Few towns capture the chaos and lawlessness of the American frontier as well as Deadwood, South Dakota. The illegal settlement sprung up in the 1870s as many drifters, drunks, and criminals sought fortune during the Black Hills Gold Rush. The community quickly gained a reputation for rampant crime, constant murders, and a surge in illicit acts, including gambling and prostitution. Today, the town has embraced its legacy, offering many activities to help visitors enjoy themselves and learn about the town.
Our first stop was to the visitor center, there we decided to go to Mt. Moriah Cemetery.
Mt. Moriah Cemetery in South Dakota is the final resting place of many people and characters of the American old west including Wild Bill Hickok, Calamity Jane, Potato Jack and several others. It sits high on the hill above the town of Deadwood South Dakota. They made Deadwood famous, so we just had to pay our respects.
James Butler Hickok, better known as “Wild Bill” was a wagon master, soldier, scout, lawman, gunfighter, gambler, showman, and actor who was well known in the American West.
In the spring of 1876, Hickok arrived in Deadwood, South Dakota. There he became a regular at the poker tables of the No. 10 Saloon, but not having much luck, but barely surviving as a card player. On this day in 1876, Hickok was playing cards with his back to the saloon door. At 4:15 in the afternoon, a young gunslinger named Jack McCall walked into the saloon, approached Hickok from behind, and shot him in the back of the head. Hickok died immediately. McCall tried to shoot others in the crowd, but amazingly, all of the remaining cartridges in his pistol were duds. McCall was later tried, convicted, and hanged.
Martha Jane Canary was a tobacco-spitting, beer-guzzling, foul-mouthed woman who preferred men’s clothing to dresses. One of the rowdiest and adventurous women in the Old West, she was a frontierswoman and professional scout, truly ahead of her time. She was well known through the Hills as Calamity Jane, but how she got this nickname is a legendary debate.
Jane took her siblings back to Wyoming, arriving at Fort Bridger on May 1, 1868. Taking whatever job that was available in order to provide for the family, she worked as a cook, a nurse, a dance-hall girl, a dishwasher, a waitress, an ox-team driver, and according to some tales, a prostitute. Calamity Jane was also a well-known humanitarian in Deadwood, nursing Deadwood residents stricken by the smallpox epidemic.
She and Wild Bill knew each other and had both been in some of the most dangerous towns of the West like Abilene and Hays City at the same time. They arrived together in Deadwood in the same wagon train from Cheyenne. She did say numerous times that her & Wild Bill loved each other, but Wild Bill never said he loved her. Her dying wish, allegedly, was to be laid to rest by Wild Bill Hickok. And there she rests, an official Deadwood legend.
The Reverend Henry Weston Smith (January 10, 1827 – August 20, 1876) was an American preacher and early resident of Deadwood, South Dakota.
The Reverend Henry Weston Smith, known to the locals as “Preacher Smith,” had the misfortune of not only being murdered in Deadwood in 1876, but of being murdered only a few days after the famous Wild Bill Hickok was also murdered in Deadwood — which is probably why you’ve never heard of Preacher Smith. Before he left town on Sunday, August 20, on foot to deliver a sermon to the miners in Crook City, he supposedly told his friends, “The Bible is my protection. It has never failed me yet.” And then he was shot dead.
Smith’s murderer was never caught, although blame was placed on either unfriendly Indians or a hired killer, paid for by the owners of Deadwood’s brothels and saloons. Smith was eventually buried in the same cemetery as Wild Bill.
Just one more, Last but not Least!
John Perrett was panning in Potato Creek when he found a leg-shaped gold nugget. The nugget was reportedly the largest piece of gold ever found in the Black Hills. The lucky prospector became an instant Deadwood legend known as “Potato Creek Johnny.”
He is buried at Mt. Moriah Cemetery alongside Wild Bill Hickok and Calamity Jane. Upon the occasion of Johnny’s passing, the headline of the Black Hills Pioneer on February 21, 1943 read: “Potato Creek Johnny Crosses the Great Divide.” Thus another Black Hills character passed on into the annals of history.
And now we go into the town of Deadwood . . . .
It’s changed a bit.
Our stroll down the Historic Main Streets of Deadwood was fun. As you can see we took a lot pf pictures and even saw two live re-enactments.
One was the re-enactment of Wild Bill’s Death. This is a fun play follows the Shooting of Wild Bill Hickock who was shot while playing poker by Jack McCall. Wild Bill was holding a hand of Aces and Eights (Dead Man’s Hand). This re-enactment is one of the longest running stage plays in America dating back to the 1920s
Wild Bill talked about his life, very interesting life by the way, and the card game took place and the rest is history.
The 2nd re-enactment was David Lunt being shot.
David Lunt was shot in the forehead, with entry and exit wounds, in the crossfire of a Saloon Fight in Deadwood, South Dakota. He resumed daily life until he died 67 days after being shot. There is no known explanation as to why Mr. Lunt survived so long after being shot.
One thing that hasn’t changed in Deadwood is that there still is many bars and casinos instead of saloons.
We checked out Celebrity Hotel because they have costumes that movie stars wore in various movies.
Deadwood. . . . Where else would you have a bar in a store?
All that FUN and they day wasn’t over yet.
It’s only about 1 mile down the road from Deadwood but worth seeing.
There is a small museum owned by Kevin Costner. It’s not touristy, more of a respectful tribute to the buffalo. The visitor center had a introductory film giving the background of the buffalo and the sculptures by Kevin Costner, a number of displays and souvenirs.
When your done you take a path outside to see the Ta’Tanka its the 3rd largest bronze sculpture in the world. It is composed of a total of 17 pieces: 14 bison being pursued by three Lakota riders on bareback. These figures artfully depict the earliest and most effective form of hunting bison called a bison jump.
Lakota Bison Jump” created by local artist Peggy Detmers
Another great day in South Dakota.