Monday, December 3, 2018

"Ft. Meade - Dakota Territory" presented by Randy Bender

Randy Bender presented "Ft. Meade - Dakota Territory" through songs, stories and interchanging costumes to approximately 110 people at the Spearfish Senior Citizens Center on Tues Dec 4, 2018.   

Randy's characters were real people who were buried at the Ft. Meade Cemetery (located at the top of the hill south-west of Ft Meade with a great view of Bear Butte).

Besides the great characters portrayed, there were tidbits of information about Ft. Meade soldiers who were also tasked to do carpentry work, care and shoe-ing for horses (a farrier), and just about anything.  Pay was $13.00 a month.  Sturgis was know as "Scoop Town" because it scooped up a soldier's pay. 

In 1901, Ft Meade forbid wine and beer sales at the Fort, so the sales soared in Sturgis.

Ft. Meade was known as the "Peace-keeper Post", making strides at keeping the peace in difficult times.

In 1892, Ft. Meade was instrumental in starting the ritual of standing and removing hats for the playing of the Star Spangled Banner.  Soon, all U.S. Military Institutions were following that ritual.  In 1931, the song was made the U.S. National Anthem.  Randy led the audience to sing a rousing rendition of the Star Spangled Banner. 




Randy brought in antiques from the Fort and also a recent find to be placed at the Ft. Meade Museum.  It is a remnant of the U.S. Prigate Constitution ship keel made into a picture frame with a print picture of the ship.

 

Monday, November 26, 2018

"Lewis & Clark Through South Dakota" by Larry Reuppel

Larry Reupple presented "Lewis & Clark through South Dakota" on Tuesday, Nov 13, 2018 to ninety attendees for the Spearfish Area Historical Society at the Spearfish Senior Citizens Center.
Larry Reuppel at the Spearfish Area Historical Society Nov 13, 2018 presenting "Lewis & Clark through South Dakota"

In 1801, Thomas Jefferson became the third President of the United States.   Spain owned the western land mass in North America and in 1801 signed a secret treaty to transfer it to France.  The United States had no port south in the gulf and was eager to gain a port in New Orleans.  Instead of just the gulf area, France offered the entire land mass of 828,000 sq miles for $15 million.  And so in Dec 1803 America bought the Louisiana Purchase for just 3 cents per acre. 

Jefferson commissioned Merriweather Lewis to explore the new territory.  Lewis offered William Clark the chance to team up with him.  The mail was so slow that Clark was within 24 hours of missing out on the job.  Lewis & Clark   They obtained a 55' x 8' keelboat that could be sailed, rowed, and pulled to venture west, starting from Pittsburg down the Ohio River to camp north of St Louis in the winter of 1803-'04.  From there, they hired 44 men to join their "Corps of Discovery".

On May 14, 1804, Clark and the Corps joined Lewis in St. Charles, Missouri and headed upstream on the Missouri River in the keelboat and two smaller boats at a rate of about 15 miles per day. Heat, swarms of insects and strong river currents made the trip arduous at best.

The day before they made it to Dakota Territory, On August 20, 22-year-old Corps member Sergeant Charles Floyd died of an abdominal infection, possibly from appendicitis. He was the only member of the Corps to die on their journey.
Lewis & Clark map (photo of Larry Rueppel's map)

Their journey into Dakota Territory started on August 21, 1804 with a buffalo hunt and Lewis becoming ill of arsenic poisoning.  They ventured to Spirit Mound north of Vermillion and the James River where they met three Yankton Sioux Indian boys.  They Yankton Sioux were peaceful and accepted the Jefferson Peace Medals - a coin stamped with the image of a handshake.  They were warned of the Teton Sioux further north on the Missouri River.

Lewis & Clark logged new animals into their journals in South Dakota such as a "barking squirrel" (prairie dog) and a "prairie wolf" (coyote).

Near the middle (south to north) of South Dakota, they encountered the Teton Sioux, who were not friendly but a large group agreed to met with the Corps.  There were four chiefs and Lewis thought one was the head chief so offered a coat and hat to him.  This very much angered the other chiefs and the Corp barely made it out on the river, with the Teton Sioux yelling and taunting them along the banks for a long while.   

In early October, the first reference to the Black Hills was made in Lewis & Clark journals as the "Black Mountain".   By late October, they met a friendly Indian tribe the Arikara.  And on Oct 24, they made it to what is now the  North Dakota border.

A little less than two years later, on Aug 20, 1806, they arrived on the northern border of South Dakota on the return journey down the Missouri River.   Going north they had averaged 10 miles a day to journey through South Dakota.  On the return trip they made anywhere from 43 to 81 miles per day.   Going up river through South Dakota took 64 days while the return took 15 days.  



Saturday, November 10, 2018

Industrializing the Black Hills -- Mines, Railroads, and People by Dr.David Wolff


South Dakota State Seal


One hundred and ten people attended the Sept 4, 2018 Spearfish Area Historical Society's first program of the 2018-19 season with Dr. David Wolff presenting "Industrializing the Black Hills -- Mines, Railroads, and People".  

Did you know that the SD state seal/logo was design in 1885 and approved in 1889?  It features a smokestack of a smelter, but there was no smelter industry in the state at the time. 

Where was the payout gold found in the Black Hills?  Along Deadwood Creek and Whitewood Creek.

Was there any violence in the early years of the Black Hills Gold Rush?   Sadly, yes.  There were instances of claim jumping and stage hold-ups.

Who got the winning stake? The Homestake deposit was discovered by Fred and Moses Manuel, Alex Engh and Hank Harney in April 1876, during the Black Hills gold rush.  A trio of mining entrepreneurs, George Hearst, Lloyd Tevis, and James Ben Ali Haggin, bought the claim from them for $70,000 on October 18, 1877.  The Homestake deposit was a 600' x 1500'  claim. An 80-stamp mill began crushing Homestake ore in July 1878.  The partners sold shares in the Homestake Mining Company and listed it on the New York Stock Exchange in 1879. 
Homestake Gold Mine, Lead, SD in 1900

What happened to the Homestake Mine?  George Hearst died in 1891, 14 years after stepping onto the Homestake depost.  Thomas Grier took over as manager and, together with Charles W Merrill, set up cyanide processing plants to retrieve the gold at 90% recovery -- the slime plants.  Many more claims were added, for a total of 300 claims by 1900.  The mining company grew from a handful of employees to 2,000, employing mostly immigrants hailing from all over Europe, although over half were Cornish or English.  From 1890 to 1910, the Lead area had the most diverse population in South Dakota. 

The Homestake Mine was in production for 124 years until the end of 2001.   In 2002, the Homestake Mining Company was merged into the Canadian-based Barrick Gold Corporation.  Local offices and employees continue to control and monitor land management and environmental aspects from the massive mine.

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

Note:  This program was cancelled due to Tom Louks' car accident, from which he is recovering.

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.