Sarah Ballance: A Visit to Historic Deadwood, SD (#americanhistory #photos)

posted in: Sarah Ballance | 13

What better way to spend Friday the 13th than a place called Deadwood? This Wild West town is infamous for a number of reasons, not the least of which is the murder of Wild Bill Hickok (August 2, 1876) and as the site of his final resting place (Mt. Moriah Cemetery). I was absolutely thrilled to be able to visit last fall, and while pictures just don’t do it justice, I hope you’ll enjoy experiencing it through just a few of the few *cough* hundred pictures I took during my stay there.

Deadwood, South Dakota

IMG_2864Deadwood is the only town in the United States to be listed in its entirely on the National Register of Historic Places. This view is of Main Street.



The famed Mt. Moriah Cemetery (founded 1878) is the final resting spot of “Wild Bill” Hickok, Calamity Jane, and Deadwood’s first lawman, Sheriff Seth Bullock.



Seth Bullock was Deadwood’s first sheriff and was later appointed U.S. Marshall of South Dakota by President Theodore Roosevelt.



Beautiful Mt. Moriah Cemetery overlooking Deadwood, South Dakota



Wild Bill Hickok’s grave marker reads in part “Died Aug 2 1876 by pistol shot aged 39 years Custer was lonely without him.” Upon his death, he was originally buried at Deadwood’s Ingleside Cemetery. When Ingleside filled, Bill’s best friend Charlie Utter paid to move Bill in 1979 on the third anniversary of his burial to the new Mt. Moriah Cemetery, where he remains to this day.


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The Bullock Hotel (1885) is widely reported to be haunted by Sheriff Bullock himself. Though we brought our RV and weren’t in need of accommodations, I totally would have spent the night here if they’d had any vacancies. (They didn’t).



The Black Hills are an ever-present backdrop in Deadwood, which lines a narrow valley lodged in the mountainous terrain.



The Silverado Franklin Hotel (1902) has hosted Presidents Theodore Roosevelt and William Howard Taft, as well as a number of famous folks including John Wayne. It’s also rumored to be haunted.



“Deadwood has been known the world round for over half a century. It is the smallest ‘metropolitan’ city in the world, with paving and public and other buildings such as are seldom found in cities less than several times its size.”

John S. McClintock
Pioneer Days in the Black Hills, 1939 (source)



A re-enactment of Wild Bill’s murder at the Old Saloon No. 10. He never sat with his back to the room, but on this day Charlie Rich had his usual spot. After a brief and heated argument, Bill gave up and took the fated seat. Shortly thereafter, Jack McCall shot him in the back of the head, killing him. Bill’s poker hand – a pair of Aces and a pair of Eights (fifth card unknown) has ever since been known as “Dead Man’s Hand.”



This is the original site of Wild Bill’s assassination by Jack McCall on August 2, 1876. Note the sign near the lower right that marks the location.


IMG_2872A look inside the saloon where Wild Bill was killed. (It was closed, so I took this through the front window).


This one is for the fans of HBO’s Deadwood. I have no idea if this is near the original site, but as it stands, it serves as a front to the parking garage for the First Gold Hotel and Casino. This representation of Star and Bullock Hardware may just be for looks, but it’s a very exciting find nonetheless!


IMG_2868A final glimpse of Deadwood, South Dakota’s Main Street.

I hope you’ve enjoyed this tour of Deadwood and its history. (I, for one, am now dying to go back. What’s 1,900 miles in the car with six kids? LOL.) While I do have a Deadwood-eque plot building in my head, thus far my historical romances all take place during Colonial MA’s Salem witch trials. (Yes, Puritans can be sexy. I promise!) Please click here to learn more.

If you’re playing along with ROMANTIC PURSUIT, our daily trivia game, here’s your question for today: Who was Deadwood’s first sheriff? Click here to answer.


Sarah Ballance is a multi-published author of contemporary, historical, and supernatural romance and romantic suspense. She’s been married to her own romantic hero for what he calls a “long, long time” (and no, he’ll never hear the end of saying that). Together they have six children … and clearly too much time on their hands. She currently writes for Entangled and has upcoming releases from both Entangled and Samhain Publishing. Click here to see other posts by Sarah Ballance.

13 Responses

  1. Sandra Owens

    My husband and I are planing a long trip out west in a little over a year and Deadwood is on our list of places to visit. After seeing your pictures, Sarah, I’m more excited than ever.

    • sarahballance

      You’ll love it! Mt. Moriah will work your leg muscles but it’s a must see for its beauty and hand carved grave stones, to say nothing of the amazing views of Deadwood and the surrounding hills. Some people say Deadwood is too touristy–and it’s true most of the facades along Main Street front casinos or souvenir shops–but if you know the town’s past, you still feel the history bone-deep. I hope you absolutely love it! (PS: The Badlands are nearby and are not to be missed! Here are some pics from my blog if you’d like to see them:

  2. Barbara Monajem

    I haven’t been to South Dakota yet, but now I know one stop I’ll make for sure. Thanks!

    • sarahballance

      I freaking LOVED that show – it’s one of the few I own on DVD. It was interesting to talk to some of the shop owners about the show. Apparently they did quite a bit of research and spent a lot of time in Deadwood and many of the locals felt they were well represented, which is saying a lot about the integrity of all involved. There are so many little ties I never realized, like Seth had a sister IRL named Alma, which is of course the name of his early love interest on the show. (Homage, I’m sure, and not a suggestion of anything inappropriate, lol.) I’m so glad you liked the pics!

  3. Violetta Rand (@ViolettaRand)

    I knew the creators (HBO) did a great job, but didn’t realize they spent so much time there. That’s great. How mad were you when they ended the show prematurely because the actors couldn’t reach salary agreements? If they’d taken it to the big screen, I think it would have broken all the pervious records. I own the DVDs too. 🙂

    • sarahballance

      I didn’t know that was why it ended. ERMAGERD. That show was just amazing. The writing is brilliant. And poor real Seth Bullock…I stood over his grave and saw Timothy Olyphant in there (okay, poor Timothy Olyphant too, lol). He was just amazeballs as Bullock. AMAZEBALLS, I say! I wasn’t sure what to expect of IRL Deadwood but I pretty much fangirled it, LOL. I have a picture somewhere of Bullock and Star Hardware, too. Literally saw it on the way out of town and made my husband stop for a picture,which isn’t so easy pulling a travel trailer, lol. And if you look at the pic just above the Wild Bill re-enactor you can see how steep the edges of town are. The next row of houses is literally above Main Street. It truly is a self-contained town wedged in the Black Hills…nothing urban for miles around, just like it should be. *happy sigh*

  4. Maggi Andersen

    I enjoyed this, thanks Sarah. I love a western and have definite favorites, John Wayne, Gary Cooper, Glen Ford, oh my! Not to mention the endlessly fascinating characters like Wild Bill who inhabited that remarkable period in American history.