Friday, April 24, 2015

Time-Lapse view of a prescribed burn in the Black Hills

Benjamin Carstens shot this time-lapse video on December 12, 2014 of a prescribed fire located about two miles northeast of Sheridan Lake. (Thanks to the U. S. Forest Service)

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Investment guru and Deadwood native Jacobs dies at 84

Sheldon Jacobs, who played football and ran track at Deadwood High School in the 1940's before pursuing a career that brought him considerable success in broadcasting, finance, and publishing, has died (3/20/15).

His obituary was published this morning (3/25/15) by the Whitney & Murphy Funeral Home in Phoenix, Arizona, which is handling funeral arrangements.

Long-time Lawrence County resident Hank Frawley said the Jacobs family had lived in Deadwood for several generations.  Jacobs’ grandfather, Sidney, was a successful local businessman in Deadwood.  The Jacobs family would eventually operate numerous retail stores in the northern Black Hills and in Rapid City.

It was Sidney Jacobs who advised my grandfather, Henry Frawley, to send my dad and uncle to school at Notre Dame,” said Frawley, who well remembers the Jacobs family.

After attending the University of South Dakota in Vermillion for one year, Sheldon Jacobs transferred to the University of Nebraska, picking up a degree in Business.  Then it was off for a stint with the Army during the Korean War.  He used his G.I. Bill benefits to learn to fly while also earning a Master’s degree in statistics and retailing from New York University.

In July 1973, after Jacobs and his brother, Doran, chose not to return to Deadwood to run five area clothing stores owned by their parents, the Wall Street Journal featured the parents, Bert and Ruth Jacobs, in a front page story.

Sheldon Jacobs went to work in the research department at the American Broadcasting Company (ABC) in 1961 and was later associated with the National Broadcasting Company (NBC), where he headed a division involved in analyzing viewership and developing sales strategies.

According to his obituary, published by the Whitney & Murphy Funeral Home in Phoenix, Jacobs published his first book in 1974.  The publication, “Put Money in Your Pocket,” launched his career as publisher of a long-running investment newsletter, “The No-Load Fund Investor.”  He also appeared on the NBC “Today” show to discuss his book. Jacobs' investment newsletters were highly popular for decades.

His obituary also noted that Jacobs was included “on a Sunday Morning edition of the Wall Street Journal Report “that featured three men who had been success in their second careers.”  The other two were Ray Kroc of McDonalds Restaurants fame and Colonel Harland Sanders of Kentucky Fried Chicken.

Jacobs and his wife Bette’ lived in both Arizona and New York.  His strong work ethic was reflected in the fact that the day before his death – at age 84 – he gave a speech in Minneapolis to an investment club.

Jacobs will return “home” to be buried at Mount Moriah Cemetery in Deadwood.

To read the entire Sheldon Jacobs obituary, visit the Whitney& Murphy Funeral Home website.

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Historic Spearfish photos on display during March

Fifteen images that focus on Spearfish area history are on display this month at the Matthews Opera House in Spearfish.

Spearfish image from Fassbender Collection
They're part of the historic Fassbender Photographic Collection.  The image shown here, taken April 17, 1938 at Black Hills Airport, is illustrative of the photographs that will be on display.

An opening reception is scheduled from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. this Friday (March 6) at MOH, which is located at 612 Main Street.  The reception and exhibit, which will be on display from March 6th through March 28th, are free and open to the public.  You'll find gallery hours, featured programs, and additional information on the Matthews Opera House website.

People who want to order prints from the collection will be able to do so during the exhibition.

The Fassbender family operated a photo shop in Spearfish (and other nearby communities) for many years.  The full collection is still being sorted, cleaned up, scanned, identified and archived at the Homestake Adams Research and Cultural Center (HARCC) in Deadwood. It is without doubt one of the finest such collection of images in this part of the country.  As their Historic Black Hills Studios website suggests, "the collection may rank among the most significant photographic resources for historians of the American West."

Volunteers have been working for the past few years to sort through, scan, and try to identify images -- while also transferring the photos and negatives to more archival-friendly, acid-free, packaging and then cataloging and storing them in an environmentally-controlled facility.

Richard Carlson is the Digital Archivist overseeing the project on behalf of the Fassbender Photographic Collection Board of Directors.  The collection itself is owned by the cities of Deadwood, Lead, and Spearfish.

Carlson leads the group of area volunteer workers, while also trying to share a bit of the Fassbender collection and story to community stakeholders and others across the area.  And they're in Spearfish during March.  It should be an exhibit worth viewing.

Monday, December 22, 2014

History takes a hit in Deadwood — and maybe Hot Springs?

by Larry Miller

Balancing "historic preservation" with 21st century "progress" can be a dilemma for some folks.

We don't believe all buildings should be saved just because they're old, but sometimes it's not quite that simple.

Take, for example, historic Deadwood, which has lost a bit of ground as a National Historic Landmark, a designation conferred by the National Park Service.  The NPS last month told the good folks in Deadwood that their status as a landmark community has been downgraded from "satisfactory" to "watch" status.

"Historic" downtown as it looked Deadwood in 1888
It seems they don't like the way Deadwood has allowed some folks to tear down old buildings that have been deemed historic.  Now, there may well be a legitimate debate about what constitutes a truly "historic" building and one that simply is old and reflects little about our heritage.

But apparently this downgrade comes — at least in part — following a commitment that First Gold Hotel and Casino made to preserve and restore an old Sinclair service station that was on property adjoining their facility.  It appears they reneged on their commitment, and the building was torn down.

I suspect the good folks at the South Dakota State Historical Society in Pierre — they're the entity that delivered the bad news to Deadwood — are aware of more details as to why the National Park Service yanked the "satisfactory" status from Deadwood.

And if news reports of the facts contained in the National Park Service report are accurate, we'd have to say shame on First Gold.

But perhaps the bigger blemish should be cast across City Hall in Deadwood.  These are the elected and "hired hands" who should be ensuring that commitments made to the city by private businesses are enforced.

For us, in this instance, there is no dilemma — only a significant lapse of enforcement by city fathers and staff in Deadwood.

Deadwood landmark status downgraded - Rapid City Journal - Nov 14, 2014

While this is certainly a "blemish" on historic Deadwood, it pales beside the issues facing another National Historic Landmark in the Black Hills region — the Battle Mountain Sanitarium in Hot Springs.

For more than 100 years, Battle Mountain Sanitarium has provided medical care to veterans across the region.  The National Trust for Historic Preservation (NTHP) named this facility a "National Treasure" in 2012.  It is one of the few properties "owned by the Department of Veterans Affairs to be designated a National Historic Landmark."

The Battle Mountain Sanitarium is at the very top of the National Trust's list of "Eleven Most Endangered Historic Places in the United States."

NHPT writes that, "The VA is moving forward with a proposal to abandon the facility and relocate medical services 60 miles away, in Rapid City.  If the VA moves ahead with its plan, it will remove the largest employer in the self-described 'Veterans Town,' as well as leave behind dozens of vacant, historic buildings to an uncertain fate."

If the Hot Springs site is abandoned, it will not only be a loss in preserving our heritage — it will likely be accompanied by the more significant loss of services to veterans in South Dakota, Nebraska, and Wyoming who have relied upon the Hot Springs facility for many decades.

That would be a tragic loss.

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Alonzo Edgerton 1889 politics of the new South Dakota

The name Alonzo J. Edgerton might have been linked with that of Richard Pettigrew or Gideon Moody’s as the first to represent South Dakota in the United States Senate.

“Edgerton was very popular throughout the state and he might have been able to secure the nomination (for U.S. senator) had he pressed hard enough to get it,” stated an article in Volume XXXIV of the “South Dakota Department of History Report and Historical Collections” compiled by the South Dakota State Historical Society.

Edgerton arrived in Dakota Territory in 1881, having been appointed chief justice of the territory’s Supreme Court by President Chester Arthur. He brought an impressive record of service with him from Minnesota, where he served as state senator, regent of the University of Minnesota, United States senator and was appointed the state’s first railroad commissioner. He organized a company of militia and served in the Civil War.

The movement for statehood was already underway when Edgerton came to Dakota Territory. Edgerton served as the president of the second constitutional convention of 1885. Voters in the southern half of Dakota Territory approved the constitution and elected a full roster of state officers. Edgerton and Gideon Moody ofDeadwood were elected to the U.S. Senate and Arthur Mellette of Watertown was elected governor.

“Judges Moody and Edgerton were easily the outstanding figures in the convention, both of them slated to serve as the state’s new United States’ Senators later on,” wrote L.W. Lansing of the 1885 constitutional convention in a document contained in the South Dakota State Historical Society – State Archives.

Edgerton, Moody and Mellette went to Washington, D.C., in 1886 to plead the case for statehood before the House of Representatives, according to John R. Milton in “South Dakota: A History.” They were unsuccessful, as the Democratic-controlled U.S. House of Representatives feared that the new states would send Republicans to Congress.

The Enabling Act, also known as the Omnibus Bill, signed by President Grover Cleveland on Feb. 22, 1889, authorized constitutional conventions for Washington, Montana, North Dakota and South Dakota. This act cleared the way for South Dakota to become a state. Edgerton presided over this third constitutional convention in Sioux Falls. Later, the political parties held conventions to select candidates for all state offices.

Edgerton was again a candidate for U.S. Senator, under the banner of the Farmers’ Alliance party. When the time came to select senators for what would be the new state, Republicans Moody and Richard Pettigrew of Sioux Falls received the nod over Edgerton and fellow Farmers’ Alliance candidate Alonzo Wardall.

“When Edgerton refused to push his candidacy and finally withdrew from the contest, accepting the results of the caucus, he was accused by (W.H)  Loucks (of Moody County) of having betrayed the Alliance,” stated the Department of History article.

Lansing wrote that Edgerton withdrew his candidacy when Mellette extracted a pledge from Moody and Pettigrew that they would secure the federal judgeship for Edgerton.

“Edgerton denied that any ‘corrupt bargain’ had been consummated, but Loucks concluded that his acceptance of the judgeship proved he was a ‘traitor,’” the Department of History article stated.

Whatever the truth, Edgerton seemed to have support for being appointed federal judge.

According to an article in the Nov. 2, 1889, Black Hills Weekly Times, published in Deadwood, “By the terms of the omnibus bill the president is required to appoint a judge for the district of South Dakota … The question, ‘Who is the man for this exalted position?’ virtually has but one answer. The answer is, Hon. A.J. Edgerton of South Dakota. The press and the people unite in their opinion that no man in the state stands higher as a jurist, nor is so well fitted for the judgeship by education, and by life-long experience at the bar, on the bench and in the senate as is Judge Edgerton.”

Edgerton served as federal judge until his death from Bright’s disease at his home in Sioux Falls on Aug. 9, 1896.

A notice about Edgerton’s death in the Sioux Falls Press stated, “It was inevitable that a man of his positiveness and with his opportunities should inspire widely diverse sentiments among those with whom he came in contact – and it is therefore not strange that in his active lifetime, while thousands were bound to him personally and politically as with hooks of steel there were those whose relations with him were not so cordial – and he never took any pains to conciliate an enemy. But in all the clash of affairs with which he was connected no one ever alleged against him anything which was an impeachment of his personal integrity. His character as a man and citizen was absolutely above reproach, and there are multitudes throughout this new empire who will experience profound and sorrowful regret at his demise.”

This moment in South Dakota history is provided by the South Dakota Historical Society Foundation, the nonprofit fundraising partner of the South Dakota State Historical Society. Find us on the web at Contact us at to submit a story idea.