Originally named for the dead trees found in narrow Deadwood Gulch, lumbering helped legendary Deadwood, South Dakota get its economic start. Deadwood’s true roots, though, took hold in 1876 during the famous Black Hills Gold Rush. Seemingly overnight, Deadwood was the center of gold fever, with tents and saloons springing up fast and furious.
Although Deadwood became a ghost town when the gold rush ended just a couple of years later, and remained so for decades, the streets and architecture have since been authentically restored and now the entire town is a national historic landmark. The fully restored Adams House, built in 1892, is especially elegant and filled with original furniture and other household items. For a small town, Deadwood is big on entertainment. Gambling was legalized over 20 years ago, and since then, more than 80 historic gaming halls offer everything from nickel slots to $100 poker bets. If you run out of Lady Luck, take a walk down Main Street to find contemporary saloons, gift shops, restaurants, and museums.
Thanks to the successful HBO series, you might already be familiar with some of the many legends of yesteryear who lived and died in Deadwood—especially Wild Bill Hickok. You can pay your respects to Wild Bill and many other colorful Wild West characters at the Mount Moriah cemetery. Although walking tour maps don’t quite seem appropriate for a cemetery, grab a guide at the information center anyway. The hillside graveyard actually feels more like a peaceful park, and is also the final resting place of Calamity Jane, Potato Creek Johnny (a local who found one of the largest gold nuggets in the Black Hills), Preacher Henry Weston Smith (credited with first bringing Christianity to the Black Hills), and Blanche Colman (the first woman admitted to the South Dakota bar) to name just a few. Records exist for about 3,627 people buried at Mount Moriah, although historians think the actual number may by higher due to lost or incomplete information. Mount Moriah also provides a panoramic view of the town below and sweeping vistas of the Black Hills.
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In addition to writing about her travels, Denise Seith is also a treasure hunter and loves a good latté. She and her husband own an online gold prospecting and metal detecting equipment store found at GoldRushTradingPost.com