While out taking photos south of Belle Fourche, I came across this nice cement trail marker sitting in a clover field just off the gravel road. I couldn’t find any information on who or when the marker was placed there. I did find some information on the trail but no actual map showing the historic route that was mapped by frontiersman Luther “Yellowstone” Kelly.
Yellowstone Kelly mapped the trail from Fort Keogh (Miles City) to Deadwood as a telegraph line in 1878, two years after the rough-and-tumble Deadwood Gulch mining camp was established. Until about 1887, the trail served as a tri-weekly mail and freight route through the wilderness. Calamity Jane, who spent time in both Miles City and Deadwood, is among the noteworthy figures believed to have traveled the trail.
Located 215 miles to the west, Miles City was the closest settlement to Deadwood. Originally a mail and supply route for Ft. Keogh and Ft. Meade that also ran telegraph lines to other forts in the area, the Miles City wagon trail was established in 1878. The Miles City wagon trail would not have existed had it not been for Ft. Keough and Ft. Meade.
The Montana Gold Rush of the 1860s was nearing its end and because of this, many miners and settlers were looking to venture into the Black Hills to make it big. The route that was established by Ft. Keogh was eventually sought as the main stage line to Deadwood. The trail to Deadwood from Miles City was full of cacti, rattlesnakes, desolate plains, gulches and rivers. The Miles City wagon trail ran until 1886, when the Black Hills Gold rush was coming to an end and fewer people were travelling to the Black Hills.
The Miles City – Deadwood stage line ended in Spearfish, SD. The stage line operated until 1894, It lost the government mail contract to the railroads and the stage line was no longer profitable. Many of the Montana gold miners came into the Black Hills on the trail. Later many of the Black Hill miners used the trail to travel to Coeur d’Alene, Idaho. The trail was continued to be used by homesteaders in the early 1900’s but eventually was incorporated into county roads or abandoned. The O’Fallon Museum in Baker, Montana has a traveling exhibit that explains the stage line, trail and stage stations. Irma Klock’s book “All Roads Lead to Deadwood” has a chapter on this route. Otherwise I have only found “bits & pieces” of information in local history publications.
Thank you for sharing this C.M.