Friday, December 19, 2014

50 Years Ago: Luci Johnson's Spearfish Visit

Luci Baines Johnson
On Nov 11, 2014, Paul Higbee presented the story of first daughter, Luci Johnson's visit to Spearfish back in 1964.  The audience was the Spearfish Area Historical Society and the venue was the Spearfish Senior Citizen's Center.
Luci was the teenage daughter of Lyndon and Lady Bird Johnson.  She came to Spearfish to be the honorary Grand Marshall of the BHSC Swarm Day parade.  The date was Oct 24, 1964.  It was 10 days before the Lyndon Johnson and Barry Goldwater election and only eleven months after Kennedy was assassinated.  The voting age was still 21.
Luci was a charming, friendly and eager Grand Marshall for the parade.  A big and friendly crowd attended and filled the streets of Spearfish.  There were 12 marching bands for the college half-time show.
Luci Bains Johnson Honorary in Swarm Day Parade in Spearfish - Oct 24, 1964
Riding with Luci Johnson in the Swarm Day parade was Anne McGovern, daughter of George McGovern and secret service agent, Rufus Youngblood.   Rufus was in the Johnson's car in Dallas and was the first to recognize the first shot.   By the 3rd shot, he was on the floor of the car covering Lyndon and Lady Bird.
Ten days after Luci's visit, Lyndon Johnson and Hubert Humphrey lost the election in Spearfish, won in South Dakota and won the national election.

Saturday, November 8, 2014

Home Extension Clubs of Lawrence County

Ida Marie Snorteland and five friends presented the history of the Home Extension Club to over 85 people in the Spearfish Area Historical Society on Oct 7, 2014 at the Spearfish Senior Citizens Center. 
The Home Extension Clubs were a large part of women's lives in Lawrence County beginning in 1914 when the US Government passed the Smith-Lever Act connected through the land grant universities to give each state $10,000 to start up Home Extension Clubs.   Back in the day, women would come by foot, wagon or horseback to join the clubs.   They always wore hats.
The clubs were instructional and social.   The instructional part was done by train-the-trainer methods (before that term was used).  Workshops included such things as making hats, using spices, Chinese cooking, and deboning a turkey.  Events included a wide variety; some examples were one act play contests, fundraising at $2 a plate for the Children's Hospital in Hot Springs, and readings.  The social part extended to families as annual family picnics and holiday programs were highly attended.
Many Home Extension Clubs were formed in Lawrence County in it peak years in the 30's and 40's.   Over the years, the Lawrence County Extension Clubs sponsored the sound system in the Pavilion, the Entrance to Spearfish Park and one of the picnic shelters in the park.
Ruby Green Smith from Ithaca, NY, is best known as the author of the Home Bureau Creed, 500,000 copies of which were published and distributed nationwide. The creed reads as follows:
To maintain the highest ideals of home life; to count children the most important of crops; to so mother them that their bodies may be sound, their minds clear, their spirits happy, and their characters generous:
To place service above comfort; to let loyalty to high purpose silence discordant notes; to let neighborliness supplant hatreds; to be discouraged never:                       To lose self in generous enthusiasms; to extend to the less fortunate a helping hand; to believe one's community may become the best of communities; and to cooperate with others for the common ends of a more abundant home and community life.

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

The Great Western Cattle Trail

Peggy Ables, Betty Olson and Paul Higbee kicked off the season for the Spearfish Area Historical Society on Sept 2, 2014 at the High Plains Western Heritage Center.   Over 80 people were in attendance.
Did you know that the cowboys who ran cattle from Texas to South Dakota were, for the most part, 13 and 14 year old boys?   (answer:  they were)   Did you know why they went so far north as South Dakota?   (answer:  because after the Civil War, the livestock needed to be grazed and the short-growing season in SD locks in nutrients in the grasses for cattle).   Did you know that Great Western Cattle Trail markers were dedicated this July 2014 at the Heritage Center in Spearfish and at the Tri-State Museum in Belle Fourche?   (answer:  Yup! They were.)

Western South Dakota can claim a large part of the history of the Great Western Cattle Trails that ran from Texas and New Mexico through Oklahoma, Kansas, Colorado, and Nebraska and ended in Wyoming, Montana and South Dakota.  Peggy Ables told stories of this year's July event hosting the Great Western Cattle Trail Association members.  Betty Olson told of her legislature that was unanimously approved for an un-paid holiday in South Dakota on the 4th Sat in July to celebrate the Day of the American Cowboy.   Paul Higbee described how many, many cowboys came to the area on a cattle drive and then decided to stay and live in Lawrence, Butte and Meade counties.  Some of them included Tom Gay, Zee Russell, Leo Russell, Billy Sutton, and Slim McNutton.
See three original saddles from the cattle trail and learn more at the High Plains Western Heritage Center.

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Tour and History of Centennial Schoolhouse

The May 6, 2014 program for the Spearfish Area Historical Society was held at the Centennial Valley Schoolhouse, followed by a discussion by Hank Frawley back at the Spearfish Senior Citizens Center.   The tour group packed the schoolhouse on the cool, rainy evening.  

The one-room schoolhouse has been restored all the way down to the maps and the chalkboards on the walls and the desks and pot-bellied stove. They added an outhouse and two century-old, cast-iron merry-go-rounds and a cast-iron slide for authenticity.   

The schoolhouse was restored by Denver developer, Daryll Propp, German partner Mike Kreke representing Douglas Holdings, and supported by monies from the Outside of Deadwood Grant Program. 

Centennial Schoolhouse was originally built in 1880. 

In recent years, second grade students from Spearfish move their studies to the schoolhouse for an entire day.   Although their follow-up written comments are mostly about the cast-iron merry-go-round, the experience of living and learning as their great-great grandparents did is likely one they will remember.

Monday, April 7, 2014

Quarnberg & Wendelken Families in Dakota Territory

Riverside Mill, Dakota Territory 1880 (hand-painted photograph)
The April 1, 2014 program of the Spearfish Area Historical Society featured the stories of the Hans & Minnie Quarnberg family as they crisscrossed Dakota Territory from 1869 to 1913 to settle in Belle Fourche and the Ralph & Anne Wendelken family, who set up farming in Spearfish Valley Redwater Hill in 1922.    Approximately 72 people attended the program led by the Jack Wells family (Jack, MaryAnn, Richard, Linda, and Allen).   MaryAnn is the granddaughter of Hans Quarnberg and daughter of Ralph and Anne Wendelken.
From friendly Indians buying flour from the mill, to watching an ice flow taking down the railroad drawbridge in Chamberlain, to a motorcycle falling backwards down a hill in the Badlands, the stories were plentiful.
Hans Quarnberg
Tri-State Mill, Belle Fourche 1929
Hans Quarnberg was an innovator and entrepreneur, building two water-powered flour mills near Vermillion and one in Cascade Springs before he was 35.   He managed a mill in Chamberlain and then bought the mill in Belle Fourche at age 58, incorporating as Tri-State Mill.  

With two of his sons, Tri-State greatly expanded throughout the northern hills and Rapid City areas.   

Hans kept innovating and, at age 67, located a new water source for Belle Fourche and built a canal and hyrdro-electric plant for the mill.    At age 72, he opened a clay pit and started up a brick factory Black Hills Clay Products Company in Belle Fourche.
Wendelken Dairy of 40 Guernseys on Redspear Farm
Ralph and Anne Wendelken farmed at the northern end of Spearfish Valley (Redspear Farm).  

The Wendelken Dairy provided milk to much of the area from 1923 to 1940's.  

An eight minute original film from 1937 of life on the Wendelken farm concluded the program.

Monday, March 10, 2014

Railroad Photography in South Dakota

Dakota Southern at Yankton in 1873
Rick Mills shared a collection of photographs of earliest (1987) to current railroading in South Dakota.   Eighty-three members of the Spearfish Area Historical Society enjoyed the varied collection at the Spearfish Senior Citizens Center on Mar 4, 2014.  Rick Mills is the Executive Director at the South Dakota State Railroad Museum in Hill City. 

Burlington Northern at Spearfish Depot late 1890s
Rick took the audience through the photographs explaining when, where and how each picture tells the historic tale and becomes significant to South Dakota's past.  The first photograph was of the first train in South Dakota, the Dakota Southern at Yankton in 1873 which connected Yankton to the existing railway network in Iowa.  Another showed the Chicago Burlington & Quincy train at the Spearfish Depot headed for Spearfish Canyon to Englewood in the late 1890s.  There were oh, so many more.

Visit the South Dakota State Railroad Museum at 222 Railroad Ave Bldg A in Hill City, follow their website at, or give them a call at (605) 574-9000.   Share a story or a photograph with Rich Mills and staff at the museum.

Rapid City to Huron with sun effects

Friday, March 7, 2014

Mormon Cricket Invasion in the 30's

The Feb 4, 2014 program on the "Mormon Cricket Invasion in the 30's" was presented by Doris Schenk, Rocky Courchaine, and Betty Haiar to 61 members of the Spearfish Area Historical Society at the Spearfish Senior Citizens Center.  The invasion of millions of crickets hit the Sundance, WY area in 1937 following a record dry year in 1936.  The oversized Mormon cricket is not really a cricket but is a katydid, getting its name from an infestation in Utah where the arrival of a flock of seagulls saved the Mormon crops from complete devastation.  Mormon crickets move in a mass, hopping but cannot fly.  They bark like a Chihuahua.  Local actions were taken by building trenches and low 6" fences to stop the advance so that killing by pesticide could work.  The pesticides used were 1) banana oil and arsenic, 2) recycled oil, and 3) carbaryl, the active ingredient in Sevin.  Mormon crickets are cannibalistic and a poisoned cricket would weaken and quickly be eaten, poisoning the cannibal, and on and on.  People working near the arsenic did report feeling ill.  By 1938 the cricket invasion was under control.  Mormon crickets haven't totally left the Sundance area as Rocky reported that small but noticeable numbers were spotted only a few years ago.

Doris Schenk made these comments for the website posting:
             This program came about when Jane Carlstrom who does the Peak at the Post column for the BH Pioneer put a news note from 75 years ago in 1938 "They took down the Mormon cricket fence".  Someone was curious and asked Laurie Hayes "What is a Mormon cricket fence?"  Laurie asked me if I knew what it was and I did and she asked if I would do the program. 
             My Mom had saved pictures of Mormon crickets from the front page of the Sundance Times and I had made a copy for Ellen (Crago) Mueller who had grown up near Beulah, WY.  Ellen had done some research on Mormon crickets and she sent me a copy of her paper in 1996 which I used as a resource for the program.
             I remember, as a 4 year old, seeing the crickets on the road and in Sundance along with used oil in the road ditches there.
             The people who helped with information and displays were:  Betty Haiar (notes from her mom's diary 1937-1938), Rocky Courchaine (displays from Crook Co Museum), Donna and Randy Sachau (photos of crickets from the internet put on a DVD, Alice Pattinson (diamond willow can carved by the CCC boys and given to her in-laws, Dorothy Honodel (pictures from the Lawrence Co Extension Office), John Whalen (good information and a piece of the metal from the cricket fence, Paul and Violet Smith (good information from the cricket file she had created at the Sundance library).  Also thanks to Donabel (Nickelson) Ross, Carl Anderson, and Claire & Maxine Ripley for their help.

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Hold-up of the Spearfish - Miles City Stage

Ninety people braved a cold, snowy night on Jan 3, 2014 at the Spearfish Area Historical Society program to hear Paul Higbee tell the tale of the Miles City to Spearfish stage coach robbery on a similarly cold, snowy night in Feb 17, 1894. 

The stage coach was an open buckboard with no passengers and it was carrying U.S. Mail holding cash.  The stage was coming from Miles City headed to Spearfish at about 11pm on a Saturday night and was about where BHSU campus is now when they turned a corner and two gunmen stepped out. It was dark with no moonlight.  Ernest Flynn was the driver.  The gunmen had pistols.  One was tall and the other short.  The tall man told Ernest that he didn’t want to hurt him.  He said he just wanted the mail, then asked for Ernest’s money, his watch and his tobacco.  Ernest gave all up to the robber and then asked for his tobacco back and got it back.   After reporting the robbery, the authorities went to the site but the snow had covered all tracks.

The Post Office assigned the case to employee M.C. Fostness from Des Moines who arrived a few days later.  The first suspects were two strangers in town, one tall and the other short.  But, they had a good alibi as they had just gotten employment in Deadwood.  The second suspect was a businessman from Sundance who had broken into a barn and pawned a watch.  It turns out the watch was not the stolen watch, so he was cleared.  The third suspect was driver, Ernest Flynn, himself.  M.C. Fosnes set up an elaborate “dummy envelope” planted on the appropriate delivery line.   Ernest did not take the bait and was cleared also.

Finally, a year and a half later, a jail talker spilled the truth about what had happened and the robbers were convicted within 30 days.  Tom Pitts was the talker and happy to talk.  Ulysses Pitts was his cousin.  Ulysses, his wife, Sally, and her son had moved to a rented farm near Beulah.   They took in a border whose name was George Hayes.  George fell in romantically with Sally.  It was a small farm.  They had no money so Sally set up the idea to rob the stage and tried to get Ulysses and George take up her cause.  The first night failed as Ulysses and George came back saying it was too cold.  Sally was mad and three nights later, the robbery occurred. 

The trial took place in Sioux Falls against Ulysses and George.  Sally was not charged.  Ulysses got five years, spent one year in the penitentiary and then got out on a pardon by President McKinley.  George spent eight of his life sentence in the pen.  Sally and her son were not seen again.