Tuesday, June 4, 2019

Ten Surprises I Encountered When Researching Deadwood.

General George Custer, the pestilence who keeps on pesting, was the one who first discovered gold in the Black Hills.

The discovery of gold lead to a huge influx of prospectors which led to the seizure of vast territories recently deeded to Native Americans in the Treaty of 1868. This in turn led to the displacement and starving of local tribes which led to the slaughter of Custer which led to the further slaughter of Native Americans. (With a few slaughters in between.)

Native Americans were referred to in the local papers as "the Indian problem." While in the 19th century there was a consciousness among many that took into account the Native American point of view, this was not true at the frontier level.

The rush to the Black Hills and Deadwood was enormous. Deadwood went from no one in 1875 to being the largest settlement in the Dakotas, Montana or Wyoming in 1876.

Deadwood was very isolated. Cheyenne, the nearest city of comparable size, was 276 miles away, and as Seth Bullock described it, between 5 to 30 days by stagecoach. Yankton, the second largest city in the Dakotas after Deadwood, was 395 miles distant.

Seth Bullock was never elected sheriff. He was appointed sheriff for one year and then lost in a crooked election.

Seth Bullock, according to a letter written by him, arrived in Deadwood on August 3rd, 1876, one day after Wild Bill Hickok was murdered. Elsewhere in this blog, I cite that he arrived one day before, which appears in other sources.

The television show winnowed down Deadwood to make it manageable. The city sprawled and had two voting precincts, Deadwood and South Deadwood. It had many physicians and lawyers.

Some personalities fit the characters in the show: e.g., Seth Bullock, Al Swearengen, and Calamity Jane. E.B. Farnum, the weaselly mayor in the series was, in fact, a good public servant and family man.

From the 1880 U.S. Census, a little after Deadwood's peak.
Deadwood, Dakotas, 1880. 3777.
Yankton, Dakotas, 1880. 3431.
Cheyenne, WY, 1880. 3456.
Sioux Falls, Dakotas, 1880. 2164.
Bismarck, Dakotas,1880, 1758.
Helena, MT 1880, 3624.


#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. 
#VI Some correspondences and dispatches from early Deadwood.

Sol Star went on to become mayor of Deadwood.

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