Deadwood, South Dakota

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Deadwood is a city in South Dakota, United States, and the county seat of Lawrence County. It is named for the dead trees found in its gulch.[5] The population was 1,380 according to a 2009 census estimate.[2] The city includes the Deadwood Historic District, a National Historic Landmark District, whose borders may be the city limits.



19th century

The settlement of Deadwood began in the 1870s and has been described as illegal, since it lay within the territory granted to Native Americans in the 1868 Treaty of Laramie. The treaty had guaranteed ownership of the Black Hills to the Lakota people, and disputes over the Hills are ongoing, having reached the United States Supreme Court on several occasions. However, in 1874, Colonel George Armstrong Custer led an expedition into the Hills and announced the discovery of gold on French Creek near present-day Custer, South Dakota. Custer's announcement triggered the Black Hills Gold Rush and gave rise to the lawless town of Deadwood, which quickly reached a population of around 5,000.

In early 1876, frontiersman Charlie Utter and his brother Steve led a wagon train to Deadwood containing what were deemed to be needed commodities to bolster business, including gamblers and prostitutes, which proved to be a profitable venture. Demand for women was high, and the business of prostitution proved to be a good market. Madam Dora DuFran would eventually become the most profitable brothel owner in Deadwood, closely followed by Madam Mollie Johnson. Businessman Tom Miller opened the Bella Union Saloon in September of that year.

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