Deadwood was established in 1876 during the Black Hills gold rush. In 1875, a miner named John B. Pearson found gold in a narrow canyon in the Northern Black Hills. This canyon became known as "Deadwood Gulch," because of the many dead trees that lined the canyon walls at the time. Fueled by gold and greed, Deadwood began as a lawless camp of get-rich prospectors and a business district comprised largely of saloons, dance halls, card parlors and bodacious bordellos.
In 1890, the railroad connected the town to the outside world. The Fremont, Elkhorn, and Missouri Valley Railroad helped bring the community together as a civic entity. Deadwood gradually evolved from a wild frontier town to a prosperous commercial center, due, in part, to the construction of the railroad. Although the community primarily focused on its gold mining industry, Deadwood became the place where people traveled in the Black Hills to conduct their business. Deadwood moved forward into the twentieth century, but the image of the Wild West town has lingered, due to past events and the individuals responsible for making the town into a legend.
Deadwood flourished on gold mining for more than a century, but today it is well known for its rich history, legal gambling and attractions that are all related to gold, or the wild and woolly gold rush heritage of this wonderfully restored community.
Arts & Culture
Established in 1990, the Lead Deadwood Arts Center evolved from a small group of enthusiastic organizers into a member driven, nonprofit agency supporting artistic efforts throughout the communities of Lead and Deadwood.
The Deadwood 1876 Theater is an 1800’s Victorian dinner theater located at the Historic site where Wild Bill Hickok was assassinated by Jack McCall in 1876.
Located at 422 West Main Street, the Historic Deadwood Lead Arts Council is responsible for many events that bring a little joy, excitement and great entertainment to the Deadwood community. Events include community theatre, Lego contests for kids, monthly exhibits, a quilt show, classes, Gospel show, art shoppe, art contests, craft projects and more.
Museums, Libraries & Archives
The Adams Museum, located at 54 Sherman Street, identifies, preserves, collects, interprets, and promotes the history and culture of Deadwood and the surrounding Black Hills for the benefit of members of the Northern Black Hills community, visitors to the area, and researchers.
The Days of ’76 Museum, located at 40 Crescent Drive, is associated with the Days of '76 Celebration, a historic annual parade and a PRCA award-winning rodeo. The museum's exhibits tell the story of the celebration since it began in 1924. The museum offers rare Native American artifacts, an extensive collection of horse-drawn vehicles and a unique firearms exhibit.
The Victorian style, Historic Adams House, located at 22 Van Buren Street, was the home of two of Deadwood’s founding families, including the Adams Museum’s founder W.E. Adams.
The Homestake Adams Research and Cultural Center (HARCC), located at 150 Sherman Street, is the repository of the finest collection of Black Hills historical documents. The archival collections include map drawings of the Black Hills regions; over 45,000 historic photographs; slides and glass plate negatives; the James Nobel geological collection; diaries, scrapbooks and correspondence; blueprints and architectural drawings; and legal documents detailing civil and criminal litigations, water rights actions and railroad concerns.
Overlooking Deadwood Gulch, the Mount Moriah Cemetery was established in 1878 by the Lawrence County Commission. This map of Mt. Moriah Cemetery includes detailed information on grave plots, photos and other documents.
Residing in a Carnegie building, the Deadwood Public Library has been located at 435 Williams Street in Deadwood since 1905. This library provides services for people of all ages: bestsellers, e-books and audio books, DVD’s, local history collections, children’s programming, interlibrary loan service, meeting facilities, free internet access, and a continuous book sale online catalog. For more information call 605-578-2821.
The mission of the City of Deadwood-Archives, located at 108 Sherman Street, a division of the Historic Preservation Department, is to preserve and interpret municipal, county, and historic records in accordance with historic preservation efforts in Deadwood, South Dakota. The City Archives serves its community by providing assistance and information to the general public through annual history symposiums, publications, educational exhibits, written pamphlets, and assisting in research requests.
The Lawrence County Historical Society offers oldtimers and newcomers alike an opportunity to learn more about the people and events that have shaped the county. The historical society publishes an online newsletter called Historical Marker.
Historical Photos and Documents Online
The Black Hills Knowledge Network, in collaboration with local libraries, constructed an updating archive of Deadwood news.
Local Histories: A Black Hills Knowledge Network Collection, features historical photos and documents from the archives created in collaboration with local libraries and the Black Hills Knowledge Network. Included in this collection are the following anthologies:
The Deadwood Revitalization Project: a collection of documents related to the ongoing revitalization process in Deadwood.
The Denver Public Library has images of Deadwood, Lead and the Homestake Mine from the late 1800s.
Some historic images of Deadwood are also included in the online collection of the Digital Library of South Dakota, a project of the state universities in the regental system.
There are more than 80 historic photographs of Deadwood available through the Prints and Photographs Department of the Library of Congress. Many were taken by Farm Security Administration photographer Russell Lee in 1937. The collection also includes images made by John Grabil who photographed many important places in the Black Hills in the 1890s.
The community of Deadwood is home to five churches:
First Baptist Church of the Northern Hills. 110 Sherman St. (605)578-3660.
St. Ambrose Catholic Church. 760 Main St. (605)578-1519.
Historic St. John's Episcopal Church. 405 Williams St. (605)578-2630.
Grace Lutheran Church. 827 Main St. (605)578-2219.
Jehovah's Witness Kingdom Hall. 20791 76 Ranch Rd. (605)578-2634