Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Deadwood, SD - 7/29/14

Deadwood was named for a gulch full of dead trees by miners who came to the area during the Black Hills gold rush. They staked their claims and the town was born in 1876. In short order, Deadwood was a lawless boomtown where bars, brothels, and gaming halls were the primary businesses in town. There are re-enactments of Wild West shootouts on Main Street and the replaying of the most famous event in Deadwood's history, the shooting of Wild Bill Hickok and trial of his shooter, Jack McCall. Jack was hanged two years later for the murder.

The population in 2010 was 1,200, but it thrives on the tourist trade. About 14 miles from Sturgis, the place is packed with bikers before, during, and after the annual Sturgis Motorcycle Rally. The 74th Annual Rally starts next week (first week in August), so we saw lots of bikers in town when we visited on 7/30.

Main Street.

Casinos, saloons/bars, restaurants and shops line the streets. There are 22 casinos in this small town! Other sights that you may want to check out in Deadwood include:
  • Days of '76 Western Museum
  • Historic Adams House Museum 
  • Deadwood's Adams Museum
  • The Shooting of Wild Bill Hickok (Saloon #10)
Several folks we met here in South Dakota had advised us to visit, Mt. Moriah Cemetery, if we visited Deadwood. It was established in 1877-78 and is known as the "Boot Hill of the Black Hills." There are approximately 3,400 people buried in the cemetery. In 1949, Mt. Moriah was officially closed to burials. Today only pedestrian traffic is permitted in the cemetery (as well as tour buses). We took a walking tour using the map provided at the entrance gate.

The symbols on the gateway represent the Independent Order of Odd Fellows, Freemasonry, and the Star of David.

The two most famous graves are those of Wild Bill Hickok and Calamity Jane.

Current monument on his grave.

Replica of original marker.
Calamity Jane.

Bill's on the left and Jane's is on the right in photo below.

Henry Weston Smith was Deadwood's first minister who truly lived his faith and was well-loved by the entire community. In 1876 while travelling to a nearby mining camp, he was murdered (presumably by Indians). His death enraged the community and for a time a bounty was placed on the suspected murders.

Gravesite of Dora Dufran, a madam in Deadwood that opened brothels in nearby towns of Lead, Rapid City, and Bell Fourche. One of her claims to fame was befriending Calamity Jane whom she occasionally employed as a maid. She and her parrot are buried next to her husband, Joseph.

Note the rocks on this grave (and they were on many others as well). They are placed there as remembrances to the deceased. The placement of stones on graves has been practiced for thousands of years (although I must confess I have never heard of it!)

Civil War section; note that the headstones are government-issue military ones.

Many sad stories are told by the plots in this cemetery (or any other for that matter). The row of graves in the rear of this plot are all children who died in their infancy or early childhood (a set of twins and 5 more). How did the parents bear it?

There is an overlook by the flag that is flown in the cemetery. This flag flies 24-hours a day to honor veterans, a practice approved by Congress during World War I.

View of Deadwood from flagpole.

There are many other individual graves that may be of interest to you. The names and histories are provided in the Walking Tour Guide.

Admission to the cemetery is $1/adult. It's a pleasant walk up a hill and we enjoyed wondering around the quiet grounds.


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