Wild Wild West, Eight Fascinating Facts About Deadwood
Eight facts about historic Deadwood South Dakota
The history of Deadwood, SD has filled many books through the years. I find it interesting that facts stated in one book are called fiction in another. Many of the people who made Deadwood famous were famous in their own right and that fame came with stories, both real and mythical. Rather than deciding for myself what is true and what is truly made up, I am picking these eight facts from a book whose author worked hard to discover the truth. The Read Deadwood by John Ames is a fascinating book that separates historical truth from both the fantasy of the penny dreadfuls of the 19th century and the fantasy of the TV series in the 21st century. Enjoy!
1) Women wanted – Deadwood in the late 1870s had 200 men for every woman.
2) A prospector could find $20 to $25 worth of gold a day in the early days of the gold rush. He often lost it in the saloons and brothels in Deadwood. If he managed to not lose it on the many vices available he would probably lose it buying food. 100 pounds of flour started at $10 and went as high as $80. Fresh eggs sold for several dollars apiece.
3) Seth Bullock became Deadwood’s first sheriff in 1877. He and Theodore Roosevelt were good friends. Seth rode in Roosevelt’s 1905 inaugural parade, leading 50 cowboys.
4) A small pox epidemic hit the Black Hills in 1878. Among the brave people treating the inflicted was Calamity Jane.
5) Lawman Wyatt Earp spent the winter of 1876-77 in Deadwood. Since no claims were left he started a business hauling winter stove wood to the residents. It was cold hard work but in the spring he left Deadwood with $5,000 profit.
5) The queen of female gamblers, “Poker Alice” Ivers was known to make up to $6,000 a night at the height of her career. She became a legend in the Black Hills and often sat in on big stakes games.
6) The Sundance Kid spent time in the Lawrence County jail in Deadwood in 1897 for a robbery of a bank in Belle Fourche, South Dakota. After several weeks he escaped and became one of the west’s best known outlaws.
7) Potato Creek Johnny (Welshman John Perret) stood only four foot three, but was the stereotype of a well-worn prospector. His fame exploded when he found the largest gold nugget ever discovered in the Black Hills. It weighed 7 ¾ troy ounces. A replica of the nugget is on display in the Adams Museum in Deadwood. The real one is in their safe.
8) Mt. Moriah Cemetery sits above Deadwood. With congressional permission an American flag flies day and night over its famous residents: Seth Bullock, Calamity Jane, and Wild Bill Hickok, among others. Over one hundred thousand people visit Hickok’s grave annually.