Friday, September 10, 2010
Resting In Forested Beauty...part1
Camping in the wonderful outdoors usually conjures up thoughts of fun, relaxation, fireside cookouts and wild life. My family is no different than most others as we love all those things and spend as much time as possible in the summer seeking the solace of those beautiful forest settings. During part of our recent vacation, my husband and I had been perfectly content to lounge around camp and get caught up on our reading which had gotten too far behind. The afternoon of the fifth day was very quiet, as the camp had nearly been vacated of the last of the before school travelers. We were discussing taking a short drive and a picnic, but where to go? We had frequented our favorite camp site in the Black Hills of South Dakota for many years, knew nearly every back road and were not in any mood to visit Deadwood or other tourist filled streets in the Hills. There were only a few places which we had not yet visited over the years. At the same time as I was thinking of suggesting it, "Go Hubby" asked if I would like to visit a cemetery. Boy, did I! We could think of two which were very near where we were camping and we could have our picnic while out for the drive.
We headed down the road towards Hill City, just 13 miles away. Hill City is the oldest existing city in the Pennington County area of the Black Hills. It is part of the original lands of the Lakota Sioux. In 1874 when then Major General George Armstrong Custer led his famous expedition to the Black Hills area, gold was discovered along French Creek which lies just south of Hill City. By 1876 the Hill City area (called Hillyo) was being settled by miners who came first for gold and then to mine tin. During the early years of the Harney Peak Tin Mining, Milling, and Manufacturing Company, Hill City was quite the rowdy town with many saloons lining the streets. Over the first few decades the city had many ups and downs mostly due to fluctuations in the mining business. Population counts varied from year to year.
As a child during the 1950's, my family spent nearly every summer around the Hill City area and the town itself seemed like a second home to me. Mom and I would wander the little two block long main street looking in the few souvenir store windows. It was a fairly quiet little city during those years.We bought our groceries at the corner grocery store which in later years closed and became a biking and climbing shop and I spent countless hours watching chipmunks run in their little wheel at a corner gas station which has been replaced by a new modern tourist stop. Time has certainly changed Hill City as it has blossomed into a first class "artist's" center and tourist stop. It has now expanded its business district to cover many more blocks and the famous Black Hills Central Railroad 1880 train has helped the city to thrive since the late 1950's. Through the years of early settlement, mining, the timber industry and tourism, the Hill City Cemetery has overlooked the little community from far atop a hill to the NW of the town. Many times we had passed the cemetery as we headed to Deerfield Lake for a day of fishing but the cemetery was one place we had never stopped to see.
As my husband and I located and strolled the cemetery a couple weeks ago, I was at first surprised to see the wide variety of tombstones and markers, but in retrospect, they seem to mirror the history of the town. There are simple stones, elaborate memorials that reflect the one time residents who may have had made money in the mining business, and unusual homemade headstones. Many babies are buried there, telling the story of the hardships and difficult living of the early settlers to the area. I believe the cemetery is a perfect reflection of the community that it serves. The Hill City cemetery is certainly a place of solitude and seems to be filled with the voices of those from the distant past. Those that rest on the hill are surrounded by the forested beauty of the Black Hills.
I have added a few interesting photos of the Hill City cemetery here .
Photos of our visit to the well hidden Mountain View Cemetery in the historic mining town of Keystone, South Dakota can be found here. The follow up article about Keystone and the Mountain View cemetery,"Mt Rushmore Guards Their Souls" can be found here.
You Go Genealogy Girl #2- Cheri
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