Saturday, November 15, 2008

Ghosts of Rose Hill

Was it a coincidence that Linfred Schuttler’s presentation the “Ghosts of Rose Hill’ was given just a couple of weeks after Halloween? We think not!

Despite mystical occurrences between Halloween and the November 11th meeting of the Spearfish Area Historical Society (SAHS), a fair-sized group of folks turned out for the ghostly meeting at the Spearfish Senior Citizens Center. And perhaps that interim “mysticism” was just the general election!

No stranger to SAHS – or to Spearfish (he’s been here more than 62 years!) – Linfred Schuttler offered a straightforward, slightly tongue-in-cheek, presentation about many unusual circumstances surrounding burials in Rose Hill Cemetery.

Rose Hill sits atop a hill adjacent to the city campground in south Spearfish. It was platted and opened in 1877, even though there may already have been bodies buried there. Linfred shared a litany of stories about deaths and burials in Spearfish during the late 1800s – and noted that there are no markings for many of those graves, and that “perhaps only their ghosts know” where the bodies are buried.

But we do know where the body of one Levi Blizzard lies, because it is identified by both an old wooden marker and a newer metal marker of the International Order of Odd Fellows. And while we know of Blizzard’s demise in November of 1876 – and we know of no ghosts -- no one seems to be able to explain the bouquet of flowers that mysteriously appear on his gravestone every Memorial Day.

Schuttler recounted the decision made in 1884 that no distinction was ever to be made between Union soldiers and Confederate soldiers buried at the cemetery. That was some seven years after a David Abernathy and Deputy Sheriff David Wilson were killed about 10 miles west of Spearfish, while in pursuit of thieves who had stolen Abernathy’s wagon. Settlers en route to Spearfish found their bodies and brought them back to town. They were buried at Rose Hill. As it turns out, Abernathy – who had fought for the Confederacy during the “war between the states” – was the first Civil War veteran buried in the cemetery. We don't know where their plots are, but we do know that from Rose Hill, their ghosts would have a splendid view, as seen in the photo above left.

There was also the touching story about a two-year-old boy whose family lived in a house just beneath the “Normal School” in Spearfish. The lad was bitten by a rattlesnake, but there was no immediate medical attention available, so he was given a shot of whiskey. Schuttler noted that the boy survived this incident, only to die – along with his two brother – of diphtheria two months later.

Weaving stories of crime, passion, and heartache, Schuttler divulged numerous stories that elicited expressions of surprise and delight from the audience.

Among them, the story of Keating and Davis, two men found hanging from a tree about two miles north of town along Spearfish Creek. The two had operated a rather successful butcher shop in Deadwood…..that is, until an area rancher found them dressing out one of his steers!
“No law. No fuss. No story….just two burials,” quipped Schuttler.

For all the light-hearted talk of ghosts as Rose Hill, a casual November afternoon visit to the cemetery divulged only beautiful panoramas and an opportunity commune with deer that populate the grounds this time of year; witness this fellow near a tombstone in the southeast part of Rose Hill.

To see a few candid photographs from the Rose Hill Cemetery presentation, visit our
History Gallery. The next Spearfish Area Historical Society meeting will be Tuesday, December 2, when Johanna Meier will open her famous doll house during the day, followed by a presentation that evening at 7:30 at the Senior Citizens Center.