SD Gold Rush

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SD Gold Rush

South Dakota Gold Rush1874-1877

Rumors and poorly documented reports of gold in the Black Hills go back to the early 1800s. In the 1860s, a Missionary Father De Smet reported to have seen Lakota Indians carrying gold from the Black Hills.



The word spread and thousands of prospectors came seeking their fortune in Sioux and Lakota Indian territory. The miners made their way north, creating the towns of Hill City, Sheridan, and Pactola. At each spot they found flakes of gold, but not the large amount they sought. Things changed when the miners stumbled across Deadwood and Whitewood Creeks in the northern Black Hills. For the first discoverers, each spade of earth revealed a large fortune in gold. By 1876, miners had claimed all the land around the creeks.

The first arrivals were a force of a thousand of men led by George Armstrong Custer. The purpose of Custer's expedition was to find a suitable location for a fort. However, a geologist and miners were included in the party. The miners occupied their time searching for gold and on June 30th, 1874 near the present day town of Custer, they found gold.

What Areas?

In 1875 John B. Pearson found gold in a narrow canyon in the Northern Black Hills. This canyon became known as "Deadwood Gulch," because of the many dead trees around it. The settlement of Deadwood began in 1876. Deadwood is a famous western town of the WIld West that brought to fame names such as Wild Bill Hickock (gamble & lawman) and Calamity Jane (trick shooter extraordinaire).

Native American Conflict

The gold they found was placer gold, loose gold pieces that were mixed in with the rocks and dirt around streams--not flakes. Everyone wanted to be the one to find the source! On April 9, 1876, Fred and Moses Manuel, Hank Harney and Alex Engh discovered a gold bearing area near present day Lead, SD. They named their new mine the Homestake. They had located a small part of the most significant gold vein in American history. It was from this vein that the placer gold in Deadwood Creek had eroded, and it would be from here that men would produce 10 percent of the world’s gold supply over the next 125 years.

The Native Americans in this area said many of the camps were illegal settlements because of the 1868 Treaty of Laramie. The treaty had guaranteed ownership of the Black Hills to the Lakota people. Many clashes with the US Government and Native American began as a result. The US Government broke treaty agreements and moved further westward, causing violence by both sides.Such clashes eventually led to the Indian Wars as they are called and George Custer was killed at the Battle of Little Bighorn.

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