HBO’s Deadwood – Fact & Fiction

(fictional accounts continued)

Martha Bullock:

  • Martha did not arrive in camp with a son in tow, but actually arrived with her and Seth’s daughter, who was just a toddler at the time.
  • William Bullock did not exist; however, Seth and Martha did care for a nephew for several years, but this was not until 1881.

Cornish Miners:

  • Though evidence does suggest problems with the Cornish miners during the Homestake Mine’s early history, the vast majority seems to be among the miners themselves, rather than between the Cornish men and the mine owners, or George Hearst, specifically. As a rule, the Cornish were sought after by the mine owners, as they were considered to be the best hard rock miners in the world, having had a long history of mining in their own country. Though the mine owners might have “loved” them, they were often discriminated against by other immigrants who were resentful of their clannishness and semi-privileged industrial situation.

Morgan Earp

Morgan Earp:

  • Though Morgan does come along with Wyatt when the two arrive in the spring of 1877, there is no indication that he shot anyone while in Deadwood. There is also nothing in historical records that indicate that he was the “goofball” portrayed on the HBO SeriesMorgan was married at the time he arrived in the mining camp and the couple lived in Butte, Montana.

Wyatt Earp:

  • Though Wyatt shows up in season three of the series, he actually appeared in Deadwood in the spring of 1877, at about the same time that Al Swearengen opened the Gem Theater and Seth Bullock was appointed as the Lawrence County Sheriff.

E.B. Farnum:

  • E.B. Farnum did not own the Grand Central Hotel in Deadwood, but rather, owned a retail store and was a real estate and mining entrepreneur.
  • It is very unlikely that he was Al Swearengen’s “lackey,” as all evidence suggests he was a successful businessman in his own right.
  • Though the series shows nothing of a wife, Farnum was married and had three children.
  • Although the series gives E.B.’s name as Eustace Baily, it was actually Ethan Bennett.

George Hearst:

  • Though it is true that Hearst hired investigators to check out the claims prior to his arrival, including a man named L.D. Kellogg, an experienced practical miner, there is no evidence that Kellogg or any other investigator utilized heavy handed tactics with the town folk. After a brief investigation, Kellogg optioned the Homestake and Golden Star Claims for $70,000.
  • George Hearst never owned the Grand Central Hotel. However, he would build a new hotel at the Homestake Mine in 1879.
  • While George Hearst, who will one day be the head the Hearst Publishing empire, does send agents to Deadwood to inspect the claims, there is no evidence of an agent named Francis Wolcott.
  • Though Hearst was known to have been a very controlling person in his business interests, there is no evidence that he was the ruthless man the character portrays on the HBO series. In fact, he was described in 19th century literature as a man of scrupulous integrity, a faithful friend, and without pretense or presumption of any kind.

Wild Bill Hickok:

  • Though the series shows Wild Bill Hickok’s funeral as having been sparsely attended, it was in fact, quite the opposite, with almost the entire camp attending the event.

Homestake Mine:

  • The Homestake Mine was discovered by brothers, Moses and Fred Manuel, and Hank Harney, rather than Brom Garrett, who never actually existed in Deadwood’s history. This also, obviously precludes Alma from owning the mine or Elsworth for running it. These two also didn’t exist in Deadwood’s history.

Jack Langrishe:

  • While Jack Langrishe did operate a theatre in Deadwood, he was not gay, and in fact ran the theatre with his wife, Jenette.
  • Langrishe’s first productions, before he built his own building, were held at the Bella Union rather than in an abandoned brothel.

Lucretia “Aunt Lou” Marchbanks:

  • Aunt Lou never worked for George Hearst, though it was possible that he may have met her as she did work for a time for the DeSmet Mine, which Hearst would later own.
Jack McCall

Jack McCall

Jack McCall:

  • Jack McCall’s first trial that acquitted him of murder was not held in the Gem as shown, but instead at the Deadwood Theatre, sometimes referred to as McDaniel’s Theatre (for its builder,) or the Langrishe Theatre, forJack Langrishe, the performer’s troupe manager.

Metz Massacre:

  • Though the Metz family were ambushed and killed in 1876, the only survivor was actually a man, not a child, making Sophia Metz and the entire story surrounding her, fiction.

Albert W. Merrick:

  • Though the series never shows that A.W. Merrick was married, he was, and in fact had three children. Unfortunately for the Merricks, they lost their 8 year-old son on October 8, 1880 when he died of inflammation of the bowels. They also lost an infant daughter in 1884.

Reverend Henry Smith:

  • The Reverend Henry Weston Smith, who was almost 50 years old, did not die of a brain tumor. Instead, he was murdered while on the way from Deadwood to another mining camp, most likely by Indians. However, another preacher by the name of Father Mackin, who replaced Smithdid die of “softening of the brain” several months after having a spasmodic “fit” in front of the Overland Hotel.

Al Swearengen:

  • Representations that Al Swearengen was from England and raised in an orphanage are incorrect. His sob story to Trixie was just that. Swearengen was actually raised by his two parents and seven siblings in Iowa.
  • When the first season opens, the bulk of the action takes place in Swearengen’s Gem Saloon; however, Al actually owned and operated a smaller operation called the Cricket Saloon in 1876. The Gem Theatre didn’t actually open until April 1877.
  • Though we would never know it in the series, Swearengen was actually married to a woman named Nettie. In 1878, she left him on the grounds of mistreatment and the pair were later divorced.

4 thoughts on “HBO’s Deadwood – Fact & Fiction”

  1. I would advise against making a drinking game of throwing one back every time you hear the “f’-bomb” …..unless you want to induce acute liver failure,
    That said, not historically accurate, but highly entertaining..a great “binge-watch”!!

  2. possibly a form of Gaelic. Or other early Britain tongue. why would the show fabricate a non existent language?

    1. And the f-word had already appeared in English literature of the day, albeit mostly “underground” publication like “The Pearl.” Curse words are delightfully transportable.

  3. OK but there’s no explanation on the internet why the hell the “Cornish” (there never has been such a country, just a regional population) are speaking some other language than English. They are f&*%ng English. Cornish was a dead language 100 years past. What the hell language?

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