“There is no law, no restraint in this seething cauldron of vice and depravity.” ~ The New York Tribune
Saturday I awoke in a cheap hotel in Lead, South Dakota. The Palace Express is a fleabag hotel, owned by a local casino, maintained for overflow of their main hotel and for those few weeks of the Sturgis Bike Rally when they make a financial killing. I only mention the hotel for those of you who might go there off season and are on a budget – the room rate was only $35. dollars! For that price, it was worth it.
The town of Lead shares a porous border with the famous, or infamous, Deadwood, South Dakota; only a sign designates any distinction between them. The town of Deadwood is a National Historic Landmark District known for its rich history as a gold rush town and its notoriety as a wild western town existing on the periphery of the law.
“Panning” for gold.
The Gem Variety Theater and Dance Hall
“Sluicing” for gold.
Wagon train “freighting” west.
The Early Days.
General George Custer came here to the Black Hills with his troops in 1874 despite the Fort Laramie Treaty of 1868 that designated the Black Hills as Indian Territory forever. Word spread when they found gold and the Black Hills Gold Rush began. Thousands flocked to these South Dakota hills seeking their fortunes, inciting the genesis of the illegal town of Deadwood. In Deadwood, without any law, prostitution, gambling and the opium trade were rampant, as was murder; Wild Bill Hickok was shot and killed here. You may visit the grave where he is buried next to Calamity Jane and Potato Creek Johnny, up on the hill in Mount Moriah Cemetery, along with other notable and nefarious residents of Deadwood.
Mount Moriah Cemetery
I didn’t spend a lot of time in Deadwood but I have read enough about Deadwood to become fascinated with the extraordinary life of Seth Bullock. He came into town on August 1, 1876, the day before Wild Bill Hickok was shot and killed, as a hardware merchant and later became the town’s first sheriff. Prior to Deadwood this Canadian had also been a U.S. Congressman and a sheriff in Montana. After his initial time in Deadwood he went on to become U.S. Marshal of the Dakota Territory, a Rough Rider in the Spanish-American War and a life-long friend of U.S. President Teddy Roosevelt; he was also a hotel owner, a farmer who is noted for introducing alfalfa to South Dakota and he helped oversee the creation of Yellowstone National Park.
*Note: I didn’t take any pictures in Deadwood. All of the pictures on this page were taken from the Internet, either from Wikipedia.org or Deadwood.com.
I hope you take time to read about the history and larger-than-life characters of Deadwood; or at least watch the HBO series Deadwood
that brings the town and the people of Deadwood to life in a vulgar, violent and visceral true-to-life tale.
The gam continues…