Monday, April 18, 2016


The final program for spring 2016 of the Spearfish Area Historical Society will be Paul Higbee on the "Development of the Ampitheater". The venue will be the Lookout Ampitheater on Tuesday May 3 at 6:30pm.  

The Two Spearfish Canyon Hydro Plants

Graphic of Hydro 1, south of Spearfish Park 
Paul Higbee shared the history of the "Two Spearfish Canyon Hydro Plants" to 125 people at the April 5, 2016 program for the Spearfish Area Historical Society.   
Paul Higbee speaking on "Two Spearfish Canyon  Hydro Plants"  

Hydro 1 in Spearfish
The first hydro-electric plant from Spearfish Canyon was started up 104 years ago on April 12, 1912.    Homestake Mining Company designed and built the water flow and hydro plant using its own capital without borrowing funds.  The new lower cost electrical power was to replace coal-fired steam power.  The plan was to divert water from Spearfish Creek in the canyon and send it directly to a new power plant in Spearfish.  Key people on the project were Thomas Greer and engineer, Capt. Richard Blackstone.  A dam was built at the diversion site at Maurice.  Eight tunnels were drilled 5 miles through the Spearfish Canyon rock.   The tunnel(s), at 6 ½' wide x 5' high with an arched ceiling, were coated with cement to become the conduit for the water diversion.   The tunnels narrowed towards the Spearfish end to increase water pressure as it came into Hydro Plant 1, located south of Spearfish Park.   From the dam at Maurice to the sand-pipes, the water drops 800 feet.  Drilling turned out to be easier than expected as the Spearfish Canyon rock was softer than the rock near Homestake's operations near Lead.  That advantage was countered by nature when a 1909 flood took out the railroad line in the canyon.

One of the two generators inside Hydro 1 in Spearfish
Hydro Plant 1 with two generators started up smoothly in 1912 but, by 1913, Homestead needed more power and another generator, so they designed a second plant directly in Spearfish Canyon (this is the dam and power plant that can be seen next to the highway about 6 miles up the canyon).  Man-made pipe conduit was installed through and along the canyon walls and Hydro Plant 2 was started up in 1918.  That start up caused Spearfish Falls, just below Latchstring Inn, to go dry. 

Both Hydro Plants operated through the 1934 year of dust storms.  In 1947, a Spearfish Canyon landslide damaged the conduit and Hydro Plant 2 was shut down.  The Hydro Plant 2 property was sold to SD Game, Fish and Parks.   In 2004, Homestake sold Hydro Plant 1 to the City of Spearfish.  The plant is still running and the power is sold to BH Energy.  Homestake re-channeled the water to Spearfish Falls in 1990.

Wednesday, March 2, 2016

Trucanos and Trojan

Bart Trucano at Spearfish Area Historical Society 3-1-2016
On March 1, 2016, Bart Trucano led over 80 members of the Spearfish Area Historical Society down the "Trucanos and Trojan" path of ancestry and stories.   Bart's great grandfather, Matteo Trucano, left a monastery in Italy as a young man to come to the Illinois coal fields.  His other great grandfather, Peitro Ciuretto, also came from Italy and moved to Terraville to work in the Terraville Mine where he was tragically killed by a blast in 1897.   The next generation, Bartholomeo Trucano and Mary Ciuretto Trucano, stayed away from the mines and became grocers in Lead.  Bartholomeo joined the Christopher Columbus Society, a club that advised and helped immigrants become naturalized.  Bartholomeo's naturalization papers were signed by Sol Starr and in 1915 he registered for the draft for WWI.
Early Day Open Cut Mining Black Hills Area
Trojan, SD approx 1918
Jim Ciuretto and Curt Hoselton delivering groceries

Some facts from the times:
-          A postcard in 1910 cost 1 cent to mail.
-          In 1914, miners who were in ill health went to Hot Springs for health treatments in the spa. 
-          The town of Trojan, west of Lead with a population of about 500, was originally named Greenmont then Portland, then Trojan.
-          In 1907, Homestake Mine changed the work hours for miners from 10 hours a day seven days a week to 8 hours a day seven days a week.  They

offered 6 days a week but the miners wanted to work Sundays.
-          Trojan Mining Co. eventually became Bald Mountain Mining Co.   It employed about 200 people.
-          Cyanide can lids were used around the area as insulation.
Aldo Trucano in center of group of people cross-country skiing in Trojan/Terry Peak Area 1927-1929

Thursday, February 11, 2016

Whitewood History and Homesteading Laws

Mary Livingston presented 'Whitewood History and Homesteading Laws' to an appreciative audience on a snowstorm evening on Feb 2, 2016 at the Spearfish Senior Citizens Center.

Whitewood History synopsis: 

     From 1877 on, the little settlement of Whitewood seem to have a few people a year build homes, but it was overshadowed by the busy Crook City just a mile south. Crook City was the intersection of the Ft. Pierre and the Bismark Trails where oxen drawn supply wagons stopped before making the long and arduous trip ‘up the mountain’ to the populated Black Hills mining towns of the late 1870s and 1880s.

     A man by the name of William Selbie, a railroad employee and Deadwood land speculator, seem to have an ‘ear’ of the ambitious Eastern railroad men who were looking to expand the rail lines into the West to ship western livestock and farm products to the large Eastern cities. Selbie began buying up water rights and land on the flat area just east of the then settlement of Whitewood. By 1887, Selbie had put together and sold a land package to the Pioneer Township Company who surveyed it into lots and, on Thanksgiving Day 1887, auction off the Whitewood Town Lots. The first train in the Northern Black Hills from the East pulled into Whitewood November 21, 1887. When modern day Whitewood was begun, Crook City knew the coming of the railroad to their neighboring city would spell their doom so they hitched mule teams to buildings in their town and pulled them into Whitewood and a new business district was formed overnight.

Whitewood Picnic Day 1912
This photo is from the Whitewood Library collection of Philip Bonniwell cars.   He was one of the first car dealers in the Hills.  He had a ranch at Slim Buttes, (the post office on his ranch was named Reva after his daughter.  Reva, South Dakota.) then moved into Whitewood and started a harness shop.   Very soon he built the Bonniwell Building with his Hardware store on the main floor and a dance Hall on the second floor (later known as the Golden Wheel Dance Halls).   When cars started coming into the Black Hills he started his dealership with a garage next door.    He was hired as the engineer to build a road from Whitewood to Deadwood for the 'new' auto traffic.
Whitewood, Dakota Territory 1888

Thursday, January 7, 2016

The Furois Family of St. Onge

Bernadine Hansen
Maureen Glanzer

Lawrence Co. Special Centennial Newspaper Article 1998
Maureen Glanzer, Bernadine Hansen and Ed Furois share the story of their family history "The Furois Family of St Onge" with over 90 members of the Spearfish Area Historical Society on Jan 5, 2016.

Maureen started the story out with the Stanislas Furois family arriving from Canada in Deadwood in 1879 and moving to the False Bottom area.

Son, Adolphe, got a toothache and walked to Deadwood all night in the middle of the night to get to a dentist.  He decided after that to live in town, Deadwood and then St Onge.   At one point he cut wood from Crooked Oaks and peddled it door to door in Deadwood. Adolphe helped build the stone house in St Onge.
Stone House - St Onge

Adolphe's brother, Achille Furois, was a fiddle player and a ladies man and at one time met Belle Star of western fame.  He built a hotel in St Onge and named it the Star Hotel.

Adolphe and his family managed the only general store in St Onge.  His son, Charles L Furois took up as manager and the store stayed in the family into the 1940s and 1950s.

General Store advertisement

General Store Ledger

Ed Furois

Ed Furois told the story of his father, Charles, waking him up at 4am to accompany him to the St Onge Cemetery where they took down the fence separating the Catholic and Protestants buried there.   Later, in the General Store, a patron came in announcing that the "Fence in the cemetery was gone!" and Charles nonchalantly commented "Is that so?"

McNenny Fish Hatchery - Past, Present & Future

Mike Barnes, Hatchery Manager
On Dec 1, 2015, Mike Barnes, Hatchery Manager of the McNenny State Fish Hatchery, told the story of the hatchery located northwest of Spearfish to the Spearfish Area Historical Society.

McNenny State Fish Hatchery, owned and operated by the South Dakota Department of Game, Fish and Parks, provides trout and salmon for stocking in the Black Hills, Missouri River Reservoirs, and Eastern South Dakota lakes and streams. High fishing pressure, low natural reproduction, and limited food supplies create the need for stocking. Fish raised at McNenny provide fishing opportunities to anglers of all ages.

Approximately 3.5 million gallons of water flow through the hatchery each day. After flowing through the rearing units, the water passes through two settling ponds before eventually flowing into Crow Creek. The hatchery uses this water to produce around 60,000 pounds of trout and salmon each year (give or take a pound or two).The goal of McNenny State Fish Hatchery is to maximize angler satisfaction. To accomplish this goal McNenny emphasizes fish quality and post-stocking survival. 

1949 McNenny Artesian Well
The hatchery's water comes from three artesian wells that were put in place in 1949.  These wells provide consistent ideal temperature water for fish to hatch and grow. 

But much more happens at McNenny than just rearing fish. McNenny strives to be a leader in hatchery-based scientific research and controlled experimentation. The four permanent staff, interns, and volunteers continually innovate by creating or improving the hatchery infrastructure, equipment, and operating procedures. Research and innovation at McNenny not only improves how fish are raised on site, but also advances aquaculture and fisheries management worldwide.
The McNenny Fish Hatchery Display Pond is a 121 foot deep natural sinkhole.

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.