No trip to the Black Hills of South Dakota is complete without a stop at Mount Moriah Cemetery in Deadwood. The sprawling location is primarily known for its eternal VIP guests: Will Bill Hickok, Calamity Jane and Seth Bullock.
James Butler Hickok was better known as Wild Bill. He was a legendary Old West gunfighter and lawman who was drawn to the vices of drinking and gambling. Cards were literally the death of him; he met his end while engaged in a game of poker in Deadwood. His aces and eights became the “dead man’s hand” after Jack McCall shot Wild Bill in the back as he played.
Wild Bill met Calamity Jane when his wagon train stopped in Laramie, Wyoming, on its way to Deadwood. Jane’s parents had died by the time she was 12. As an adult, she had a number of a different gigs: cook, miner, prostitute, ox-team driver. She also became an accomplished horsewoman and shooter. Men who offended Jane were said to be “courting calamity”, which is supposedly how she got her colorful name.
Both avid drinkers and exuberant storytellers, Wild Bill and Calamity Jane got on well. So well that Jane described them as a couple, a relationship status that was purportedly strenuously denied by Bill. Jane loved Bill so much, though, that she insisted on being buried next to him.
Seth Bullock was a Canadian who relocated to the United States in the late 1860s. In 1876, Seth moved his hardware business from Michigan to Deadwood after gold was discovered in the Black Hills. He became sheriff of Deadwood and was later appointed a U.S. Marshall by President Theodore Roosevelt.
Visiting Deadwood prompted us to buy the first season of the HBO show of the same name. We had had a marathon screening one afternoon, getting a feel for what it was like in Deadwood in Hickok and Bullock’s time, when South Dakota was still a territory in Indian land, not a state. It’s supposed be a pretty accurate depiction of that time in history. There’s an awful lot of cussing, with F bombs and C bombs flying left and right, and I wonder if that’s really how they talked back then…and why it changed as we became more civilized.
There’s lots more to see and do in Deadwood, so hopefully, we’ll fit all those things in when we’re back in the area next year.