Saturday, December 25, 2010

Terry Cemetery area targeted

With gold prices nearly double what they were 10 years ago, Wharf Resources indicates they're moving forward with plans to expand their mining operations near Terry Peak -- and that could have implications for the Terry Cemetery.  

Although Wharf started its application process in September, it's been pretty much under the radar ever since.  That is, until a story by Kevin Woster emerged last week in the Rapid City Journal.  Woster wrote that the proposal "worries some nearby landowners and could force the relocation of more than 200 graves in the Terry Cemetery."

Above is a bit of history regarding the Terry Cemetery as depicted in the LCHS 1994 publication "Cemeteries and Graves in Lawrence County and Environs," edited by Irma Klock.

We suspect Wharf's proposal will gain additional attention in coming days as folks have an opportunity to comment on their plan.  If you wish to be heard, you should act by Tuesday, January 11th.  For a wealth of information -- and an opportunity to comment -- go to the South Dakota Department of Environment and Natural Resources web site.

As a sidebar, we are reminded of the appropriate steps taken some years back by Hershey Food Corporation when they discovered an old cemetery on land they were preparing to convert to a parking lot near their west plant in Hershey, Pennsylvania.  As it turns out, it was an old Hammacher family cemetery, ancestors of many Hamaker families now living in western South Dakota and western Nebraska.  Hershey stepped up to the plate and did the right thing by taking leadership in helping to preserve this historic cemetery.  We believe their actions serve as a model of corporate and civic responsibility.  
We hope Wharf Resources will display the same kind of leadership, but a public nudge in that direction might help.  

Friday, December 17, 2010

Con Stapleton: Deadwood's First Marshal

Submitted by Jerry Bryant
LCHS president

Born in 1848, Con Stapleton first set foot on American soil on 17 May 1872 in New York City. He had departed Ireland from Queenstown and made the journey berthed in the steerage section of the sailing steamer Manhattan.[1]

The Manhattan was a large two masted steamer that carried cargo and immigrants from Europe to the United States. On the voyage that brought Con Stapleton to the United States she was carrying more than 600 passengers, most of whom were traveling 3rd class.

No records have been found indicating what Stapleton was doing between his arrival in the States and his appearance in Deadwood in 1876. He first appears in the Black Hill Pioneer when he was elected town marshal as part of the initial quasi-legal city government, on 16 September 1876.[2] On 25 September 1876, he was in the news again when John Manning and others of the community advertised the formation of the Democrats of Lawrence County. Con Stapleton was noted to be one of the newly elected delegates to a proposed convention that would occur on September the 29th.[3]

Marshal Stapleton had his first real taste of duty when he received information and a photograph of a man who was wanted in Marion County, Iowa. The man, Horry Williams, had been convicted of murder. The judge asked him, after he was sentenced to twenty years imprisonment, if he had anything to say. His reply was short and to the point, “You may pass sentence on me, but I will never serve the term.” Later, as the sheriff was transporting him to the State Penitentiary, he overcame the sheriff and beat him to a “state of insensibility.” He then made good his escape. 

On the 24th of March, Stapleton solicited the assistance of Captain Hardwick and hit the trail in search of the desperado. They first traveled to Elk Creek, where they found that they were on the right trail, but a day and a half late. They slept overnight at Elk Creek and by 6:00 a.m. were back in hard pursuit. They rode to Battle River, and followed its course to Iron Creek. Here they encountered a cabin whose residents confirmed that the man they were looking for had been staying there and that he was presently out hunting. Stapleton and Hardwick decided to wait at the cabin for William’s return. At just about 5:00 p.m. the cabin door opened and they stood staring into the face of Horry Williams. Williams put his gun up at the request of his host, Dr. Woods and sat down to dinner. While eating and engaged in conversation, the Marshall and the Captain arrested him.  Williams was transported back to Deadwood without incident, where the authorities in Iowa were notified. Captain Hardwick then returned Williams back to Iowa and prison. [4]

The Shooting of David Lunt

A bunch of the boys were sitting around having drinks and talking at Al Chapman’s Saloon on the cold winter evening of the 14th of January 1877. Included in the group were Con Stapleton and David Lunt.  David was a very well liked man around town with a reputation of being a fair and genial man. The conversation was good, the saloon was warm, and drinks were cheap, when all of a sudden the saloon door burst open. A man named Tom Smith came in and drew his revolver. Smith then stated that if anyone moved he would shoot him. He approached the group that Lunt was with, leveled his revolver and continued shouting threats. At this point Con Stapleton grabbed Smith and attempted to disarm him, when the revolver went off. The ball narrowly missed Stapleton’s head, continued on and struck David Lunt in the forehead. Smith was arrested and brought to trial over the incident, but it appears that the only charge they could get him on at the time was discharging a firearm at a town marshal. At court, the fact that David Lunt was also shot during the fracas did not seem to enter into the verdict.  Tom Smith was taken off to Yankton for a real trial, which would also not consider the fact that Lunt was shot, and by March of the same year could be found walking the street of San Francisco

But what about Lunt? Well, of course, everyone thought that he was going to die, and real soon, but instead he got up and started to do the same things he had been doing before he was shot. He actually seemed like his old self, even though a bullet had pass completely through his skull, until the 22nd of March, when he began complaining of an extremely bad headache. Friends of his who owned the Centennial Hotel, Mr. and Mrs. Morgan, took him in and tried to nurse him back to health, but he kept sinking lower and that night about a quarter till 11, he died. Drs. Bevan and Babcock conducted a post-mortem the following morning. Their findings were that the bullet had passed through Lunt’s head, and in the process the bullet had carried an inch and half long bone fragment deep into his brain. The bone fragment caused a large abscess to form and the right hemisphere of the brain began to fill with fluid. Now the determination was made that Smith had committed murder and so Sheriff Seth Bullock sent a telegram to ascertain Smith’s where abouts and to issue a warrant for his arrest. He was arrested in San Francisco and sent back to Yankton for trial. The question that begs to be answered in this story is; how did David Lunt live for 67 days with a bullet hole through his skull and brain?[5] 

The Drawbacks of Not Having a Jail

As usual, most mining camp calamities happen at night and in a saloon, and such is the case of the shooting of Harry Varnes. Thirteen days after the tragedy of David Lunt’s shooting, Harry Varnes was shot and killed at Hanley’s Gayville saloon. The event started over what had been a friendly Saturday evening card game on the 27th of January, 1877. At the end of the game, one of the players, a Blacksmith named Hartgrove, was angered over the outcome. Hartgrove made several statements that enraged one of the other players, Harry Varnes. Varnes then stood up, raised his chair over his head as to hit Hartgrove with it. The chair never fell, as the saloon’s proprietor restrained Varnes. Simultaneously Hartgrove drew his revolver, but was prevented from firing it by several of Varnes’ friends. 

A short time elapsed and the crisis appeared to have ended, and then Hartgrove walked out of the saloon, but remained outside the door on the walk. Varnes called out to Hartgrove, asking him to come back in and have a drink, but Hartgrove declined. Between 10:00 and 11:00 Hartgrove kicked open the door to the saloon and stood outside. The previous argument was revived, and Hartgrove again drew his revolver and shot at Varnes through the door. With Varnes dying on the saloon floor, Hartgrove vanished into the night.

The next morning at approximately 6:00 a.m., Hartgrove woke up Marshal Stapleton at his room in Deadwood and explained what had happened the previous night, stating that he wished to give himself up. Stapleton replied, “all right; you know we have no jail here, so you must stop for the present where you are.” Hartgrove set down and began waiting. Soon he started complaining of the cold, so Stapleton told him to fire up the stove down stairs, and that he would be along when he was ready. Hartgrove warmed himself by the fire until about 9:00 a.m., when Stapleton came downstairs and joined him. At that time Hartgrove asked Stapleton if he could go consult with his lawyers, who had offices on the second floor of the same building. At this point, somewhere between the stove and the lawyer’s office, Hartgrove decided that he had inconvenienced Deadwood and it’s marshal long enough, and to quote the Pioneer; “That was the last seen of the perpetrator of this dread deed, and no doubt long ere this he is out of the reach of law or justice”[6]

On November the 7th 1877 Con Stapleton’s job as marshal was finished. The Office of City Marshal ceased to exist and it’s duties taken over by the Sheriff of Lawrence County.  Stapleton stayed in the Deadwood area only a short time during the year 1878. He was featured several times at the Gem Theater, once in a sparring match, another time in a wrestling match, and the last time as the referee for a wrestling match. After February of 1877 Stapleton drifted south to Denver, where it was reported that he had died in September of 1879. He would have been approximately 31 years old.
[1] . Records of immigrant entries to the City of New York,
[2] . Black Hills Daily Pioneer, 16 Sept. 1876, pg4 col2
[3] . Black Hills Daily Pioneer, 25 Sept. 1876, pg1 col2
[4] . Black Hills Daily Pioneer, 31 march 1877, pg4 col2
[5] . Black Hills Daily Pioneer, 20 Jan 1877, pg4 col2
      Black Hills Daily Pioneer, 24 march 1877, pg4 col1
[6] . Black Hills Daily Pioneer, 3 Feb 1877, pg4 col3

Wolff tells story of gold and railroads in the Black Hills

The life and death of Wild Bill Hickok added a lot of flair to the history of Deadwood and the Black Hills.

Facts and embellishments regarding Wild Bill, Calamity Jane, and other 19th century characters helped give rise to a burgeoning tourism industry that continues into the 21st century.

But the growth and durability of old Deadwood links back directly to two things:  gold and railroads.

In his latest presentation to the Spearfish Area Historical Society (12/7/10), Black Hills State University professor David Wolff recounted the discovery of gold and the development of railroads in the Black Hills.
A pharmacist-turned-historian, Dr. Wolff is a Past President of the Lawrence County Historical Society and continues to serve on that board.  He is also a Vice-President of the South Dakota State Historical Society and is Chairman of the Adams Museum and House Board of Directors in Deadwood.

There were rumors of gold in the hills in the early 1800’s, Wolff told the audience.

“But who knows?” he asked somewhat rhetorically.

“If the Thoen Stone is to be believed, the Ezra Kind party was here in 1833 and 1834.  If Ezra and his buddies really got all the gold they could carry,  why wasn’t there a gold rush afterwards?  Well, nobody knew about it until Louis Thoen dug the stone up.  Of course, Thoen may have made the stone, but then that’s another story.”

Wolff proffered that both discovery and a rush are required, if such an event is to be considered a true gold rush.  While there were numerous reported “discoveries” earlier in the 1800’s, there certainly was no “rush” of prospectors to the region until 1874.  That’s when the Custer expedition – replete with 110 wagons and a thousand men – entered the western Black Hills near Buckhorn.  It was near present day Custer that year that Horatio Ross and William McKay reportedly found gold in July of that year.

Word spread rapidly, and the rush to the hills was on.  Wolff noted that early prospectors found some gold at Spring Creek, more near Sheridan, and along Rapid Creek.  But it wasn’t much, and for most it wasn’t enough to even pay a day’s wages. 

“If that’s all the gold that would’ve been found in the Black Hills, the gold rush would’ve died.  The men would have lost interest, packed up and left.  It would’ve been like the Big Horns in Wyoming, where there were repeated gold rushes, but they never found any real gold.

But that didn’t happen in the Black Hills, where several “paying locations” blossomed in Deadwood Gulch, along Deadwood Creek and Whitewood Creek.

By the spring of 1876, Fred and Moses Manuel found a large outcropping of ore that became the “Homestead Claim,” measuring 600 by about 1,500 feet.  It became a focal point for hardrock mining.  In the coming months, California entrepreneur George Hearst (at left) arrived on the scene and offered the Manuels and their partners $70,000 for their claims.

It was the beginning of the industrial mining that gave wealth to the region for more than a century.  Hearst and his partners developed the infrastructure necessary to process the ore, and many former prospectors went to work for the Homestake.  With the growth of the Homestake Mine, Lead became a true “company town,” while nearby Deadwood became a service center.

Even in those early days, railroads were an essential part of gold mining.  At first, it was mules and horses pulling ore out of the mines in wagons on rails.  By 1879, Homestake ordered a five-ton locomotive that had to be pulled by oxen from Bismarck, North Dakota to the Black Hills.  That engine – dubbed the J. B. Haggin – was a workhorse for the mine, which used rail to haul timbers needed for the mining operation.  Some 130 years later, the J. B. Haggin remains on display at the Adams Museum in Deadwood.

Wolff traced the expansion of rail service by the Fremont Elkhorn & Missouri Valley from Nebraska along the eastern edge of the hills, basically following the old Sidney to Deadwood stage route.  First to Buffalo Gap in 1885, on to Fairburn, Hermosa, and eventually Rapid City.   In 1887, the railroad started building again, creating excitement in places like Deadwood, Sturgis, and Crook City.  Instead, FE&MV built north 10 miles and created the town of Whitewood.  From 1887 to 1890, all rail business in the area came out of Whitewood.

Then came news that the Burlington line was building north out of Nebraska toward the coal field of Wyoming.  After creating their own company town in Edgemont, Burlington announced plans to build track to Deadwood, which was eager to see the local Black Hills & Fort Pierre line connect with main lines outside the hills.  Despite its name, said Wolff, the Black Hills and Fort Pierre Railroad ran from Lead to Sugar Loaf, Brownsville, then Nemo, and just to the edge of the Black Hills.  There was no service to Pierre.

“1890 was an exciting time in the Black Hills as the Elkhorn began building from Whitewood to Deadwood, and the Burlington started building up through the center of the Black Hills in a classic railroad race.”

The Fremont Elkhorn & Missouri Valley railroad, a subsidiary of the Chicago and North Western Railway, arrived first in Deadwood -- December of 1890.  But the Burlington wasn't far behind -- January 1891.  Both companies established depots in close proximity.  C&NW signage for the old FE&MV depot is still displayed on the side of the old depot building in Deadwood.  It is now a tourist information center.

Wolff quoted Sol Star, then Mayor of Deadwood, as saying that with the arrival of outside railroads, “Deadwood is finally a city of permanence.”

Wolff briefly recounted the role of Seth Bullock in helping the railroad develop Belle Fourche, much to the chagrin of nearby Minnesela residents, who had enlisted Bullock’s help to ensure that the line would pass through their community – which is no more.  More details about this event can be found in Wolff’s book Seth Bullock – Black Hills Lawman.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Not the New Christy Minstrels.....but WHO?

These folks took time out from Days of '76 festivities in 1930 Deadwood to pose for this photograph. Jerry Bryant was kind enough to share this photo, and we'd like to try to identify those pictured.   Drop us an e-mail if you can help.