Black Hills Knowledge Netowork

The city of Spearfish in 1902. By 1900, the population had surpassed 1,000.
The city of Spearfish in 1902. By 1900, the population had surpassed 1,000.
Photo via Wikimedia Commons
May 23, 2016

IN HISTORY: Town of Spearfish Laid Out, May 29, 1876

The first residents of Spearfish gazed up at the ring of pine-clad hills and rocky bluffs that surrounded the community and noted how they looked like a crown. They called their small agricultural settlement the "Queen City."

Spearfish settlers' first community task in 1876 was construction of a log stockade described by period journalist Richard Hughes as big enough "to accommodate a large number of horses or cattle, as well as all the people who might resort to it in time of danger." It stood where the downtown business district is today. 

By 1890 the population of Spearfish had grown to 678.

Spearfish supplied foodstuffs to the mining camps in the Black Hills. Still today, a significant amount of truck farming and market gardening occurs in the vicinity.

The Homestake Sawmill was built to supply timbers for the Homestake Mine in Lead.

Spearfish people began working to bring about longer lasting community assets. Successes included the territorial normal school in 1883, a railroad spur through Spearfish Canyon in 1893 and a federal trout hatchery in 1899. Spearfish prospered thanks to a diverse range of private enterprises: irrigated farming, ranching, logging, retail, milling, dairy and mining. 

Permanent structures of locally quarried sandstone rose, including downtown's Matthews Block, developed by cattleman Thomas Matthews and housing an ornate opera house.

Early 20th century residents launched a successful campaign to build a highway through scenic Spearfish Canyon. An arrangement with a passion play from Germany made Spearfish the play's summer home. From 1938 through the Passion Play's end in 2008, more than 6 million visitors saw the story of Christ's last seven days staged in an amphitheater.

The U.S. Census estimated that as of July 1, 2015, Spearfish was the tenth largest city in South Dakota with a population of 11,283.


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