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History Day to mark 130 years in Meade County

F.Ganje - June 13, 2019

STURGIS, SD – The industry of the Great Plains that meanders through a vast expanse of land was driven by a number of things.  And in the Black Hills area, there’s more to the story than a gold discovery.

The Sturgis & Meade County Historical Society is marking the 130th anniversary of the forming of Meade County during  History Day, June 14-15, 2019 in Sturgis, SD. Historian and author Tim Velder, Sundance, WY,  will present  the history of how  and why settlements and towns in Meade County and eastern Butte County sprang up and why they were later abandoned.

“There were two factors that played into it,” observes Velder.  “In 1876, the Bismarck Trail wase like the highway from Bismarck, ND to the Black Hills. People were aware of what the countryside looked like as they were traveling back and forth in freight wagons and stagecoaches. And it went right through what would become Meade County.”

He continued “Fast forward to the early 1900’s when the government opened up western South Dakota for homesteading. People were offered 160 acres of land and if they could make it productive in five years, it was their’s, free and clear. That brought a lot of people in.” He added, “But a lot of those people didn’t make it.”

Towns with names like Twilight, Sulphur, Acme, Camp Creek, Zeona and others dotted the plains east of the Black Hills.  Some were stage stops, others a stopping-off place for people from Sioux Indian tribes traveling through on the way to rodeo exhibitions they were invited to annually, including the Black Hills Roundup in Belle Fourche and the Days of ’76 in Deadwood.

“The main one that people might remember is the town of Sulphur, located south of Mud Butte on old Highway 212. That community was active until the early 1950’s. “

As part of the 5th annual History Day, Velder (a Newell, SD native) will speak on abandoned settlements and towns  at 1:00 pm, June 15, at The Local on main street Sturgis.  He considers the history of these long-gone communities an integral part of the story of settling the West.

“Most of these places were gone by 1920.  After World War I ended it was a time of economic hardship. Add to that a severe drought that was occurring in this part of the country,” shares Velder. “A lot of people couldn’t make it and walked away from those homesteads. For those who stayed, it represents a transition chapter between the gold rush era and the establishment of agriculture in the area.”

For a complete History Day schedule, see the historical society on line at http://www.sturgishistory.org and on Facebook. 
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Phone number: 605-347-4455
E-mail: [email protected]
Address: 1612 Junction Avenue, Suite #1
Sturgis, SD 57785