Deadwood, South Dakota: Entertaining Guests Since 1876Sponsored by the City of Deadwood, South Dakota
In 1876, miners looking for gold in the Black Hills came across a mess of dead trees and a gulch full of gold. They staked their claim and Deadwood was born. It didn’t take long for the tiny gold camp to boom into a town that played by its own rules.
Bars, brothels and gaming halls made up the original Main Street that would become home to legendary characters like Wild Bill Hickok and Calamity Jane. While men like Sheriff Seth Bullock and Mayor E.B. Farnum tried to tame the town, the outlaw spirit never really died. Today, Historic Deadwood is still the wildest town in the West.
The entire town is a registered National Historic Landmark; but there is more to this mountain town than meets the eye. In recent years, several new properties have been built in Deadwood offering resort amenities like deluxe suites, day spas, and infinity pools. Deadwood guests can also enjoy fine dining in restaurants that feature gourmet local flavors – like elk, pheasant and bison – prepared by world-class chefs. While the food is five-star, the atmosphere remains as casual and comfortable as your favorite pair of boots and jeans.
If you’re looking for entertainment – day and night – Deadwood is the place. You’ll find 24/7 gaming with $1,000 bet limits. Try your luck at live table games, roulette, craps and the newest slot machines. Retail stores line the streets where you’ll also find live music just about every day of the year. Deadwood also hosts some of the largest – and wildest – events in the Black Hills. From the national award-winning Days of ‘76 rodeo and Kool Deadwood Nites to the free concerts with Grammy Award-winning artists on Main Street, Deadwood events are a history-making good time.
While Deadwood has evolved over the years, it has never forgotten its Wild West roots. From early May to Labor Day, visitors can enjoy daily reenactments of shootouts as well as the most famous event in Deadwood’s history – the shooting of Wild Bill Hickok and trial of his assassin, Jack McCall. Visitors can take a guided bus or walking tour and interact with Old West characters that roam the streets deputizing guests. The museums and historic Mount Moriah Cemetery – the final resting place of Wild Bill, Calamity Jane, Seth Bullock and others – are filled with stories of this town’s legendary past.
Tucked in the northern reaches of the Black Hills, Deadwood is surrounded by natural beauty and outdoor adventure. You can hike, fish, mountain bike, ATV and horseback ride through the ponderosa pines of the Black Hills National Forest. The town of Deadwood also sits on the trailhead of the 109-mile Mickelson Trail that stretches from the northern hills to the southern tip of the forest. If you love off-road adventure, Deadwood is the place to stay. You’ll find outfitters and challenging trails nearby.
Fortune and adventure seekers won’t be disappointed when they come play in Deadwood, South Dakota. After all, it’s been entertaining guests since 1876.
Resignation of Virgil W. and Wyatt S. Earp as Deputy Marshals
Tombstone, February 1, 1882
Note that the Major was staying at the Grand Hotel🙂
Major C. P. Dake, United States Marshal, Grand Hotel, Tombstone-
Dear Sir: In exercising out official functions as deputy United States marshals in this territory, we have endeavored always unflinchingly to perform the duties entrusted to us. These duties have been exacting and perilous in their character, having to be performed in a community where turbulence and violence could almost any moment be organized to thwart and resist the enforcement of the process of the court issued to bring criminals to justice. And while we have a deep sense of obligation to many of the citizens for their hearty cooperation in aiding us to suppress lawlessness, and their faith in our honesty of purpose, we realize that, notwithstanding out best efforts and judgment in everything which we have been required to perform, there has arisen so much harsh criticism in relation to our operations, and such a persistent effort having been made to misrepresent and misinterpret out acts, we are led to the conclusion that, in order to convince the public that it is our sincere purpose to promote the public welfare, independent of any personal emolument or advantages to ourselves, it is our duty to place our resignations as deputy United States marshals in your hands, which we now do, thanking you for your continued courtesy and confidence in our integrity, and shall remain subject to your orders in the performance of any duties which may be assigned to us, only until our successors are appointed.
Very respectfully yours,
Paris was a city Buffalo Bill’s Wild West hoped to conquer. Cody’s show proved a sensation. Parisians flocked to Neuilly to see the Wild West extravaganza over the next several months. Stetson cowboy hats became the rage, and the “Buffalo Bill Galop” was the best-selling sheet music in town. Excitement about Buffalo Bill’s Wild West swept through Paris like a fever. By the end of the summer, the newspapers likened Cody’s capture of Paris to the taking of the Bastille.
One could blame the success on journalist and author Mark Twain. Twain wrote Cody in 1885, “I have now seen your Wild West show two days in succession, and have enjoyed it thoroughly. It brought back vividly the breezy, wild life of the great plains and the Rocky Mountains and stirred me like a war song.”
Praising the show for being genuine, his letter went on to remark, “It is often said on the other side of the water that none of the exhibitions which we send to England are purely and distinctively American. If you take the Wild West show over there you can remove that reproach.”
Cody, who had already been considering transporting the show to Europe, took this advice to heart. The next year, when he was invited to be part of the American Exhibition at Queen Victoria’s 50th Jubilee celebration in 1887, he jumped at the opportunity.
Journey to Paris
Cody was the right person at the right time, and, as it turned out, at the right place to promote the American West in Europe. Born in Iowa Territory on February 26, 1846, he had grown up in the West, experiencing the strife in Kansas Territory prior to the Civil War. He made his first journey across the Great Plains at age 11. He traveled to what became Colorado Territory in 1859 during the Pike’s Peak Gold Rush, delivered mail for Alexander Majors’s firm (although not for the Pony Express route Cody would make famous through his shows), hunted buffalo and scouted for the U.S. Army. He learned one of the most important scouting skills, how to feel comfortable around and communicate with American Indians, who knew more about the Plains than the newcomers. Charismatic and likable, Cody soon became the focus of newspaper articles and dime novels about the American frontier.
In 1872, Cody began appearing on-stage in plays about the West. The plays were successful, but Cody had even greater ambitions. After 10 years touring the country with his acting troupe, he moved outdoors. The arena provided an opportunity to stage re-creations of life in the West with a cast of hundreds and for an audience of thousands. That year, 1883, proved to be pivotal for Cody. With the inception of Buffalo Bill’s Wild West, Cody took a leap from the small stage to the world stage.
Four years after its creation, Buffalo Bill’s Wild West became a runaway success in London, England, eclipsing every other American offering at the exhibition honoring Queen Victoria’s golden jubilee. Attendees were eager to observe, in person, an America that they had read about in James Fenimore Cooper’s novels, in news dispatches and in dime novels. Cody was the toast of the town, meeting everyone from Queen Victoria herself to author Oscar Wilde. Author Bram Stoker later based one of the characters in his novel Dracula on Cody. James McNeill Whistler vowed to paint Cody’s portrait, although he never did get around to it, as he instead turned his attention to matronly figures. Cody returned to the United States in late 1887, with the sweet taste of European success in his mouth.
The Wild West toured the northeastern U.S. during the 1888 season, but Cody could not shake Europe from his mind. His interest in the European continent had been whetted by a brief vacation there with his daughter during the London sojourn. When the opportunity arose to visit Paris for the 1889 Exposition Universelle, he jumped at it.
Nearly Eclipsing the Exposition
Buffalo Bill’s Wild West was not set up within the exposition grounds, which were adjacent to Eiffel’s tower. The extravaganza was situated in Neuilly, just a few kilometers away, and near the Bois de Boulogne, a park popular with Parisians and easily accessible from all parts of the city. Almost immediately, the Wild West became the most popular show in town, nearly eclipsing the exposition itself.
Critics observed of Cody’s first appearance on the American stage that he was no actor, but they also noted his ability to charm the audiences. He was clearly a showman. He brought not only his experiences and a personal flamboyance to the Wild West, but also an innate sense of what audiences wanted. His show did not re-create endless hours on the trail or weeks huddled in a cabin during the winter, but instead distilled out the exciting aspects of Westward Expansion.
The Wild West didn’t just re-create exciting events; it also offered visitors the opportunity to learn about the peoples of the West, who exhibited their skills and cultures. More than 100 American Indians, including women and children, participated in the show. The Indian village, populated mainly by the Lakota Sioux, was as huge a draw as the mock battles. Entering the show grounds just off Boulevard Victor Hugo, visitors walked past the tents of Cody, Annie Oakley and the cowboys to a large plaza filled with the Indians’ tipis, revealing how the tribes lived back on the Plains.
After passing through this area, visitors entered the arena where the show was staged. A map provided in the 1889 program shows that the arena took up less than 50 percent of the grounds, which also offered opportunities to visit a buffalo enclosure and extensive horse stables. Buffalo Bill’s Wild West was much more than a “show,” a word publicist John Burke avoided in all marketing and even threatened employees with dismissal if they used the word.
Cody was the most popular attraction, taking part in battle re-enactments, demonstrating buffalo hunts and chatting with visitors to his tent.
Sharpshooter Annie Oakley was a close second in popularity. The French were fascinated by this petite young lady who could outshoot any man alive at the time. Oakley arrived in France with a secret. French law forbade the import of gunpowder, so she smuggled in her favorite British gunpowder, hidden in hot water bottles under her bustle.
More than six feet tall, Buck Taylor, nicknamed the “King of the Cowboys,” towered over his fellow performers as well as most of the European visitors. The skill of this cowboy, sitting so tall in the saddle, greatly impressed an audience still dependent upon horsemanship for everything from transportation to recreation.
Taylor contrasted with young Johnny Baker who, at age 19, was billed as the “Cowboy Kid.” Baker, who learned shooting from Cody and Oakley, had become a crack shot, coming near to rivaling them in marksmanship.
The Paris Performance
The Wild West opened with the “Star Spangled Banner,” followed by a grand procession of all of its participants. The first act was a pony race, pitting an Indian, a Mexican vaquero and a cowboy against each other. Unlike the battles, which had a predictable conclusion (Cody’s side always won), any of the three could win the race.
The first shots were provided by Oakley, whose ladylike demeanor helped ease any Victorian anxieties caused by the gunfire.
Following a demonstration of a Pony Express ride, the first battle was fought, an attack on an emigrant family in a wagon by “marauding Indians.” The Indian contingent was led by Lakota Chief Red Shirt. Lakota holy man Sitting Bull had been part of the Wild West in 1885, but he was no longer with the show. Red Shirt, who was well-spoken and comfortable in cross-cultural contexts, was probably a better representative than the gruff Sitting Bull. He had even visited Parliament during the show’s stay in London.
The gunfire in the show was broken up by quieter activities. Following the attack on the emigrant family, cowboys and cowgirls danced the Virginia Reel on horseback. The Cowboy Kid’s marksmanship was followed by “Cowboy Fun,” which featured ranch skills that included bronco riding and lassoing. This portion of the Wild West is considered a forerunner of modern professional rodeo.
As the show reached its climax, the Deadwood Stage entered the arena at breakneck speed, pursued by whooping Indians. Driven off by Cody and the cowboys, the Indians returned to demonstrate bareback racing and their tribal dances. Following presentations of sharpshooting and buffalo hunting by Cody, the grand finale was an Indian attack on a settler’s cabin. Once again, the Indians were driven off by the show’s star and “Le Roi des Hommes de la Frontière,” Cody.
Buffalo Bill’s Wild West was unlike anything the French had seen before. Among the thousands who flocked to the show were royalty and dignitaries from the continents of Europe, Asia, Africa and North America. Even the English, who had seen it two years before in London, came to France for a second viewing. The opening on May 18 was attended by French President Marie François Sadi Carnot and the American ambassador, as well as former Queen Isabella II of Spain. Powerful, famous and everyday people caught “Wild West fever” and converged on the show until its close six months later.
The exposition not only catapulted Cody into the spotlight, making him the toast of Paris and adding to his credibility back home in America, but also gave him a chance to interact with the movers and shakers of his day. In Paris, Cody made his first acquaintance with inventor Thomas Edison, while throwing a Western breakfast of buffalo in his honor. Edison later recorded both the Wild West and Cody himself on Edison’s new moving picture and sound recording inventions.
The Wild West was not without its influences upon the many artists who visited Paris for the exposition. While American artist Whistler never got around to painting his portrait of Cody in London, renowned French artist Rosa Bonheur created what has become one of her most famous works, a portrait of Cody on his horse Tucker. Edvard Munch, who had left his native Norway to study art in Paris, was much impressed by Cody and his Wild West. Who knows how that singular experience may have influenced Munch’s work, including his most famous painting, The Scream, created just a few years later.
French painter Paul Gauguin, friend to Vincent Van Gogh, was probably the most deeply impressed among the artists who visited the Wild West. After his first visit, he wrote another artist friend, urging him to join him in a second visit, remarking that the show was “hugely interesting.” His enthusiasm led him to purchase a Stetson. A self portrait, done on the French Polynesian island of Tahiti four years later, shows Gauguin wearing a hat that looks remarkably like Stetson’s “Boss of the Plains.”
Shot in the Heart
On November 14, 1889, Buffalo Bill’s Wild West closed its attraction in Paris, France, and moved on to other European destinations. During its run, the residents of Paris had certainly fallen in love with the Wild West. Perhaps their hearts had been struck by the “Attack on the Settler’s Cabin,” a concluding shoot-out between the Indians and the cowboys, led by Cody, that had the greatest impact on audiences.
Months later, a shoot-out inspired by the Wild West might very well have become responsible for the death of one of Europe’s greatest artists, Vincent van Gogh.
But during the Buffalo Bill’s Wild West, that final shoot-out scene promoted a victory of America’s pioneer experience that Parisians could share with Cody. In the arena, they witnessed the danger and excitement that Parisians had only read about. History leaped from the pages.
The feature below is from True West Magazine, written by Kevin Hogge and Cindy Smith. You can view their online content via this link http://www.truewestmagazine.com/tombstones-competitor/
Contention City played a major role in the growth of southern Arizona at a time when the territory needed it most. An accidental stumble started it all.
In 1879, prospectors Ed Williams and Jack Friday were searching for their missing mules. The chains their mules had dragged behind them scraped away the dirt and unearthed streaks of silver, gleaming in the morning sunlight. But, unbeknownst to them, Ed Schieffelin was camped out a short distance away.
Schieffelin, who was prospecting the unsettled hills of “Goose Flats,” had already uncovered the lure that would draw thousands to this place only previously known to the Chiricahua Apaches and a few soldiers at Camp Huachuca. Camped out in the same area as Williams and Friday, with previously staked claims to several other nearby mines, Schieffelin disputed the ownership to the newfound silver lode. One can only assume these prospectors exchanged an abundance of ill-tempered words over the find. So much that Schieffelin, after the claim was split, called his mine the “Contention,” a tribute to the dispute of the claim.
The river gave Contention City its location. Ten miles from the Tombstone Mining District, the San Pedro was the closest source of water for supporting the stamping mills, which separated the silver from the ore. With the construction of the Contention Mill, the city grew into a mining camp along the eastern bank, bringing with it fortune hunters, gamblers, whiskey peddlers and other colorful characters of the day. Supporting the vision of enterprising entrepreneurs, including D.T. Smith and John McDermott, Contention City was destined for greatness. In September 1879, Smith and McDermott mapped out the town and sold the lots within a week. By early 1880, Contention City had a post office, a hotel-restaurant, a Chinese laundry, one saloon, a meat market, a dry goods store and its first school. Soon, three large stamp mills served the Tombstone mines, together employing almost 100 men.
By 1881, Contention City was in full swing. Despite Tombstone’s own early rapid growth, the railroad was built in Contention City instead of Tombstone. A two-story train depot was built a little farther up the San Pedro River, where the residents relocated the city, packing up and taking the buildings with them. The first trains arrived in January 1882, bringing oyster shipments, mainstream Paris fashions for the ladies and other luxury items from afar. More than 20 years passed before the railroad reached its sister city of Tombstone in 1903.
Contention City wasn’t immune from the lawlessness of the “cowboy” faction of southern Arizona. Although their exploits gained little notoriety in this new town, some incidents were as colorful as classic Western movie shoot-outs. These included the pursuit of the robbing and murderous Jack Taylor Gang by both the Mexican Rurales and Arizona law enforcement, particularly Sheriff John Slaughter. Slaughter’s posse tracked the outlaws to gang member Manuel Robles’s brother’s home in Contention City. They waited to raid the house until the residents were asleep. Thinking this would be an easy capture, the lawman was surprised by the hail of gunfire from inside the house!
Perhaps the best-known Contention City tale is the Benson stagecoach robbery that took place just outside of town on March 15, 1881. Through a coerced confession by a drunken “Big Nose” Kate Elder, Sheriff John Behan used the opportunity to arrest John Henry “Doc” Holliday and charge him with the murder of stage driver Eli “Bud” Philpot. Holliday was soon cleared of all charges when Elder sobered up.
John Clum found solace at the town’s Grand Central Mill on the night of December 14, 1881, when he dodged a near-assassination attempt. After an ambush on his stagecoach, he set out on foot through the darkness until he reached the mill. From there, he made a phone call back to Tombstone around 1:00 am. Yes, Arizona had telephones between the mills in Contention City to the Gird Block in Tombstone as early as 1881.
In March 1882, George Hand stepped off the train at the Contention City depot. He had traveled from Tucson with a diary tucked inside his coat pocket. Hand was in Contention City to help out a U.S. Army buddy, Billy Bradley, with his new venture in the saloon business. Somewhat to Contention City what George Parsons was for Tombstone, Hand recorded in his diary the people and events of the town.
The day after Hand’s arrival, he wrote of the cowboys riding in on Friday, March 24, fully armed and prowling through town. The cowboys he saw, if they were indeed part of Sheriff Behan’s posse, were tracking down famous Tombstone lawman Wyatt Earp and his crew. Hand, who was in Tucson just days earlier, witnessed the body of Frank Stilwell—who Earp was suspected of killing to avenge brother Morgan’s murder—as he lay dead on the train tracks. “He was the most shot up man I ever saw,” Hand reported.
On April 10, 1882, Hand was present when Gen. William Tecumseh Sherman arrived by train. On his way to Tombstone, Sherman was on an inspection tour to address concerns surrounding renegades from the San Carlos Apache Reservation. On May 30, Hand reported that he accompanied Judge A.O. Wallace and Bill Bradley (along with Hand’s favorite dog, Rip) on a visit to the graves of the late Co. E.A. Rigg and William Petty. He carried a big basket of flowers to decorate their graves. If not for the writings of those like Hand, no records of the people of Contention City or their time there would have survived.
Unfortunately, Contention City had but one source of revenue. When that ended, so did the town, much like flowers in the spring sprang up with the promise of tomorrow, but wilted with the first frost of fall. Flooding in the Tombstone mines brought an early demise to Contention City. When the mines were forced to close down, the town’s stamp mills went silent. Workers and residents packed up and left, forcing the post office to close its doors on November 26, 1888. Two years later, the productive and booming city had turned into a mere ghost town. Its time spanned only a decade. Tombstone managed to survive because it was the Cochise County seat, and it remained so until 1929.
No landmarks remain in Contention City today, save the foundations of the mills, a few overturned headstones of a small cemetery and a pile of rocks perched near an old adobe wall.
Hollywood deserves credit for keeping Contention City alive. The movie 3:10 to Yuma with Glenn Ford, and later Russell Crowe, portrayed a small-time rancher escorting an outlaw to the Contention City depot for the train to Yuma Territorial Prison. Real-life events inspired the movies too. Ike Clanton, still seeking revenge on Earp and Holliday for Tombstone’s infamous 1881 O.K. Corral gunfight, petitioned for a trial in Contention City, after Earp and Holliday were found not guilty in Tombstone. Of course, no trial transpired, but that didn’t stop the 1993 blockbuster movie Tombstone from again exposing Contention City to the world.
The mining ghost town may be just another lost town of Arizona, but in the heart of every Old West historian, Contention City will live forever.
In a letter, written in December 1928, the 80-year-old frontiersman Wyatt Earp opined that perhaps “my health will be back to normal when this story business is all done with.”
He was wrong twice.
Less than a month later, Wyatt was dead, and his legend was on the cusp of exploding. Some outlaws were about to become very rich from his story, but Wyatt never made a dime on any of it. This is the story of how that happened.
The Last Outlaw Town
Four outlaws* got off the train. In the distance, a windmill squeaked ominously. They appeared to be ready for a showdown, but High Noon was decades away. The four outlaws were running from the old ways…and Thomas Edison. Especially Edison.
Starting in 1908, Edison led a gang known as the “Trust.” He and his waspy, East Coast cronies controlled the fledgling movie business by owning all the important patents on projectors and film stock. You couldn’t show a film in the United States without paying them fees.
Plus, Edison and his gang hated films from France, the birthplace of cinema. They didn’t want France’s “star system” to invade our shores, so they banned anything they didn’t like or that they didn’t think America should see. That turned out to be quite a bit.
The outlaws who got off the train in Hollywood liked the sleepy California town because if hired thugs from the Trust showed up, the gang could load their sets and equipment on trucks and head for Mexico. In no time, the town was filled with riffraff and ruffians, con men and criminals.
Wyatt Earp fit right in.
*The four outlaws were Adolph Zukor, Carl Laemmle (who faced 289 indictments from Thomas Edison’s film company), Jack Warner and Wilhelm Fuchs alias William Fox. Zukor helped start Paramount Pictures, Fox founded Fox Film (later 20th Century-Fox), Warner and his brothers birthed Warner Bros. and Laemmle helped create Universal Pictures.
One of the most interesting places to visit in Tombstone, AZ is the Bird Cage Theater.
Originally opened in December of 1881 by Billy Hutchinson and his wife, this landmark is now a unique tourist attraction that appeals to a wide-range of visitors to the area. The theater derived its name from the fourteen cages which lined the upstairs balcony and offered a place for the local ladies of the evening to entertain their clients.
Although it only remained open for eight years during its initial run, the theater proved to be a popular watering hole and place of entertainment that was sought out by many locals and travelers. Portions of the exact history of the Bird Cage are lost to time, however performers popular in that day, including Eddie Foy Sr, Lotta Crabtree, Fatima and Lillie Langtry, are rumored to have spent time at the theater. It also had a reputation as a rather rough place to visit, with gun fights, brawls and other notorious activity taking place on a regular basis. In 1882 the New York Times remarked that the theater was “the wildest, wickedest nightspot between Basin Street and the Barbary Coast.”
After closing in 1889, the Bird Cage re-opened in 1934 with the new owners finding much of the interior untouched from its days as a ‘wild west saloon and brothel’. Since that time it has operated as a tourist attraction, offering insights into the history of the West and its own exotic background. The theater is said to be haunted and has been featured on programs such as Ghost Hunters and Ghost Adventures, and a haunted tour is still a popular attraction at the Bird Cage. There are also 120 bullet holes that remain to be viewed throughout the theater, along with a wide range of displays featuring unique items of Tombstone history. The theater recently opened up some previously sealed off rooms, which offer an ‘un-touched’ view of how the place was furnished during its heyday.
When you visit, be sure to ask about the murder of Billy Milgreen, one of the most grisly murders in Tombstone history. And yes, of course Wyatt Earp, Doc Holiday and all the rest were regulars…