Sunday, November 18, 2012

City of Deadwood and Deadwood Historical Preservation Commission announce 2012 Deadwood Wall of Fame Inductees Mattie Hill and Fee Lee Wong

Images and press release courtesy of Mike Runge, City of Deadwood Archivist .

This article is a gratifying result of patience to achieve recognition of Mattie Hill.  In this website right column you will see a prominent link to my tribute to Mattie Hill who was both an employer and  major mentor to me in my high school days.  In 2009, I set out to rediscover Mattie and pay tribute to her memory and the effect she had on my life ethic.  My Mattie tribute turned into a serendipitous journey and discovery of amazing history about Mattie.  As I wrote the 2009 tribute, I also set myself a goal to get Mattie inducted into the Deadwood Wall of Fame (WOF). With my tribute finished and published, Dr. Lilah Morton Pengra provided the well written nomination elements.  I prepared the necessary Wall of Fame nomination form with historical images.  The image of  Mattie is from Hill family collection and the Calamity Jane burial was provied by the Adams Museum.  Clifford/Georgia Melrose (Mattie’s grandson) joined Lila and myself as co-nomination signees.  Mattie’s WOF nomination was then submitted to Kevin Kuchenbecker the Deadwood Historic Preservation Officer for review and consideration by the Deadwood Historical Preservation Commission.  Mattie did not make the 2010 Deadwood WOF.

After a three year wait, Mattie Hill (Matilda Champion Hill) has now been inducted into the 2012 Deadwood Wall of Fame.  In an amazing WOF diversity recognition, the famous Deadwood Chinese businessman Fee Lee Wong was also inducted into the WOF.  Wong had a number of Deadwood buildings that represented his popular Wing Tsue Bazaar.  Sadly, the last of Wong’s buildings was torn down in 2005.  This building in the 1940-50s housed Louie’s Chicken Hut.

The letter was followed by the following press release:


DEADWOOD, SD - On Wednesday, November 14, 2012, the Deadwood Historic Preservation Commission will honor the 2012 Deadwood Hall of Fame inductees at City Hall, 102 Sherman Street, at 5:00 p.m. during the regularly scheduled Historic Preservation Commission meeting. The Deadwood Historic Preservation Commission Recognition Committee solicited and reviewed nominations of individuals who have made a significant contribution to the community at any time in its history. Categories for nominations included Arts and Humanities, Athletics, Business & Trade, Education & Cultural Affairs, Governmental Affairs, Historical Characters, Professional, and Unsung Heroes & Good Hearts.

The 2012 inductees are: Mattie Hill and Fee Lee Wong.

Matilda Champion Hill was born on July 29, 1870 in Mountsville, Fairfax County, Virginia. At the age of 30, she came to the Black Hills and was employed as a cook and child nurse to a military family stationed at Fort Meade, South Dakota. After her employment at Fort Meade, she eventually moved to Deadwood where she continued to excel as a cook throughout her life. Matilda was one of the unsung heroes of Deadwood through her numerous good deeds within the community. She raised orphans at a time when black children would have had little chance of being adopted in South Dakota. Mattie was also hard working and thrifty. She raised a large garden and a flock of chickens every summer. She sold produce and eggs at an open-air market in Deadwood and grocery stores in lead and Pluma. Mattie was known to extend her charity to all humans regardless of their crude or rough-and tumble exteriors. On May 11, 1954 at the age of 84 Mattie died in her home of more than fifty years. In a Letter to the Editor dated May 12, 1954, Deadwood resident Imogene Baggaley stated “Old Mattie has gone her way. God bless her kindly heart I say. Many the child her goodness knew. Many the neighbor her help found, too. God bless her smiling face I say. It shines in glory I’m sure today.”

As word of gold in the Black Hills spread across the United States, thousands of fortune seekers rushed west to Dakota Territory. One of these individuals was Fee Lee Wong, who arrived in Deadwood in 1876 and became a prominent member of the Black Hills Chinese community. From 1876 into the 1920’s, three generations of the Wong family lived in Deadwood for nearly forty-five years. Throughout this period, Fee Lee Wong established and managed a Chinese mercantile called the Wing Tsue Bazaar, raised a family in Deadwood, and contributed to numerous civic events including the annual Fourth of July celebrations. Fee Lee Wong also became a prominent figure within the Deadwood and Black Hills Chinese community. In 1919, Fee Lee Wong returned to China and died two years later in 1921. In an obituary from the Deadwood Daily Times newspaper dated October 23, 1921, “[Wong Fee Lee] was held in high esteem by everyone of the old time residents of Deadwood and the Hills, and there will be many who will regret to learn of his passing.”

The dedication will be followed by a public reception.

Copies of the Deadwood Wall of Fame Awards

The award reads:

Matilda Champion Hill
Born: July 29, 1870 in Mountville, Fairfax, Virginia
Died: May 11, 1954 in Deadwood (Buried in Mount Moriah Cemetery)

Matilda "Mattie" Champion Hill was born in Virginia to an African-American family just five years after the end of slavery. In 1900 she moved West to work as a cook and child nurse for a military family at Fort Meade near Sturgis. A short time later, she made her home in Deadwood. Over the next five decades Mattie Hill established a reputation as a wonderful cook, hard worker, caring foster mother, tireless volunteer and important part of the Black Hills' tiny African American community. "She epitomized the South Dakota pioneer spirit - independent, frugal, hard-working, community-minded and charitable to all, regardless of race or creed," wrote historian Lilah Morton Pengra, one of the people who nominated Mrs. Hill for the Deadwood Hall of Fame.

Back in Virginia, Mattie Champion attended the Wayland Seminary and Hartshorn College in Richmond, Va., the earliest black colleges. At Fort Meade, because of her education and trustworthiness, she was a "living out" domestic worker, with her own quarters, control of her free time and more independence than the "live-in" help at the time.

She was in Deadwood as early as 1903. She appears in a photo taken that year at Calamity Jane's Mount Moriah funeral. In September 1904 she married Isaac Alexander Hill in Deadwood. They had two children, Amy Hill born in 1907 and James Hill born in 1908.

Mattie Hill kept a large garden and raised 50 Rhode Island Red chickens every summer. She sold produce and eggs in Deadwood, Lead and Pluma. She also worked as a cook at the Moosecamp Restaurant, the Tomahawk Country Club and private homes. Ever frugal and hard-working, Mattie Hill made her own soap and kept her house spotless, recalled her grandson, Clifford Melrose. Regarding laundry, he said, his grandmother believed "... that if she didn't boil it, it wasn't clean."

Melrose, born in 1935, lived with his grandmother for much of his childhood. She frequently sent him around the neighborhood to do chores for elderly neighbors. Mattie Hill took in a number of orphaned children. "My grandmother said there would never be a black child in the state of South Dakota that didn't have a home," Melrose recalled.

Mattie Hill organized and often hosted gatherings for the small, far-flung Black Hills African American community. Her grandson recalled celebrations such as the Fourth of July, Thanksgiving and Freedom Day, which commemorates the end of slavery.

Late in her life, family members tried to persuade Mrs. Hill to join them in Seattle or Chicago. However, she preferred her independence. She maintained her own home in Deadwood until the day she died in 1954, at age 83.

Mattie Hill (lower left) at Calamity Janes burial
Seth Bullock is center behind casket
Image courtesy Adams Museum  

The award reads:

Fee Lee Wong
Born:  1841-1846 in China
(Yen Ping Village in Canton Province or Back Saar Village of
County of Taishan County of Guangdon Province)

Fee Lee Wong arrived in Deadwood Gulch in December 1876. Like many Chinese immigrants on the Western frontier, Wong came seeking his fortune. Unlike most, he ended up making Deadwood his home. He built a business, married, raised a large family, adopted North American ways and shared his own culture with his non-Chinese neighbors. In the process, he earned the deep respect of his countrymen and the people of Deadwood.

"He was a man of many accomplishments, shrewd in business and a patriotic citizen of his adopted country," the Deadwood Daily Pioneer-Times wrote upon receiving word of Wong's death in 1921. "He was a man whose word was his bond, scrupulously honest, a contributor to every charity which appealed to him, free and generous, a heavy purchaser of liberty bonds and a contributor to every enterprise that would help Deadwood."

Throughout his life, he went by many names: Wong Fee Lee, Wong Free Lee, Wong Fay Lee, Wing Tsue, Dr.Wing Tsue, Wing Touie, Wing Tone and Wong Fe Ming. Sometime between October 1882 and May 1883, he married Haw Soog Gain. Their eight surviving children, born between 1884 and 1902, were raised in Deadwood. Many attended public school. Two of his sons went on to attend universities in the United States.

Wong's business interests included mining, merchandise and a number of other ventures. He was best known, perhaps, for a pair of sturdy brick buildings on Lower Main Street collectively named the Wing Tsue Bazaar. Constructed in 1885 and 1896, these buildings stood as the center of Deadwood's Chinatown community for decades.

At every opportunity, Fee Lee Wong reached out to the community beyond Chinatown. He donated money for the Independence Day festivities and sponsored a Chinese entry in the annual parade. He staged a Chinese hose cart team for the firefighter competitions popular at the time. In addition, he invited Deadwood townsfolk to join in events such as Chinese New Year and the Hungry Ghost Festival. In addition, Fee Lee Wong purchased burial plots for individual Chinese at Mt. Moriah Cemetery.

One testament to his esteem was the support he received from friends when he was not allowed to return to the United States after a 1902 trip to China. Under the Chinese Exclusion Act, the U.S. government denied his entry to the United States. Prominent South Dakotans, including Circuit Court Clerk Sol Star and Congressman Eben Martin, intervened on his behalf, and Wong was allowed to return. In 1919, Fee Lee Wong suffered a stroke during a meeting of the Society of Black Hills Pioneers, of which he was a member. He recovered enough to travel, and returned to his Chinese homeland, where he died two years later.

Friday, November 16, 2012

Custer State Park SD View Near Harney Peak November 15, 2012

Image Credit Les Heiserman
Cathedral Spires from Little Devils Tower Rock Formation

Image Credit rvingandtravels blogspot unkown date

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Congratulations to dhsclassmates' Featured Author Ann Charles for Her Best of 2012 Suspense Magazine Award

I featured Ann Charles on the June 2, 2012 dhsclassmates website posting.  I was moved by Ann’s genuine interest in Deadwood.  She added fictional locations on the Deadwood map.  Ann has a delightful sense of humor that shows in her intertaining expressions and interesting story lines.  

Above I included the covers of her first book with included Deadwood map and the cover of the award book.

I picked up Ann Charles announcement of the award on Facebook this morning as follows’

Hurray! This just came into my email inbox from Suspense Magazine: "Dead Case in Deadwood by Ann Charles has been selected as one of Suspense Magazine's Best of 2012 books." !! Thank you Holly Cawein Price for the nomination. Thank you to the fans and staff of Suspense Magazine for the votes! And thank you all for being such wonderful friends here on FB! :)

I need to get this edition of the magazine. How freaking cool!! Here is the seal I get to post! I think I'll print it and tape it to the back of my hand. Someone from my other "unofficial" Ann Charles Facebook page suggested a tattoo... :)
Hurray! This just came into my email inbox from Suspense Magazine: "Dead Case in Deadwood by Ann Charles has been selected as one of Suspense Magazine's Best of 2012 books." !! Thank you Holly Cawein Price for the nomination. Thank you to the fans and staff of Suspense Magazine for the votes! And thank you all for being such wonderful friends here on FB! :)
I need to get this edition of the magazine. How freaking cool!! Here is the seal I get to post! I think I'll print it and tape it to the back of my hand. Someone from my other "unofficial" Ann Charles Facebook page suggested a tattoo... :)

Friday, November 2, 2012

Neat View of Custer South Dakota

Photo by David Lloyd

South Dakota Was Admitted to the Union 123 Years Ago Today

South Dakota Flag

South Dakota State Capital. Photo courtesy of Chad Coppess, SD Department of Tourism — in Pierre, 

South Dakota was admitted as either the 39th or the 40th state on 2 November 1889. 

President Benjamin Harrison signed the law that made North and South Dakota into states. Before he did so, he shuffled the papers on his desk. He covered up the names on the papers. No one knows which state he signed into law first, however, they are listed in alphabetical order, so that North Dakota is said to be the thirty-ninth state and South Dakota is said to be the fortieth.

After controversy over the location of a capital, the Dakota Territory was split in two and divided into North and South in 1889. Later that year, on November 2, North Dakota and South Dakota were admitted to the Union as the 39th and 40th states. This vast territory was one of the last American regions to be settled.

The first European explorers entered the region in 1738. At that time, at least eight Native American tribes populated the area, including the Crow, Cheyenne, and Dakota (Santee Sioux). The Native influence still characterizes many parts of the states. 

Other than fur trappers, explorers didn't venture much into the Dakotas until the land came under the possession of the United States with the 1803 Louisiana Purchase. The Lewis and Clark expedition spent the winter in present-day North Dakota in 1804. With the 1832 arrival of the steamboat and the 1862 creation of the Homestead Act, a few people migrated to the area, but tension between the settlers and the Sioux discouraged many. It was the 1874 discovery of gold that brought prospectors pouring into the sacred Black Hills of the Sioux Reservation. That meant trouble. 

After an armed resistance, the Sioux surrendered the Black Hills to the U.S. in 1877. By 1881, even the powerful chief Sitting Bull had surrendered. The end of the "Indian crisis" and the completion of the Northern Pacific Railway brought more than 100,000 settlers between 1879 and 1886. These new citizens became divided over the location of the capital. Northerners named Bismarck their capital in 1883, while Southerners created their own constitution that year, selecting Pierre as their capital. Congress did not push the matter. Instead, Congress passed a law that officially divided the territory before declaring both North Dakota and South Dakota states of the Union.