Deadwood (Lakota: Owáyasuta; "To approve or confirm things") is a city in South Dakota, United States, and the county seat of Lawrence County. It was named by early settlers after the dead trees found in its gulch. The city had its heyday from 1876 to 1879, after gold deposits had been discovered there, leading to the Black Hills Gold Rush. At its height, the city had a population of 5,000, and attracted larger-than-life Old West figures including Wyatt Earp, Calamity Jane and Wild Bill Hickok (who was killed there).
Deadwood, South Dakota
Modern Deadwood viewed from Mount Moriah
|• Type||City Commission|
|• Total||3.83 sq mi (9.92 km2)|
|• Land||3.83 sq mi (9.92 km2)|
|• Water||0 sq mi (0 km2)|
|Elevation||4,531 ft (1,381 m)|
| • Estimate |
|• Density||331.6/sq mi (128.0/km2)|
|Time zone||UTC−7 (Mountain (MST))|
|• Summer (DST)||UTC−6 (MDT)|
|GNIS feature ID||1265180|
The settlement of Deadwood began illegally in the 1870s on land which had been granted to the Lakota people in the 1868 Treaty of Fort Laramie. The treaty had guaranteed ownership of the Black Hills to the Lakota people, who considered this area to be sacred. The squatters led to numerous land disputes, several of which reached the United States Supreme Court.
Everything changed after Colonel George Armstrong Custer led an expedition into the Black Hills and announced the discovery of gold in 1874 on French Creek near present-day Custer, South Dakota. This announcement was a catalyst for the Black Hills Gold Rush, and miners and entrepreneurs swept into the area. They created the new and lawless town of Deadwood, which quickly reached a population of around 5,000.
In early 1876, frontiersman Charlie Utter and his brother Steve led a wagon train to Deadwood containing what they believed were needed commodities to bolster business. The numerous gamblers and prostitutes staffed several profitable ventures. Madame Mustache and Dirty Em were on the wagon train and set up shop in what was referred to as Deadwood Gulch. Demand for women was high by the miners and the business of prostitution proved to have a good market. Madam Dora DuFran eventually became the most profitable brothel owner in Deadwood, closely followed by Madam Mollie Johnson.
Deadwood became known for its lawlessness; murders were common and justice for murders not always fair and impartial. The town attained further notoriety when gunman Wild Bill Hickok was killed on August 2, 1876.
Both he and Calamity Jane were buried at Mount Moriah Cemetery, as were less notable figures such as Seth Bullock. Hickok's murderer, Jack McCall, was prosecuted twice, despite the U.S. Constitution's prohibition against double jeopardy. Because Deadwood was an illegal town in Indian Territory, non-native civil authorities lacked the jurisdiction to prosecute McCall. McCall's trial was moved to a Dakota Territory court, where he was found guilty of murder and hanged.
As the economy changed from gold panning to deep mining, the individual miners went elsewhere or began to work in other fields. Deadwood lost some of its rough and rowdy character, and began to develop into a prosperous town. But beginning August 12, 1876, a smallpox epidemic swept through. So many persons fell ill that tents were erected to quarantine the stricken.
In 1876, General George Crook pursued the Sioux Indians from the Battle of Little Big Horn on an expedition that ended in Deadwood in early September and is known as the Horsemeat March. The same month, businessman Tom Miller opened the Bella Union Saloon.
Al Swearengen, who also controlled the opium trade, opened a saloon called the Gem Variety Theater on April 7, 1877. The saloon burned down and was rebuilt in 1879. When it burned down again in 1899, Swearengen left town.
The Homestake Mine in nearby Lead was established in October 1877. It operated for more than a century, becoming the longest continuously operating gold mine in the United States. Gold mining operations did not cease until 2002. The mine has been open for visiting by tourists.
On September 26, 1879, a fire devastated Deadwood, destroying more than three hundred buildings and consuming the belongings of many inhabitants. Many of the newly impoverished left town to start again elsewere.
Thomas Edison demonstrated the incandescent lamp in New Jersey in 1879. Judge Squire P. Romans took a gamble and founded the "Pilcher Electric Light Company of Deadwood" on September 17, 1883. He ordered an Edison dynamo, wiring and 15 incandescent lights with globes. After delays the equipment arrived without the globes. Romans had been advertising an event to show off the new lights, and decided to continue with the lighting, which was a success. His company grew. Deadwood had electricity service fewer than four years after Edison invented it, less than a year after commercial service was started in Roselle, New Jersey, and around the same time that many larger cities around the country established the service.
A narrow-gauge railroad, the Deadwood Central Railroad, was founded by resident J.K.P. Miller and his associates in 1888, in order to serve their mining interests. The railroad was purchased by the Chicago, Burlington and Quincy Railroad in 1893. A portion of the railroad between Deadwood and Lead was electrified in 1902 for operation as an interurban passenger system, which operated until 1924. The railroad was abandoned in 1930, apart from a portion from Kirk to Fantail Junction, which was converted to standard gauge. The remaining section was abandoned by the successor Burlington Northern Railroad in 1984.
Some of the other early town residents and frequent visitors included E. B. Farnum, Charlie Utter, Sol Star, Martha Bullock, A. W. Merrick, Samuel Fields, Dr. Valentine McGillycuddy, the Reverend Henry Weston Smith, and Aaron Dunn.
The gold rush attracted Chinese immigrants to the area. Their population peaked at 250. A few engaged in mining; most worked in service enterprises. A Chinese quarter arose on Main Street, as there were no restrictions on foreign property ownership in Dakota Territory, and a relatively high level of tolerance of different peoples in the frontier town. Wong Fee Lee arrived in Deadwood in 1876 and became a leading merchant. He was a community leader among the Chinese Americans until his death in 1921.
The quarter's residents also included African Americans and European Americans. During the 2000s, the state sponsored an archeological dig in the area, to study the history of this community of diverse residents.
Another major fire in September 1959 came close to destroying the town again. About 4,500 acres (1,800 ha) were burned and an evacuation order was issued. Nearly 3,600 volunteer and professional firefighters, including personnel from the Homestake Mine, Ellsworth Air Force Base, and the South Dakota National Guard's 109th Engineer Battalion, worked to contain the fire. The property losses resulted in a major regional economic downturn.
In 1961, the entire town was designated a National Historic Landmark, for its well-preserved collection of late 19th-century frontier architecture. Most of the town's buildings were built before 1900, with only modest development after that. The town's population continued to decline through the 1960s and 1970s. Interstate 90 bypassed Deadwood in 1964, diverting travelers and businesses elsewhere. After a 1980 raid, its brothels were shut down. A fire in December 1987 destroyed the historic Syndicate Building and a neighboring structure.
The fire prompted new interest in the area and hopes to redevelop it. Organizers planned the "Deadwood Experiment," in which gambling was tested as a means of stimulating growth in the city center. At the time, gambling was legal only in the state of Nevada and in Atlantic City.
Deadwood was the first small community in the U.S. to seek legal gambling revenues in order to maintain local historic assets. The state legislature legalized gambling in Deadwood in 1989, which rapidly generated significant new revenues and development. The pressure of development since then may have an effect on the historical integrity of the landmark district. Heritage tourism is important for Deadwood and the state.
Deadwood is located at .
In the summer, there are numerous trails for hiking, mountain biking, and horse back riding. The northern end of the George S. Mickelson Trail starts in Deadwood and runs south through the Black Hills to Edgemont. Several man made lakes, including Sheridan Lake, provide fishing and swimming. Spearfish Canyon to the north has many places to rock climb. In early June the Mickelson Trail Marathon and 5K, as well as accompanying races for children, are held.
The Midnight Star was a casino in Deadwood owned by American film actor Kevin Costner. The casino opened in the spring of 1991, after Costner had directed and starred in the 1990 Academy Award-winning film Dances With Wolves, which was filmed mainly in South Dakota. International versions of many of his films' posters lined the walls. The casino closed in August 2017.
Deadwood's climate varies considerably from the rest of the state and surrounding areas. While most of the state receives less than 25 inches (640 mm) of precipitation per year, annual precipitation amounts in the Lead—Deadwood area reach nearly 30 inches (760 mm). Despite a mean annual snowfall of 102.9 inches (2.6 m), warm chinook winds are frequent enough that the median snow cover is zero even in January, although during cold spells after big snowstorms there can be considerable snow on the ground. On November 6, 2008, after a storm had deposited 45.7 inches (1.2 m) of snow, with a water equivalent of 4.25 inches (108 mm), 35 inches (0.9 m) of snow lay on the ground.
Spring is brief and is characterized by large wet snow storms and periods of rain. April 2006, though around 4 °F (2.2 °C) hotter than the long-term mean overall, saw a major storm of 54.4 inches (1.4 m), with a water equivalent 4.3 inches (109 mm), leave a record snow depth of 39 inches (1 m) on the 19th. Typically the first 70 °F (21 °C) temperature will be reached at the beginning of April, the first 80 °F (27 °C) near the beginning of May, and the first 90 °F (32 °C) around mid-June. Despite the fact that warm afternoons begin occasionally so early, 191.1 mornings each year fall to or below freezing, and even in May 6.8 mornings reach this temperature. Over the year, 0 °F or −17.8 °C is reached on 17.8 mornings per year, and 47.9 afternoons do not top freezing. The spring season sees heavy snow and rainfall, with 34 inches (0.9 m) of snow having fallen in April 1986 and as much as 15.99 inches (406 mm) of precipitation in the record wet May 1982.
The summer season is very warm, though with cool nights: only one afternoon in five years will top 100 °F (38 °C) and only 10.7 afternoons equal or exceed 90 °F (32 °C). Rainfall tapers off during the summer: August 2000 was one of only two months in the thirty-year 1971 to 2000 period to see not even a trace of precipitation. The fall is usually sunny and dry, with increasingly variable temperatures. The last afternoon of over 80 °F (27 °C) can be expected on October 5, but the first morning freeze can be expected as early as September 23, and the first snowfall also around October 5.
Since records began in 1948, the hottest temperature has been 103 °F (39.4 °C) most recently on July 10, 1954, and the coldest −30 °F (−34.4 °C) during the great freeze of December 1989.
|U.S. Decennial Census|
As of the census of 2000, there were 1,380 people, 669 households, and 341 families residing in the city. The population density was 365.4 people per square mile (141.0/km²). There were 817 housing units at an average density of 216.3 per square mile (83.5/km²). The racial makeup of the city was 95.87% White, 1.88% Native American, 0.36% Asian, 0.65% from other races, and 1.23% from two or more races. Hispanic or Latino of any race were 2.75% of the population. 29.8% were of German, 9.6% Irish, 9.5% English, 9.5% Norwegian and 8.7% American ancestry.
There were 669 households out of which 20.5% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 37.7% were married couples living together, 10.9% had a female householder with no husband present, and 48.9% were non-families. 40.1% of all households were made up of individuals and 14.6% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.01 and the average family size was 2.71.
In the city, the population was spread out with 19.3% under the age of 18, 8.7% from 18 to 24, 27.3% from 25 to 44, 27.8% from 45 to 64, and 16.8% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 42 years. For every 100 females, there were 93.8 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 92.6 males.
As of 2000 the median income for a household in the city was $28,641, and the median income for a family was $37,132. Males had a median income of $28,920 versus $18,807 for females. The per capita income for the city was $17,673. About 6.9% of families and 10.8% of the population were below the poverty line, including 19.4% of those under age 18 and 8.3% of those age 65 or over.
As of the census of 2010, there were 1,270 people, 661 households, and 302 families residing in the city. The population density was 331.6 inhabitants per square mile (128.0/km2). There were 803 housing units at an average density of 209.7 per square mile (81.0/km2). The racial makeup of the city was 94.9% White, 0.2% African American, 1.8% Native American, 0.5% Asian, 0.6% from other races, and 2.0% from two or more races. Hispanic or Latino of any race were 3.4% of the population.
There were 661 households of which 17.2% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 33.4% were married couples living together, 7.4% had a female householder with no husband present, 4.8% had a male householder with no wife present, and 54.3% were non-families. 44.6% of all households were made up of individuals and 12.7% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 1.88 and the average family size was 2.60.
The median age in the city was 48 years. 15% of residents were under the age of 18; 5.9% were between the ages of 18 and 24; 23.3% were from 25 to 44; 37.9% were from 45 to 64; and 17.8% were 65 years of age or older. The gender makeup of the city was 52.5% male and 47.5% female.
Ellis Alfred Swearengen (July 8, 1845 – November 15, 1904) was an American pimp and entertainment entrepreneur who ran the Gem Theater, a notorious brothel, in Deadwood, South Dakota, for 22 years during the late 19th century.Alfred L. Werker
Alfred L. Werker (December 2, 1896 – July 28, 1975) was a film director whose work in movies spanned from 1917 through 1957. After a number of film production jobs and assistant directing, Werker co-directed his first film, Ridin' the Wind in 1925 alongside director Del Andrews. He was brought in by Fox Film Corporation executives to re-shoot and re-edit Erich von Stroheim's film Hello, Sister! (1933), co-starring Boots Mallory and ZaSu Pitts.
Most of Werker's work is unremarkable, but a few were well received by critics. Those films included House of Rothschild (1934) and The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes (1939); the latter film is considered one of the best in the Sherlock Holmes series.
During the early 1940s, he directed a number of comedies including Laurel & Hardy's A-Haunting We Will Go (1942).
In the late 1940s, Werker worked for the B-picture film studio Eagle-Lion Films. Notable films from that period include the unique mystery thriller Repeat Performance (1947) and He Walked by Night (1948). The latter film, however, was taken over by uncredited director Anthony Mann. In 1949 He Walked By Night won the Locarno International Film Festival's award for Best Police Film. The following year, Werker was nominated for, but did not win, the Directors Guild of America Outstanding Directorial Achievement in Motion Pictures for Lost Boundaries (1949).Bella Union Saloon
The Bella Union was a saloon and theater in Deadwood, South Dakota, which opened on September 10, 1876. The proprietor was Tom Miller, an aggressive businessman who would buy several neighboring properties as well.
Bella Union Saloon was a relatively upscale establishment where town meetings came to be held.
In November 1878, Tom Miller went bankrupt and the Bella Union became a grocery store downstairs and a meeting hall named Mechanics' Hall upstairs.
A fictionalized version of the saloon appeared in the HBO television series Deadwood, where the owner was the character Cy Tolliver. In the 1953 musical, Calamity Jane, the character Henry Miller (not Tom), is the proprietor of the town's saloon and theater.Bob Schloredt
Robert Schloredt (born October 2, 1939) is a former American football quarterback and coach.Carole Hillard
Carole Hillard (August 14, 1936 – October 25, 2007) was the first woman to serve as Lieutenant Governor of South Dakota.Charlie Utter
Charles H. "Colorado Charlie" Utter (c. 1838 – after 1912) was a figure of the American Wild West, best known as a great friend and companion of Wild Bill Hickok. He was also acquainted with Calamity Jane.Craig Puki
Craig Alan Puki (born January 18, 1957) is a former American football linebacker who played two seasons in the National Football League (NFL) with the San Francisco 49ers and St. Louis Cardinals He was drafted by the 49ers in the third round of the 1980 NFL Draft. He played college football at the University of Tennessee and attended Glacier High School in Seattle. He was a member of the San Francisco 49ers team that won Super Bowl XVI.Deadwood Police Department (South Dakota)
The Deadwood Police Department is the police department for the city of Deadwood, South Dakota.Dora DuFran
Madam Dora DuFran or Dora Bolshaw (née Amy Helen Dorothy Bolshaw) (November 16, 1868 - August 5, 1934) was one of the leading and most successful madams in the Old West days of Deadwood, South Dakota.Eben Martin
Eben Wever Martin (April 12, 1855 – May 22, 1932) was an attorney and politician in South Dakota. A Republican, he was most notable for his service as a member of the United States House of Representatives.Freeman Knowles
Freeman Tulley Knowles (October 10, 1846 – June 1, 1910) was a veteran of the American Civil War, lawyer, journalist and social activist who served one term in the United States House of Representatives as a Populist.Gary Mule Deer
Gary Mule Deer (born Gary C. Miller; November 21, 1939) is an American comedian and country musician.Gem Theater
The Gem Theater was a saloon in Deadwood, South Dakota, owned by Al Swearengen. Swearengen and the Gem are both portrayed in the HBO television show, Deadwood, but in heavily modified form; the show's fictional "Gem Saloon" is already well-established when the show begins in August 1876.Jim Scott (pitcher)
James "Death Valley Jim" Scott (April 23, 1888 – April 7, 1957) was a pitcher for the Chicago White Sox (1909–1917). Scott umpired in the minor leagues and in the National League (NL) after his playing career.Martha Bullock
Martha Marguerite Eccles Bullock (1851–1939) was an American pioneer woman who was the wife of Seth Bullock, one of the leading citizens in early Deadwood, South Dakota. She and Bullock were married in Salt Lake City, Utah, in 1874.
Martha Bullock and daughter Margaret were sent to live with her parents in Michigan in 1876 when Bullock first left for Deadwood, then a wild lawless frontier town and no place for a family; after the town had become more orderly, largely as a result of the efforts of Bullock himself as sheriff, they joined her husband in Deadwood. She became a leading member of local society and excellently managed their household. They subsequently had another daughter, Florence, and a son, Stanley.Mollie Johnson
Mollie Johnson was a 19th-century madam in Deadwood, South Dakota. Johnson was born in Alabama, and migrated west due to the demand for working prostitutes. Indications are that she began working that trade in her early teens, around the age of 15 or 16 by some reports. However, definite information on her early life is unconfirmed.
She was known in Deadwood, South Dakota, as the "Queen of the Blondes". Her nickname came from the fact that she had three blonde protégés who worked for her: Ida Clark, Ida Cheplan and Jennie Duchesneau. The twenty-ish foursome, Mollie Johnson and her girls, were often embroiled in personal and physical altercations with each other.She first appeared in Deadwood shortly after the gold rush, and was first mentioned in public writing in February, 1878, when she married Lew Spencer, an African American comedian who was performing at the time in the Bella Union Theater. Although married, Johnson continued to work in her chosen profession, both as prostitute and madam. Spencer eventually left Deadwood and was later arrested in Denver, Colorado for shooting his other wife. Evidently Spencer had been married to both a woman in Denver, and Johnson. There are no indications that Johnson and Spencer ever saw one another afterwards.Reportedly a widow before her arrival in Deadwood, and in her early to mid-20s, Johnson was described as being a pretty woman, and a very good businesswoman. She was also a known supporter of Irish Famine Relief. The competition for brothel owners in Deadwood was light, as there were very few girls to choose from, but plenty of men. Her main competition during most of her time in Deadwood was Madam Dora DuFran, but there is no indication that the two madams did not get along.
The brothel houses were described in the papers as being a resort for naughty men. Mollie Johnson was also noted to be of a kind heart, caring for the dead body of one of her girls, before trying to save her possessions in the "Big Deadwood Fire" of September 26, 1879. After the destruction of the brothel, which stood on the corner of Sherman and Lee Streets, she immediately opened another brothel, and suffered two more fires over the course of the years. She reportedly left Deadwood, as business dropped off, in January, 1883. Where she went or what happened to her following her departure of Deadwood is unknown.Seth Bullock
Seth Bullock (July 23, 1849 – September 23, 1919) was a Canadian-American Western sheriff, hardware store owner, and U.S. Marshal.Sol Star
Solomon Star (December 20, 1840 – October 10, 1917) was a German-American businessman and politician notable as an early resident of the town of Deadwood, South Dakota.Ward Lambert
Ward Louis "Piggy" Lambert (May 28, 1888 – January 20, 1958) was an American basketball and baseball coach. He served as the head basketball coach at Purdue University during the 1916–17 season and from 1918 to 1946. Lambert was also the head baseball coach at Purdue in 1917, from 1919 to 1935, and from 1945 to 1946. He was inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame in 1960.
|Climate data for Deadwood, South Dakota|
|Record high °F (°C)||65
|Average high °F (°C)||33
|Average low °F (°C)||11
|Record low °F (°C)||−28
|Average precipitation inches (mm)||1.30
|Average snowfall inches (cm)||13.8
|Average precipitation days (≥ 0.01 inch)||8.7||7.4||8.9||10.2||12.0||12.3||9.7||7.5||6.8||6.7||7.0||8.7||105.9|
|Average snowy days (≥ 0.1 inch)||6.9||5.8||6.2||3.6||0.5||0.0||0.0||0.0||0.2||1.8||4.5||6.1||35.6|
|Source #1: South Dakota State University|
|Source #2: National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration|
Municipalities and communities of Lawrence County, South Dakota, United States
County seat: Deadwood
|Larger cities |
pop. over 5,000
|Smaller cities |
pop. 1,000 - 5,000
|Largest CDPs |
pop. over 1,000
|Largest towns |
pop. over 500
c. 1650 to 1912
|History and people|