Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Jerry L. Bryant's History Reveal "Deadwood Public Schools 1876 -1886"

Jerry L. Bryant is an accomplished historian. He is also a member of the RPA, Registered Professional Archaeologists. Jerry works extensively within the Black Hills of South Dakota and more specifically within the city of Deadwood.  

His work for the HBO series "Deadwood" has earned him honors from the Academy of Television Arts and Sciences. Jerry is also one of the foremost authorities on the life of Al Swearengen. He is a fierce advocate of historical preservation and the past President of the Lawrence County Historical Society.

Jerry is a valued personal friend and long time supporter and contributor to dhsclassmates web site.  His interest and research in the history of the Deadwood Schools is unique .  He freely shares his research and historical writing so that the Lead-Deadwood School District can review and accept his findings.  They already accepted his find of DHS1893.  The formal release of the update to “Deadwood High School Roster 1886 – 1971” is being held pending release of more of Jerry’s findings.

Jerry L. Bryant’s following research paper now provides us with the historical first decade-plus of Deadwood Schools 1876 – 1886 including DHS1886.  We also now know that Deadwood pioneer,  Estelline Bennett, was one of six graduates of DHS1886.  She wrote the “Old Deadwood Days” book in 1928.  The Cushman family were also prominent Deadwood pioneers.

While the 1876 Deadwood was a rough and tumble mining camp, it was very progressive with telegraph in 1876, telephones in 1878, and electric power in 1881.  From the very beginning Deadwood wanted quality schools.  It did suffer trial and error, sadness, and flood but finally found high ground for the established 1886 Deadwood School and High School.

Jerry brings life and freshness to his temporal assemblage of historical events like they happened only yesterday.  It is interesting to note that the Deadwood High School Band played for the DHS1886 graduation.  Also note that there were two electric lights hanging from the Opera House ceiling.

You can select and listen to the following piano recording while you read Jerry Bryant’s paper.  The video probably looks and sounds the same of Lulu Kingsley's performance at the DHS1886 graduation.

Thank you Jerry for your amazing research findings of Deadwood Schools and Deadwood High School.

Deadwood Public Schools 1876-1886

Jerry L. Bryant

A Brief Note
I am sure that something as important as education has been to the residents of Deadwood through the course of our history has been recorded and re-recorded. I am also sure that to some extent it may have been “sanitized”, not so much through blatant lies as by simple omission.  On the other hand, this brief temporal assemblage of events is the version of our educational history that was familiar to every Deadwood resident who could read between 1876 and 1886.  It was published as part of the ongoing stream of news that hit Deadwoods streets in the Black Hills Pioneer and the Black Hills Times; a decade of ignored Deadwood educational history.

Dedicated to the memory of Deadwood’s first public school teacher, Mrs. Minnie Callison, who taught school in Deadwood from 1877 to 1878. Minnie now resides in an unmarked grave in Deadwood’s Mt. Moriah.

Primary Education
The sixth issue of Deadwood’s first newspaper, the Black Hills Pioneer of July 15, 1876, made a brief statement on the state of public education. In a one-sentence note on the back page, just below the announcement that Calamity Jane was now in Cheyenne; the editor stated that there seemed to be enough “little ones” around the gulches to justify organizing a school.[1]  Prediction, request, or command, who can say; but two weeks later the concerned citizens of Deadwood held a meeting to establish a school board and to set up the boundaries of our first school district. William DeMoss was appointed president and William Hollins secretary of the school board. A board of directors was elected with Dr. McKinney as president; E.B. Farnum, Treasurer; and William Hollins as secretary. The directors were then instructed to canvas and solicit subscriptions to defray the cost of the school, select and hire a competent teacher, while securing a suitable building for the school.[2]
In the same issue, the Pioneer also printed an editorial applauding the efforts of the people involved with electing a school board and establishing guidelines and goals for the board. Citing the lack of an in-place educational system as a culprit that robs the town of a much larger population which is forced to keep their families elsewhere in order to provide good opportunities.[3]
The folks of Deadwood were becoming serious about education, and in early September sent a representative back east to procure examples of the day’s text books and send them back to Deadwood for approval.[4]  That is not to say that there were no problems, for there were many. Subscriptions for $80.00 a month had been obtained, but nothing done with it. With more than 60 children playing in the streets and no building identified to be used as a school, the critics at the Pioneer thought some membership changes in the board might solve many of the problems. The editorial went on demanding that the children of Deadwood be properly educated and prepared for the “great battle of life.” Without such education the children “would be doomed to be mere machines of labor through blighted lives, without hope of ameliorating their condition.”[5]
Apparently the editorial had its effect on the elected movers and shakers for in two weeks a teacher was produced, one Mr. E. Kermode; and Tom Miller (owner of the Bella Union) loaned the school district a house on Third Street to serve as a school. One problem with this was that it seems the teacher never taught. He was noted in the Pioneer on the 11th of November and then again on the 18th as having occupied the school and stated that he would begin teaching on the 20th. The 20th came and went, but there was no celebration for the establishment of a school in Deadwood.[6] Thus it came to pass that the private schools superseded the public schools in the young town of Deadwood when Mrs. D.T. Smith ran an ad in the Pioneer that she was opening a Select School in December of 1876. The same ad also announced she would be charging $1.25 per week for each scholar attending. The Pioneer ran a short but flattering article stating that her accomplishments were of a superior order and that she was sure to be successful in her endeavor.[7] It did, however, fail to note the exact nature of her accomplishments or where she had performed them. 
But where did that leave Deadwood in its quest for a public school? It left the fledgling mining camp looking for a teacher. By early January a teacher had been found, she was the wife of a miner who was at the time prospecting near Keystone.  Her name was Minnie Callison.[8] She had the formal education for the job and the backing of Mayor E. B. Farnum, Dr. Babcock and a number of other prominent businessmen in the camp.[9] She started her school immediately, and as the school year went on it was noted in February by the Pioneer that she had 27 students.[10]  In addition to her education and her abilities to teach the children of Deadwood, Mrs. Callison had other attractions; she was of slight of build, and 5 feet 4 inches tall, with black hair and black eyes she commanded attention in whatever room she entered.[11]  By May of 1878 eighty seven students attended the school; the board of education hired a second teacher; Miss Ida Snyder.[12]
Mrs. Callison made it through the three months of her initial contract with flying colors; her contract was renewed to the end of the year, and then renewed for the entire year of 1878. But summer vacation seems to have gotten in the way. It was also common knowledge that Minnie had several ardent male admirers in the camp, a fact that was mostly overlooked because of her extreme value to the process of turning Deadwood into a town as opposed to just another “here today gone tomorrow” mining camp.  But on the morning of August 17, 1878, it became very difficult to overlook the camps pretty young teacher, as she lay dead on her bed in a pool of blood.  Her forehead appeared to have been the recipient of at least 7-9 blows from a blunt instrument such as a hammer.[13]  When the coroner continued his examination of the scene he also noted that Deadwood’s first school teacher slept with a small four barreled derringer.[14] Did she feel the need for a gun because she thought she was in harm’s way, or was it just a response to the ambient social environment in Deadwood?   After Minnie Callison’s death and the murder trial that followed, the primary school teachers only produced a scattering of smaller scandals and limited themselves to much lesser sins; such as the teacher who decided reading pocket novels (Deadwood Dick?) to the students equaled a good lesson in American literature.[15] After shinning the light of contemporary pulp fiction on the children but a scant few times the parents almost had an uprising. The idea of a real school in a “blood and guts” mining camp had a tendency to make the rest of America snicker, as is evident in an article from the New Orleans Times –Picayune: A strange female who landed in Deadwood the other day to start a pretty girl-waiter saloon, was induced by liberal offers to forego her intentions and become the principal of the First Ward School.[16]
An example of a Dakota Territory Teacher’s Certificate dated 29 November 1883.

A High School for Deadwood
With a few years of mostly smooth teaching under its belt, Deadwood began to feel the need for a high school. The wealthier families of the community, such as Judge Moody’s had been sending their promising children to Yankton and even farther for their high school needs.[17]  These needs found expression in a short excerpt of an editorial in the Black Hills Daily Times of October 1880: “We desire to see such a school in Deadwood – a school where young ladies and gentlemen may be fitted for the higher institutions of learning.”[18]  By the fall of 1881 the high school became a reality, and with the end of December, 1881, a new year and a new high school was turned over to the board of education.[19]  In January of 1882 the Deadwood School Board held its first meeting of the New Year there.  William Carey, president of the Deadwood Board of Education invited all residents of Deadwood who were “concerned about the success of Deadwoods schools, to meet with the School Board at the new High School.”[20]   Lawrence County announced that they now had 45 school districts.[21]  By February of 1882, the High School discovered a need for music, so the Superintendant of Schools, Mr. J. K. Davis, ran an ad in the Times asking for someone to rent an organ to school. He promised that it would receive the best of care and in the event that damage should occur, the school board would pay for it.[22]  
Final touches were put on the high school yard when Patrick Early flooded it, then graded and graveled it.[23] They may not have had a gymnasium, but they did have a first rate play ground.[24] The editor of the Times indicated he thought,   ”The yard is one of the finest play grounds in the Territory and the sight of it is enough to make him wish he was a boy again.” All things considered, everyone with concerns for Deadwood’s schools was pretty satisfied with the direction things were taking, but no one was ready for what happened next.
In late February of 1883, the joy of having a new school began to tremble when Whitewood Creek in South Deadwood left its banks and began spreading toward the new high school.[25] But this was just the harbinger of dire times to come in the near future. The winter of 1882-3 was extra harsh with very little thawing. The snow load in places was more than 10 feet thick. No one really seemed alarmed until the melt. On the morning of 17 May it was noted that Whitewood Creek had risen over its banks and was spreading across the lower levels of the gulch. The alarm was spread by telephone from Ten Mile Ranch. This ignited the fears of many, who started moving their belongings, animals, and school books to higher ground; but the new high school, that took $12,000 to build; “the pride of the city” with its furniture, maps and charts, disappeared in the deluge.[26]  Most folks thought that by morning the worst of it would have passed, but the 18th came and went with the flood in full fury carrying of hundreds of homes, barns, businesses, saloons, and churches.[27] (Note by the author: the corner stone of that school is on display at the Mt Mariah gift shop. It should be noticed that the stone had a pocket in its center to serve as a “time capsule,” the contents of which vanished downstream on that fateful day.) By the 18th of May, with many of the telephone poles and wires sullied by the flood, communications between Deadwood and South Deadwood had been reduced to a rope and basket strung across the torrent.[28]

Could this be the 1882 High School? It is setting on the Whitewood flood plain, right in front of where the Slime Plant would one day be constructed.

The new post 1886 Deadwood Schools above the flood plain

            When the mud and the bodies settled, it was not long before whiskey was being sold across a bar suspended by two barrels. Boards were being cut, bricks being fired, and Deadwood did what it has always done best in the face of disaster; regenerate a new, more vibrant city and a sustaining economy. Land was found for the new school in July and a contract to build the new school was awarded to Kid and Benn[29].  In August of 1883 surveyors put stakes in the ground to identify the boundaries of the property.[30]  That same month the mason’s finished up the foundation for the new school.[31] S.F. Jacoby cut the caps, sills, and watersheds for the new school,[32] and 150,000 bricks were fired for the building.[33]
The first ward school bell was moved to the high school and placed in position on November 28, 1883, and it’s clear notes rang out for the first time from its final post of duty. It was a bell of very fine tone and proved satisfactory to those in charge[34] The official opinion of the Black Hills Daily Times was “The first ward school bell replaced the demoralized noise producer at the (new) high school building,” of course it took them several weeks to notice. [35]  The “new” school bell in the tower of new high school building was also to be used by Methodist Church to announce beginning of services.[36]  January 6, 1884 the school board accepted the new school and even went so far as to hire a permanent janitor, Mr. Ayers, who was to receive  $ 30.00 a month for his services[37] The new school was an exact duplicate of the school that was washed away in the flood except it was southeast facing on Main Street and the foundation was 25 feet above the street level.[38]  In other words, if the new school was taken out by a flood the entire town would be gone too. (Author’s note; In the flood of 1883, the new high school and the Methodist Church were next to each other near the present day location of the Slime Plant. After the flood, the school was rebuilt on the northern slope of the gulch facing Main Street. The Methodist Church was built a few hundred feet northeast of the high school on Williams Street.)
In March of 1884 the school board resolved that Professor L.L. Conant would be given complete and total control of the Deadwood School System.[39]  Then on July 8, 1884, the city decided that the new, new high school was not large enough, and a contract for a new high school addition was awarded to Damon, Barker and Evans.[40]  On the third of August, 1884, the brick work was completed on the new high school addition.[41]
In July of 1885 the school board made a decision that polarized the residents of Deadwood against them, by firing the School Superintendant, Professor Conant, without stating a reason.[42]  Conant had the trust of the public and had endeared himself to the upper crust of Deadwood society. On the day following that decision the Times published a statement the essence of which basically said that all of the taxpayers and parents of Deadwood thought the school board’s decision to dismiss Professor Conant and replace him with a complete stranger, who had no experience with the Deadwood school system, was ill advised. The editorial ended with a statement that it was the citizens who paid for the maintenance of the schools and their wishes were entitled to respectful consideration.[43]   
On the 9th of July, 48 of Deadwood’s leading citizens published their names attached to a petition for a public meeting concerning the dismissal of Professor Conant.[44]  The following day, the meeting was held at the court house, it was chaired by Judge Bennett and attended by about fifty of the local citizens. A secretary was appointed and a committee was assigned to draw up a document stating why it was wrong for the school board to have fired Professor Conant, and why he should be immediately rehired. The committee was composed of Messrs. Raymond, Lincoln, Van Cise, Kingsley and Babcock. They went to task and produced a document complete with a preamble and four resolutions. The document was read aloud and met the approval of group. Then Judge Kingsley took the floor and gave an impassioned speech as to why the resolutions should be adopted.
When Kingsley had finished, the floor was turned over to Judge McLaughlin. McLaughlin called for some light and then began to unwrap a large bulky package which contained the laws governing the school board and a number of testimonies attesting to good character and abilities of Mr. Free, the person hired to replace Professor Conant. McLaughlin then went on to inform the assembly that a legal and binding contract had already been entered into between the Board of Education and Mr. Free and it could not be legally broken without Mr. Free’s sanction. McLaughlin then proceeded to outline the reason for Professor Conant’s dismissal, which included a pronounced lack of organizational skills. He concluded his elucidation by saying that even if Mr. Free chose not to accept the position, the board would not consider the application of Professor Conant.
A number of speakers followed Judge McLaughlin, all of whom supported Professor Conant but, be that as it may, in the end a vote was taken, the result of which was a rejection of the resolutions in support of the retention of Professor Conant by 21 to 30.[45]  The Deadwood education system had now come full circle. It had survived fire, flood and social unrest and was finally ready to present a finished product; it’s first high school graduation class. 

The Accomplished Six
The first Deadwood High School graduation occurred June 28, 1886 and consisted entirely of young ladies, six to be exact: Miss Annette Forest, Miss Belle Chase, Miss Estelline Bennett, Miss Irene Cushman, Miss Mamie Philips and Miss Minnie Craig. During that school year the class attendance was 92.3%, their punctuality was 98.3%, and the percentage of progress was 93.3.  The ceremonies were conducted in the Opera House where lighting was provided by two electric lamps suspended from the ceiling of the auditorium. The graduating class was seated beneath a suspended evergreen colored sign which read:
“Not Who, but What”
The South Deadwood Hose company presented each of the girls a bouquets or basket of flowers. Immediately behind the graduates sat the School Board, Mayor Sol Star, Judges and other local dignitaries.
            The evening began with an overture by the Deadwood Band followed by a prayer delivered by Mr. John Fairbank (GAR). A quartet sang “Come Where the Lilies Bloom,” then each member of the graduating class gave an oration on their particular subject. The editor of the Times complained bitterly about the Opera House’s poor acoustics, stating that it was reason he did not have a better report of the orations. He did say that he thought the deliveries were excellent though. In the very middle of the six oratories, Miss Lulu Kingsley played Liszt’s “Miserere du Travatore” on the piano. For her playing she received loud applause and a “perfect avalanche of flowers.” Mr. D.A. McPherson delivered the closing remarks from the School Board and the President of the School Board gave out awards to the graduates.
            The Times Editor praised Professor Free and all the all the teachers under his direction for the  quality of work in producing such a promising group of graduates and noted that the next year’s graduates would include some boys, but they would have to work and study very hard to match the Class of 86.[46]
            In September of 1886 two of the young ladies mentioned in the graduation ceremonies of 1886 boarded a stage bound east to further their education. One was a graduate, Miss Esteline Bennett; and one a performer at the graduation, Miss Lulu Kingsley. Both were headed to Almira, New York, to study at the Almira College for a year.[47]  Both girls returned to Deadwood in June of 1887 for the summer. The Times reported that both of them were in excellent health and delighted to be home.[48]  In May of 1887, another of the “Accomplished Six,” Irene Cushman opened a kindergarten in Deadwood.[49]  But in the fall, Miss Cushman traveled to Boston to continue her education, while Misses Kingsley and Bennett returned to the Almira College in New York. Miss Kingsley would then go on to the Boston Conservatory for Music to study piano and voice and eventually move to Denver with her parents; Miss Bennett would return to the Hills and eventually write the classic Deadwood History, Old Deadwood Days.[50]  In October of 1891 Irene Cushman married Albert Wilson. The wedding  guest list read like the upper crust of “who’s who” in Deadwood, South Dakota.[51]
            Mamie Phillips taught school for a while in Nevada in 1889. During the summers she traveled accompanied by her mother, but by 1897 Miss Phillips was back teaching in Deadwood. After the turn of the century she then taught in Hot Springs, SD.[52]
            Minnie Craig married George Felix Ingram on Christmas the year following her graduation.[53]  She and George raised a family in Helena Montana.[54]
            Following her graduation, Annette Forest married Joseph Gandolfo in 1888. They remained in Deadwood until at least 1910, where they raised two boys; Forest and Melvin.[55]

No camp, village, city or metropolis could have asked for a better product than the first graduation class of Deadwood High School in 1886.

[1] . Black Hills Pioneer 15 July 1876 Pg. 4 Col. 1
[2] . Black Hills Pioneer 29 July 1876 Pg. 4 Col. 1
[3] . ibid.
[4] . Black Hills Pioneer 9 Sept. 1876 Pg. 4 Col. 1
[5] . Black Hills Pioneer 28 Oct. 1876 Pg. 4 Col. 3
[6] . Black Hills Pioneer 11 Nov. 1876 Pg. 4 Col.5
    Black Hills Pioneer 18 Nov. 1876 Pg. 4 Col. 4
[7] . Black Hills Pioneer 9 Dec. 1876 Pg. 4 Col. 1
[8]. Black Hills Daily Pioneer Jan 06 1877, p.4 , col.3
[9]. Black Hills Daily Pioneer Jan 06 1877, p.4 , col.3
[10].  Black Hills Daily Pioneer Feb 17 1877, p.4 , col.2
[11].  Lawrence County Deaths, micro film at Deadwood Library.
[12].  Black Hills Daily Times May 03 1878, p.1 , col.4
      Black Hills Daily Times May 07 1878, p.1 , col.3
[13]. ibid
[14]. Court transcript
     BH Daily Times 16 January 1880 p4c4
[15]. Black Hills Daily Times June 26, 1879, p.4 , col.2
[16]. Times-Picayune June 23, 1880
[17]Black Hills Daily Times Jun 30 1882, p.3 , col.4
[18]. Black Hills Daily Times Oct 22 1880, p.2 , col.2
[19]. Black Hills Daily Times Dec 27 1881, p.4 , col.5
[20]. Black Hills Daily Times Jan 05 1882, p.1 , col.4
[21]. Black Hills Daily Times Apr 08 1882, p.4 , col.2
[22]. BH Daily Times 24 Feb 1882 page 1col. 5
[23]. Black Hills Daily Times 2 Feb 1882, p.3 , col.2
[24]. Black Hills Daily Times May 28 1882, p.3 , col.2
[25]. Black Hills Daily Times Feb 15 1883, p.3 , col.3
[26]. Black Hills Daily Times 19 May 1883 page 4 col 3
[27]. Both the Times and the Pioneer covered the flood on 18-22 May, 1883 as did:
Richmond Daily Dispatch 22 May 1883 P4 C3
Newark Daily Advocate 21 May 1883
Sacramento Daily Union 21 May 1883 P2 C3
Sioux County Herald May 1883
The Salt Lake Herald 22 May 1883 P1 C6
 New York Herald 22 May 1883
Atlanta Constitution 22 May 1883
Boston Daily Globe 22 May 1883
Evening Observer 22 May 1883 Dunkirk NY
[28]. Omaha Daily Bee 21 May 1883 P5 C2
[29]. Black Hills Daily Times Aug 22 1883, p.3 , col.2
[30]. Black Hills Daily Times Jun 08 1883, p.3 , col.2
Black Hills Daily Times Jul 17 1883, p.3 , col.1
[31]. Black Hills Daily Times 10 August 1883, p.3 , col.2
[32]. Black Hills Daily Times 4 August 1883, p.3 , col.1
[33]. Black Hills Daily Times Aug 22 1883, p.3 , col.2
[34]. Black Hills Daily Times November 29, 1883, p. 3, col. 2.
[35]. Black Hills Daily Times December 16, 1883 p. 4 col. 1
[36]. Black Hills Daily Times January 26, 1884, p. 3, col. 1.
[37]. Black Hills Daily Times January 6, 1884, p. 3, col. 1.
[38]. Black Hills Daily Times January 8, 1884, p. 3, col. 3.
[39]. Black Hills Daily Times March 9, 1884, p. 3, col. 4.
[40]. Black Hills Daily Times July 8, 1884, p.3, col.2.
[41]. Black Hills Daily Times, August 3, 1884, p.3, col. 1.
[42].Black Hills Daily Times, July 7, 1885, p. 1, col. 2.
[43]. Black Hills Daily Times, July 8, 1885, p. 4, col. 1.
[44]. Black Hills Daily Times, July 8, 1885, p. 3, col. 3.
[45]. Black Hills Daily Times, July 11, 1885, p. 4, col. 1.
[46]. Black Hills Daily Times May 7, 1886, p.3, col. 1.
Black Hills Daily Times June 25, 1886, p.2, col. 4.
Black Hills Daily Times June 25, 1886, p.1, col. 3.
Black Hills Daily Times June 29, 1886, p.2, col. 3.
[47].  Black Hills Daily Times September 8, 1886, p.3, col. 3.
The two young ladies appear to have been very close friends, and both of them had Court Judges for fathers. jlb
[48].  Black Hills Daily Times, June 17, 1887, p.4, col.5
Black Hills Daily Times, June 18, 1887, p.4, col.5
[49].  Black Hills Daily Times, March 15, 1887, p.3, col.1.
[50].  Black Hills Daily Times, September 10, 1887, p.1, col.5
Black Hills Daily Times, August 2, 1891, p.2, col.4        
[51]. Black Hills Daily Times, October 9, 1891, p.2, col.3   
[52]. Black Hills Daily Times, 13 December 9, 1889, p.1, col.5
Black Hills Daily Times, 5 September, 1891, p.2, col.3
Black Hills Daily Times, 9 February, 1897, p.2, col.3
Omaha World Herald, 5 February, 1903, P.2, col.1
[53].  Black Hills Daily Times, 28 December, 1887, p.4, col.5.
[54]. U.S. Census 1910, Helena, Lewis and Clark, Montana.
[55]. U.S. Census 1900, Deadwood, Lawrence, South Dakota

  1. U.S. Census 1910, Deadwood, Lawrence, South Dakota