03.07.2014 - 04.07.2014
Deadwood is famous for three things –
1. It was founded as a mining and trading town when gold was discovered in the Black Hills in the 1870s. The US Government had irrevocably and in perpetuity granted the Black Hills to the Lakota Indians, banning white settlement from the area, but with the discovery of gold in the Hills illegal settlers began flooding the area. The Government, of course, reneged on the treaty, sparking another round of Indian Wars. General Custer was killed at the nearby Little Big Horn while attempting to ethnically cleanse the Indians in 1874.
2. It was the town were Wild Bill Hickok, famous gambler and gunslinger, was murdered, shot in the back of the head by Jack McCall. Tradition has it that Hickok always sat facing the door (a good strategy in those time) but joined the card game late and forced sit with his back to the door. Urban myth has it that he held a hand of aces and eights, which became known as “the Dead Man’s Hand.”
3. And the town is now subject of a HBO television series. Well, for three seasons between 2003 and 2006.
These were all good reasons to visit Deadwood. The city is situated high in the hills and stretches along the Whitewood Creek valley. The valley is very narrow, with steep gorges rising up on each side, which constrains the spread of the city. The original timber built mining town has long disappeared. Fire ravaged the town on dozens of occasions. The city today is composed of elegant turn of the century townhouses, hotels and shopfronts. The mines are also long gone, although one mine has been converted into an impressive hotel. Today the city makes its living from casinos. Almost every building on the main street is a casino these days and rather shabby. Although elegant looking, Deadwood has a definite hang-dog atmosphere as if it was aware that its best days were well behind it. There were a large number of vacant shopfronts on the main street.
We stayed in a motel at the top of the main road, amongst a street of 19th century wooded mansions. That evening we walked down into the main town, visited the Saloon #10 bar, which has the chair Wild Bill was sitting in when he was shot mounted above the door. Back in 1876, Saloon #10 bar, was not in its current location but further down the street. A plaque marks the location of the original bar (which has long since gone). We had a fairly mediocre Italian meal that night and then wandered the streets. It was quiet. The casinos were all open, but mostly empty, so we called it a night.
The next day we visited Wild Bill’s grave on Mount Moriah, overlooking the town. Calamity Jane is buried next to him. Their graves remain a major tourist attraction. Afterwards we visited one Deadwood’s many museums, ‘The Spirit of ‘76” museum, but it was a museum celebrating the annual celebration of Deadwood’s founding, which was not what we expected. It did have a good carriage museum in the basement however. We should have visited the Deadwood Historical Museum instead.
Having walked up and down the main street in both daytime and night, and not being gamblers, we’d quickly exhausted the things to do in Deadwood. We stopped for a browse at the Happy Days Gift Shop on Main Street, which was filled with amusing fifties era souvenirs. We left with a bag full of goodies and hit Highway 385 on the road to Mount Rushmore.
A couple of miles out of town we came across a little hamlet called ‘The Boondocks” which took the fifties memorabilia theme to extremes. There was a burger joint, diner, 50s cars on display, rides and another Happy Days store. We regretted spending our cash back in town as I’m sure they’d have appreciated a little bit of cash flow out on the road. It’s worth a wander and an ice cream for sure. Your text to link here...We bought Hawaiian shirts.