Wednesday, November 4, 2015

James K.P. Miller - The Savior of Deadwood

David Wolff sharing the story of James K.P. Miller
David Wolff adeptly shared the history and story of "James K.P. Miller - the Savior of Deadwood" on Nov. 3, 2015 at the Spearfish Area Historical Society meeting with over 100 people in attendance at the Spearfish Senior Citizen Center.

Born in 1845, James K.P. Miller was an early west entrepreneur moving throughout Montana under the alias name of Sydney Osborne (he had lost family money on a venture in his home state of New York).   He learned the grocery business in the early west while at the same time traveled the world.   In 1876 he came to Deadwood, now under his real name, at a time when Deadwood already had 200 stores and 21 groceries.  James established a grocery with partner McPherson and soon was competing directly with Sol Star and Seth Bullock's store.  The 1880 Deadwood fire took his store down for a uninsured $50,000 loss.   He built again, this time with iron shutters.  Then the 1883 flood came and James encouraged and got a 16' high 1000 ft bulkhead built along the west side of the creek.  James became a major developer in town and with his own funds and with a syndicate of developers he built the Syndicate Block, a flour mill, a reduction plant, and the D&D Smelter, among other investments. He tried to get the Fremont train to Deadwood.  After years of promotion he got frustrated and set in motion a line from Deadwood to Lead in 1889 (the ride cost 25 cents, took 17 minutes and took a grade of 8%).  Unfortunately, James died in major debt in 1891 at age 54.  About the time of his death, the Burlington Northern railroad built 100 miles to Deadwood and this pushed the Fremont railroad to finally come in the final 10 miles through Boulder Canyon.