From Deadwood to Devil's Tower

Trip Start Jun 04, 2010
Trip End Sep 08, 2010

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Flag of United States  , South Dakota
Thursday, September 2, 2010

Dave thought this would be a fun stop to add to our trip. We were up and out of the hotel by 8am and took off to Deadwood.   We had a bit of rain this morning but it stopped by the time we arrived in Deadwood.  The weather cleared up completely by late afternoon.  The temperature actually got down to as low as 54 degrees today, but climbed back up to about 68.  We stopped to have breakfast in a diner at the far end of town.  Food was not so good, not bad, but I would not go there again if I lived locally.  Smoking was allowed in the restaurant, not being use to that kind of environment it was difficult to enjoy breakfast. Then we went to the visitor's information office and got some details of the town and found out for about $10.00 we can get a 1 hour tour of Deadwood.  Our guide/bus driver had some of the corniest jokes you ever heard, but they were cute and we all did laugh.  The tour included the Mount Morah Cemetery (see insert below) and
Historic Deadwood.  In the Black Hills of South Dakota, this old mining town is still as wild at heart as it was in the 1800s when the outlaws, gamblers and gunslingers ruled the streets. Today, the entire Black Hills' town is a National Historic Landmark and an ideal place to release your inner outlaw.

During the summer of 1874, General George Armstrong Custer lead an expedition to the Black Hills with the stated goal of finding a suitable location for a fort. Two prospectors accompanied the expedition. On August 2, they discover gold at French Creek, near present day Custer, South Dakota. Thus began one of North America’s last major gold rushes.

Once word was out that there is gold in the region, prospectors come in droves to the southern hills. That all changed when in the fall of 1875, a rich gold deposit is discovered in the northern Black Hills. This caused a stampede to what is now known as Deadwood Gulch.

The history is as rich and diverse as the miners, pioneers and fortune seekers that came here over a century ago. We walked in the footsteps of legends—like Wild Bill Hickok, Calamity Jane and Seth Bullock—as we discovered Deadwood’s Wild West ways.
Mount Moriah Cemetery  high about Deadwood is the burial place of Wild Bill Hickok, Calamity Jane and Seth Bullock, and other notable figures of the Wild West. By tradition, the American flag flies over the cemetery 24 hours a day, rather than merely from sunrise to sunset.  This was approved by the U.S. Congress during World War I.

In the early years of Deadwood, there were two graveyards: The Ingelside Cemetery, which was part of the way up Mount Moriah and was filled quickly in the first few years it was open, and the Catholic Cemetery. Many prospectors, miners, settlers, prostitutes and children were buried within the Ingelside Cemetery, alongside Wild Bill Hickok and Preacher Smith.

In the 1880s it was determined that the land where Ingelside Cemetery was located could be better used for housing. Most of the bodies there were moved up the mountain to Mount Moriah and re-interred. However, since many graves were unmarked or unknown some were not moved. Today it is not uncommon for people working in their garden or remodelling a basement or shed to find human bones as a left over from the Ingelside Cemetery days.

Mount Moriah's main attraction is Wild Bill's grave site. Calamity Jane and Potato Creek Johnny are buried next to him.

The Cemetery has many different distinct sections in it. There are four different sections in the grave yard labeled Potter's field, where the graves of unknown people or settlers that came from Ingelside were buried without a stone or marker. There is a Jewish section of the graveyard as there was a large Jewish community in early Deadwood and they were afforded more rights and equality in the rough frontier town than other places in the country at the time. Many of the inscriptions are written in Hebrew. Sol Star, a partner of Seth Bullock, was a member of this early Jewish community.

One section is labeled Mass Grave site where after a fire burned down a lumber mill killing eleven men sleeping there at the time were buried.  Another section is labeled the children's section, due to the large number of children buried in Mount Moriah that died from the typhus, cholera and small pox outbreaks.

There is only two Chinese graves left in the cemetery, for Hui ta Fei-Men and a child of Fee Lee Wong, as all the other Chinese buried there were disinterred and sent back to China to be reburied in their homeland.

In addition there is a veterans section, where many Civil War and Indian War veterans are buried with gravestones supplied by the United States government at the request of their families.

After the tour we walked around the town a bit and made a few purchases and headed back for our car.  Oh, and no neither of us did any gambling.  Most of the town was either a small gambling casino, or a tourist shop.

Headed off for Sturgis where we stopped for lunch of hot dogs.  We continued on north to Belle Fourche which is renowned for being the geographical center of the U.S. due to its proximity to the actual Geographic Center of the Nation. The marker at the city hall is about 13 miles south of the actual marker which is in an inaccessible location.

The name "Belle Fourche" is French for "Beautiful Fork" because of its site on the "Forks" of Hay Creek, Redwater River, & the Belle Fourche River.  The name was given to the town when the area was owned by France. We took our pictures at the center marker and then left town.  The whole main street was torn up and the traffic was horrible. 

After getting out of town we continued our quest west to Devil’s Tower.  America's First National Monument, Devils Tower rises 1267 feet above the Belle Fourche River.  Devils Tower is a monolithic igneous intrusion, or in otherwords, it is the core of a volcano exposed from erosion.  This 1,347 acre park is covered with pine forests, woodlands, and grasslands. Deer, prairie dogs, and other wildlife.  Also known as Bears Lodge, it is a sacred site for many American Indians.  President Theodore Roosevelt proclaimed Devils Tower the first national monument in 1906.

The dramatic and alluring character of the Tower evokes a powerful sense of wonder, attracting people for centuries. From the earliest native peoples to local ranchers, the Tower has always been a gathering place, a place of community, a place of refuge.

Today, the Tower continues to draw thousands of visitors each year. It is a place to enjoy nature by walking the trails and looking for wildlife. American Indian people come because the Tower is a sacred place.  They place little pieces of fabric on the trees at the base of the stone tower to pray for renewal.  You can see a few pictures of these fabric pieces hanging on the branches of the trees.

As we walked the 1.3 mile paved trail that encircles the tower  around the base of the Tower we met several other couples also walking around.  One couple was from Australia and they were heading east towards New York on their visit to the U.S.  They commented that they have fallen in Love with the U.S. because of its grandeur beauty.

Well we needed some gas, so we looked for the nearest station (we had about 125 miles of gas left in the tank.) and looked and looked.  We were getting a little worried, but God took care of us and we finally found a station with approximately 60 miles left in our tank.   After our gas station visit we continued heading North West towards our next destination, but more on that tomorrow.  We stopped for the night in Sheridan, Wy. at an Americas Value Inn. 

God bless all the people who left their prayer cloths on the trees at the sacred tower, and bless the good people of the Black Hills of SD.  Bless all the wonderful folks we were able to visit with along our way, and take care of them until they return home safely.  I pray for all my wonderful friends who read our blog.

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