Saturday, August 9, 2014

Discovering Deadwood and Sturgis, South Dakota - Part 2 - Cemetery "Residents"

During our short time exploring Mt. Moriah Cemetery on the hill overlooking the city of Deadwood, we couldn't possibly cover the whole area. But, with the help of their excellent "Walking Tour Guide" and some posted signs near many of the graves of some historical figures, I was able to learn about quite a few of them. Probably the most well-known "resident" is Wild Bill Hickok. 

James Butler "Wild Bill" Hickok, "was murdered in Deadwood on August 2, 1876. Wild Bill came, as many others did, to the Deadwood gold camp in search of adventure and fortune. While pursuing what others often said was his only true passion—gambling—he was shot in the back of the head and killed instantly by a local rogue, Jack McCall. A hastily convened miners’ court found McCall innocent, but he was later tried by a regular court, found guilty, and hanged. Wild Bill’s friends buried him in the Ingleside Cemetery, but two years later he was reburied at the present site in Mount Moriah. Wild Bill’s colorful life included service as a marshal, an Army scout and numerous other tasks which called for a fast gun, and no aversion to bloodshed.”



“Potato Creek Johnny, a name synonymous with Black Hills prospecting, was without a doubt, one of Deadwood’s most colorful characters. The small, bearded figure of John Perrett was a familiar sight along the streams of the Tinton area where he may or may not have found one of the largest gold nuggets ever panned in the Black Hills. Some older residents claim this huge nugget was actually several nuggets melted together. Potato Creek’s later life saw him become somewhat of a Deadwood fixture as he took part in numerous parades and community activities. John, ever popular with the children, was an ambassador of good will with visitors to the community until his death on February 21, 1943.”

“Martha “Calamity Jane’ Canary (1850? – 1903). In her short 53 years Calamity Jane lived more than most. She worked on a bull train, performed in a Wild West show, and was a prostitute of little repute—we assume because of her appearance. One story most historians claim to be strictly a figment of Calamity Jane’s imagination was her claim to have been Wild Bill Hickok’s sweetheart. Her acts of charity and her willingness to nurse the sick attest to the warm, soft side of this rough and ready denizen of the Old West. In 1903 Calamity Jane died in the mining camp of Terry from a variety of ailments, chief among which was acute alcoholism. One can only wonder what the elegant and fastidious Wild Bill would have had to say of Calamity’s dying wish—which as you can see was granted—that she be buried next to him.”

“Henry Weston Smith – ‘Preacher Smith”. Deadwood’s first ordained minister truly lived his faith and was an outstanding individual liked by the entire community. During a brief stay in Deadwood, he worked at menial jobs during the week and preached on Sundays. Smith was an ordained Methodist minister and a medical doctor. On Sunday, August 20, 1876, while enroute from Deadwood to the nearby mining camp of Crook City, Smith was murdered, presumably by Indians. Wild Bill’s death caused little stir in Deadwood, but the killing of Preacher Smith filled the community with rage, and for a time a bounty was placed on Indians. Before being exhumed and reburied at Mount Moriah, Smith reposed in the old Ingleside Cemetery.”

“Civil War Veterans’ Section – Mount Moriah contains the remains of many Civil War veterans, but this section contains the largest concentration of burials. Note that all the gravestones of these veterans are alike, provided by the government upon request of relatives.”

“Brown Rocks Overlook—This point overlooks Deadwood Gulch with its panoramic view of Deadwood and the surrounding mountains. To the west can be seen the Yates shaft headframe and a small portion of the surface operations of the famous Homestake Mining Company at Lead, three miles up the gulch. The American flag at the overlook flies 24 hours a day by act of Congress. It is one of the few spots in the country which is afforded this honor.”

So many motorcycles during the Sturgis Rally

Michel Rouse

“John Hunter—Many pioneers did not come to the Hills for gold; other business pursuits brought them. John Hunter was a businessman and for many years ran a sawmill, furnishing lumber for homes, mines, and mills. Hunter was co-founder of the Fish and Hunter Company, which for many years was one of Deadwood’s flourishing wholesale houses. The Hunter family has been a positive force in Deadwood for over 100 years.”

“George V. Ayres—a Nebraska native who migrated first to Cheyenne, Wyoming where he and a small group of gold-seekers set off afoot for the Black Hills gold camps. After seventeen days, ten of which it snowed, George and his compatriots arrived at Custer. Going on to the gold fields in Deadwood, he became seriously ill and was forced to return to Custer to recuperate. He returned to Deadwood in 1877 to work in a hardware store. By 1909 he had become the sole owner of the hardware store that still bears his name. Ayres was instrumental in developing the first good road system in the Deadwood area and in upgrading life in general for the population. An example of this hardware man’s ‘Mark Twain’ style of wit is best demonstrated by his reply to a question posed to him on how to cope with Deadwood’s rough element. He replied, ‘Just let the ruffians alone and they will kill each other off.’”

“Colonel John Lawrence—Although the title of ‘Colonel’ was only an honorary title bestowed by an early governor of Dakota Territory, John Lawrence will be remembered as the first county treasurer and as the namesake of Lawrence County. He came to the Black Hills in April 1877 following a varied political career as a Dakota Territorial Legislator, Sergeant-at-Arms of the House of Representatives in Washington, D.C., and Deputy United States Marshall of Dakota. After serving as treasurer, he was sought out for his advice on matters of importance in the county, and for several years served as road supervisor for Central City and the surrounding mining camps and as an election judge.”

 Finally, although she isn't included in the Walking Tour Guide, I felt that Charity should be included here, if only because she lived to the old age of 100 years during a time when women usually died much younger.

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