Saturday, December 8, 2018

Sarah Campbell - "Aunt Sally"

Sarah Campbell, aka Aunt Sally, is a fascinating person. Her story is just one of many in the history of this country.

Sarah Campbell, who was later to become known as “Aunt Sally”, was born a slave on July 10, 1823, in Kentucky.  She was sold to Henry Choteau, a cousin of Pierre Choteau, who was the founder of Fort Pierre in Dakota Territory. She worked as a cook on a steamboat. She traveled on the Missouri River between Yankton and Bismarck via steamboat. She became a free woman at the age of 14 in 1837. She married in 1839 and gave birth to a son, St. Clair Campbell, in 1840. Her son worked as a ferry boat operator at Fort Randall in Dakota Territory. There is no historical record of Sarah’s husband.

While working in Bismarck she picked up the moniker ‘Aunt Sally” and became the first black woman to own property in that town. She provided services to Fort Abraham Lincoln, located across the Missouri River from Bismarck. In 1874, she signed on the the 7th Cavalry’s Black Hills Expedition as a cook and laundress. She was the first non-Indian woman to enter the Black Hills.

While in the Black Hills, Sarah was inflicted with “gold fever” and returned to the area in 1876. She was the first woman to stake a claim on French Creek near what would become the present-day town of Custer, South Dakota. She later moved to the Black Hills town of Galena and purchased and operated a cattle ranch. In addition to her gold mining properties, she also had interest in a silver mine called the Alice Lode. She still provided laundry services, was a midwife, and sold firewood to miners and settlers.

Sarah Campbell died on April 10, 1888 at the age of 64. She is buried at Galena’s Vinegar Hill cemetery,  in the Black Hills she loved and helped to open to settlement.

Tip - If you choose to visit her grave at the Vinegar Hill cemetery in Galena, I would recommend a 4x4 vehicle. It is a steep and rough road to the top. I parked my car at the bottom and walked up.

Saturday, November 3, 2018

Finding Lattman

John Lattman was a private in Company G, 7th U.S. Cavalry. He was born in Switzerland in 1848. He enlisted on October 14, 1873 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.  He listed his previous occupation as laborer.  He was discharged on October 14, 1878, at Fort Lincoln, Dakota, upon expiration of service, as a private of excellent character.

At the Battle of the Little Bighorn, he was left in the timber during the retreat from the valley.  He made it to the hilltop later.  He was possibly a member of Herendeen’s group.

Little Big Horn historian Walter Mason Camp interviewed Lattman:

“I then hid in lowly sagebrush and got my carbine and pistol ready for defense. All at once, I heard Indians trying to get my horse where I had left him. I laid there until dark and then started toward Custer. Again, when half way up the bluff, all of a sudden I heard Indian bells and looked and saw two Indians riding along, and began to wonder where they came from, and lay down to think it over and made up my mind they had been watching the command, and I started and walked that way. I walked along quite a distance and got into a ravine and looked up and saw a pony. Soon I saw a man whom I took for a soldier, and he challenged me and told me where camp was. I had been out nearly all night and it was nearly daylight when I joined the command on the hill. In burying the dead, the smell was so bad we had to be relieved every 5 minutes.”

Following his discharge he homesteaded on 160 acres of land 12 miles NE of Rapid City, SD, where he raised cattle.  He remained a bachelor and died in Rapid City on October 7, 1913. He is buried in Elk Vale Cemetery located northeast of Rapid City.


Saturday, September 29, 2018

Montana Mayhem 2018

This year I again made the trek with my "Custer buddies" out to Montana and Wyoming. It was another memorable trip with several highlights: Dull Knife Battlefield Tour, Deer Medicine Rocks, finally getting up close and personal with the Butler and Foley markers, and a tour by Paul Hedren of the Rosebud Battlefield.

Montana Mayhem 2018 Trip Diary

Monday, June 18, 2018

I left Pierre at 6:30AM and headed to Rapid City. I met up with my son, Stephen, and we had breakfast together at Colonial House. It started to rain pretty heavily and continued to do so as I drove into Wyoming. 

On the way I made a quick stop at the Fort Meade Museum to pick up a copy of the new book, Fort Meade: Peacekeeper of the Black Hills by Roberta Sago and Lee Stroschine. It was then a drive through rain to Sundance, WY and the Crook County Museum. This is a small but interesting museum with a cool diorama of the 1874 Black Hills Expedition. They also had some relics from the expedition. There was a little informational handout by the diorama about the expedition that I picked up.

After visiting the museum I drove the rest of the way to Sheridan, arriving around 2:30 PM. I checked into my hotel, the Mill Inn, and rested from the drive.

I decided drive down to the Wagon Box and Fetterman sites via US Highway 87. It’s really a nice drive and the rain had stopped so there was a fresh smell and look to everything. I stopped at the Wagon Box first and took some photos and walked around a bit. Then I drove the gravel road to the Fetterman site. I returned to Sheridan the same way I came. It was a nice diversionary drive to get me out of the motel.

Upon returning to Sheridan I had a craving for Chinese food and ate supper at the Dragon Wall Chinese Buffet. It was excellent!

I watched some TV and hit the sack. I had to get up early and get to Billings to pick Fred up at the airport (or so I thought).

Tuesday, June 19, 2018

I ate a continental breakfast with coffee at the motel and hit the road for Billings. On the way, Fred texted us and said there had been a bit of problems in Minneapolis with his flight connection. He was going to be late. So I stopped at McDonalds in Hardin and had a cup of coffee and used their free wi-fi to upload a video to Facebook. I then drove over to the local park to find a marker for Custer that I always seem to miss. This time I found it and photographed it. 

I then drove the rest of the way into Billings and stopped at A FEW BOOKS MORE used bookstore. Here I found a nice hardcover copy of CUSTER’S LUCK. I drove over to McCormick’s Cafe and met Michael and Max. Montana Mayhem was starting.

I drove up to the airport to meet Fred and saw James Donovan standing by the baggage claim. I said hello and we started talking. He’s writing a new book on Apollo 11. Once Fred arrived we took off for the hotel. We gave Donovan a ride to the DoubleTree where he was attending a western writers conference. Fred and I got to the Best Western ClockTower and met up with the others. We went to pick up supplies at Target and then stopped for a late lunch at MacKenzie River Pizza.

After lunch we drove out to Canyon Creek Brewing. Frank texted us that he had arrived in Billings so he met up with us at the brewery. All the boys of MM were now present. After toasting each other with beers we headed back over to the ClockTower where we met up with John Monnett. John was going to tag along with MM for a few days. Michael Olson brought me a new brewery cap to wear and I gave him a Rolling Rock t-shirt as a joke (long story). We walked over to the Montana Brewing Company for beers and a bite to eat. This has become a tradition to start each trip at MBC. From there we walked over to Uberbrew for yet more beers. Then it was back to the hotel and bed.

Wednesday, June 20, 2018

On this morning we all met at Stella’s for breakfast. After eating we drove out to Putt Thompson’s Custer Battlefield Trading Post. Here we met up with Don Fisk, Joann Puckett, and H.B. Puckett, who were going to join us on our trip to Deer Medicine Rocks. Inside the store we bumped into Steve Andrews and Will Hutchinson who also decided to join the convoy. Once we were all organized we drove out to Lame Deer, Montana, and turned north.

We arrived at the Bailey Ranch and were shown several artifacts that the family had found in the area. After a short visit and signing their guestbook, we drove over to the rocks. Deer Medicine Rocks is the location where Sitting Bull had his famous vision of “soldiers falling into camp,” foretelling the Indian victory at the Battle of the Little Big Horn. We found Sitting Bull’s glyph. After much exploring we walked over to the nearby Owl Rocks where Crazy Horse is said to have made a carving. We found what was supposedly the carving made by the great warrior.

On our way back to Billings we drove the highway north to Colstrip and eventually to the interstate. We had views of the Yellowstone River as well as Pompey’s Pillar. 

Once back in Billings we stopped for a meal at Texas Roadhouse. Then it was back to the motel for beers, conversation, and eventually much needed sleep. We were going to need it as our tour of the Rosebud Battlefield with author Paul Hedren was the next day.

Thursday, June 21, 2018

It was breakfast at Stella’s again. This time we also ordered some sandwiches to go for our hike on the Rosebud Battlefield. We thought the sandwiches weren’t wrapped, only in styrofoam containers, so we never brought them with us! Oh well, we’ll know to check them next time.

We arrived at the Rosebud ahead of schedule. Dr. Doug Scott was there with some metal detectorists leading an archeological study. Paul Hedren arrived and got the group together. He hiked up to Crook’s Hill and were treated to a wonderful overview of the vast battlefield. Frank and John Monnett turned back from this spot. The rest of us then hiked to Conical Hill. Conical Hill doesn’t look that high but it gives a very complete panoramic view of not only the battlefield but the entire countryside. Beautiful views. If we had brought our sandwiches we would have had them on Conical Hill. Max and Michael started back to the vehicle. Fred and I stood around and visited with some of the other hikers and then we walked back to the vehicle also. We heard later that the rest hiked down to Royall’s position and to Limpy’s rocks and back to the vehicles. That is a hell of a hike!

After leaving the Rosebud we stopped by for a quick visit at the Little Big Horn. All we did was make a quick drive down to Reno-Benteen and back. Then made a stop at the visitor center bookstore. 

We then drove back to Billings to find supper. We ended up at a Mexican place, Guadalajara. Food was alright. Nothing special.

It was then back to the ClockTower for beers and conversation in the room.

Friday, June 22, 2018

Fred, Frank, John Monnett and I headed over to Stella’s for breakfast. While we were waiting for a table Craig Johnson, author of the Longmire novels, and A. Martinez, one of the stars of the Longmire TV show, walked in. We talked for a short bit and Fred used Frank’s phone to snap a photo of us. A great highlight to the trip.

Michael and Max had a later breakfast at McCormick’s and then we all headed over to the Army/Navy surplus store. I bought a better campaign hat. I have always wanted one that better matched the other guys’ hats. I also needed one that fit better. Now I’m good to go.

We then made the drive to Hardin where our first stop was the movie theater where Michael Donahue was signing copies of his book. We all picked up our copies and then did some visiting with other Custer buffs who were in the cafe next door - Tom Heski, Paul Hedren, Vince Heier, and Tim Bumb.

We drove out to the battlefield and made the walk to Last Stand Hill. We took a group photo in front of the markers and reflected on what happened on that spot 142 years ago. And then it started to rain. And rain. And rain. We did a quick check of the visitor center and did a little hanging around on the patio. Michael and Max had walked out to check out the Kellogg marker and were caught in the downpour. They were soaked.

It was time for a beer. It was time for a beer at the Mint Bar. We piled back into the Suburban and headed to Sheridan. After a couple of beers and some photos we bumped into a couple who is planning on opening another brewery in Sheridan - the Sheridan Brew Co and Public House. The gave us a tour of their facilities which are right across the street from the Mint. They hope to open October 2018.

We decided to have supper at Sanford’s but after an hour wait and still no food in sight, we walked next door for some Mexican food at Las Delicias. I had the fajitas and they were delicious. After eating we took off for Buffalo and the Super 8 motel.

Saturday, June 23, 2018

We headed to the Busy Bee Cafe for breakfast before heading out to the Dull Knife Battlefield. Here we met up again with Don Fisk. His cousin and her husband were with him and they were also going on the Dull Knife tour. After breakfast John Monnett left us and headed home to Boulder, Colorado. The rest of us made the trek to the Graves’ property near Kaycee, Wyoming for the tour.

Ken and Cheri Graves own the property where the Dull Knife Battlefield is located. It is a beautiful area and as I understand it, they only give tours once a year as it is still a working cattle ranch. Cheri knows her history about the area and the battle. We were hauled on flatbeds with hay bales to certain areas of the battlefield and hiked to other ones. Cheri provided commentary throughout. There was even a porta-potty trailer.

We had a wonderful lunch under some trees at the ranch - sandwiches, chips, cookies, iced tea, and lemonade. We resumed the tour and saw the area where the hospital was setup and also the ditch/trench/ravine where the Cheyenne Indians were hiding when Second Lieutenant John McKinney executed an attack. They rose from the trench and McKinney was killed. Cheri Graves did a wonderful job explaining the action on this part of the field.

A storm had moved into the area and the wind picked up so unfortunately the tour had to be cut short. It wasn’t long after we had left the property that it started to rain. And rain hard. We made the drive back to Buffalo and arrived at the Super 8 where cleanup was needed after a long day in the field.

After washing up, Fred, Frank, and I met Don Fisk, his cousin, and her husband, for supper at the Winchester Steakhouse. I was hoping to get a bison steak but there wasn’t any on the menu. The food was excellent however, and we had a great visit. Max and Michael stayed behind to do some laundry and they ate at the Bozeman Trail Steakhouse which was next to the motel. They picked us up at the Winchester and we all headed to Mishap Brewing in downtown Buffalo for some beers to finish out the night. It was then back to the Super 8 and some much needed sleep.

Sunday, June 24, 2018

We sat around and had coffee in our room. As we were sitting there we heard a loud explosion. It frankly scared the crap out of me. Frank had left a Cherry Pepsi in the freezer of our motel refrigerator. It exploded. What a way to start the day.

As we have had problems with the Busy Bee Cafe previously - last trip they were out of bacon and yesterday they were out of butter, believe it or not - we were trying to find another breakfast spot. I checked Yelp and it pointed us to the Lake City Cafe on the shores of Lake DeSmet. Yelp did not let us down. This place was excellent and we may have a new official breakfast spot in Buffalo for Montana Mayhem.

We needed to make a quick stop at Fort Phil Kearny to see Starr Zabel and present the photo I took of Frank at “Bodden Crossing” on our last trip. I had a couple of 8x10’s printed and I gave one to Frank at the OIW symposium in Denver back in May and I had one to give the gals at the fort. We stopped at the fort and had a great visit.

We then headed on up the interstate to Sheridan and checked into the Sheridan Inn, a great historic hotel onced operated by Buffalo Bill Cody. We were getting settled when we were surprised by Ted “Bald” Karam. We met Bald back in 2016 and he with present at the infamous Bodden Crossing. We were able to have a nice, albeit short, visit with Bald and also met his wonderful wife. 

We then stopped over at the Sheridan County Museum and then made a stop at Luminous Brewery. After a few cold beers we went over to the Wyoming Chop House which is about a block from the Sheridan Inn. We all had something other than steak (I had the shrimp) for a change of pace.

After supper, we sat around on the couches on the third floor of the Inn and worked out the world’s problems. Then it was off to bed. Another day was in the books.

Monday, June 25, 2018

We sat around on the wonderful porch at the Sheridan Inn and had our morning coffee. Then we headed over to the Silver Spur for breakfast. Then it was a quick stop for gas and ice and it was off to the Little Big Horn Battlefield.

Since this was the anniversary of the Battle of the Little Big Horn, the battlefield had very busy and full of visitors. We drove the distance down to the Reno-Benteen fight site. We did a little walking around and talked to Jim Thorn. Jim is a member of Friends of the Little Big Horn and we have met him before. 

We then drove back towards the visitor center and made a stop at the Sharpshooter Ridge area. Here we ran into Dave Harrington. Dave is the former superintendent for the battlefield. While we were visiting with Dave, Dale Kosman and Steve Andrews showed up. Greetings were passed around and we did some discussing of the battle and markers in the area. One of our goals this year was to get on to Sharpshooter Ridge. Dale and Steve joined us for a walk on CBPC (Custer Battlefield Preservation Committee) land to the southern end of SSR. While there we discussed the trail Custer had possibly taken. With Weir Point in the distance, discussion focused on this area of the fight.

After coming down off Sharpshooter’s we needed to realize another goal - the markers of Butler and Foley. I personally have wanted to get up close to these markers for years and for whatever reason that has never happened. We walked first to the Butler marker which has a two path trail to it.

Max and myself at the Butler marker...finally!

After some discussion at the Butler marker, we walked southwest to the Foley marker. This marker is newer and placed more recently. It was definitely a thrill to be able to stand at both markers. Previously I had only seen these markers from the park road.

After coming down off the trail we did a quick check for ticks and then drove out to Reno Creek Road to see Michael Badhand Terry’s campsite. We have been to Badhand’s camp in the past and it’s always a treat. Steve and Dale joined us for this also. We were there for about an hour and then decided we had better get on the move back to Sheridan.

Once back at Sheridan, Frank and I walked over to the laundromat that is within a block of the Sheridan Inn. After getting our clothes a much needed wash we gathered on the third floor of the Sheridan Inn and had our own pizza party. Then we sent down to the wonderful front porch and were visiting when Kim and Carl (?) Crawford from Tennessee came wandering by. They heard us discussing Custer and joined our conversation. Kim is a member of Friends of the Little Big Horn and is a Myles Keogh fan. We had a great time visiting with them and it turns out she is a fan of Fred’s book. You never know when, where, or who you’ll meet on these trips. That is part of the fun!

After a nice long discussion session on the porch it was off to bed. It had been a long day.

Tuesday, June 26, 2018

Fred, Frank, and I sat around in our room at the Sheridan Inn visiting and drinking coffee. After a while we got together with Michael and Max and went to the Cowboy Cafe for breakfast. Then back to the Sheridan Inn to finish packing and checkout. While we were waiting to get on the road we bumped into Kim and Carl Crawford again. We were able to have a short visit before heading out.

The first stop was the Sheridan Public Library. Frank had heard about a diorama of the Fetterman Fight that was on display here.  A public library was an unusual stop for Montana Mayhem but well worth the effort. The diorama was very impressive.

After the the library we drove back up to the Little Big Horn Battlefield. We arrived in time to catch part of Michael Donahue’s ranger talk. He is one of the best. Michael and I walked to the end of Deep Ravine Trail. It had been a while since I had done that. It’s a striking and lonely walk, no matter how many people are with you. Ranger Donahue’s talk was over and we met him on the patio. He had Fred autograph his copy of the Participant’s book. Although Fred wouldn’t let on, that had to be a big thrill for him. We made one more stop in the bookstore to pick up some bottles of water and to say our goodbyes to Steve Adelson.

After this we left the Little Big Horn Battlefield for the final time on Montana Mayhem 2018. We drove into Hardin and met up with Dale Kosman at the Four Aces Saloon for a few beers. After saying our goodbyes to Dale we made the trek back to Billings. We got checked back into the ClockTower Inn and Frank and I retrieved our cars from the parking garage where we had left them. After a bit of a rest we all wandered over to the Montana Brewing Company for supper. It was then back to the motel for bed. Another long day in the books.

Wednesday, June 27, 2018

Our final day together on this trip. Frank, Fred, and I walked over to Stella’s for breakfast. We then went back to the motel and met up with Michael and Max who had had breakfast at McCormick Cafe.

We drove up to the rimrocks surrounding Billings and walked the trail to Yellowstone Kelly’s grave. The trail winds its way around and ends up at Boothill Cemetery where Muggins Taylor is buried. Taylor had brought the news of the Custer disaster. 

We made a quick stop for gas and then we carpooled (Michael and I in my car and the rest in Frank’s) out to the Thomas marker west of Billings about 70 miles. The Thomas party was killed by Indians and left on the prairie. There is a marker there explaining the story and a grave surrounded by stones. The interstate passes nearby but I would guess that very few people make the stop.

On the way back to Billings we pulled off into Laurel to visit the Canyon Creek Battlefield. The Canyon Creek fight was with the Nez Perce tribe. Many of the officers and soldiers who were at Little Big Horn also participated in this engagement. It was the first time at this battlefield for all of us.

After checking out the battlefield we drove into Billings and made another stop at the Canyon Creek Brewing Company. It seems appropriate and we needed some cold beers after a long day of exploring. 

After cooling down we stopped over at Jake’s Steakhouse for our final meal together. It was excellent! One of the best ever.

We hurried to get back to the motel and make our way over to Carter’s Brewing before they stopped serving at 8:00. After a beer there we walked back to the motel and sat around the pool area, drinking beer, visiting, and laughing. It was a nice way to end the trip.

Off to bed. It was going to be a long travel day on Thursday.

Thursday, June 28, 2018

Fred had an early flight and left the motel around 4:30 AM. Frank and I slept in a bit more and then sat around drinking coffee until Max and Michael were ready. We all walked over to McCormick Cafe for breakfast. 

We went back to the motel, finished packing, and checked out. Frank and I said our goodbyes to Max and Michael. We walked down to our cars and said goodbye to each other. We both left and started our drives home. 

I stopped for gas at Love’s in Hardin and then made another stop at Putt’s Trading Post near the Little Big Horn Battlefield. I picked up a t-shirt and a copy of Paul Hedren’s Powder River book. I bumped into Steve Andrews who was there having coffee. We talked for a bit and then I hit the road again.

As I was driving back, Max and Michael flew out on their way home. I got to Wall and filled up again with gas and made a stop at Wall Drug and had a bite to eat. I wandered around a bit and checked out their bookstore. I got back on the road and decided to take the interstate and then Highway 83 back into Pierre. I arrived home around 7:45.

Montana Mayhem 2018 was over.

Saturday, August 25, 2018

Peter Eixenberger: A Double Bereavement

Peter Eixenberger was a member of the U.S. 7th Cavalry mounted band. He enlisted on November 15, 1875, in New York City. He listed his previous occupation as musician.  He was discharged on November 14, 1880, at Fort Meade, Dakota, upon expiration of service, as a private of excellent character. He was not present at the Battle of the Little Bighorn.  He was on detached service from June 14, 1876, at Yellowstone Depot, Montana Territory, with the rest of the band members.

Custer wanted his band with him in battle. General Terry would not allow this so the band members were left behind when the 7th Cavalry marched off to the Little Big Horn. Custer did however take the band member’s white horses with him to the battle.

World famous Little Big Horn researcher, Walter Mason Camp, stopped off in Lead, South Dakota, to interview Charles Windolph, who had been with Benteen’s Company H at the Little Big Horn battle. While in the area, he also interviewed Peter Eixenberger along with former 7th troopers John Mahoney and Max Hoehn.

Peter Eixenberger died on September 12, 1917, and is buried in St. Aloysius Cemetery in Sturgis, South Dakota. Buried alongside him are his wife, Mary (died December 8, 1940), and two of their three children, Peter, Jr. and Gladys. Both Peter, Jr. and Gladys died on October 31, 1918, after becoming ill with the Spanish flu and pneumonia. They died less than a half hour apart.

The following appeared in the Sturgis Weekly Record of Thursday, November 7, 1918:

A Double Bereavement

The hand of misfortune rests heavily on Mrs. Peter Eixenberger of Sturgis in the loss of two of her children, Peter, Jr., aged twenty-four years and ten months and Gladys aged eighteen years and eleven months.  They both passed away, after a severe siege of Spanish influenza followed by pneumonia, on Thursday night of last week, less than a half hour apart.

Words are inadequate to assuage the grief over this double loss, but the tenderest sympathy of the entire community is extended to the bereaved mother and brothers and sister who survive them, in this dark hour of bereavement.

The funeral took place last Saturday morning and the services were conducted by the Rev. Father Columban at the grave in the Catholic cemetery.

Both the young people were favorites among their many friends in this vicinity, and their so sudden passing away will not soon be forgotten.

** The next issue of the Sturgis Weekly Record (November 14, 1918) carried the front page headline, END OF THE WAR HAS COME!, announcing the end of World War I.

Sunday, July 22, 2018

Peter Thompson and the Belle Fourche Bee

Although his actual birthdate is a matter of dispute, Peter Thompson was born in Scotland. He enlisted in the army on September 21, 1875, in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. He listed his previous occupation as miner. He was transferred to Jefferson Barracks, Missouri and was assigned to Company C, 7th Cavalry at Fort Lincoln. He had brown eyes, brown hair, ruddy complexion, and was 5’ 8 ¾” in height.

Thompson and the rest of Company C were assigned to the battalion under Lt. Col. George Armstrong Custer.  His horse gave out and he fell back and eventually joined Major Reno and the troops on the hilltop.  He was wounded in the right hand while with the water party on June 26th.  He was transported to Fort Lincoln aboard the steamer Far West.  

He was discharged on September 20, 1880, at Fort Meade, Dakota, upon expiration of service, as a private of excellent character. He was issued the Medal of Honor on October 5, 1878, as a member of the water party with the citation”… after having voluntarily brought water to the wounded in which effort he was shot through the hand, he made two more successful trips for the same purpose notwithstanding the remonstrances of his sergeant.”

Thompson later became a well-respected rancher and land owner. He ran a ranch northeast of Alzada, Montana. 

In 1914 Thompson had his recollections of the Custer Fight published in the Belle Fourche Bee. The first appeared on Thursday, February 19 and continued for eight consecutive weeks. The final installment was published on April 9, 1914. 

Thompson died in December of 1928 in Hot Springs, South Dakota and is buried in the West Lead Cemetery in Lead, South Dakota, about 5 miles from famous Deadwood.

I have transcribed Peter Thompson’s story as it appeared in the Belle Fourche Bee in 1914. You can download and read the entire story here. Please feel free to post comments below.

Saturday, June 16, 2018

Online Forums and Facebook Groups

If you are interested in Custer, the Battle of the Little Bighorn, Sitting Bull, Crazy Horse or any other aspect of the Plains Indian Wars in general you are living in a great time. It wasn’t all that long ago that you would have been studying the battle in solitude. Chances are there would have been no one to share your interest with or ask questions or just discuss the battle or other facets of the Indian Wars.
Technology has brought us the ability to keep in touch with those who share our interests. We are using laptop computers and smartphones to discuss the 19th century Plains Indian Wars. Ironic isn’t it?
Today there are website forums and Facebook pages that are easily accessible to any that wish to look for them. Discussions range on all topics and can become quite heated. Even today, Custer and the Battle of the Little Bighorn generate controversy and strong feelings. If you want to check out a forum or Facebook group I would highly suggest to spend some time reading. Get a feel for the group or forum before jumping right in. When you are ready to start posting, introduce yourself. Most people on these groups love to answer questions and discuss the battle but get very tired of posters throwing out comments without anything to back them up. So before you post that Custer’s death at Little Bighorn was all Major Reno’s fault, please have something to backup your comments. Also don’t get all bent out of shape when people respond with ideas that are different than your own.
The most important thing is to read and learn. Keep an open mind and maybe you’ll change your ideas about what happened.
Online Forums:
Facebook Groups:
The following aren’t Facebook Groups but are related pages:
For a while I had preferred the online message boards as opposed to Facebook for the simple reason it was easier to find archived information on the message boards. That isn’t necessarily true anymore. Facebook has added the ability to search a group and has also added the ability to save posts. When you save a Facebook post it appears on the left side of your page under the SAVED heading. You can make different folders to help organize your saved posts. But the message boards offer better and more accurate searching in my opinion.
Of course the best option is to visit both the forums and the Facebook groups. You’ll eventually find the ones that are the best fit for you. And if you see me [Scott Nelson on Facebook; treasuredude on the forums] please say hello!

Friday, May 4, 2018

“There’s gold in them thar hills…”

General Custer led an expedition of the 7th U.S. Cavalry into the Black Hills in 1874. They spent almost two months traveling to, exploring, and traveling back home from the Black Hills (July 2, 1874 - August 30, 1874). From the point of view of the U.S. government the expedition was a resounding success. It almost certainly was a factor in what happened to Custer and the 7th Cavalry two years later on the Little Bighorn river in Montana.

Many of the troopers looked at the 1874 Black Hills Expedition as a type of vacation. It was a break from the rather mundane life of a trooper at a post on the Great Plains. Once they arrived in the Hills there was plenty of game, wild berries, and cold mountain stream water. Custer brought the 7th Cavalry band along on the trip and they serenaded the troops from the hilltops in the evening. There was even a baseball game held near their Permanent Camp just outside the present-day town of Custer, South Dakota.

The official mission was to locate an appropriate location for a fort. The Fort Laramie Treaty gave the Army that right. But another reason for the trip, unofficially, was to determine if the rumors of gold were true. Two experienced miners, Horatio Ross and William McKay, accompanied Custer. In addition to the miners, several others also attached themselves and came along for the fun - newspaper reporters, engineers, scientists, and luckily for present-day researchers, a photographer, William H. Illingworth.

Illingworth’s photo of the 7th Cavalry winding its way through the Black Hills.

Horatio Ross made the initial discovery of gold along French Creek. Scout Charley Reynolds carried the news of the gold discovery to Fort Laramie. From there the news was sent via telegraph to General Terry in St. Paul. Custer’s report stated:
“… gold has been found at several places, and it is the belief of those who are giving their attention to this subject that it will be found in paying quantities. I have on my table forty or fifty small particles of pure gold…most of it obtained today from one panful of earth.” *** Newspapers around the country picked up the story and the race was on. The Army tried to downplay the gold discovery and keep miners out of the Black Hills but you can’t unring a bell. There indeed was “gold in them thar Hills.” The Homestake Gold Mine near Lead, South Dakota, was the largest and deepest in North America, until its closing in 2002. The Homestake produced more than 40 million troy ounces of gold during its lifetime of operation. Click here or on the Bismarck Tribune image below to read the announcement of the gold discovery in the Black Hills as it appeared on August 12, 1874.

To learn more about Custer’s 1874 Black Hills Expedition, I would highly recommend the following books: Exploring With Custer: The 1874 Black Hills Expedition Crossing the Plains with Custer ***Custer’s official dispatch; August 2, 1874