Monday, October 1, 2018

2nd Program - Oct 2 at 7:30pm "A Visual History of Spearfish/Dakota Territory - 1875 to 1910 Postcards & Stero Views" by Tom Louks

"A Visual History of Spearfish/Dakota Territory - 1875 to 1910 Postcards & Stero Views" by Tom Louks   

Oct 2, 2018 at 7:30pm at Spearfish Senior Center

Friday, August 10, 2018

1st Program of the 2018-19 Season - Dr David Wolff "Industrializing the Black Hills mines, railroad, and people"



Dr. David Wolff will present "Industrializing the Black Hills mines, railroads, and people" -- the first program of the season for the Spearfish Area Historical Society.

Sept 4 at 7:30 at the Spearfish Senior Citizens Center

Friday, April 20, 2018

Society learns about "BHSU During World War II"


Neil King presents authentic 93rd Army Air Force flag to BHSU President Tom Jackson. It flew over Spearfish in 1943 and was given in honor of Major General Homer "Pete" Lewis.


Terry Neil King presented "BHSU During World War II" to approximately 120 people on April 3, 2018 at the Spearfish Senior Citizens Center.  King is the son of the 93rd Army Air Force Training Detachment commander Neil King.  Co-presenter for the program was Paul Higbee.  
Terry "Neil" King - April 3, 2018
Seventy-five years ago, from March 1943 through May 1944, Black Hills State University, then known as Black Hills Teachers College, was one of 150 colleges and universities across the country (and the only one in South Dakota) that aided in America’s war effort by participating in the U.S. Army Air Force ‘College Training Detachment’ program. first contingent of 200 cadets arrived on March 1, 1943.  The cadets would remain for five months, during which time they received academic instruction from members of the BHSU faculty.  
Instruction consisted of 60 hours in each of the following subjects: Mathematics, English, Modern History and Geography.  It also included 24 hours of Civil Air regulations and 180 hours of Physics.  All of the aviation cadets had already completed Basic Training and held the rank of Private when assigned to the College Training program.  The military phase of their training was conducted by Army Air Force personnel, and consisted of Basic Military Indoctrination, Infantry Drill, Military Etiquette, Customs & Courtesies of the Service, Hygiene & Sanitation and Physical Training.  
BHSU instructors for the cadets
A vital component of the five-month course involved Basic Flight Training that included 10-hours of instruction in single-engine aircraft given by civilian flight instructors at the local airport.  For the 93rd, this activity was performed at Spearfish-Black Hills Airport under the direction of legendary Black Hills aviation pioneer – Clyde Ice.
At the same time, other events or activities continued…perhaps with some adjustments due to the times.  The ‘Swarm Day’ Homecoming in 1943 was still held, but with music provided by the “Jive Bombers”, the 14-piece dance orchestra of the 93rd.  The college newspaper, ‘The Anemone’ was still published and was now joined by the 93rd’s own newspaper ‘Prop Wash’, written by a staff of cadet journalists.  Its pages were filled with news from the war fronts and the Home Front, but mainly news about or affecting the 93rd.  Intramural sports, especially basketball, volleyball and softball replaced the loss of varsity sports – with team names reflecting the times, like ‘Wings’, ‘Tracers’, ‘Gunners’, ‘B-17s’, ‘Roscoe’s Rockets’, ‘Flying Tigers’, ‘Superchargers’ and my favorite the ‘Magnetos’.  In 1943, the 93rd’s softball team won the South Dakota state softball championship, defeating the Rapid City Army Air Base.
Paul Higbee shares information with an attentive group –
This program lured one of our largest crowds!
 
The people of Spearfish not only ‘adapted’ to having the cadets in their community, but in many ways, they ‘adopted’ them as well.  Shortly after the 93rd first arrived in Spearfish, residents realized that there was a need for a recreation center, a place where the cadets could relax during their off-hours.  Residents quickly volunteered their time, effort and money to renovate a building in the Matthews block, formerly occupied by the Zink Variety Store, to provide the new recreation center.  And, at Christmas 1943, every cadet received a personal invitation to enjoy Christmas dinner in the home of a Spearfish family.
The generosity and hospitality given by the people of Spearfish was appreciated, and acknowledged, in a letter written by a cadet and published in the ‘Queen City Mail’ on July 15, 1943.  It reads: “I am speaking for the aviation students who are now stationed at BHTC.  We are away from home, but we have found here people whom we could call Mom and Pop.  You have provided us with a wonderful place of relaxation, a place where we may enjoy games, music, dancing and food in congenial surroundings – the Army recreation center.  I know each of us should like to thank personally those who have made this possible, but as that is out of the question, I am sending our thanks and appreciation to you from us all.  – Signed: J.J. Neukomm.”
~~~~~~
Personal ancestry and notes by Terry Neil KingTo help understand why and how the subject of today’s program came to be, to set the stage and introduce some of the players, requires a little background information.
My late mother was Joan Sunderland.  She was born in Spearfish in 1923; she was raised and lived here until 1946.  Her parents, John and Edith Sunderland, had emigrated to America in the early years of the 20th century from their small village in Yorkshire, England.  As some of you may know, John Sunderland owned Sunderland Meats on Main Street from the early 1900’s until the late 1950’s.  John and Edith lived in, and raised their four daughters and one son in a lovely Victorian white-frame house on Canyon Street.  In All Angels Church, on Fifth Street, there is a stained glass window in their memory; in 1944 my parents were married there and six years later it’s where I was baptized.  My mother had three older sisters: Kathleen who became an educator in Denver, her first husband was James O’Neill of Spearfish, and she later married Otis Reynolds of Sundance, Wyoming; Cecile who was married to rancher Jesse “Buz” Driskill; and Margaret who was married to O.A. “Bud” Kelley who owned the Kelley Motor Hotel and the Matthews Opera House building.  She also had an older brother: Fielden, known as “Skip”, who also worked at Sunderland Meats and eventually ran the business until 1960.
Lt. Neil King was Adjutant for the BHTC Detachment
In February 1943 a key figure in today’s story came to Spearfish.  His name was Neil King, my late father.  He was a Denver banker by profession who had enlisted in the Army Air Force in February 1942 at Lowry Field in Denver.  After completing Officers Candidate School in Miami, Florida and a first assignment at Strother Field in Winfield, Kansas, he arrived in Spearfish as a green second lieutenant, along with three other young officers who were all transferred here with orders to form, and then command, what would become the Army Air Force 93rd ‘College Training Detachment (Air Crew)’ stationed at Black Hills Teachers College – now Black Hills State University.
The others were: Captain Homer Lewis, a rancher, from Dallas, Texas - the Commanding Officer; 2nd Lieutenant Charles Gerlach, a cotton farmer, from Livingston, Texas - the Commandant of Cadets; and 2nd Lieutenant Robert Lee, a newspaperman, from Miami, Florida - the Intelligence Officer.  My dad, 2nd Lieutenant Neil King was the Adjutant.  One month later, 2nd Lieutenant Donald Ballard of Miami, Oklahoma arrived and was the Personnel Officer and Captain William Anderson MD of Dyersburg, Tennessee joined the staff as the Medical Officer.  In November, both Lieutenant Gerlach and Lieutenant Ballard were transferred and 1st Lieutenant John Neustadter of Portland, Oregon joined the staff as Commandant of Cadets.  Assisting these officers was a staff of 11 Army Air Force enlisted men who would provide the military training, indoctrination and skills for the aviation cadets who would soon arrive.

As a child growing-up, I was fascinated with a large black photo album of my dad’s.  Contained within its pages were dozens of beautiful, large black & white photographs, most taken by Spearfish photographer Josef Fassbender of Black Hills Studio.  Those photos captured the images of the personnel, and much of the daily activity, from March 1943 to May 1944 when the 93rd was on the campus at BHTC.  Images taken in and around Spearfish like the Passion Play, Mount Rushmore, Days of ’76 Rodeo and Spearfish Canyon were also included.
In addition to the photo album there were two other items that became more and more of an interest to me.  The first was a multi-page book/manuscript that outlined in great detail the history of the 93rd from its inception to termination.  It had been compiled by my dad in his then-capacity as Commanding Officer.  Its pages brimming with specifics about the three phases of training: Academic, Military and Flying.  Details of financial data from contract and purchasing budgets and expenses to faculty and staff salaries; comments about the program made by faculty members including familiar names like; Millie Heidepriem, Lavina Humbert, Fred Guenther, Evelyn Hesseltine and Grace Balloch; airport information, runway diagrams, maps and flight patterns with details about the maneuvers and proficiency the cadets were required to execute and demonstrate during their flight training.  What made this manuscript so interesting, but also somewhat frustrating, was that it was written in a format similar to, and contained much of the same information, as the online histories of other detachments that I had discovered when trying to locate information about the 93rd.  The second item of interest was an ordinary scrapbook, its pages filled with newspaper articles that had been carefully cut and pasted from local newspapers like the ‘Queen City Mail’ and ‘Rapid City Journal’.  As I was to discover, the scrapbook had also been created and maintained by my dad during his time in Spearfish.  I had seen the scrapbook many times over the years, but had never paid much attention to it.  Now, however, as I began to read the articles, in conjunction with the history manuscript, and the always fascinating photo album – it became clear, that contained in those three items was everything that was needed to properly document the story of the 93rd and the role it, the College and Spearfish, all played during the war.
~~~~~~~
Original 93rd Army Air Force College Training Flag
In his journeys investigating the 93rd Army Air Force College Training in Spearfish, King made contact with retired Major General Homer I. “’Pete” Lewis, who was the commanding officer of the  93rd in Spearfish.   Major General Lewis held the original Army Air Force flag flown at BHTC in 1943 and gave the flag to Terry Neil King, who has now donated it to BHSU archives.  It was presented to BHSU President Tom Jackson at the conclusion of the program.

(Note A few years back, Terry Neil King was kind enough to share several photos relating to the 93rd Army Air Force College Training Detachment at Black Hills Teachers College. You'll find them in our Spearfish Yesteryear gallery) 

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