Friday, March 30, 2012

Telling the story with historic images

by Larry Miller

We have always been intrigued by historic photographs that help tell the story of our past. 

That’s why some months ago, we created the gallery labeled “Spearfish Yesteryear” containing numerous early-day images of Spearfish and the surrounding area.  If you’ve not visited the gallery, we invite you to take a few minutes and browse through the photos.  You'll find the perpetual link to that gallery in the right-hand column of this page.  We’ve added a few from time to time and would like to expand it even more.  If you have any historic photos tucked away in an album or old trunk, sharing them here is a good way to help preserve the images electronically – and to share with family and friends who can visit this site anytime – anywhere!

A reminder, too, that some of the photos in the gallery are unidentified.  So if you’re able to put a name with a face – or even help us date the photo or determine exactly where it might have been taken – you’ll be providing a valuable service for all you visit the site now and in the future.

This brings us to another gallery that we’ve just added.  It, too, is populated by historic photographs.  However, all of these were the handiwork of  a single professional photographer named John C.H. Grabill.

We don’t yet know a lot about Grabill, where he came from or where he finally ended up.  However, his work can be found in numerous places, including the Library of Congress.  His photographs were usually well labeled, but his business domicile seemed to bounce around from what’s believed to be its 1886 beginning in Sturgis, to Hot Springs, Lead, Deadwood, and by 1894, Chicago, Illinois.

Although not fully documented, we understand he may have been the “official” photographer at one time for both the Black Hills-Fort Pierre Railroad and the Homestake Mining Company.  While this may be true, Carolyn Weber with the Homestake Adams Research and Cultural Center (HARCC) tells us that she’s seen no evidence that Grabill ever served in such a capacity with Homestake Mine.  Much of the early records from Homestake are archived at the HARCC in Deadwood.

Grabill is perhaps best known for his powerful imagery from the 1891 massacre at Wounded Knee, South Dakota.

So, we invite you to saunter on in to our Grabill Gallery and see a fascinating variety of images that help capture the old west – from mining and ranching to cowboys and Indians – and a fair share of military photographs, too.  Enjoy!