Thursday, May 16, 2019

1876 in Deadwood

With the coming of the movie, Deadwood, I have been posting newspapers stories from the 1870s concerning the personalities who appeared in history and on the television show. Here are links to parts #I, #II, and #III.

I'll continue to do this in this post, focusing now on the first monts of the Black Hills Pioneer. The Black Hills Pioneer (soon to be called the Black Hills Daily Pioneer and Weekly Pioneer) was started by A.W. Merrick, played in the series by actor Jeffery Jones, famous as the Austria-Hungarian emperor in Amadeus ("too many notes"), and as the principal in Ferris Buehler's Day Off. Joining A.W. Merrick in historical Deadwood (and not featured in the series) was W.A. Laughlin.

A.W. Merrick, 1925

The first issue  of their newspaper was published on June 8, 1876. The price of a single issue was set at 25 cents, with five dollars for an annual subscription.

Black Hills Pioneer, Thursday June 8, 1876, p. 1.


To all who see this paper, we wish to say that it is published under many difficulties, and that it is not what we intend to make it. It is an enterprise that has not a parallel in the United States, and still we hope to overcome all the untoward circumstances that surround us.

Our material to print this paper was transported in the depth of winter, almost 400 miles, and brought through and into a hostile Indian country, and in the first settlements made we have set up presses and set the type for this number of our paper.

As other enterprising men have done, we came here not to try the gulches or leads for gold, but to give to those who have work in hand the very latest news. We shall do everything in our power to bring the country of the Black Hills into civilization and to replace the nomads of the plains by a people of enterprise and determination, sufficient to make the great wilderness from Nebraska and Wyoming to the British Possessions the home of a happy and prosperous people.

In all our statements in regard to the mines or the agricultural or grazing advantages of the country, we shall say only what we know to be true, and our readers, wherever they may be, may rest assured that nothing will be given the tinge of romance.

We have come to stay, and we shall devote our entire time to the paper, and hope to make it acceptable to those who wish to learn what there is in the country.

Without great hopes, without unreasonable expectations, we push our craft into deep water, hoping for a fair voyage, but we do not believe that we shall avoid many of the ills incident to a profession that is not known to be always in a calm. With many troubles not incident to publishers in older communities, we intend to overcome them all; and finally, when this wild country shall become a state of the Union, we shall have the proud satisfaction of knowing that we have done our part in the mighty progress of empire.

[Same page, another article]


The Black Hills, if reports be true, comprise a favored region, teeming with the riches that men lust for. The most captivating tales are told of the nuggets that are nestling in the noks [sic] and crevices of that seemingly veritable El Dorado. No wonder, then that mechanics want to leave their shops, merchants their stores, lawyers and doctors their practice, and typesetters their cases and hie to the nugget-patches.

A.W. Merrick and W.A. Laughlin, two well known Denverites, have, after due refletion [sic] decided to start a newspaper in the Black Hills. Their choice of location will not be made, however, until after the several aspiring cities and camps in the gold belt have been carefully inspected. The outfit consisting of a power press, and type enough for a daily, if needed, and a tip-top job office, has already been shipped, and will be followed, or, rather, preceded by Mr. Laughlin who goes "to prepare the way." The material embraces such an assortment as will enable the proprietor to do all the printing in that region for years to come. These gentlemen have capacity, experience, and understanding, which, if rightly directed at the outset must lead on to fortune and the founding of, as its proposed name signified, The Pioneer newspaper of the new treasure-land.

Mr. Merrick took a hand in founding the Corinne Journal, and was afterward publisher of the Reporter, but has been of late years pursuing his old calling of typesetting at News office case. Mr. Laughlin, in order to embark in this scheme, was obliged to give up the foremanship of the Farmer office. Both proprietors are first-class workmen. We have thus noticed their undertaking at length because they are deserving of a good send-off -- Denver News.

A skin game is a swindle. This was one of the few news articles in the first edition that was unrelated to the newspaper itself.


We wore an air of sainty simplicity. His manner was unassuming. He came from the eastern states, and was anxious to dispose of some first class hams. He knew what they were, for he had cured them himself, (a fact which is undisputed). He went to a local merchant and engaged the attention of the manager, who bought the hams, weighed out the dust, and wished the stranger God speed as he departed. That merchant has now on hand a hogshead nearly full of stuffed, or saw dust hams.


On August 2, 1876, Wild Bill Hickok was shot to death by the cowardly killer Jack McCall. McCall was tried and acquitted as told in the following article.

Black Hills Pioneer, Thursday August 10, 1876, p. 1


On Tuesday Wild Bill Hickok was buried by citizens of Deadwood, who, although they had known him but a few days, were shocked and grieved by his brutal assassination by Jack McCall, the cowardly killer who was set free by a drunken and irresponsible group of men assembled as a jury for his trial.

Probably Hickok was the only man we have yet had in our midst who had the courage and other qualifications to bring some semblance of order to the lawless element of our camp. The fact that he was killed by one of the sorriest specimens of humanity to be found in the Hills is significant. This editor feels that the true reason for this cowardly killing is to be found in that fact.

The facts of the killing are as follows: Hickok was in the Saloon No. 10 engaged in a pocker [sic] game with three other men. For some unexplained reason he was not sitting with his back to the wall. This has been his ruel [sic] for many years, since his career of law enforcement had developed a long list of men who swore they would shoot him at the first opportunity.

After they had been playing for some time, among the men in the saloon, Jack McCall appeared and approached the table from a point behind Hickok. No one paid any attention to him and when he was directly behind Hickok's chair, McCall drew his gun and shot Hickok in the back of his head. In the confusion which followed he made his escape out the front door and down our Main Street, disappearing in the backs of the store buildings across the street. He was found a short time later and the trial immediately originated with he [sic] disgraceful ending which we have noted.


Some other atmospheric items are included in that day's paper.

Main Street is having a series of new walks. If lumber can be found it may be that we can walk with dry boots from one end of the town to the other. Bullwrackers, take notice -- keep your bulls off the sidewalks. Deadwood is becoming a real city.

A box of good Havanas were found by the robbers on the stage Tuesday night.

Fatty was so drunk on Saturday evening that set on the side of the road while the newsboys played leap-frog over him. He had just consciousness enough to say, "Down you grap-backs!"

Up next: Seth Bullock and the Stolen Election.


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