 27 mile ditch along the Spokane Bar on the Missouri River, all elevations determined with only a plumb bob and a triangle. 

Many of the Montana group decided to bring up a town in Spearfish valley.  Robert was a gentleman with a calm manner and soft-spoken voice who convinced the others to dig an irrigation system from Spearfish Creek water that would network across the Spearfish area to provide water for farming.  They had only horses. shovels, fresnos, a water level and a six foot tapered board that was tapered only 1/8" narrower.  With those tools, they dug a 2" drop per 100 ft on each of the many irrigation ditches to provide water for everyone with the early homesteads.  These same irrigation ditches still exist today with all but one providing non-potable water for many house and farm lots in the area.

The early crops that Robert Evans and the settlers grew were oats, potatos, turnips and apples.  Initially they did not have a plow and had to go to Crook City to rent a plow for $30.
Marvin Evans Feb 6, 2018

Downstream in the irrigation ditches, the system was recharged by a 25-45" layer underbed of gravel that offered up 2' per minute of irrigation water on its own.

Evans shared stories from the turn of the last century when Homestake Mine purchased land across the area on teh Ramsdale ditch and put in a 28" pipe to Lead and the Homestake Mine.  Those were challenging times for the many valley farmers who were struggling to make Spearfish valley an even more productive source of farm products for the region.   Lawsuits  that went to the SD Supreme Court resulting in a separation of water and land rights.
Another big challenge came in about 1970 when the interstate highway was constructed across the valley.  Original plans for the freeway would have routed it right through the heart of town and would have severed many ditches.
“At first, they were going to route it around Lookout Mountain, but then changed their minds and planned it right through town,” said Evans.
Through the efforts of Walter Dickey, Josef Meier, Ray Runnings and others, I-90 finally was routed up along a hillside to the east and ended up crossing only a couple of ditches.

Marvin Evans shared that Robert Evans selected the site for Spearfish's Rose Hill Cemetery and that the Evans family maintained the cemetery dirt roads before Memorial Day every year until 1939.

"Governor Tom Berry, the Cowboy Governor 1933-1937" by Paul Higbee

Paul Higbee, local historian, shared the story of "Governor Tom Berry, the Cowboy Governor 1933-1937" on Dec 5, 2017 with the Spearfish Area Historical Society at the Spearfish Senior Citizens Center.  Paul Higbee wrote the book "South Dakota's Cowboy Governor Tom Berry: Leadership During the Depression" published July 10, 2017.

As South Dakotans endured the Great Depression and the worst of the Dust Bowl, they elected a cowboy from Belvidere as their governor. Tom Berry rode in the 1902 cattle round up ordered by President Theodore Roosevelt and later was called "Cowboy" or by his first name in meetings with President Franklin Roosevelt.

A Democrat, Tom Berry was the second Democrat by 1933
Governor Tom Berry
to win the Governorship and became the 14th Governor of the state by campaigning to the people. He would stop wherever there was a crowd, and then proceed to regale the people with stories and good jokes. Some compared him to the great Western humorist Will Rogers.

Of 31 Governors of SD, Tom Berry was only one of four  from West River (west of the Missouri in the state).

Paul Higbee's book is available and local bookstores and online.

Friday, November 17, 2017

"Cheyenne Crossings Moveable Past" by Dave Brueckner with famous carrot cake

Dave Brueckner, owner and restauranteer of Cheyenne Crossing, presented "Cheyenne Crossing's Moveable Past" to appoximately 110 Spearfish Area Historical Society members and guests on Nov 7, 2017 at the Spearfish Senior Citizens Center

In 1877, Ice Box Canyon Valley Station was built by Henry Fosha. The structure was located up the hill from today's Cheyenne Crossing.  From 1878 to 1883 the station was a relay station for horses, providing fresh horses for the Cheyenne, Wyoming to Deadwood, SD stagecoach. The building had a trough underneath which served as a cooler for water, drinks, and perishables.  The name Cheyenne Crossing was most likely introduced in theses early years.

After 1883 to 1938, much of the history of the area is unknown.   It did become a general store and was known for it's fried chicken. The kitchen area was later moved to another part of the building.

The current 3,500 sq ft building on a lower elevation location was built in 1954 while the old building was still operating.  A fire took the old building down in 1959.  Owner at the time was Clive Robinson.

In the past 40 years, there have been many owner/operaters, some included Jim & Bonnie Lamar, Floyd & Thelma Ball, Kathy Stewart and Bob Green.  Dave's restaurant history included 11 restaurants before retiring to own Cheyenne Crossing with partner Matt Dawley in 2005.  Dave and Matt and their wives initially expanded the kitchen and added 37 seats, indoor and outdoor, to the dining area. They have also added more parking and done some improvements on the outdoor facilities.building was updated.  More seats were added this year in 2017.

Cheyenne Crossing is known for its carrot cake made with pineapple and no raisins.  Dave brought enough Tuesday night for everyone to enjoy.

Thursday, November 16, 2017

"The HIstory of Surveying in the Black Hills" by Don Simons

Don Simons
On Oct 3, 2017, Don Simons presented the program "The History of Surveying in the Black Hills" to over 75 people at the Spearfish Senior Citizens Center.  Don worked as a surveyor in the Northern  Hills area for many years.
William Ludlow Reconnaissance map of the Black HIlls 1874
photo courtesy of Don Simons

The Custer Expedition provided the first map of the Black Hills.  William Ludlow produced the map from the expedition in July/Aug 1874.  The area of the Black Hills went south to the Platte River and North to the line which eventually became the North Dakota border.  Ludlow used a sexton to do the survey using the sun and moon to get the correct latitude.

Custer Expedition map 1874
photo courtesy of Don Simons
Soon after, in 1875, Col. Richard Irving Dodge completed an Exploration Survey of the area..  In the early surveys, Spearfish Mountain was named Black Butte.

Luit. Ridge map 1875
 photo courtesy of Don Simons
Geology 1875, photo courtesy of Don Simons

Dakota Territory on map of the west, graphic courtesy of Don Simons
Burt's Solar Compass, photo courtesy of Don Simons
Burt's Solar Compass, an improved surveying tool was used.  This tool determined the position of the sun, and occasionally the moon, with astronomical tables to run more accurate lines.

In 1861 the Homestead Act was in the works with the restriction that a survey had to be done before allowing any patents on the land, so the Federal Gov't want a survey done ahead of the passage of the Homestead Act.  The Homestead Act was signed by President Lincoln on May 20, 1862.

Surveying was often difficult.  In 1877, a 15 man survey crew, including brush clearers and cooks, took gunshots.  They quickly packed up to go back to their wagons but found the wagons burnt when they arrived.  They lost the engineers main field notes in the fire, but luckily the engineering assistant had a back up version.  They headed towards Spearfish after the attack and encountered soldiers about 5 miles out, then continued to Spearfish to get reinforcements.
Mine Surveyors, photo courtesy of Don Simons

Field Surveyors, photo courtesy of Don Simons
Survey Family, photo courtesy of Don Simons
The pay for the Engineering company for the 1877 survey was $6 per mile for prairie and $10 per mile for mountain terrain.

Townships were surveyed at 36 miles square.

Black Hills Meridian, graphic courtesy of Don Simons

The Black Hills Base Meridian line was established along the Wyoming-South Dakota border at milespost 69 on Aug 13, 1878.

BHM Initial Point, photo courtesy of Don Simons

Reeves' Int. Point, photo courtesy of Don Simons

Tools improved throughout the years and calculators were lugged around for basic mathematics.  Calculations of trigonometry were manual until 1972 when Hulett Packard introduced the HP-35 for $400.
Compass, photo courtesy of Don Simons
Alladad, photo courtesy of Don Simons

Roach Transit
SAHS members with surveying tools
Surveying tools display 
Trimble SX10 Total Station

calculators used by surveyors

on the left is a Hulett Packard HP-45


Tuesday, October 3, 2017

Sept 10, 2017 Photos from Ranch A, WY Open House

Spearfish Area Historical Society Tours Ranch A Sept 10, 2017

Ranch A Lodge Main Room

 The Spearfish Area Historical Society kicked off the 2017-18 season pm Sept 10, 2107 with an open house at Ranch A, Sand Creek, WY with over 80 people taking the tours.

  Nels Smith and Leo Orme each shared stories of the history of Ranch A.

Light inside Ranch A Lodge
Ranch A Lodge interior
Ranch A Log Columns cut

Saw used to cut each log column

Ranch A Barn Sept 10, 2017

Wednesday, July 5, 2017

"Women of the American West" by Kristi Thielen

Kristi Thielen and members of the Spearfish Area Historical Society

Kristi Thielen presented "Women of the American West" on April 4, 2017 to an appreciative audience of the Spearfish Area Historical Society at the Spearfish Senior Citizens Center.

Kristi Thielen, currator of the Tri-State Museum in Belle Fourche, SD, wrote the program using diary entries from women who helped settle the West.  Kristi also led the presntion which included portions that were in reader's Theatre format with Charlotte Fladmoe and Laurie Williams-Hayes, in costume, reading several of the diary entries that women wrote.


Charlotte Fladmoe and Laurie Williams-Hayes (left to right)

Tuesday, July 4, 2017

"Black Hills Forestry History" by Bill Coburn

Bill Coburn presenting "Black Hills Forestery History" on May 2, 2017
Bill Coburn
Bill Coburn, forestry specialist, presented "Black Hills Forestry History" to the Spearfish Area Historical Society on May 2, 2017 to an audience of over 80 people at the Spearfish Senior Citizen Center.

     From the Custer Expedition to current events, the Black Hills has enticed folks interested in forestry.  Documentation from the Custer Expedition in 1874 noted the young forest of pines and also the forest fires.  In 1875, the Jenney Expedition with geologist Walter Jenney also made comments on the pine forest.  (Note that Calamity Jane was a stowaway on this expedition and that is how she came to Deadwood).  By 1876, portable sawmills were set up in Custer by Murphy Sawmill.   In 1880, John Durst and Sons started up the first portable sawmill in Hill City.  Seventeen years later there were 42 portable sawmills in the Black Hills producing 1.5 billion board feet, with 1/3 waste.

     Key historical events included:
·         1891 - Forest Reserve Act was passed with the goal of creating forest reserves and national parks. 
·         1897 - H. Graves Report included comment of the dense second growth of pine in the Black Hills. 
·         1897 - The federal government Organic Act established forest reserves available to the public and regulated those reserves. 
·         1898 - The first timber sale by the federal government was near Nemo and was sold to the Homestake Mine.  The same year, a mountain pine beetle infestation was noted.
·         1901 - Seth Bullock became the second forest supervisor of the Black Hills Forest Reserve.
·         1880's to 1890s - Forestry loss due to fires from lightning, trains, and slash burning. 
·         1896 to 1901 - The infestation of mountain pine beetle destroyed 3,000 acres of forest and grew to 116,000 acres
·         1908 - The Black Hills Reserve became the Black Hills National Forest (included the Bear Lodge Mountains)

     Today, the Black Hills National Forest sells more timber at 9-11 billion board feet per year than any other national forest in the USA.

     A few facts about Mountain Pine Beetle -- 500 to 3,000 beetles will fly to a tree within 2-3 days when they give off a gathering scent.  When the tree is full, the beetles give off an anti-gathering scent and the beetles go elsewhere.  When trees are thinned, the beetles cannot find their way to the next large tree and they get lost.

Saturday, June 24, 2017

Photo of antique Broom Holder from A. Furois general store in St Onge

Broom Holder from the Adolphe Furois hardward store in St Onge, SD.  Mfg in Des Moines, Iowa. Photo courtesy of Craig Williams.