2010 Aug 29 – Day 18 – Keystone, SD to Lead, SD (Mt. Rushmore and Deadwood)

About six miles west of Keystone is the ‘oh-so-famous’ Mount Rushmore National Memorial.  The story goes that a New York lawyer, Charles E. Rushmore, visited the Black Hills on business in 1885 and asked a local prospector the name of the 6,000-foot peak.  The peak had no name and the prospector facetiously answered “Mount Rushmore,.  The name stuck and was never changed.

Gutzon Borglum, the sculptor, arrived in 1927 on a commission from the federal government to carve the likenesses of four U.S. presidents – Washington, Jefferson, Lincoln and Theodore Roosevelt – on the granite face of the mountain.  Each face is about 60′ high.  It took 14 years and 400 workers to finish the memorial.  Completion day was Oct 31, 1941.  (Korczak Ziolkowski who designed and began the Crazy Horse Memorial also worked with Borglum on Rushmore.)

The faces are visible from a fair distance as you drive toward them.There is a nice plaza and entrance gate behind which all of the flags of the U.S. states are flying.

Once we had taken a dozen or so photos we headed north to Deadwood. Deadwood is a famous (perhaps infamous is a better word) gold rush town.  The entire city is a National Historic Monument.  The famous Wild Bill Hickok and Calamity Jane are buried at Mt. Moriah Cemetery on the hilltop above the town.   Mt. Moriah Cemetery has special permission from the federal government that allows them to never lower the flag. Deadwood was decimated with a smallpox epidemic in 1878 and the graves of many children bear witness to the tragedy.During the gold rush era about 250 Chinese immigrants arrived in the area.  Most worked in the service industries rather than the mines themselves and there is a section in the cemetery that was the final resting place of many.

The city of Deadwood is not very big.  I think the populations is about 1300.  Over 300 buildings were destroyed by fire in 1879 so much of the town rose again from the ashes. Being such a cowboy fan in my youth it was really great to be in a place featured in so many stories and movies.

After leaving Deadwood we continued west to Lead, site of the Homestake Mine.  Homestake for many years was the longest continuously operating gold mine in the United States.  It opened in 1877 and ceased running in 2002.  There is now a visitor’s information center with mining history and equipment displays. The Open Cut was the name of the absolutely massive pit mine that was the bread and butter of Homestake for generations. We spent that night in Lead and the next day moved north to Belle Fourche, SD and turned west again back into Wyoming to see the Devil’s Tower before going to Gillette for the night.

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