Anybody traveling through the Black Hills in early April is likely to encounter a bit of snow. Throwing two toddlers into the mix, an unexpected blizzard, and the joys (or woes) of parenthood, we ultimately found ourselves needing a vacation from this vacation. Despite the conditions, the Cutler family managed to stake out quite an adventure in the picturesque hills of South Dakota and Wyoming. Our mainstay on this western excursion was the historic town of Deadwood.
Deadwood Gulch, 1876
In 1874 gold was discovered in the Black Hills. Not long after, one of the largest gold rushes in America sent miners by the thousands pouring into the area to seek out their fortunes and fame. Deadwood, named after the large gulch of fallen trees, became legendary for some of its more flamboyant locals such as Wild Bill Hickok, Poker Alice and Calamity Jane. The town holds special meaning to me as I spent two of the
best years of my childhood living there.
Deadwood Gulch, 2023
If you were to ask Selah and “Pip”, riding the trolley endlessly up and down the streets was the only true way to see Deadwood.
Arie “Pip” had a blast riding Deadwood’s trolley through its historic streets. Just look at his mischievous laugh! I believe it was at this very moment that Pip devised his sinister plot that we shall uncover in the pictures that follow.
Selah also takes a little time out of her busy day of being a princess to enjoy the trolley. Now tell me, how did such a sweet girl become an accomplice to the dastardly deeds her little brother was scheming up?
Pip said he was none too impressed with the likes of Wild Bill Hickok. He had much larger exploits in mind.
The Bullock Hotel, named after legendary lawman, Seth Bullock, is said to be haunted by his ghost.
Seth Bullock, who began his legendary career as Deadwood’s sheriff in 1877, was said to have the ability to stare down a cobra with his steely eyes. It is too bad the sheriff wasn’t still around when Arie, “the Pipster” came to town.
The historic Bullock Hotel was built in 1896 and maintains much of its 19th century charm.
Selah and Pip got kicked out of the Bullock Hotel for playing a couple of their alluring gaming machines. Apparently the fake mustaches they purchased from a nearby gift shop were a bust.
The front desk of Deadwood’s Bullock Hotel
I was hoping for a new hat but this shop was still closed.
We are a family that loves museums and the Days of 76 and Adams Museum were both a fascinating and frugal way to spend a portion of our day.
A bronco rider enshrined in snow outside the Days of 76 rodeo grounds.
Selah rides shotgun where she can keep an eagle-eye out for bandits on the trail.
Selah decided to give “Dada” her seat since he was slightly better with the boom-stick.
Only a man such as “Deadwood Dick” could pull off some buckskins like those!
Newton’s wagons carried the goods to placer miners working the streams and hills.
Selah makes a final check of provisions before heading out West.
Selah sees milk and she’s ready to jump aboard!
Pip said all he needs is beans, bacon and his trusty “paci”. After that he is all set for life on the open range.
Custer State Park was closed during our trip; however, Selah and Pip still got a glimpse of their very first buffalo at the Days of 76 Museum.
The first rule in chariot racing is undoubtedly being able to see where your team of horses needs to go.
An early morning blanket of snow covers the streets of Deadwood.
James Butler Hickok, aka “Wild Bill”, was one of the greatest legends of the Old West. He was shot and killed in Deadwood’s Saloon # 10 on August 2, 1876. At the time of his demise, Hickok was holding a pair of “aces and eights” which would come to be known as the “dead man’s hand”.
All the familiar faces can be found in Deadwood’s Saloon # 10.
Saloon #10 is every much a museum as it is a trusty watering hole.
The actual chair, featured above, was what Wild Bill Hickok was seated on when he was gunned down by the infamous outlaw, Jack McCall.
Visitors to Deadwood Gulch can still find a friendly game of poker at Saloon # 10.
The Lakota people refer to the Black Hills as “Paha Sapa” – their sacred hunting grounds.
Selah will need to shed a layer or two before she melts into the sawdust floor.
A grand portrait of Wild Bill on display at the Adams Museum.
I don’t believe this little guy would agree with the expression, “Two heads are always better than one”.
Some say it was the greatest heist in all of Deadwood’s history. Selah lifted the glass ever so slightly and Pip’s arms was just small enough to grab a hold of the nugget.
“Potato Creek Johnny” discovered this leg-shaped nugget some 50 years after the first gold strike in the territory. It was the largest nugget ever found in the Black Hills.
Selah and Arie decided to bury the gold near a prominent marker just outside of town. This particular memorial marks the spot where “Preacher Smith” was found shot and killed after departing on foot to Crook City to preach a sermon.
Selah stands watch for Pinkerton agents as Pip hurriedly buries his loot in the snow.
Pip got a bit nervous when he saw Selah talking to the town marshal the following day; but nothing to worry about, she wasn’t about to spill the location of the stolen nugget.
The Franklin, built in 1903, has housed numerous celebrity guests throughout the years to include Teddy Roosevelt, Babe Ruth and John Wayne.
A view of view of Deadwood’s Main Street from the Franklin Hotel.
Inside the Franklin’s elegant lobby
The Deadwood Mountain Grand, which formerly housed the old Homestake slime plant, now encompasses a luxury grand casino hotel and state-of-the-art entertainment venue.
The streets of Deadwood are relatively clear of any crowds in the winter months.
Winter still had one more trick up her sleeve in the gaming town of Deadwood.
The Fremont Elkhorn & Missouri Valley Railroad was once a popular travel line faring passengers to rough-and-tumble places like Dodge City, Kansas and Deadwood, SD.
Saint Ambrose Cemetery is the gravesite for many of Deadwood’s unfortunate children who succumbed to smallpox in the 1870s.
As a child I spent many hours with friends exploring the wilderness above Brown Rock.
This is the actual house I lived in when I attended the 6th and 7th grade.
The weather has finally cleared and the sun beginning to peek over the hills brings promise of a gorgeous day!
Sporting his brand-new “Napoleon Dynamite” moonboots, Pip was all set to conquer that colossal mountain of snow.
Look at him scaling that curb with such ease! He is a truly a world-class climber!
The gravesite of Wild Bill Hickok at Mount Moriah Cemetery, Deadwood.
Pip said had he lived back then, he would have been on the front cover of every single dime novel!
A true legend in his own mind.
Another true legend, Calamity Jane, was a well-known figure of Deadwood and the Old West.
Calamity Jane’s dying wish was “bury me beside Wild Bill”.
The views from Mount Moriah Cemetery were beautiful.
After stealing Potato Creek Johnny’s nugget and then burying it at this man’s memorial site, I think Pip felt it was more than appropriate to pay his respects to the ill-fated preacher.
If you look closely, you can barely see Pip’s guilty little hand pressed against the bottom of this stone wall. Pip refused to be photographed at this particular gravesite due to him robbing the dead man of his most-prized possession.
Pip wasn’t impressed much here either. The nugget he “found” at the museum was much, much bigger!
Deadwood is known for its colorful Victorian and Queen Anne-style homes.
The Adams House
The last U.S. census conducted in 2022 placed the population at 1,201 permanent residents.
We would be amiss not to make mention of Deadwood’s VFW Post 5969. Not only does this patriotic establishment have a reputation for cheap drinks and loose slots, it serves up the best $7 bacon cheeseburger plate anywhere west of the Mississippi!
Running from the strong-arm of the law is never easy. Arie takes a moment to slip off his kicks and catch a breather near Homestake mine in Lead, SD.
The Homestake Gold Mine, once called “the richest 100 square miles on earth”, was in operation for 125 years.
Entering Deadwood from the nearby mining town of Lead.
Wild Bill Bar claims to be the original location where Wild Bill Hickok was shot and killed. Today, the establishment features Old West artifacts and decorum, beer, darts, pool tables, and even old-time candy and ice cream for any toddlers in tow.
Unfortunately, something came up and we had to leave the town of Deadwood in a hurry. When Rebecca said it would probably be a few years until we saw the Black Hills again, Selah remained quiet but Pip became downright fussy. In one of his all-too-usual toddler tantrums, he exclaimed, “Come hell or high water, I will be back in Deadwood before the last of these diapers run out. I got business with a preacher and a prospector and there is gold in ’em there hills!” At least that’s what I think he said. His trusty “paci” was limiting much of his speech.
Posted in Adventurous Places, Historical Journeys, North America and tagged Black Hills by Big John with .