Wednesday, August 16, 2017

SD Cultural Heritage Center wins True West recognition

True West magazine has ranked the Cultural Heritage Center in Pierre No. 9 on its list of “Top 10 Museums of the West 2017.”

“Home to the South Dakota State Museum and Archives, this center is attractive enough as a location to dig into the history collections of the state, but go there to also learn the stories of the Lakota, Nakota and Dakota people,” the magazine says in its September 2017 edition. “The ‘Proving Up’ exhibit features stories of explorers and settlers, ranging from the placing of the Verendrye Plate in 1743 on a hillside west of the city to the establishment of the state capital.”

Started in 1953, True West is the world’s oldest, continuously-published Western American magazine. The magazine has won multiple awards for its coverage of American Old West history.

South Dakota Cultural Heritage Center in Pierre
“I am elated that our museum has been listed in the top ten history museums in the west by True West magazine,” said Jay D. Vogt, director of the South Dakota State Historical Society, headquartered at the Cultural Heritage Center. “This designation will hopefully bring new attention to the Cultural Heritage Center and the work that the State Historical Society is doing. Our goal is to reach people of all ages, and the museum is a key element in attracting visitors to the Cultural Heritage Center.”

Vogt said the museum tells compelling stories about the people of South Dakota, and is able to help illustrate those stories with some amazing artifacts, such as the Great Sioux Horse Effigy, the Verendrye Plate, the Jefferson Peace Medal, the President Harrison Statehood Pen and the Whitebird Congressional Code Talkers Medal.

“It is a great honor for us, coming from one of the most respected western history magazines in the nation,” said Jay Smith, museum director. “The recognition from True West is a sign that we continue to move in the right direction with the museum, in both our planning and execution, and that people are responding positively to our work. It allows us to reach out to a national audience in ways that are both tangible and in keeping with our mission.”

The Cultural Heritage Center was the only South Dakota museum to make the magazine’s top 10 list, which was topped by the Buffalo Bill Center of the West in Cody, Wyo. The Days of ’76 Museum in Deadwood was listed among “12 More Museums to Know.”

The museum in the Cultural Heritage Center is open 9 a.m.-6:30 p.m. CDT Monday-Saturday through Labor Day (9 a.m.-4:30 p.m. after Labor Day) and 1-4:30 p.m. on Sundays. There is a small admission fee for adults; children 17 and younger are always free.

Archives hours are 9 a.m.-4:30 p.m. Monday-Friday and the first Saturday of most months.

Call 605-773-3458 or visit for more information.


The South Dakota State Historical Society is a division of the Department of Education. The State Historical Society, an Affiliate of the Smithsonian Institution, is headquartered at the South Dakota Cultural Heritage Center in Pierre. The center houses the society’s world-class museum, the archives, and the historic preservation, publishing and administrative/development offices. Call 605-773-3458 or visit for more information. The society also has an archaeology office in Rapid City; call 605-394-1936 for more information.

Thursday, August 10, 2017

State Historical Society Foundation seeks Western collectibles

Western collectibles that are no longer of value to their current owner are of value to the South Dakota Historical Society Foundation.

The foundation is organizing a Western collectibles auction that will take placeFriday, Sept. 15, at the Expo Center in Fort Pierre.
We’re encouraging people to check barns, sheds, basements and attics for items that are no longer of value to them and donate the items to the South Dakota Historical Society Foundation. The foundation will auction the items at the fundraiser that helps support the work of the South Dakota State Historical Society,” said foundation President Michael Lewis. The foundation is the nonprofit fundraising partner of the State Historical Society.
Examples of Western collectibles are fine art, antiques, historic firearms, books, Red Wing crocks, spurs, saddles and other items.
The auction will take place at the Expo Center in Fort Pierre the evening of Friday, Sept. 15, as part of the Fort Pierre Bicentennial Celebration. The deadline to donate items is Friday, Aug. 18.

For more information or to donate items, please call foundation Development Director Catherine Forsch at 605-773-6003.

Friday, July 28, 2017

Well worth the trip – the Anna Miller Museum in Newcastle

by Larry Miller

Our traipsing around the Black Hills region to explore out-of-the-way museums started a few years ago with friends Don Matthesen and Perry Beguin.  It's been a good way to experience some fellowship, learn a bit about local history, and perhaps discover – or occasionally revisit – some good places to eat along the way.

So one early morning last week (but well after sunrise!) we crowded in to my Toyota and set out on a trek to the southern Black Hills of Wyoming.

Our first objective, however, was to have breakfast at Dave's "Stage Stop Cafe" at Cheyenne Crossing south of Spearfish.  It did not disappoint.  Nourishment, after all, is important for explorers.  We were about to traverse steep hills and deep gulches in a quest for knowledge about earlier generations.  Many of those earlier folks were looking for gold.  Some settled for silver or even coal.  All were looking for opportunities.  And all of them would have enjoyed today's menu at Cheyenne Crossing! 

Anna Miller Museum is at 401 Delaware St. in Newcastle, Wyoming
Fueled by a good breakfast, we were soon scooting up U.S. 85 toward O'Neil Pass en route to our destination:  the Anna Miller Museum in Newcastle, Wyoming!

Perched on a knoll in the southeast part of town, the old sandstone building was built by the Works Project Administration (WPA) during the Great Depression and first used as a cavalry stable for the Wyoming Army National Guard.  

We arrived by 10 o'clock and spent the next couple of hours learning not only about why folks settled here, but also why many stayed.  

When the railroad came through these parts in the 1880s, coal was discovered north of town and gave rise to the Cambria coal mine.

Visitors to the museum will be delighted to find excellent exhibits and artifacts that reveal the fascinating development of Cambria, Wyoming – once a thriving community in its own right. 

In the spring of 1903 President Theodore Roosevelt came to town and made quite a splash.  And his visit is well documented.

Ranching and petroleum refining would bolster the economy, and the wildlife and scenery would add to the quality of life for early settlers.

Of course, two hours was only enough time to whet our appetites for more.   The museum research room is rich with resources and extremely well organized.  Family researchers and historians – both professional and amateurs – will find it helpful. 

The Anna Miller Museum is part of the Weston County Museum District.  It's open year 'round from 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. Monday through Friday.

And did we mention that it's free?  Of course, contributions are welcome and help support this classy little museum.  You'll find a sampling of museum exhibits, along with a bit of additional information –  in this Anna Miller Museum Gallery.

Thursday, July 27, 2017

The man who got Calamity Jane to church

Dr. Charles B. Clark preached the sermon at the funeral of Martha Jane Canary, also known as Martha Jane Burke or Calamity Jane, at the Deadwood Methodist Church on Aug. 4, 1903. Calamity Jane had died at nearby Terry on Aug. 1.
Clark was pastor of the church. According to “Calamity Jane: The Woman and the Legend” by James D. McLaird, Clark emphasized Calamity Jane’s humanitarian acts during Deadwood’s early years in the eulogy. “Echoing popular sentiment, Clark asked, ‘How often amid the snows of winter did this woman find her way to the lonely cabin of the miner’ to help one suffering from illness?”
The minister’s son and namesake, poet Charles Badger Clark, often lamented that his father was the person to preside over Calamity Jane’s funeral.
“My father’s deeds of mercy are unnumbered, but such is the irony of human nature, he’ll be remembered longest, because he buried Calamity Jane,” Badger Clark was quoted as saying in articles by Helen F. Morganti.
Dr. Charles B. Clark
The elder Clark did, indeed, do much more than bury the notorious woman of the West. In his 57 years as a minister, the Rev. C.B. Clark built four churches and took more than 2,000 people into the church, most of them being converts under his preaching.
“The primary job of a preacher in those days was to preach and Dr. Clark could preach. His sermons were to the point and well thought out,” wrote Morganti.
In Clark’s obituary in the “Journal of Dakota Conference,” an unnamed minister is quoted as saying, “I think that all who heard him speak felt as I did --- that I was ashamed of every mean thing I had ever thought or done and wanted to do better. Dr. Clark loved men as he loved God; this made him a believer in them and a rare friend and sympathizer. In all the thirty-five years I was acquainted with him, I never heard him say an unkind thing of friend or foe.”
Badger Clark described his father as “a man of above middle height, had a full black beard which gave him a practical aspect but which was offset by kindly crinkles around his eyes. He wore the true badge of professional men of those days, the Prince Albert coat and topped the costume with a Stetson hat, always cocked slightly to the right.”
The Rev. C.B. Clark also possessed a mellow bass voice, a fluent command of English and a sunny temperament. 
Clark was born around 1840 in Sauquoit, N.Y. The family moved west in 1857, finally settling at Mount Pleasant, Iowa. He attended Iowa Wesleyan University, leaving to enlist in the 25th Iowa Infantry in 1862, fighting for the Union Army in the American Civil War. The private received a shell wound to his head at the battle of Arkansas Post in 1863 and was discharged from the service.
His injury resulted in the total loss of hearing in his right ear. He returned to Iowa, resumed his studies, was ordained as a Methodist minister and became a circuit-riding minister in Iowa. A patriotic man, Clark was active in the Grand Army of the Republic, serving as president of the South Dakota department of that organization for a year.
The work and outdoor life restored Clark’s strength, and he developed into an able and popular preacher, occupying some of the best pulpits in the Iowa conference.
Overwork took a toll on him, and, as Badger Clark put it, “doctors told him that he could remain a citizen of this world only if he dropped preaching and all the nerve-straining activities of his profession and took up outdoor work, not too heavy, for the rest of his life.”
The family moved to Dakota Territory in 1883 and homesteaded four miles south of Plankinton.
The minister’s health improved and he returned to his first love of preaching. He was appointed to the Methodist pastorate at Mitchell. He later became district superintendent at Mitchell and pastor at Huron. He was one of the original promoters of Dakota Wesleyan University, which conferred upon him an honorary doctor of divinity degree in 1892.
Clark accepted a transfer to Deadwood in 1898, as the health of his wife, Mary Ellen, was declining due to tuberculosis and he thought the change in altitude would benefit her. However, his wife died that October.
Clark married Rachel Anna Morris three years later. He closed his active ministry as chaplain at Battle Mountain Sanitarium in Hot Springs. He died in Hot Springs on June 10, 1921, and was buried in Graceland Cemetery in Mitchell.

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 at the Cultural Heritage Center in Pierre. Find us on the web at Contact us at to submit a story idea.

Friday, June 30, 2017

"South Dakota Building" at the 1893 Chicago World's Fair

New York Tribune Editor Horace Greeley encouraged people to go West, but a South Dakota newspaper editor admonished people to go East.

Any person who can take in the world’s fair and does not do so, makes a great mistake, and they will surely regret it as long as they live,” read an article in the June 8, 1893, Turner County Herald in Hurley, published by William C. Brown. 

It’s no wonder. The editor and his wife had spent 10 days taking in the sights at the World’s Columbian Exposition of 1893, also known as the Chicago World’s Fair. The fair had opened on May 1, 1893, to commemorate the 400th anniversary of Christopher Columbus’s arrival in the New World. Those attending the fair on the south side of Chicago adjacent to Lake Michigan would have seen buildings that stretched a third of a mile long, the world’s first Ferris wheel, exhibits from 86 foreign countries, buildings representing 43 states and territories, and much more.

Many South Dakotans heeded the advice to see the world’s fair, as 19,684 South Dakotans signed the guest register in the South Dakota State building from June 1 until the fair closed on Oct. 30. South Dakota’s estimated white population in 1890, according to the census, was 328,808. The population had increased by 2,167 five years later. South Dakotans were part of an estimated 28 million people who visited the Chicago World’s Fair.

The South Dakota State building was not only a surprise to strangers, but to many of our own people,” stated the Report of the South Dakota World’s Fair Commission, made to Gov. Charles Sheldon. “Situated on the 57th street entrance, near the gate, it was in the path of all visitors passing in or out of the grounds at that gate. The building itself was a very important state exhibit. The outside walls were covered with the Yankton Portland cement; the beauty of color and flint-like hardiness attracted much attention. The front entrance was under a large arch composed of Sioux Falls quartzite and Black Hills sandstone, supported by two beautiful, polished quartzite columns.”

Those entering the 100-foot by 60-foot building saw rooms packed with agricultural, commercial and mining displays. The main exhibit hall held more than 100 varieties of wheat, oats and other cereals. An arch was made of 14-foot cornstalks loaded with large ears and the sign, “We want you to know that South Dakota is a corn state.” The wool growers’ exhibit was considered “the best arranged wool exhibit on the grounds.” There was also a ladies’ and gentlemen’s parlor, bathrooms, gentlemen’s reading and smoking room, private offices and storage rooms. 

The purpose of the South Dakota Building was to showcase the state’s advantages in order to encourage immigration and to correct erroneous impressions people might have of the state, then 4 years old, according to the commission’s report. South Dakota was in dire straits, as the loss of crops to drought had caused the state’s economy to crash and forced many South Dakotans to leave the state or accept outside aid.

Due to the state’s treasury troubles, private citizens provided much of the financing of the building. Governor Sheldon formally dedicated the South Dakota Building on July 12, 1893, extolling the state’s rich soil, mild climate, deposits of minerals and other virtues. 

The South Dakota Building contained what South Dakota claimed to be not only the largest guest registers on the fairgrounds, but the largest in the world.

The guest registers were 17 inches thick, 25 inches high and 26 inches wide, and had a combined weight of 400 pounds, according to the fair commission’s report. The guest registers are now in the safekeeping of the South Dakota State Historical Society in Pierre. 

Most of the fair’s buildings were designed to be temporary structures, removed after the fair closed. While the fair was underway, Old Main at the University of South Dakota in Vermillion was destroyed by fire. Many of the materials from the South Dakota Building were saved and found new life in building a new Old Main.


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 at the Cultural Heritage Center in Pierre. Find us on the web at Contact us at to submit a story idea.