Pennington County - Civic Life & History
Pennington County was formed by the Dakota Territorial legislature in 1875, and named after the territorial governor, John Pennington. The Black Hills were still part of the Great Sioux Nation under the terms of the Laramie Treaty of 1868, when white settlers first occupied the bottomlands along Rapid Creek. The settlement took the name of “Hay Camp”.
With the expansion of deep, underground gold mining in the northern Black Hills, the South Dakota School of Mines was established in Rapid City in 1885 to train mining engineers.
Arts & Culture
As the major metropolitan center for a large rural hinterland, Pennington County's arts and culture offerings are extraordinarily rich. As the commercial capital, Rapid City is home to visual and performing artists, regional galleries and theater as well as several nationally-recognized writers who focus on the character of the community and the natural beauty of the region.
Several other Pennington County communities have become incubators for the arts, especially Hill City. Hill City is among the stops the South Dakota Arts Council recommends for those interested in art in the Black Hills region. The community has numerous art galleries, including the Sandy Swallow Gallery, which features Oglala Lakota artists; Warrior’s Work Gallery, which features Black Hills and South Dakota artists; the Jon Crane Gallery, featuring the artist’s watercolors and prints; and ArtForms, an artist-owned gallery. In addition, the Prairie Berry Winery hosts exhibits showcasing area artists.
The Hill City Area Arts Council sponsors several events annually. Among them are Music in the Hills, an open-mike program offered twice each month from January through March, and Sculpture in the Hills, a juried art sculpture show which is held the final weekend in June. The arts council also works with organizers to host the Black Hills Film Festival annually during the first week in May. This festival offers classes from film professionals and showcases new voices in the independent film industry.
Among the shaping forces in the arts community is Kristin Donnan Standard, who is not only president of the Hill City Area Arts Council, but is also a prolific writer, publisher of Art of the Hills magazine, and co-owner with her husband Grant Standard of Black Hills Bronze, Inc. By giving a voice to arts in the area, Donnan Standard has promoted the growth of a community identity that includes the arts. Other published writers from the area include her mother Marcia Mitchell and director of the South Dakota State Railroad Museum, Rick Mills.
Historical Photos & Documents Online
The Rapid City Flood of June 9, 1972 is documented in images, oral histories and documents online.
Historic photographs and newsletters from Black Hills Power & Light are available on the Black Hills Knowledge Network along with historic public policy reports, photographs and documents related to the creation of Mount Rushmore that were provided by the Chiesman Foundation.
The National Archives and Records Administration has a number of images and documents related to the Battle Creek Fire that took place in 2002 as well as Census documents from 1940. Enter "Pennington County" into the search bar on NARA's Archives Research Catalog.
The Denver Public Library has several documents including three Draft Registration documents from World War I as well as a genealogical record of a pioneering family from New Mexico and an obituary index from Intermountain Jewish News that records from 1918.
The Library of Congress has an extensive collection of photographs and construction drawings from the area including Ellsworth Airforce Base and its Air and Space Museum.
Museums, Libraries & Archives
The Journey Museum is a natural history museum that takes visitors on a 'journey' through the history of the Black Hills. There are 5 different institutions that form the Journey Museum: The Museum of Geology at South Dakota School of Mines & Technology; the South Dakota Historical Society's Archeology Research Center; the US Department of Interior, Indian Arts and Craft Board's Sioux Indian Museum; the Minnilusa Historical Association and The City of Rapid City Duhamel Plains Indian Artifact Collection
The Rapid City Public Library has been a cornerstone of the Rapid City community since its founding as Library Hall in 1888. A new Carnegie Library was built in 1903 on the corner of Kansas City Street and 6th Street, followed by the building of the Downtown Library in 1972 on Quincy and 7th Street. The Rapid City Public Libraries today have two branch locations, RCPL Downtown and North at General Beadle Elementary, as well as an online branch.
Keystone Town Library
According to a national survey of congregations conducted in 2010, a majority of people (59,336) were not identified with a specific religion or denomination. Of those who did respond, Evangelical Protestants comprise the largest single denomination or faith in Pennington County. At that time, there were 16,338 Evangelical Protestants in the county. The next largest group was the Mainline Protestants with 14,196 members. Between 2000 and 2010, a major decline in membership in the Catholic Church and an a major increase in people with unclaimed faiths marked the most important trends. Access the county profile from the Association of Religion Data Archives here. To see a chart with the data from 2000, click here.