Black Hills Knowledge Netowork

Damaged by fire in 1984, the Homestake Opera House in downtown Lead is being rehabilitated.
Damaged by fire in 1984, the Homestake Opera House in downtown Lead is being rehabilitated.
Black Hills Knowledge Network photo/Chelsea Gortmaker

Lead - Civic Life & History

The City of Lead (pronounced Leed) remains historically linked to gold mining, specifically the Homestake Gold Mine. For more information on, and current news of the Homestake mine, click here.

Located about three miles southwest of Deadwood in the Black Hills National Forest, Lead was founded in April 1876 by brothers Fred and Moses Manuel who had ventured out from the booming gold town of Deadwood in search of gold. The brothers discovered a promising vein of ore near current-day Lead. Such veins were called leads. The brothers staked their claim, built a mill and in the spring of 1876 mined $5,000 worth of gold from what would eventually become Homestake Gold Mine.

Other miners eventually joined the brothers, and by July, town lots were laid and by December, a telegraph service began. Shortly into the next year, the town of Lead already had four hotels, a grocery store, a saloon, a bakery and a butcher shop. In 1877, the town was officially incorporated, and the brothers sold the 4 ½ acre claim to George Hearst for $70,000.

By 1910, Lead had a population of 8,392 and was the second largest community in the state of South Dakota. Hearst’s wife, Phoebe, used the couple’s wealth to give back to the community of Lead. She established the first kindergarten in the West and conceived and funded the Homestake Opera House and Recreation Building for the people of the Homestake Mine community.

The Homestake Mine became the longest continuously operated gold mine in the country, operating for more than 125 years. The mine reached more than 8,000 feet below the city of Lead. But in September 2000, mining officials announced the mine would close. Two years later, in January 2002, Homestake closed its doors. But those doors would open again, this time in the name of science.

When Homestake closed, the company donated it to the state of South Dakota. In 2006, philanthropist T. Denny Sanford donated $70 million to establish the Sanford Center for Science Education. The state of South Dakota has invested $40 million to the project and secured a $10 million Community Development Block Grant. In 2011, the Department of Energy, through the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, began supporting science operations. Find more information at the Sanford Lab website.

Art & 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 community of Lead is also home to various civic groups, including the Historic Deadwood-Lead Arts Council. The council offers classes, art contests, monthly exhibits and theater performances.

The Historic Homestake Opera House has enjoyed a rebirth after a fire nearly destroyed it in 1984 and it sat unused for years. The Historic Homestake Opera House Society, a nonprofit organization, is working to restore the theater and building. The society hosts a variety of events throughout the year.

Museums, Libraries & Archives


The Adams Museum, of Deadwood, 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 Black Hills Mining Museum is dedicated to the preservation of the rich mining heritage of the Black Hills of South Dakota.  For more than a century, gold mining has been the #1 industry in Lead and in the Northern Black Hills. Today that mining heritage is cleverly depicted as an educational and fun Black Hills Badlands and Lakes Association Family Approved Attraction.

The Days of ’76 Museum, associated with the Days of '76 Celebration, a historic annual parade and a PRCA award-winning rodeo, the museum's exhibits will 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 Historic Adams House was the Victorian home of two of Deadwood’s founding families, including the Adams Museum’s founder W.E. Adams.


The Phoebe Apperson Hearst Library of Lead, located at 315 West Main Street, is a friendly place where patrons and visitors can meet to interact, read a newspaper or magazine, access free public-use computers and wireless internet or just have a cup of coffee and relax. An excellent selection of new release bestsellers, books on CD, e-books, and movies are all available for loan and library cards are free to Lawrence County residents For More information call 605-584-2013.


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

To explore Lead, and other Black Hills area anthologies on the Black Hills Knowledge Network Digital Archives page. See photos and historical documents pertaining to Lead in this Biblioboard Guided Search

The Prints and Photographs Division of the Library of Congress has hundreds of images of Lead available online, including an extensive collection of photographs by Joseph Elliott taken in 1992 for the Historic American Engineering Record. Library of Congress also provides photographs made by John Gabrill in 1888 and 1889 as well as historic postcards from the early twentieth century produced by the Detroit Publishing Company.

The Denver Public Library has images of Deadwood, Lead and the Homestake Mine from the late 1800s. 

The National Archives and Records Administration makes a number of images and digital documents related to 1940 Census enumeration records for Lawrence County available online. 

Chronicling America, a project sponsored by the Library of Congress, provides full text access to digitized historic newpapers from around the United States. Search historic newspapers from 1836-1922 or use the directory to find information about American newspapers published since 1690. Locate thousands of stories with references to Lead and the Homestake Mine.

The Black Hills Knowledge Network, in collaboration with local libraries, has constructed an updated archive of Lead news.


The community of Lead is home to eight churches:

Golden Hills Baptist Church. 908 Washington Street. (605) 717-2277

Shepard of the Hills Lutheran Church. 825 W Main Street. (605) 722-1206

Christ Church Episcopal. 631 W Main Street. (605) 584-3607

St Patricks Church. 141 Siever Street. (605) 584-3114

First Presbyterian Church. 12 Baltimore Street. (605) 584-1455

Trinity United Methodist Church. 111 S Main Street. (605) 584-1328

Lead Assembly of God Church. 105 Wall Street. (605) 584-2960

Twin Cities Church of Christ. 401 W Main Street. (605) 584-2773

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