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Deadwood, named for the dead trees found in its gulch, is a city in and the county seat of Lawrence County, South Dakota, United States. The population was 1,380 at the 2000 census. The city includes the Deadwood Historic District, a National Historic Landmark District, whose borders may be the city limits

Deadwood started off illegally, as its location was, at the beginning of its history, part of Native American territory. The Treaty of Laramie of 1868 had guaranteed ownership of the Black Hills to the Lakota people. 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.

The town attained notoriety for the murder of Wild Bill Hickok, and remains the final resting place of Hickok and Calamity Jane, as well as slightly less famous figures such as Seth Bullock. It became known for its wild and almost lawless reputation, during which time murder was common, and punishment for murders not always fair and impartial. The prosecution of the murderer of Hickok, Jack McCall, had to be sent to retrial because of a ruling that his first trial, which resulted in an acquittal, was invalid because Deadwood was an illegal town. This moved the trial to a Lakota court, where he was found guilty and then hanged.

A fire on September 26, 1879, devastated the town, destroying over 300 buildings and consuming everything belonging to many inhabitants. Without the opportunities of rich untapped veins of ore that characterized the town's early days, many of the newly impoverished left town to try their luck elsewhere.

August 2008

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