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Saturday, June 29, 2019

The Civilian Conservation Corps in South Dakota


Historical markers across South Dakota indicate the location of Civilian Conservation Corps camps, telling the stories of the CCC and the work done at the camps. But one need only look at our state’s landscapes to know this would be a much different place without the work of the men of the CCC.

The Civilian Conservation Corps was a major part of President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s New Deal. Begun in 1933, the CCC was originally designed to preserve natural resources, provide jobs for single men ages 18-25 and to help their families financially during the Great Depression. Most of the men who worked for the CCC received pay of $30 a month in addition to room and board, with $25 a month sent home to support their families. Later, the allotment going home was reduced and camps were established for World War I veterans.

More than 30,000 men served in the South Dakota corps between 1933 and 1942, according to the website of the CCC Museum of South Dakota, located in Hill City.

The majority of the 50 CCC camps and smaller side camps in South Dakota were in the Black Hills.

Enrollees in the Black Hills thinned forests; planted trees; developed trails; removed flammable debris; built bridges, dams, roads and fire towers; put up telephone lines; landscaped and fought forest fires. According to the CCC museum’s website, fighting fires consumed much of the men’s time because summers were so dry. A fire detail of at least 25 men remained in each camp, prepared to immediately respond when a fire was reported.

The largest and most difficult project undertaken in the Black Hills National Forest by CCC crews was building the stone fire lookout tower at Black Elk Peak.

CCC worker with a "Ben Hur Chariot" at work in the 1930s
All the building materials had to be transported up the mountain.

Approximately 7,500 rocks were hand-picked from French Creek and the surrounding countryside and transported by truck to the foot of the nearly 4-mile trail leading to the 7,242-foot peak. Small two-wheeled carts consisting of half of an oil drum mounted on a short axle were pulled by one horse to transport rocks and other items to the top. These carts, called “Ben Hur Chariots,” could haul only 15 to 20 stones per trip. Pack trains of 10 horses each were used to transport sand and sacks of cement to the summit. On the way up the trail each man carried a board or other light item. CCC workers dammed a spring at the top of the peak to use for water to make cement and mortar.

Some of the lakes in the Black Hills are the result of CCC projects. Sheridan Lake was created after CCC and Works Progress Administration crews built an earthen dam over Spring Creek. Dams built by CCC crews created Horsethief, Stockade, Center and Bismarck lakes. Orman Dam and the surrounding irrigation ditches were rehabilitated by CCC workers.

In Custer State Park, CCC crews built the Pigtail Bridges on Iron Mountain Road, the Norbeck building that served as the park’s visitor center and is now an education center, a lookout station and rangers’ quarters on Mount Coolidge, cabins at Blue Bell and Sylvan lakes, and Grizzly Bear Campground. They also developed five springs with water tanks for bison.

Enrollees developed Wind Cave National Park, Jewel Cave National Monument and Badlands National Park. Some of the projects at Wind Cave involved renovating tour trails, installing an elevator shaft and concrete steps and constructing the park’s water and sewer system. At Jewel Cave, enrollees constructed a headquarters building, parking lot and foot trail. At Badlands National Park, enrollees built the park’s headquarters, a check-in station at Pinnacles, a water system at Cedar Pass Lodge and the custodian’s residence at Cedar Pass.

Although the majority of the CCC camps were in the Black Hills, camps were also located in eastern South Dakota.

CCC workers turned Farm Island near Pierre and American Island near Chamberlain into recreational playgrounds. Among the projects at Farm Island were building a causeway connecting the mainland to the island; picnic areas equipped with shelter cabins; cabins for Boy Scouts, Girl Scouts and Izaak Walton League; and a monument to the Lewis and Clark Expedition. At American Island, enrollees built tourist cabins, a bath house, racetrack, roads and parking areas, and planted shrubs, trees and shelterbelts.

At the CCC camp at Alcester, men demonstrated soil and water conservation. The men planted trees in Union County State Park and established a tree nursery at Vermillion. Tours showing results aided in the organization of conservation districts in Clay, Union, Bon Homme and Lincoln counties.

Camp LaCreek near Martin was part of a national CCC program to develop waterfowl refuges. The CCC and WPA built levees, roads, boundary fence and an observation tower and planted thousands of trees and shrubs to develop the 9,302-acre Lacreek National Wildlife Refuge.

Following the attack on Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7, 1941, the Roosevelt administration directed federal programs to emphasize the war effort. The 77th United States Congress ceased funding the CCC, and operations were concluded on June 30, 1942.
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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 www.sdhsf.org. Contact us at info@sdhsf.org to submit a story idea.
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Monday, June 24, 2019

Hills properties added to National Register of Historic Places

Eight more South Dakota properties have been added to the National Register of Historic Places, according to the South Dakota State Historical Society. 

The listed properties are the Chambers Dugout in the Belle Fourche vicinity, the Roosevelt School in Belle Fourche, the First Presbyterian Church of Groton, the Solomon and Martha Hann Homestead near Nemo, the Haakon County Courthouse in Philip, the Jackson Boulevard Historic District in Spearfish, the Perkins Congregational Church near Springfield and the Dickens Round Barn in the Worthing vicinity.

The National Register is the official federal list of properties identified as important in American history, architecture, archaeology, engineering and culture. The State Historic Preservation Office of the State Historical Society works in conjunction with the National Park Service, which oversees the National Register program, to list the properties. 

"South Dakota's history is rich in American Indian culture, pioneer life and change," said Jay D. Vogt, state historic preservation officer and director of the State Historical Society at the Cultural Heritage Center in Pierre. "The more than 1,300 state individual properties and districts listed on the National Register are important for their role in South Dakota's culture, heritage and history. And when properties get listed, it shows that their owners take pride in their role in preserving that culture, heritage and history."

Buildings, sites, structures and objects at least 50 years old possessing historical significance may qualify for the National Register, according to Vogt. Properties must also maintain their historic location, design, materials and association. Listing on the National Register does not place any limitations on private property owners by the federal government. 

Following is more information about these newly listed properties.

Chambers Dugout, Belle Fourche vicinity
The Chambers Dugout, built around 1885, is located on private property in Butte County. It is listed for its significance as a homesteading-era housing type. Born in Paris, France, in 1859, John Chambers came to America with his parents about 1860. The family moved to the Black Hills in the 1880s, and Chambers filed a claim on his homestead along Hay Creek not long thereafter.

Roosevelt School, Belle Fourche
The Roosevelt School was built in 1921. Located at 1010 State St., it is listed as significant for the educational role it played in Belle Fourche.  The original portion of the school was a rectangular shape. In 1929 an L-shaped addition gave the school its current T-shape. The Roosevelt School served as a high school and junior high school for 73 years. The building is currently undergoing rehabilitation to complete its transformation into the Historic Roosevelt Events Center.

Jackson Boulevard Historic District, Spearfish
The years of significance for the Jackson Boulevard Historic District in Spearfish are 1882 to 1961. The district is significant for the variety of architectural styles it features. It is a good representation of late 19th and early 20th century residential architecture, which is a testament to the growth and prosperity of Spearfish during this period.

First Presbyterian Church of Groton 
Located at 300 N. Main St., the First Presbyterian Church of Groton was built in 1912. It is listed for its architectural significance as an excellent example of Gothic Revival architecture adapted to fit changes in Protestant worship practices. It is also listed for its modified Akron plan with the Sunday school located adjacent to the sanctuary and separated by a movable partition.

Solomon and Martha Hann Homestead, Nemo vicinity
After emigrating from Finland around 1889, Solomon and Martha Hann established a claim on the land that would eventually become their small farm in the Black Hills Forest Reserve. Located at 21732 Hann Pl., their homestead is significant for its vernacular log architecture and as a representative of an early Finnish homestead in the Black Hills.  The Hanns provided food to the large mining industry in the northern Black Hills. Miners depended on local farmers since the delivery of supplies from the outside was limited due to the rough terrain and other logistics.

Haakon County Courthouse, Philip
Built in 1930, the Haakon County Courthouse is located at 140 Howard Ave. in Philip. It is significant for its Art Deco architecture and as a representation of Haakon County’s political and governmental past.  Originally, the courthouse leased the old wooden Philip schoolhouse. When their new building was completed, it brought hope to the citizens of Philip despite deteriorating economic conditions.

Jackson Boulevard Historic District, Spearfish
The years of significance for the Jackson Boulevard Historic District in Spearfish are 1882 to 1961. The district is significant for the variety of architectural styles it features. It is a good representation of late 19th and early 20th century residential architecture, which is a testament to the growth and prosperity of Spearfish during this period.

Perkins Congregational Church, Springfield vicinity
The Perkins Congregational Church was built in 1901. Located at 31205 409th St., this property is significant for architecture as a rural Gothic Revival wood-frame church in Bon Homme County.  The Perkins Congregational Church Society was organized in 1900 and formed by settlers of mixed ethnicities including English, German, Scandinavian (Danish) and Dutch. The frame church was the first and only church built in the hamlet of Perkins.

Dickens Round Barn, Worthing vicinity
The Dickens Round Barn, located at 27882 473rd Ave., is listed for its architecture as a rare, surviving clay tile round barn. Built in 1917, the barn is listed under the South Dakota Round and Polygonal Barns and Pavilions (1995) Multiple Property Listing.  Additionally, the Dickens Round Barn represents a unique trend of mail-order barn plans specific to Lake, Lincoln, McCook and Minnehaha counties in southeastern South Dakota around the Sioux Falls area. The building embodies the distinctive characteristics of the last stage of round barn buildings in South Dakota. Defining features of this property type include hollow clay tile construction, true round plan, round interior silo and a self-supporting roof not requiring extra supports except for the silo.

For more information on the National Register or other historic preservation programs, contact the State Historic Preservation Office at the Cultural Heritage Center, 900 Governors Drive, Pierre, SD 57501-2217; telephone 605-773-3458 or website history.sd.gov/Preservation (click on National Register of Historic Places in the right column).

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About the South Dakota State Historical Society
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 history.sd.gov for more information. The society also has an archaeology office in Rapid City; call 605-394-1936 for more information.

Wednesday, May 29, 2019

D-Day program set for Tuesday at Cultural Heritage Center

A critical turning point in World War II will be the focus of a program this Tuesday, June 4, at the Cultural Heritage Center in Pierre.

Dr. Benjamin Jones will tell about the D-Day invasion of France by Allied forces in a program beginning at 7 p.m. CDT on Tuesday, June 4. Everyone is welcome to attend the free program.

“June 6 marks the 75th anniversary of D-Day. Without the D-Day invasion, the Allies may not have defeated the Nazi forces in Europe,” said Catherine Forsch, president of the South Dakota Historical Society Foundation. The foundation hosts the program and is the nonprofit fundraising partner of the South Dakota State Historical Society.

D-Day at Normandy Beach - June 6, 1944
On June 6, 1944, more than 156,000 American, British and Canadian troops stormed 50 miles of Normandy’s beaches in northern France. The D-Day invasion, officially called Operation Overlord, had been years in the planning.

The invasion was carried out along five sections of beachfront codenamed Utah, Omaha, Gold, Juno and Sword.

The D-Day invasion began before daylight on June 6 with paratroopers landing inland on the Utah and Sword beaches to cut off exits and destroy bridges to slow Nazi reinforcements.

The troops who stormed the five beaches faced not only the enemy, but bad weather. Rough seas made landings difficult. Many regiments came ashore far from their target destination. Anticipating an Allied invasion somewhere along the French coast, the Nazis had constructed the Atlantic Wall, a 2,400-mile line of bunker, landmines, and beach and water obstacles.

The heaviest fighting occurred at the Omaha and Juno beaches. The first waves of American fighters at Omaha Beach were cut down by German machine gun fire, and the first lines of Canadian troops at Juno Beach were also gunned down.
All five beaches were secured by June 11, however.

Because in part by the massive influx of troops and equipment, D-Day marked a turning point in the war. Less than a year later, on May 7, 1945, Germany signed an unconditional surrender.

Jones is the secretary of the South Dakota Department of Education. He has a doctorate in history from the University of Kansas. He retired from the United States Air Force after 23 years at the rank of lieutenant colonel. He has been an assistant professor of history at the U.S. Air Force Academy. He served in Afghanistan twice. Jones is the author of “Eisenhower’s Guerrillas, the Jedburghs, the Maquis, and the Liberation of France.”

Jones was dean of the College of Arts and Science at Dakota State University in Madison before leading the S.D. Department of Education.

The program is part of the History and Heritage Book Club sponsored by the foundation. The foundation sells several books about World War II in the Heritage Stores. They include “Dancing with Colonels,” “Lucky Stars and Gold Bars” and “Reveille for Sioux Falls.”

People can join in the program from locations other than the Cultural Heritage Center. People need a laptop or desktop computer with a camera, mic and speakers, and an internet connection using Google Chrome as their IE browser. Arrangements to join the program need to be made at least two days in advance by calling 605-773-6006.

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About the South Dakota State Historical Society
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 www.history.sd.gov for more information. The society also has an archaeology office in Rapid City; call (605) 394-1936 for more information.

About the South Dakota Historical Society Foundation
The South Dakota Historical Society Foundation is a private charitable nonprofit that seeks funding to assist the South Dakota State Historical Society in programming and projects to preserve South Dakota’s history and heritage for future generations.

Friday, March 8, 2019

SDSHS lists early auto licenses/dealers online


The State Archives of the South Dakota State Historical Society recently added to its website searchable indexes to motor vehicle licenses issued from 1905-1911 and automobile dealer licenses issued from 1913-1919. 

Visit the State Archives website at history.sd.gov/archives. A link is found on the Collection Indexes page to Automobile Licenses/Dealers.

The first auto license was issued to Jason T. Bigelow of Flandreau in March of 1905. The vehicle had a 4.5-horsepower Olds Motor Works engine and featured signals of a gas lamp and bell.

An automobile license with South Dakota plate number 6834 was issued to Konrad Stiffler of Worthing in August of 1910. The car had a 12-horsepower engine and included signals of both a horn and lights. (Photo courtesy South Dakota State Historical Society-Archives)
The Secretary of State’s office issued the motor vehicle licenses from 1905-1911. The records, contained in two leather-bound volumes, include the license number, automobile owner’s name, town, make of motor, vehicle horsepower and available signals on the automobile.

“We’ve received a fair amount of requests from people with old license plates looking to connect the plate with the owner and vehicle,” said South Dakota State Archivist Chelle (“SHELL-ee”) Somsen.

Auto dealer licenses were also issued by the Secretary of State. The auto dealer records date from 1913-1919. Information includes dealer name, license number, town and county, date and year the license was issued, and types of cars sold at the dealership. 

Volunteers with the State Archives were tasked with adding the information into a searchable database.

“We are thankful to the volunteers who’ve worked on this project the last few years,” said Somsen.

For more information, contact the State Archives, located at the Cultural Heritage Center in Pierre, at 605-773-3804 or archref@state.sd.us.

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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 visitwww.history.sd.gov for more information. The society also has an archaeology office in Rapid City; call 605-394-1936 for more information.


Monday, March 4, 2019

The Friendship between Lydia Norbeck and Grace Coolidge

On March 4, 1929, Sen. Peter Norbeck and his wife Lydia were in Washington, D.C., to watch as Herbert Hoover was sworn in as president of the United States and his predecessor left the nation’s capital.

“Immediately after the ceremonies, President and Mrs. Coolidge left for Northampton (Mass.). I was sorry to see Mrs. Coolidge leave, as I truly loved her,” Lydia wrote in her memoirs. Volume 39 of “South Dakota Historical Collections” contains Lydia Norbeck’s “Recollections of the Years,” edited by Nancy Tystad Koupal. The memoir, written in 1953 when Lydia was 80, contains numerous mentions of a friendship that has benefitted all South Dakotans.

Lydia Norbeck and Grace Coolidge first met in 1920 at a meeting for governors in Harrisburg, Penn. Peter Norbeck was governor of South Dakota and Calvin Coolidge was governor of Massachusetts.
“From my first meeting with Mrs. Coolidge I was impressed by her obvious sincerity and serenity,” Lydia wrote.

Grace Coolidge
Grace was noted for her charm and her love of people, outdoor activity and animals. Lydia was known as a gracious hostess with a magnetic personality.

When the two women met again in Washington, D.C., Peter Norbeck was a senator and Calvin Coolidge was vice president. As wife of the vice president, who presided over the Senate, Grace presided over meetings of the Senate Ladies Club.

“On St. Valentine’s Day, 1922, I acted on an impulse and wrote her a letter expressing my love and admiration (which was proper as a valentine). I told her how much she meant to the Senate Ladies by just being her own sweet, natural self. Imagine my surprise the next day on receiving the President’s and Mrs. Coolidge’s card together with the dearest letter from her, sent by a messenger!” Lydia wrote.

The friendship between Lydia and Grace might possibly have been a factor in the Coolidges spending the summer of 1927 in the Black Hills, according to various sources, including “Calving Coolidge in the Black Hills” by Seth Tupper. The Coolidges lived at the State Game Lodge, while he Norbecks stayed in a log cabin about a mile away.

The Norbecks accompanied the Coolidges to Belle Fourche for the Tri-State Roundup – the first rodeo the Coolidges had seen. The Norbecks also accompanied the Coolidges to other events and were the Coolidges’ dinner guests at the State Game Lodge one evening.

Lydia Norbeck
“Before the summer was over, I got up enough courage to ask the President’s secretary if I could entertain the Coolidges at dinner at our cabin … Imagine the President and his wife having dinner at our little cabin! … She was bubbling over with pleasure. She has a keen mind and a quick sense of humor, which she needed, as the President was often taciturn and could be rude at times. I respected Mr. Coolidge because he was always his natural self, never pretending nor presuming,” Lydia wrote.

While in the Black Hills, the president dedicated Mount Rushmore and handed drills to sculptor Gutzon Borglum so that official carving could begin. Coolidge’s actions helped bring national interest and federal money for the project.

The 90 days the first couple spent in the Black Hills also attracted national attention to the region.
“Truly, South Dakota was like a magnet that year for thousands of people from all over the country, and the envy of all the surrounding states, with the double attraction of a President vacationing in our midst and the prospect of the largest monument sculpture in the world,” Lydia wrote.

Calvin Coolidge never returned to the Black Hills, but he didn’t forget South Dakota, either, as president. He signed legislation one week before he left office that provided $250,000 of federal money to be matched by private donations for Mount Rushmore. And on his last day in office, March 4, 1929, Coolidge signed a law authorizing Badlands National Monument.

The friendship between Lydia and Grace continued throughout their lifetimes.

“When, years later, she wrote me of the arrival of a new granddaughter who was to be named ‘Lydia,’ I was very pleased,” Lydia wrote. Lydia Coolidge was born Aug. 14, 1939, the second daughter of John and Florence Coolidge.

Grace Coolidge died at the age of 78, on July 8, 1957, at Northampton, Mass. Lydia Norbeck was 88 years old when she died on Dec. 26, 1961, in Pierre.

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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 www.sdhsf.org. Contact us at info@sdhsf.org to submit a story idea.