Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Black Hills Power gives boost to history project

Deadwood History, Inc. was selected to receive a $1,000 Black Hills Power grant.   The grant will help develop the “You Ain’t Heard Nothing Yet: Deadwood” project scheduled for 2015. 

Pictured in the photo at left are (left to right): Mark Rambow, Deadwood History Development Officer, Darrel Nelson, Deadwood History Exhibits Director, Marsha Nichols, Black Hills Power External Affairs and Carolyn Weber, Deadwood History Assistant Director. 

Our future depends on healthy, vibrant communities and opportunities for our friends and neighbors to fulfill their potential. To that end, Black Hills Power makes donations for civic, cultural, social and charitable purposes.

“You Ain’t Heard Nothing Yet” will focus on how Deadwood’s visionary leadership in the 1920s left the city with a lasting legacy of historic preservation and economic development.  

The project is comprised of two main components.  The first involves creating exhibits rich with artifacts and historical documents detailing many of the challenges city leaders tackled to ensure Deadwood’s continued economic success.  The second component includes a series of live performances featuring period art, literature, fashion, music and current events taking place across the nation.  

With this project, the audience will become immersed in the culture of the 1920s, thereby giving them a greater understanding and appreciation of how the visionary ideas, innovative problem solving skills and tenacity of the city’s leaders created a Deadwood generations of people have come to enjoy.

(Thanks to Deadwood History for this story and photo)

Friday, June 20, 2014

Montana digs dinosaurs...

by Larry Miller

It was a hot and dry summer afternoon when, nearly 40 years ago, I walked along a hillside in Hot Springs, South Dakota, taking pictures of Chadron State Coillege students, feverishly working at unearthing a collection of mammoth bones. It had been a remarkable discovery, one that would bode well for the community, Chadron State College……and science.

And this week, I learned there’s another paleo-playground just across the border in Montana.  It’s a burgeoning dinosaur business that’s been thriving for, oh, several millions of years. 

Don Matthesen (left) and MSU student Jack Wilson
Montana State University and its Earth Sciences department spiritual mentor Jack Horner (of Jurassic Park fame) have put together “the largest paleontological field program in the country.”  MSU students have hit the road all across the state, and we met one of them this week in Ekalaka, which is nestled in far southeast Montana.

Jack Wilson is an Earth Sciences major at MSU, and he’s one of the young folks who’ve helped the Carter County Museum in Ekalaka become one of the finest small museums in the region.

He and fellow students assist the museum staff in numerous ways, examining and identifying fossils, conducting research and helping with exhibits.  Another MSU student, a graphic arts major, recently redesigned what is now an impressive museum website.  There’s little doubt that these young folks are helping revitalize the Carter County Museum.

Friend Don Matthesen and I have visited a few museums around the area over the past couple of years, and each one has its particular attraction.  However, I confess I was more than a bit oblivious to the museum at Ekalaka, and when he first mentioned it, I hesitated a bit.  But Don and I have found a lot of interesting things during earlier museum treks, so I quickly warmed up to the idea of visiting the Carter County Museum.

The expressway to Ekalaka, Montana
The three-hour trip from Spearfish to Ekalaka took just a bit longer, since we had to navigate through a herd of several hundred cattle on Wyoming 323 about 20 miles north of Alzada.  Having grown up in Nebraska, I'm not unaccustomed to seeing cattle driven across country -- but this was something a bit different.  

It was quite an experience in itself, watching the cattle meander along the road and ditch, prompted occasionally by a pickup and a gent on a four-wheeler, which more often than not is the new steed of choice for ranchers these days.

After arriving in Ekalaka and enjoying a hearty breakfast at the Wagon Wheel cafĂ©, we spent several hours exploring the museum, which offers a real variety of items.  From arrowheads and dinosaurs to pottery, photographs, old newspapers, and well-constructed exhibits reflecting American Indian life on the plains through the era of white settlements by early pioneers.  And the price is right, too:  Free.  Of course, generous contributions are always appreciated!

You can enjoy a brief photographic tour by visiting our Carter County Museum gallery.

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Old Fort Meade National Cemetery event well done!

Two afternoon performances of Voices from the Hills offered visitors a grant opportunity to learn more about a few of the interesting people buried at the historic Fort Meade National Cemetery near Sturgis.  The Memorial Day presentations were blessed by wonderful weather and splendid performances by area talent.
Above are Sergeant David Lawson (Randy Bender) and Ellen Gray (Jan Lamphere) who told their stories and shared information about the old fort and days gone by. The goal was to "...preserve our history, and honor those who came here in the service of their country."  By all accounts from the audiences, they accomplished their task!  For a a few photos from the event, visit our Fort Meade Cemetery Gallery.

Thursday, May 1, 2014

Monday, February 10, 2014

Businessman with Dakota roots won political battle in Arizona

by Larry Miller

When we escaped the sub-zero temperatures and looming blizzard-like weather of the northern Black Hills in late December, we looked forward to balmy temperatures, along with a bit more relaxed pace of living in the Phoenix-area retirement park inhabited by RV owners and snowbirds from Canada and the northern plains.

We've not been disappointed -- but we have been surprised now and then.

And last Saturday (2/8/14) it was a pleasant surprise as friends Chris and Belva Anderson -- along with our GPS system we've dubbed "Miss Smarty Pants" -- lured us to a thriving oasis community south of Mesa called Queen Creek, Arizona.  And perhaps one of the most popular eating establishments in this region of the burgeoning valley area occupied by Phoenix and dozens of smaller cities.  It's called San Tan Flat.

And the real surprise has been learning that San Tan Flat, a restaurant and saloon, was launched nearly a decade ago by Dale Bell, who is still well-remembered in Spearfish and throughout the northern Hills.

His family was engaged in retail businesses in the Spearfish area for many years.  His father, Tom Bell, operated an open market and later "Bell's Market" on West Jackson and was one of the early strong proponents of the legendary Black Hills Passion Play.  Dale was just a teenager when he took a shine to politics and became a big fan of Ronald Reagan, going to work as a Republican campaign worker in the 1970's.  When Reagan was elected President in 1980, young Bell landed a job in Washington as Director of Public Affairs for the Department of Health and Human Services. But he soon left D.C. and entered a couple of congressional raises in South Dakota, losing both -- to Tom Daschle in 1984 and then to Tim Johnson in 1986.

Bell was soon back in the Black Hills.  Among other endeavors, he started and operated a couple of steakhouses, including the Buffalo Jump restaurant in Beulah, Wyoming, which he sold before heading to Arizona and opening a steakhouse in Pinal County in 2005.   His daughter, Kristen, remained in Spearfish and still owns Dough Trader Pizza, just off of Jackson near BHSU -- within a stones throw of the old Bell Market.
We walked through the front door of San Tan Flat shortly after 4 o'clock Saturday afternoon and the place was already jumping with customers.  Looming over the dining area was "Toomey Mill Co., Spearfish So. Dak." emblazoned on what appeared to be a large framed sack.

We wandered through the busy restaurant and placed our orders at the counter before heading out back to the courtyard, which accommodates more than 300 people.  With a separate game room building and lots of cowboy memorabilia strategically placed amongst the dozens of wooden tables and benches, this is a place that is family friendly.  The four of us sat next to a couple of young families with kids.  And there were lots of other kids, too.  We were alerted that our meals were ready when our number (09) was readily displayed on a couple of small digital readout boards.

After enjoying a great meal of steaks and hamburgers, we wandered around the premises a bit, and learned a bit about Dale Bell's long fracas with Pinal County Commissioners.  They apparently groused over a number of things -- but perhaps most prominent was its ban on dancing.  Most folks believe that the high profile battle between Bell and the Pinal County Commissioners was a blessing for San Tan Flat., which appears to be doing a land office business.

That political battle likely encouraged the proliferation of patriotic signs posted throughout the premises at San Tan Flat -- most of them focused upon the dangers of unchecked government.

Bell's story is well told by Drew Cary in the video below, which was produced by The Institute for Justice. Dale Bell and his son Spencer provide insight into their entrepreneurial activities -- and their rather inspirational story about "fighting city hall."  

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Expansion underway at West Texas Trail Museum

We like this panoramic image of early day Moorcroft, Wyoming, which is home to the expanding West Texas Trail Museum.  You can get a closer look in our Museum Gallery.

The framed photograph -- along with hundreds of other items -- is part of a growing collection of artifacts that are housed in the museum at 100 E. Weston Street in Moorcroft.  The collections helps to tell the story of Moorcroft and the longhorn cattle trails that stretched from Texas through Wyoming and into Montana as early as 1866.

Last year, friend Don Matthesen and I made a trek to the museum at Newell, South Dakota, and enjoyed it so much that we elected to make another similar museum outing -- this time westward to Moorcroft.

After a hearty breakfast at Higbee's in Sundance one day last week (7/11/13), we headed west on I-90 toward Moorcroft, arriving about 30 minutes after the 9:00 a.m. opening of the museum.

Museum Director Cynthia Conch
New director Cynthia Conch, obviously pumped about the 1,800 square foot expansion of the museum that's underway, provided us with some background about the exhibits that remain accessible during construction.

It might have been a bit disappointing that some items are not displayed during construction, but Cynthia's enthusiasm -- and the remaining availability of many artifacts and photographs -- enticed us to explore the rooms that are still open.  And it simply motivated us to plan a return visit after the addition is completed this fall.

"We're hoping construction will be completed and we can show off the facility by the time of the Heritage Roundup in September," Conch told us.  The addition includes a conference room and break room that will help make the museum an even more viable facility.

Like Belle Fourche in Dakota Territory, Moorcroft became an important Wyoming trailhead for shipping cattle in the late 1800's.  Of course, there're no remnants of the old depot  on the south side of town, but the Chicago, Burlington and Quincy (CB&Q) line was certainly a conduit for prosperity during the late 1800's and early 1900's.

The museum offers lots of histories of Crook County pioneer families and railroad memorabilia, and it also boasts a wide array of quilts, sewing machines, and embroidery work.  Perhaps our wives should have been along, too!

Ranching displays highlighted western saddles and tack collected from the surrounding area, including items from "Mr. Mustang," Bob Brislawn.

Chicago, Burlington & Quincy depot in Moorcroft
Most of the railroad items are still inaccessible, but we were surprised and pleased to be able to pore over a collection of American Indian artifacts and tools.  There's also an impressive collection of household and personal items from the Helen Robinson Zimmerscheid Collection -- and even more for the Robinson Mercantile store owned by early-day merchant L. H. Robinson.

We've assembled a fair number of photographs taken while ambling through the museum, and you'll find them in our West Texas Trail Museum gallery.

Admission to the West Texas Trail Museum is free, and they're open from 9:00 am to 5:00 pm Monday through Friday.   We found their slogan, "A little bit of everything…..A whole lot of history…" to be true.  When their expansion is complete this fall, we anticipate finding even more!

Thursday, February 7, 2013

A mesmerizing presentation on Black Hills floods

Hydrologist Dan Driscoll recounting historic floods
There was standing room only Tuesday night (2/5/13) as more than 100 people sandwiched themselves inside the Senior Citizen's Center in Spearfish to hear Dan Driscoll talk about flooding.

It's a topic all too familiar to many residents of the northern Black Hills, and memories of the devastating Rapid City flood of 1972 came back with little prompting as Driscoll gave the group an hour-long overview of historic floods in the Black Hills region.

An hydrologist with the U. S. Geological Survey in Rapid City, Driscoll has been very involved with studies relating to flood-frequency analysis.  Well rooted in science, he provided members of the Spearfish Area Historical Society with a thumbnail sketch of how scientists go about measuring size and frequency of flooding -- underscoring the importance of historical data, while conceding that there's still a lot of uncertainty about flow estimates in flooding rivers.

Driscoll's presentation -- including links to historic flood photographs and information -- is reported on the web site of the Spearfish Area Historical Society.  Read more here...