Sunday, September 19, 2010

Mt. Rushmore Guards Their Souls...part 2

Our recent trip to the Black Hills of South Dakota took us on a side trip to find some old cemeteries that still exist today but were a large part of the early frontier days of the Black Hills. The second one we visited on this trip was the Mt. View Cemetery located in the active mining and now tourist town of Keystone, S. D. This cemetery, while quite small for the amount of years it has existed is probably one of the most unique that we have visited. The varied history of the community it serves gives this scenic little cemetery a proud and unique character, one which also by it's serene location seems to command one to view the final resting place of it's inhabitants with silence and reverence. Established long before the construction of nearby Mt. Rushmore, it is, none the less, protected by night and day as the granite stone "faces" of Mt. Rushmore stand guard over all the souls who are resting there. It is the only cemetery in the world with a view of Mt. Rushmore.

To imagine what the lives were like for many who are buried here, one must learn about the history of this unique area of the Black Hills. Mining in the area dates back to around 1876 with the discovery of placer gold along nearby Battle Creek. Several small settlements sprung up in the area until 1883 when the Harney Peak Hydraulic Gold Mining Company was organized to mine the area which was later to become known as Keystone. Also in 1883, the Etta Mine which was rich in mica was opened and soon the area began to produce tin oxide which was in great demand. The town was officially platted in 1891 and named after the Keystone Mine. In 1894 a rich ledge of gold producing quartz was discovered and named The Holy Terror mine after one of the miners wives! The Holy Terror mine became one of the richest gold producers in the country. Gold, mica, feldspar, tin oxide, quartz, many other minerals and even arsenic played rolls in the success and even the later failure of the economy. Early in 1900, the narrow guage railroad reached Keystone which encouraged further development of many of the mines and later was used to haul goods and equipment into Keystone to aid in the carving of Mt. Rushmore which was started in 1927. Many local men and miners were often employed in the construction of Mt. Rushmore as the wages were good in a time that mining had started to decline. During WWII, minerals from the mines near Keystone were in great demand and used in production of war goods.

Keystone had a varied and checkered past during the years of miners and saloons and the small community has seen many ups and downs since the turn of the twentieth century. Clashes over claims, serious mining accidents, several early fires which destroyed the town, and floods have claimed many lives in the area of Keystone. The devastating flood of 1972 destroyed again a large part of the business district which had been resurrected over the years to become a premier tourist area and also took out most of the original railroad tracks into the community. Loss of life in the Black Hills area was substantial and Keystone was hit hard..again.

Many times over the last century, the Keystone town and community has rebuilt- each time it has gotten bigger and better. The lumber industry, some mining, and most of all the tourists have kept this little city alive. As a kid who frequented Keystone in the 1950's and has visited many times over the years, I have watched the old town grow. Once it was a sleepy, small tourist town with wonderful little shops and now has grown all the way through the valley in all directions. Top name hotels now scavenge for land to build on, spreading into the small fingers of the valley. Beautiful eateries, shops and museums line the once again busy streets. The whistle of the 1880 Train can be heard through the valley as it stops close to the town of Keystone. The ever present Mt. Rushmore watches over the daily life.

All the while that the town of Keystone has lain beneath her, the Mountain view cemetery has taken in the inhabitants of this proud little town. An infant girl which was relocated from an old cemetery downstream was the first burial here in 1900. The older Harney Cemetery was abandoned and reclaimed by "Mother Nature".
Mountain View cemetery also is one which has seemed to reflect the history of the area with its often stylish old headstones... and beautiful handmade monuments. Several well known historical figures are interred there. Many more photos that we took in the cemetery can found here and they are as varied and unique as is the area's history.

The day we visited, we stood and marveled at the stone of Zeke Valdez, which is pictured above, it showed us that he was a worker on the construction of Mt. Rushmore. A week after our trip to Keystone was my 40th class reunion in Alliance, Nebraska. One of my classmates and friend who happens to live in Hill City, S. D. was attending with her husband. Oddly, we happened to start talking to them about our recent trip to the Hills and about visiting the old cemeteries. The stone of Zeke Valdez came up when I mentioned the unique engraving on it and it turns out that Zeke was the uncle of my friend's husband. His family has been in the Black Hills for generations and several of his relatives (including the Grover and Valdez names) are buried in the small cemetery at Keystone. How truly small this old world is! His family's pride will mark his uncle's resting place for eternity.

The little Mountain View cemetery high above Keystone is certainly a beautiful little known gem in the otherwise hurried and bustling tourist community in the Black Hills of South Dakota.

(photo link: Keystone, S. D. cemetery pics)
(photo link: Hill City, S.D. cemetery pics)
(link to part 1 of this set: "Resting in Forested Beauty")

You Go Genealogy Girl #2 --Cheri

1 comment:

  1. Fantastic, Cheri. Love the beautiful "mosaic" gravestone photo. Being a South Dakota native, I just love the Black Hills and all the history. Thanks for an interesting and informative post!



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