Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Ivan Hovland opens SAHS season with a bang!

Society member Andy Young examines a few of
the many firearms exhibited by Ivan Hovland.
by Larry Miller

An arsenal of antique rifles and pistols covered the table near the stage of the High Plains Western Heritage Center Tuesday evening (9/4/12) for the first fall meeting of the Spearfish Area Historical Society.

Life-long area resident and retired teacher Ivan Hovland of Central City used the weapons as props for a fine presentation about "Firearms in the Early Black Hills," the opening presentation for another year of monthly programs that usually draw together about a hundred or so history buffs to hear topics ranging from railroading and early flight to family histories and mining stories.

Hovland, who's been active with historical societies in both Spearfish and Lawrence county, blended together a collection of photographs and old newspaper stories to help tell dozens of stories about the role firearms played in Black Hills history.  And he also brought along a chache of pistols and rifles -- a few of the many that he's collected over the years.

From raucous affairs of the heart to cowboys and miners who had a bit too much to drink -- Hovland shared stories from the old Black Hills Pioneer and Times, which had no shortage of "firearm" news to pass along to their readers.

Ivan Hovland of Central City has been
collecting firearms since he was a boy.
Of course, there were anecdotes about both the famous and not-so-famous ladies and gentlemen of yore.   There was the story of General George Custer on expedition in Montana, loaning his Springfield rifle to one of his assistants, Private Tuttle, who shot at long range and killed three Indians.  The Indians responded with a rifle shot through Tuttle's head.  Tuttle was reputed to have once killed two antelope with one shot.

The Bald Mountain News of that era reported the killing of two people and the wounding of two others in Central City.  One William W. Giddings -- a judge --  and Jack Weir were reported dead of gunshot wounds, while Ed Shannon and his wife were seriously wounded in the shooting.  While the cause of the early morning "tragedy" was not immediately known, later reports indicated that Shannon had shot his wife and the judge, who were supposedly engaged in an affair.  Weir had interceded in the shootings and was killed.  Shannon also later died of his self-inflicted wounds.

Hovland also shared accounts of  the shooting skills of Buckskin Johnny Spaulding, who was "as certain of killing a deer at 400 or 500 yards as the average marksman would be at half that distance."  While out hunting with his friend Sam, Spaulding spotted a couple of deer and Sam promptly observed that the deer were too far away for the taking.

"No, Sam, they're not too far," Spaulding was quoted as saying.  He then promptly killed one deer with his first shot.  The second deer raced away, only to be felled by Spaulding's second round from his "deadly Maynard rifle."

Leo Orme (left) shows off a copy of his new book
"Barns of Lawrence County" to Tom Huffman.
Another man, Jesse Hall, claimed to have seen Spaulding kill 15 antelope in a single stand with 15 shots.  Another account told of Spaulding on a scouting expedition, killing an Indian at 500 yards or more.  The Maynard rife was a single shot, and one of its distinguishing features was a huge rim on the cartridge. 

Following the program, Hovland answered a number of questions, and members had a chance to browse through the many exhibits on display at the Heritage Center.  We've included a few photographs and a bit more information in our SAHS Photo Gallery.  

And Leo Orme of Spearfish was also on hand to sign copies of his new book, "The Barns of Lawrence County."

The next meeting of the Spearfish Area Historical Society will be on Tuesday, October 2nd at the High Plains Western Heritage Center.  Retired broadcaster Verne Sheppard -- long associated with KOTA radio and televison -- will be  on hand with Jim Thompson and Larry Miller to talk about Early Broadcasting in the Black Hills.