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Thursday, 30 January 2014 07:45

Dynamic Donations: Teenage Sharpshooter Chronicles Life in Deadwood in the 1900s

Written by Mikaela Fundaun

Freeda Marie Hartzell was born in Omaha, Nebraska, on December 20, 1891, to James and Mary Hartzell. At the age of five she had already begun training to be an expert marksman and trick roper. By 1904, Hartzell had garnered enough attention to appear at the World's Fair in St. Louis alongside thousands of exhibitors and millions of visitors.

Freeda holds another claim to fame besides her shooting and roping abilities. She was the first person to ever portray the character of Calamity Jane in a motion picture. The film, Wild Bill and Calamity Jane in the Days of '75 and '76, was created in 1916 by the Black Hills Feature Film Company of Chadron, Nebraska. In this film, not only did Calamity Jane and Wild Bill scout together, they were married! 

Before Freeda graced the silver screen, she was an eighth-grade student with a diary chronicling life in Deadwood. Her diary spans from May 8 to November 7, 1905. She also wrote from several different locations as she moved around the country with her family. The diary begins as Freeda is finishing school in Deadwood. The family spent much of that summer on their ranch outside of Chadron, Nebraska. From Chadron, the family moved to Pueblo, Colorado, where Freeda started high school.

You can read more of Freeda Hartzell's story in the winter Deadwood History Banner newsletter available in our museum gift shops or by calling (605) 722-4800.

Wednesday, 08 January 2014 09:00

A Golden Time: The Ultimate Nugget Auction

Written by Mary Kopco, Executive Director

After two years of planning, the Ultimate Nugget Auction went off without a hitch on Saturday, September 28, 2013, at Deadwood Mountain Grand. Project sponsors, Deadwood History, Inc. and the Clock Shop, welcomed over 275 guests who were entertained by legendary recording artist Michael Martin Murphey while enjoying a scrumptious dinner. Award-winning CNBC anchor, Bill Griffeth, hosted the event featuring 18 celebrity auction items including guitars signed by Merle Haggard, Big and Rich and Michael Martin Murphey to posters and drawings autographed by actors from the HBO® Deadwood series, Ben Affleck, Sean Covel and Chris "Hagar the Horrible" Browne. Wounded Warrior, Justin Shellhammer, and South Dakota Gold Star Mother, Christine Bestgen, graciously assisted with the event with the South Dakota Fallen Heroes Banners display serving as a moving backdrop.

The evening culminated with auctioning off the Potato Creek Johnny 2 gold nugget. The nugget is the only exact gold replica of Potato Creek Johnny's nugget that will ever be made. After 15 minutes of aggressive bidding, New York marine biologist, successful author and sunken treasure hunter John Christopher Fine was the winner with a bid of $40,000. Fine and wife Myriam's motivation for purchasing the nugget was as an expression of their deep appreciation for the men and women who have been injured in service to our country and to Deadwood History's commitment to preserving history. Net proceeds from the auction totaled $53,210 and have been divided equally between Deadwood History, Inc. and the Wounded Warrior Project. With the funds raised, Deadwood History staff members are currently in the process of creating a highly secure display case to house the original Potato Creek Johnny nugget on a permanent basis. Limited edition, 75%-scale and numbered bronze replicas, handcrafted and poured at Black Hills Bronze fine art foundry in Hill City, are still available and can be purchased at the Adams Museum or Days of '76 Museum.

Wednesday, 23 October 2013 09:06

Tour Deadwood’s Haunted Mansion

Written by Rose

Are you afraid of what goes bump in the night? Have you ever wondered what mysteries lurk in the shadows of the Historic Adams House? Find out if you dare. Deadwood History's Spirited Tours offers guests a view of some of Deadwood's darker stories told in the beautifully-restored Victorian mansion. The story began one hundred and twenty one years ago and continues today.

Spirited Tours is a fun evening for the whole family. Call 605-578-3724 to book your tour on October 24, 25 or 26 at 6:00, 7:00, 8:00 or 9:00 p.m. Reservations are required. These spooky tours are $5 per person for members and $10 per person for non-members.

Deadwood History is grateful to our Spirited Tours sponsors, the Deadwood Historic Preservation Commission, Adams-Mastrovich Family Foundation, TDG Communications, Black Hills Pioneer, Elkhorn Ridge Resort & Golf Club and Duhamel Broadcasting.

Thursday, 03 October 2013 15:07

Experiencing Nature in the Black Hills

Written by Mikaela Fundaun

Another great summer has come and gone in the beautiful Black Hills. Although it still seems far away, 2014 is just lurking behind a few more calendar pages. In preparation for a rapidly approaching new year, Deadwood History staff has been busy combing through the photograph collection for a new and unique calendar.

Friday, 27 September 2013 12:23

A Golden Opportunity Awaits You

Written by Rose

Tomorrow is the day we make history. Deadwood History's Adams Museum and The Clock Shop will auction off the only solid gold replica of the famous Potato Creek Johnny nugget that will ever be made. A year ago Black Hills Bronze foundry made a mold of Johnny's nugget. The placer gold found in the area where the Icebox Nugget was discovered was melted and poured into the mold to create the Potato Creek Johnny 2 gold nugget (PCJ2). The event starts on Saturday, September 28 at 5:00 p.m. at the Deadwood Mountain Grand with the PCJ2 auction at 9:15 p.m. The highest bidder will take home a unique piece of history made from Black Hills gold. We will never make another identical replica from gold again. You can bid online at  

Wednesday, 18 September 2013 10:00

Experience History Being Made

Written by Rose

The Clock Shop and Deadwood History will host the auction of the Potato Creek Johnny 2 (PCJ2) gold nugget and a concert featuring legendary recording artist Michael Martin Murphey on Saturday, September 28 at 5:00 p.m. at the Deadwood Mountain Grand. Tickets are $100 per person. The PCJ2 nugget is a unique piece of history expressly made to be auctioned as a benefit for Deadwood History's Adams Museum and the Wounded Warrior Project.

Friday, 06 September 2013 11:22

The Man who saved the Buffalo

Written by Rose

The Buffalo King, a richly textured and momentous film, follows James (Scotty) Philip from his meager upbringing to his success in saving the American bison from extinction. An original preservationist in the 1890s, Philip disdained the wanton slaughter of buffalo and used his disdain as a driving force for something greater during this dark moment in history.

Friday, 06 September 2013 09:32

Veteran CNBC Anchor to Host PCJ2 Auction

Written by Rose

With almost 30 years in business television, Bill Griffeth is one of the most respected financial journalists in the nation and the co-anchor of CNBC's "Closing Bell".

Bill has been coming to Deadwood for Haas family gatherings for almost 30 years. Griffeth's maternal grandfather led wagon trains of fortune hunters into the Black Hills during the 1870s. His wife Cindy's (Haas) grandparents were Black Hills pioneer ranchers who donated a one-of-a-kind plesiosaur (marine reptile) and many other artifacts to the Adams Museum.

Friday, 28 June 2013 15:54

Potato Creek Johnny and the Legend of the Lady’s Leg

Written by Rose

When Potato Creek Johnny found the now-famous 7.346 troy ounce gold nugget in 1929, he said it looked like a woman’s leg. He hoped someday to find the other leg. The Clock Shop of Rapid City and Deadwood History made Johnny’s dream come true when the placer gold found near the site of the Icebox Nugget, one of the Black Hills largest gold nuggets in existence today, was poured into a mold of Potato Creek Johnny’s nugget. The replica is called Potato Creek Johnny 2 (PCJ2), and it could be yours.

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