A timeline of some of the consequential events that shaped the area that is now Deadwood, South Dakota.
1740-1760 – The Lakota-Sioux appear in the Black Hills region.
1743 – French explorers, the Verendrye brothers, claim the area for France in the name of Louis XV.
1803 – The Louisiana Purchase adds to the United States territory from the Gulf of Mexico to the Northwest. The price for the purchase was $15,000,000.
The Lewis and Clark expedition begins its exploration of the West.
1868 – November 6 – Lakota and white leaders sign the Fort Laramie Treaty, requiring the U.S. government to protect Lakota lands from white intruders.
1874 – July 30 – Gold discovered in the Black Hills on French Creek near the present city of Custer by Ross and McKay, two miners attached to General Custer’s Military Expedition.
August – Upon hearing the news, the government attempts to buy back the land from the Sioux Nation, but their offer is refused because the Black Hills, referred to by the Sioux as Paha Sapa, is considered holy land.
December – Though the U.S. Army makes feeble attempts to stop the influx of gold-seekers, by the end of the year the Black Hills is teaming with more than 15,000 prospectors.
1875 – John B. Pearson discovers gold in Deadwood Creek and as word spreads quickly a mining camp is established. Later in the year a U.S. Government commission is sent to meet with Red Cloud and other Lakota chiefs to negotiate legal access for the miners. Though the government offers $6 million for the use of the region, the offer is refused.
1875-76 – Levy Morgan, aka: Duke Darrall, Moccasin Mat, and Dick Ackerman helps to “tame” Deadwood along with another gunfighter named John Reid. Though he boasted that he civilized the town, events would soon contradict those statements. Morgan appears to be the first to adopt the name “Deadwood Dick.”
1876 – U.S. Congress repeals the 1868 Fort Laramie Treaty and takes the Black Hills, along with 40 million more acres of Lakota land.
The first stagecoach arrives in Deadwood and the town begins to be platted.
January 31- The deadline passes on a U.S. government-issued ultimatum that all Indians not on the Great Sioux Reservation will be considered hostile. Many Sioux, scattered during the harsh winter, do not hear of the ultimatum until after the deadline. Sitting Bull and Crazy Horse are among those who outright refuse.
Spring – Sitting Bull organizes the greatest gathering of Indians on the Northern Plains.
April 9 – Brothers, Moses and Fred Manuel, and Hank Harney discovered an outcropping of ore in what is now the Homestake Open Cut. A new mining camp called Lead City was born almost overnight.
June 25, 1876: Crazy Horse and his warriors defeat Custer at the Battle of Little Bighorn, killing the general and 210 of the soldiers in his 7th Cavalry.
July – Colorado Charlie Utter’s wagon train brings in Wild Bill Hickok and Calamity Jane, as well as Deadwood’s first prostitutes including Madam Dirty Em and Madam Mustachio, all of whom are being cheered by miners in the street.
July – Nat Love, born a slave in Tennessee in 1854, claims to have entered and won several of the roping and shooting contests at the Dakota Territory rodeo, at which time he earned the moniker “Deadwood Dick.”
July – Jack Langrishe’s Theatre Troupe arrive in Deadwood and first performed at the Bella Union until they could build their own building later in the year.
June – The Grand Central Hotel, owned by Charles H. Wagner, was the first hotel to open in Deadwood. Known for its great food prepared by its cook Lucretia “Aunt Lou” Marchbanks, a former slave, miners would buy the typical fare of flapjacks, bacon, beans for $1. According to the people of the time, Aunt Lou’s sunny temper and outstanding biscuits set the standard for the culinary efforts of the entire city.
August 1 – Seth Bullock and his business partner, Sol Star, arrive in Deadwood to set up a hardware business.
August 2 – Jack McCall, bested at the table by Wild Bill Hickok the day before, enters Nuttall and Mann’s No. 10 Saloon at about 3 p.m. and shoots Hickok in the back of the head. Hickok dies instantly, and his scattered cards – a pair each of black aces and black eights along with a jack of diamonds – become known as the “dead man’s hand.”
August 12 – Smallpox breaks out in the Deadwood Camp. Seven days later a “pest house” is established for those who are afflicted.
August 19 – Seth Bullock is elected as commissioner and fire warden of the camp.
August 20 – Preacher Henry W. Smith is murdered on route to Crook City where he had planned to give a sermon. Allegedly killed by Indians, he is buried in Mt. Moriah Cemetery.
September 10 – The Bella Union, owned by Tom Miller, opens as the grandest place in Deadwood.
September 11 – Deadwood elects E.B. Farnum, real estate and mining entrepreneur, as its first mayor, voting to incorporate as a town in the same election.
October 1876: The Manypenny Commission demands the Sioux give up the Black Hills or starve. Given no choice, Red Cloud, Spotted Tail, and other reservation chiefs sign over their holy lands, Paha Sapa.
October – Sol Star becomes a Deadwood City Councilman.
1877 – March 17 – Seth Bullock is appointed Sheriff of Lawrence County by the governor.
Spring – Wyatt and Morgan Earp arrive in Deadwood. Legend has it Bullock told the famous lawman his services weren’t needed. Wyatt Earp makes money hauling wood and riding shotgun to guard the goods. The Earps only stayed a short time, as the The Dodge City, Kansas Times reports Earp’s return on July 7, 1877, and urges him to rejoin that town’s peacekeeping force.
March 1- Jack McCall is hanged in Yankton, Dakota Territory capital, for Bill Hickok’s murder.
April – Al Swearengen opens the Gem Theater, the most infamous of the city’s amusement houses, below the intersection of Wall and Main. Swearengen lured women from the East with promises of adventure in the West, but those who accepted soon found themselves the victims of white slave trade. The Gem and its debased women garner a reputation as the vilest of the vile in a city without law.
May – E.B. Farnum runs for Justice of the Peace and loses to Charles Barker.
May – Seth Bullock and Sol Star become County Commissioners
June – The Homestake claim and another totaling 10 acres were purchased from the Manuels for $70,000 by a group of mining men, including George Hearst.
July – Crazy Horse surrendered at Fort Robinson, Nebraska after assurances that he and his followers may settle in Montana’s Powder River country. By late summer, rumors of an uprising led to his arrest.
September – Crazy Horse leaves the reservation without authorization to take his sick wife to her parents and is arrested. He goes quietly until realizing he’s being taken to the guardhouse. When he resists, a guard holds him while a soldier runs him through with a bayonet, killing him.
November – Seth Bullock loses when he runs for Lawrence County Sheriff to John Manning.
November 5 – The Homestake Mining Company is incorporated and would become the basis of the Hearst financial empire and sister city Lead’s largest employer for 125 years.
1878 – Ranching is introduced in western Dakota Territory after years of cattle trains move through the area. Bullock is credited with bringing alfalfa to the region. Meanwhile, the Deadwood Times editorializes on the rampant prostitution, calling not for a ban but for a tax on individual working girls that would drive them either out of town or into brothels.
The first telephone exchange was established in Deadwood.
Summer – The E.B. Farnum family moved from Deadwood to Chicago, Illinois.
July 12 – An 80 stamp mill began operations at the Homestake Mine. The stamps had been hauled 300 miles by ox team from Sidney, Nebraska, nearest railroad point.
1879 – The Dakota land boom begins in earnest.
January 22 – The Governing Committee of the New York Stock Exchange accepted Homestake stock on the open market.
July – Sol Star becomes the postmaster of Deadwood.
September 25-26 – An overturned kerosene heater in the Empire Bakery on Sherman Street (at the approximate location of the Adams Museum and House today) starts a fire that wipes out most of the town. When the fire spread to a nearby hardware store, eight kegs of gunpowder blew up, the fire turned into an inferno, destroying 300 buildings and leaving 2,000 people homeless.
1880 – The first railroad in the region was the Black Hills & Ft. Pierre, started by the Homestake Mining Company to bring cordwood fuel to the mills, shops and hoists, and timbers to the mine. It was sold to the Burlington Railroad in 1902 and no longer exists today.
Large numbers of Chinese immigrants come to Deadwood to work in mines or commerce.
1882 – Richard Bullock, a bullion guard for the Homestake Mine, starts riding shotgun and drops the notorious Lame Johnny in a failed holdup at Hurricane Flats. Richard Bullock is the next to take on the “Deadwood Dick” moniker, this time for his quick shooting skills. Edward L. Wheeler is said to have based his Deadwood Dick dime novels on this incarnation, but many claims that Bullock took the name after the books achieved popularity.
May 18 – A flood washes out Deadwood. The city rebuilds again, this time with the bricks and mortar still standing today.
1883 – May 16 – Heavy and wet spring snowstorms cause a flood that washes away many of Deadwood’s buildings.
1884 – Seth Bullock, by now a deputy U.S. marshal, stops three ragged horsemen on a trail near his ranch in Belle Fourche, the town he founded. One of the men is Theodore Roosevelt, then a deputy sheriff from Medora, North Dakota. The two become fast friends, and Bullock volunteers during the Spanish American War as one of the Rough Riders. Captain of Troop A in a cowboy regiment, he later organized a group of about 50 cowboys from South Dakota, Wyoming, Montana, and Nebraska to ride in the parade marking Roosevelt’s presidential inauguration in 1905.
May – Sol Star wins the election and becomes Mayor of Deadwood.
1888 – July 4 – Ye Tang leads Deadwood’s Chinese Hose Company in the Hub-and-Hub, a national fire-hose racing championship. The Chinese, early Deadwood’s largest ethnic minority, mined, opened shops and laundries, and worked as domestic servants in the white community. They developed a city within a city, electing their own mayor and council and founding independent police and fire departments.
1889 – November 2 – South Dakota becomes either the 39th or 40th state in the union. Territory rivals, North and South Dakota, were admitted on the same day, each wanting to be the first. U.S. Secretary of State James Blaine shuffled the papers, then obscured the first state’s name from President Benjamin Harrison’s view for the signing. The priority went officially unrecorded.
1890 – December 29 – The Chicago and Northwestern Railroad extends its reach to Deadwood, bringing civilization to the former outlaw camp. That same day, U.S. soldiers kill Lakota Chief Big Foot and nearly 300 of his people – mostly women, children, and elders – in the Wounded Knee Massacre.
1891 – The first passenger train on the Fremont, Elkhorn, and Missouri Valley Railroad comes to Deadwood.
1892 – Harris and Anna Franklin build the Queen Anne-style home that now is known as the Adams House, signaling a new kind of Deadwood style. The couple’s son Nathan buys the house for $1 in 1905 and sells it to W.E. and Alice Adams for $8,500 in 1920.
1894 – Another devastating fire, started at a boarding house, blazes through Deadwood, destroying much of the business district.
1895 – Seth Bullock establishes the Bullock Hotel, at the place where he and Sol Star owned the hardware store that was badly damaged the previous year by fire. It boasts 64 rooms and a bathroom on each floor. His ghost is said to haunt the hotel still.
1899 – Fire closes the Gem Theater for good. Swearengen leaves town and is killed not long after while trying to board a train in Denver’s rail yard.
1903 – Summer – A worn-out Calamity Jane returns to the area one last time carrying her pathetically few belongings and in the final stages of alcoholism. Finding refuge at Madam DuFran’s brothel in Belle Fourche, Jane earns her keep by cooking and doing the laundry for Dora’s brothel girls.
August 1 – Calamity Jane dies in nearby Terry, South Dakota and at her request, is buried in Mt. Moriah Cemetery, next to Wild Bill Hickok.
1917 – October 10 – Sol Star dies and receives one of the largest and most extravagant funerals ever held in Deadwood. His body was transported to St. Louis, Missouri where he was laid to rest in Mount Sinai Cemetery.
1918 – 1940 – Old mills, hoist rooms, headframes, mechanical shops, warehouses, and other buildings in the vicinity of the Homestake’s Open Cut are dismantled and removed, and replaced by new plants, warehouses, and offices.
1919 – The U.S. government passes the Prohibition Act, which bans the sale and distribution of alcohol. As a result, reformers attack the gambling and prostitution establishments in Deadwood.
September 23 – Seth Bullock dies and is buried in Mount Moriah Cemetery.
1920s – Though gambling and drinking operate behind closed doors, prostitution establishments are still thriving illegally.
1920 – The first formal guided summertime tours of surface workings at the Homestake Mine are instituted.
1929 – Potato Creek Johnny is credited with finding one of the largest gold nuggets in the Black Hills, at more than 7 troy ounces.
1930 – W.E. Adams, by now a prominent citizen and former mayor, builds the Adams Museum and donates it to the city as a tribute to Black Hills pioneers and in memory of his deceased first wife and two daughters – Lucile died from typhoid fever in 1912: Cancer claimed wife Alice in 1925, while she was at daughter Helen’s home awaiting the birth of a grandchild; and a distraught Helen went into labor and died the next day. Adams, an Episcopalian, scandalized the town when, in 1927, he married a Roman Catholic widow from Lead. He was 73 and his new bride, Mary Mastrovich Vicich, 29.
1934 – W.E. Adams dies and his wife Mary closes up the house with its contents and furnishings intact. In 1987, she sells the home to a couple who renovates the house as a bed and breakfast.
1935 – The Prohibition Act is repealed, gambling flourishes once again.
1947 – Gambling officially ends in Deadwood.
1950-1970 – A huge modernization program of Homestake mining and milling operations is undertaken, introducing new mining techniques, tools, and equipment and rebuilding ore crushing and grinding plants. Deep-level mine development began with an underground shaft sunk from 4,850-foot level to the 6,800-foot level.
1952 – When an ambitious young attorney and newcomer to Deadwood was elected as States Attorney he soon raided the still operating “cat houses” in Deadwood and closed them down. However, not only did his move fail in furthering his ambitions, the many of the houses were reopened just six months later due to a technicality. When he next ran for reelection after this abortive attempt, he lost.
1970-1976 – Deep-level development of the Homestake Mine continued with two new underground shafts sunk; now reaching the 8,000-foot level.
1976 – The entire city of Deadwood is designated as a National Historic Landmark and is placed on the federal and state registers of historic places.
1980 – The South Dakota state’s attorney office and local and federal law enforcement close the city’s four remaining brothels – the Purple, Green, White, and Beige Doors, on public nuisance charges. Local supporters protest the raid and closing with a Main Street parade. The Purple Door’s Madam, Pam Holliday, nets thousands of dollars from the auction of oven timers, vibrator pillows, and other tools of the trade.
1986 – The Black Hills Mining Museum was constructed with major funding and construction assistance from the Homestake Mining Company.
1987 – Deadwood’s Historic Preservation Commission established.
1989 – November 1 – Legalized limited-stakes casino gambling begins in Deadwood, positioning the town as a gaming resort and bringing fortune-seekers once again to the Hills.
1992 – The city of Deadwood’s Historic Preservation Commission buys the Adams House from a private owner and, six years later, begins the $1.5 million restoration efforts in partnership with the Adams Museum Board of Directors. The house opens to the public on July 1, 2000.
1998 – January – All surface mining in the Homestake’s Open Cut is discontinued and the mine lays off a significant number of workers.
1999 – The Homestake shut down for three months. During this time the mine reorganized management and their workforce due to the high production costs of the mine.
2000 – November 7 – Voters narrowly approve a bet-limit hike for casinos in Deadwood, from $5 to $100.
2001 – The Homestake announced that it would be closing the Homestake Gold Mine in Lead, South Dakota in December 2001.
© Kathy Weiser-Alexander/Legends of America, updated July 2021.
Deadwood – Rough & Tumble Mining Camp
HBO’s Deadwood – Fact & Fiction
Al Swearengen & the Notorious Gem Theater
Calamity Jane – Wild Woman of the West
Charlie Utter, Bill Hickok’s Best Pard
Haunted Bullock Hotel in Deadwood
George Hearst – Father of a Mining and Publishing Empire
Jack Langrishe – Entertaining the Old Wild West
Jack McCall – Cowardly Killer of Wild Bill Hickok
John Perrett, aka: Potato Creek Johnny
Lucretia “Aunt Lou” Marchbanks – The Greatest Cook in the Black Hills
Martha Bullock – A Pillar of Deadwood Society
Nat Love, aka: “Deadwood Dick” – The Greatest Black Cowboy in the Old West
The Painted Ladies of Deadwood Gulch
Seth Bullock – Finest Type of Frontiersman
Solomon Star – A Natural Deadwood Leader