Friday, May 31, 2019

Some correspondences and dispatches from early Deadwood.

Many issues of the first months of the Deadwood newspapers are no longer around. In this entry I will look at stories from Deadwood as related in other newspapers, some of which reprinted articles from the Deadwood Pioneer. 

Previous entries in my series regarding news stories from early Deadwood:

#I  Introduction. Deadwood, the Series and Contemporary News Accounts.
#II Sheriff Seth Bullock in Old Deadwood Newspapers.
#III Seth Bullock on the Trail of Stagecoach Robbers.
#IV 1876 in Deadwood.
#V Seth Bullock and the Stolen Election.

For today, I will focus on Montana newspapers. The gold strike in the Black Hills drew many from Montana and the newspapers reported on it and printed stories from Deadwood. Helena, Montana is 527 miles from Deadwood, as Google flies. Bozeman, Montana is 430 miles away and Deer Lodge, Montana, 552 miles distant.

Many early stories dealt with how wonderful or how terrible it was to head to the Black Hills of the Dakotas to look for gold. 

Deadwood, circa 1876.

Avant Courier [Bozeman, MT], July 14, 1876, p. 3.


The Independent and Madisonian, which claim to be NEWSpapers, have frequently charged the COURIER with publishing sensational reports regarding the richness of the Black Hills, and by such publications tending to depopulate the Territory [Montana]. In this matter we have done nothing but what we regarded as our duty as the publisher of a newspaper, and what should be expected from us as an impartial journalist by those who subscribe for and read the paper. We have given publicity to both favorable and unfavorable accounts from the Hills, eschewing both extremes, and leaving the reader to judge the merits of the mines. Unlike those papers, we have manufactured no false reports to encourage or deter men from going there. We are governed in all matters of this kind by the principle that is is the province of a newspaper to publish the news.

The question of depopulating the Territory never occurred to us and if it had, it would have been immediately dismissed. The fact has been demonstrated beyond a reasonable doubt that it will be many years hence before we can get a railroad, and we regard the opening of the Black Hills as the quickest and surest of bringing prosperity to our Territory. It will no doubt be the means of settling forever the vexed Indian question, and while we are called upon early in the action to deplore the loss of the gallant Custer and his brave command, it can only be accepted as one of the results of war, and it were better to sustain the loss of a few hundred men in a decisive action against the Indians, than to have the frontier settlements of the West constantly harrassed [sic] for years by these savages, who have counted their annual crop of scalps, taken from pioneer settlers, by the hundred for the last decade or so, besides the wholesale plunder of the defenceless settlements. It will open to settlement the rich and extensive territory between the Eastern and Western settlements of the New North-west, and open to travel the overland routes from Montana to Cheyenne and Bismarck, and the population we have lost by the exodus to the Black Hills will be augmented twenty-fold by the influx of immigrants to our Territory within the next two years, over the newly opened country. 

Helena [MT] Daily Herald, July 24, 1876, p. 3.


Trying to Organize a Party of 1,000 for the Big Horn and Wind River Countries.

Doc. Harding, of Radersburg, on a business visit here last week, was interviewed by a HERALD reporter Saturday in reference to late Black Hills news said to have been received by him. The Doc stated that he had a letter from John Hildebrand, dated at Deadwood, June 24, in which the prospects of the writer were cheerfully dwelt upon. John thought he had a promising claim in the gulch, and was employing nine men. With the week's clean-up he reported himself $400 "ahead of the country."

Hundreds of miners, pilgrims, and others, he states, are in the Hills, unable to obtain property or even work. Efforts were then making to form a prospecting party, 1,000 strong, armed and equipped for the undertaking, to go into the Big Horn and Wind River countries, and give those regions a thorough inspection. It was believed extensive and paying mines would be discovered in the sections named. It is evident that the time approaches when a strong column of adventurous men, disappointed in their expectations and ventures, will move in organized shape out of the Black Hills and into the reputed but comparatively unexplored gold sections of Eastern Montana.

The Hills, according to the best authorities, are already overrun, with not one in a score basking in the smiles of fickle fortune. We look for Montana to regain, before the year ends, more than she has lost by the irrational excitement growing out of the gold discoveries in the Black Hills.

Two items of interest in the Helena [Montana] Weekly, July 27, 1876, p. 7.

--The steamer Carroll arrived at Bismarck on the 17 inst., with 2,000 sacks of silver ore. Seth Bullock, Sol Star, and Rev. Harris were among the passengers. The Carroll, loaded with troops and supplies for Terry's command, and left for the Yellowstone on the 21st.

[The first leg of Bullock and Star's trip to Deadwood took place using a steamship down the Missouri River.]

--Al. Merrick, an old Montana typo, and a mighty good one, is editorially at the head of the Pioneer, published at Deadwood. He is associated with a Mr. Gardner in the ownership of the paper, a tastily printed, twenty column quarto sheet, published every Saturday morning. Success.

Montana papers, at times, published letters from former residents who had resettled to Deadwood. 

Helena Weekly, August 10, 1876, p. 3.


Interesting Letter from a Helenaite

His Views of the New El Dorado.

DEADWOOD CITY, July 19, 1876

FRIEND TED: -- I have been here ten days, but up to the present time have not succeeded in getting into any business. Of all the motley crowds ever seen in a new camp, this beats them all. Men that were lost to sight and almost to memory, turn up here. Of course, a country with no greater extent of mines than this has yet developed, cannot furnish all with occupation, consequently everything is fearfully over done [sic]. Most of our Montana people are too late. All the good diggings and eligible town locations are in the hands of men who know their value. The mining region of this section is confined to about six miles, and the town (Deadwood) is situated about in the center. The country is claimed to a much larger extent for mining purposes, but I think (and I have done nothing but travel around since I came here) this space will cover all that has yet been developed, including side gulches and hill diggings. 

There are a number of very rich claims worked here. The amount of money taken out of one claim, owned by Wheeler and two other Montanians, is said to be enormous. All their hands are Montana men, Alex DeLong among the rest, who claims that is the best piece of ground that he ever saw. This claim pays the best wages on the creek -- $5 for day hands and $5.50 for night. The owners are prudent men and spend nothing, and this is the rule with the principal claim owners. Money does not circulate as it used to in a Montana gulch that was paying well.

Among the old Montanians doing business here are Red Clark, who has a livery and sale stable; Billy Plater, who has a few saddle horses and a hay corral. Boggy has a large stable built, but is doing nothing.

I have very little hope that this letter will ever reach its destination. We appear to be cut off from all communications with the outside world, and all kinds of wild rumors reach us concerning Indians. Whether we shall be kept penned up here, with no chance to prospect the country, remains to be determined.

Under the existing circumstances, I would not advise any one who has employment elsewhere to come here at present.

Yours truly,

[Also in the same paper, same day, a news article reprinted from the Black Hills Pioneer that chiefly talks of flora and fauna:]

Black Hills News.

We have the Black Hills Pioneer for July 22. Among its local news items of the week are the following:

Beautiful wild flowers fragrant as the rose are found in the Black Hills.

The sap of the box elder, which grows in great abundance here, is quite saccharine. We have sampled box elder molases [sic] made in the Hills last spring, and find it very palatable.

There is an incessant cracking of rifles and revolvers in the camp--shooting mark, of course. Save your ammunition boys, until things become a little more pacific in regards to the Indian question.

The mountain rat has a bush tail, broad upright ears, with head configured like that of a mouse, grows as big as an eastern black squirrel, and, next to the magpies and Sioux Indians with letters of endorsement from post-traders, is the most impudent and audacious creature that lives. We give the description so our pilgrim friends will know what kind of an animal it is when they see one.

Whoever thinks it is an easy matter to go out in the midst of a thousand different rumors on the same subject and get the exact facts for publication, would find out how badly they were mistaken were they to try the experiment. The reported massacre of the Dunn party, on the Pierre route, was at first narrated to us by so many different parties, and with such a string of little details, that is seemed impossible that it could be false; but now we have good reason to believe there is not a word of truth in it.

In the Black Hills are  found bright green snakes -- just as pretty as it possible for any snake to be. We never before saw or heard of such reptiles; think they have not been found elsewhere in the United States. There are different kinds of the same species, some having orange-colored bellies, while the remainder is green. The probability is that they are not venomous, as rattlesnakes are not found in the Hills, though they abound in the foot-hills. These green snakes attain about the size of the common garter-snake, and do not seem tenacious of life, a slight blow usually being followed by instant death.

Helena Weekly Herald, August 24, 1876, p. 8.

From the Daily Herald of August 22.

Arrived in the Black Hills.

The Helena party, composed in part of Seth Bullock, Sol Star and Doc. Carter, arrived safely at their destination -- Deadwood City. Carter bought a large, new building, 28 x 40 feet, shingle roof, wainscoted inside and handsomely painted, for the moderate sum of $1,400. Bullock & Star and McPherson & Miller secured and jointly occupy a building suitable for their wants, and opened up merchandising. Carter writes to Dan. Floweree that kinds of business is greatly overdone, and that a large number of idle people are scattered in the several towns along Deadwood, unable to get work and without visible means of support.

Hildebrand, Sutherland, and several other Montanians, have very rich claims, and are taking out big money. The majority of the diggings opened are wages and below. A large amount of ground along the gulch is still unopened. Jim Matkins has a good piece of property in a mining ditch. Carter thinks the camp promises to be a fair one, from all the information he could gain in the few days he had been there.

The following letter from Seth Bullock was printed in several papers, including in my source: 

Helena Weekly Herald, October 12, 1876, p. 13.


Letter from Seth Bullock.
Mr. Charles Warren, of Butte, received the following letter recently from the ex-Sheriff of Lewis and Clarke, familiarly known as "Bishop Bullock:"

DEADWOOD, Sept. 8, 1876.

"I arrived here August 3d, and found a 'red hot' mining town, situated at a point where Deadwood empties into Whitewood. The gulches are very rich; claims are all taken, and sold at high figures. Deadwood is the best gulch so far as known. Claims are 300 feet up and down, and extend from hill top across -- about as large as a ranch. The country is overdone, or rather men have come here too fast for the amount of work that can be done in one summer. A great many are here idle and broke. The Indians will not permit a man to go out side of the gulch, so that very little prospecting can be done. Crowds arrive and leave daily. Most all the travel is by way of Cheyenne. Fare is all the way from ten to thirty-five dollars; time from five to thirty days. Business of all kinds are represented. Langrishe has a theatre here, and two dance houses boom nightly. We have no law and no order, and no prospect of either. Several murders have been committed and nothing done. A night herd runs the streets at night, and whoop and shoot until morning.

"Nebraska farmers peddle flour, bacon and groceries from claim to claim, which makes the grocery trade dull.

"Denne is here. 'Sid Osborne' left for Montana a few days ago on biz. The country is full of Montanians. Chess Trais and 106 others arrived to-day. Tell your friends not to come here this fall--that is, those who come to work or prospect. I cannot advise you to come; on the contrary, I think you are doing better than you could here. Board here is $10 per week, flour $8 per hundred, bacon 20 cents per pound, etc., whisky 25 cents a drink. The Hills are too near the "genial influences" for times to be here as they were in Montana in '49 without other diggings are found. Two years will take the cream of this country. I don't believe it is any better for farming than Montana. We have a little more rain here, and as many grasshoppers. Sol Star is here and doing fair. I am satisfied to remain for a while. I shall go east this winter if you do. We have no regular mail. A coach is expected here daily. Let me hear from you with the Montana news. Your friend."


Next up: Ten Surprises I Encountered When Researching Deadwood.


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