Mining History Association

Annual Conference, July 29-August 1, 1993

Golden Hills Resort and Conference Center

Lead, South Dakota


The 4th Annual Conference of the Mining History Association was held in Lead, South Dakota, July 29-August 1, 1993.  The Golden Hills Resort and Conference Center was the venue for the program sessions and some social events.  Lead and its sister city, Deadwood, are the two most important towns in this historic mining area.  Walking tours were available in both towns.  Other tours during the conference visited the Homestake Mining Company surface works in Lead and some of the smaller mining camps and ghost towns in the area. 


Several museums interpret the colorful history of the area.  They include the Black Hills Mining Museum and the Opera House Museum in Lead, and the Adams Museum and the Adams House Museum in Deadwood.  The Wild West atmosphere of Deadwood has been promoted for tourists for years.  Since 1989, it has been augmented with casino gambling.  The Mount Moriah Cemetery features the graves of James Butler “Wild Bill” Hickok and “Calamity Jane,” Martha Jane Canary.  Hickok’s fatal 1876 shoot-out with Jack McCall is reenacted daily for tourists.


Airlines serve the Black Hills through Rapid City.  Conference attendees found fabulous scenery and many other popular attractions enroute to Lead.  The Southern Black Hills have their own mining history and are home to Custer State Park and Mount Rushmore National Monument.  Those traveling by car from the west were able to visit Devils Tower National Monument in northeastern Wyoming and Spearfish, South Dakota with beautiful Spearfish Canyon.

Mining in the Northern Black Hills


Native American tribes of the Sioux Nation occupied the Black Hills until General George Armstrong Custer’s 1874 Military Expedition opened the territory, illegally at first, to prospectors.  During the expedition, gold was discovered in French Creek in the southern Black Hills near the current town of Custer.  Within a year, an estimated 4,000 whites had entered the Hills.  Legal or not, the rush was on.  Placer claims were staked throughout the Northern Black Hills.  Deadwood Creek near the camp with the same name was particularly profitable.  As the gold placers played out, the miners turned to hardrock mining.


In 1876, Moses and Fred Manuel located the Homestake Ledge (also called a “leed”), a lode claim at the current town of Lead.  In the first year of production, the Manuels recovered 5000 ounces of gold.  The Homestake Mine and other claims were purchased by George Hurst and a group of California investors in 1877.  The Homestake Mining Company of California was formed.  A large mill with 80 stamps was constructed and production increased.  The Homestake Mine would prove to be the richest of the mines in the Black Hills. 


The Northern Black Hills became home to several important mining districts.  A number of other important mines were developed including the Deadwood, Golden Terra, Father DeSmet, and Caledonia.  These and others were eventually consolidated into the Homestake Mining Company.  The mining and milling technology at Homestake evolved over the years.  Around 1900, pneumatic drills were introduced in the mine to increase productivity and cyanide processing was added to the mill flowsheet to recover gold from the sand tailings.  Sand backfilling of shrinkage and square set stopes was begun to counteract increasing rock pressure as the mine deepened.  The Ross Shaft was completed in 1934 and the Yates Shaft in 1941.  Both were approximately 5000 feet in depth.  Their hoists were the largest in the world at that time.


The U. S. government suspended gold mining from 1942-1945 during World War II.  Milling continued until all of the broken ore in the stopes was exhausted.  The Homestake shops and other facilities turned to the production of goods needed for the war effort.  When the mine reopened, a massive modernization effort was undertaken by Homestake.  Underground internal shafts were initially sunk from the 4850 foot level to a depth of 6800 feet.  Ventilation of the deep mine workings was a major engineering challenge requiring additional ventilation shafts and portable refrigeration units to reduce the heat in the stopes.  By the Homestake Centennial in 1976, the mine had reached 8000 feet deep.  Cumulative output had totaled over 115 million tons of ore milled and over 31 million ounces of gold and 7 million ounces of silver produced.


Update (2013)


Many important changes have occurred in the Northern Black Hills during the 20 years since the 1993 MHA Conference.  The most significant was the closure of the Homestake Mine in 2002 after 126 years of operation.  Following the mine closure, the Homestake Mining Company undertook several years of site restoration that included the demolition of the mill buildings in Lead and the reclamation of mine dumps and tailings disposal areas.  The mill site was transformed into a municipal park which extends to the rim of the open pit where the new Homestake Visitor Center is now located.  The Homestake Mining Company was acquired by the Canadian Barrick Gold Corporation in 2002. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) declared Whitewood Creek a Superfund site and managed a cleanup of contaminants.


The underground workings of the Homestake Mine are now the site of the Sanford Underground Research Facility (SanfordLab).  This state-owned facility is supported by the Department of Energy.  A mile deep in the mine, scientists conduct particle physics experiments on dark matter.


The local economy of Lead and Deadwood is heavily dependent upon tourism and casino gambling.  However, mining continues in the area southwest of Lead where Wharf Resources, now part of Goldcorp, Inc., operates a large open pit gold mine in the old Bald Mountain Mining District.  As the mine expanded, the historic Bald Mountain Mill (ca1907-1942) was demolished but not before it was documented as part of the Historic American Buildings Survey (HABS).  The mill was in the state of near collapse and some equipment had been removed.

Lead, South Dakota, ca 1900 with Homestake Mine and Mills in the foreground. (Courtesy Library of Congress)


Square set stope in the Homestake Mine, ca1906.  (Courtesy Library of Congress)


Ore cars being hauled from the underground workings through an adit in the open cut, ca1906.  (Courtesy Library of Congress)


Eagle Mine and Mill, ca1907, Bald Mountain Mining District, Northern Black Hills. (Courtesy Library of Congress)


The Homestake Yates Shaft now serves the Sanford Underground Research

Facility.  (2014 photo courtesy Harrison Daniel)





Welcoming Reception, July 29, 1993, Homestake Mansion, Lead.  Hosted by Stan Dempsey and Royal Gold.


Awards Banquet, July 30, 1993, Golden Hills Resort, Lead.  Speaker, Watson Parker, “Black Hills Mines and Mining”


Presidential Luncheon, July 31, 1993, Golden Hills Resort, Lead



Walking Tour of Deadwood, July 29, 1993


Tour of the Homestake Mining Company Works, Lead, August 1, 1993 (Full-day tour)


Tour of Northern Black Hills, Historic Camps, and Sites, August 1, 1993 (Full-day tour)



South Dakota Tourism


Black Hills Mining Museum, Lead


Homestake Visitors’ Center, Lead


Opera House Museum, Lead 


Adams House Museum and Adams Museum, Deadwood


Homestake Adams Research and Cultural Center, Deadwood


Barrick Gold Corporation, successor to the Homestake Mining Company


Historic South Dakota Mining Photos


South Dakota Geological Survey Program, Vermillion


South Dakota State Historical Society


Cleophas C. O’Harra, “The Mineral Wealth of the Black Hills,” Mineral Resources of South Dakota, Bulletin 3, South Dakota Geological Survey, (Vermillion, SD: Wiley and Danforth, 1902), pp 1-79.


J. D. Irving, S. F. Emmons, and T. A. Jagger, Jr., “Economic Resources of the Northern Black Hills,” Professional Paper 28, (Washington, DC: Government Printing Office, 1904).


Watson Parker, “Gold in the Black Hills,” (Norman, OK: University of Oklahoma Press, 1966).


Mildred Fiedler, “The Treasure of Homestake Gold,” (Aberdeen, SD: North Plains Press, 1970).


“Homestake Centennial, 1876-1976,” Commerative Booklet, Homestake Mining Company, 1976.


Watson Parker, “Deadwood, the Golden Years,” (Lincoln, NB: University of Nebraska Press, 1981).


Donald Toms, William J. Stone, and Gretchen Motchenbacher, “The Gold Belt Cities,” (Lead, SD: G. O. L. D., 1988)


Duane Smith, “Staking a Claim in History: The Evolution of the Homestake Mining Company,” (Walnut Creek, CA: Homestake Mining Company, 2001).


Richmond L. Clow, “Chasing the Glitter: Black Hills Milling, 1874-1959,” (Peere,SD: South Dakota State Historical Society Press, 2002).


Life Underground: Hard Rock Mining in the Black Hills,” South Dakota State Historical Society Exhibit Brochure, 2004.



Allison Brooks

Jay Fell

Lysa Wegman-French

James Whiteside




(Above)  Bob Spude and Jay Fell relax during a lull at the registration table.


 (Left)  View from the Mt. Moriah Cemetery looking down on the historic Deadwood, sister city of Lead.  It is now a thriving tourist and gambling mecca.

Allison Brooks, State Historic Preservation Officer and one of the meeting organizers (right), Cathy Spude (left), and their daughters compare notes during a break between sessions.  Stan Dempsey (rear) seems delighted to see the two future MHA members.

MHAers get a close-up look at one of the old buildings in the old Tinton mining camp. 

MHAers explore the remains of the mining ghost town of Tinton during the all-day tour of historic mining camps and sites in the Northern Black Hills.

Photo Credits: Bob Spude



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