First Telegraph message received
by Ed Cook, Contributing Writer
The telegraph office at Jack Bowman's Stage Station is now ready for business. This will be of great benefit to the Cheyenne Black Hills Stage and Express Co. and the military post here at Hat Creek. Of course it will also be very useful for the freighters, and many other travelers along the route to the Black Hills.
Oct. 7, 1876 -- The first telegraph messages just came through from Major Collier's camp in Red Canyon (near Edgemont, S.D.) as construction of the line progresses into the Black Hills.
Oct. 23, 1876 -- The telegrapher lines have been complete to Custer, S.D. for several days. No messages were able to be transmitted because the line was torn down by Indians east of Hat Creek. The telegraph operator and a detail of Lieutenant Taylor's 23rd Infantry now have the line repaired and in operating order.
Dec. 1, 1876 -- "The through line to Deadwood is complete." This message was sent to Mayor L.R. Bresnahen of Cheyenne by Deadwood telegrapher James Halley. Congratulatory telegrams poured in from all over. A ball at the Grand Central Hotel in Deadwood celebrated the event. The Cheyenne "Daily Leader" called the telegraph line "the electric Star of the Empire," and editorialized: "With stage, mail and telegraph lines in operation over the Cheyenne route to the Black Hills, and with the military protection Captain Egan and his soldiers will extend to travelers over this route, we shall not need to use further arguments to convince people that the Cheyenne route is the best and safest for all who desire to go tot he new Eldorado."
W.H. Hibbard superintendent of the Black Hills Telegraph Co. had sold script and collected over $5,000 in cash donations from Cheyenne and Deadwood businessmen and newspapers to help defray the cost of building the line.
April 1877 -- The Black Hills telegraph extended a line to the Red Cloud Agency (Fort Robinson) from Hat Creek. Now Fort Laramie and Fort Robinson will no longer have to send all of their official communications by courier.
NOTE: Service over the Black Hills Telegraph was generally dependable other than for the repair of occasional breaks in the line. One breakdown in 1877 was attributed to the transmission of a news item about the Russian General Blovitskinourskirosquorobinskiansky (sic). The Black Hills Daily Times newspaper in Deadwood claimed that the passage of this ponderous name ruptured the wires and knocked lineman Pat Keeley off of a telegraph pole, but service was quickly restored. By 1879 some 17,500 paid messages and 900,000 words of press dispatches were going over the line annually.
(Information sources: The Cheyenne and Black Hills Stage and Express Routes by Agnes Wright Spring; Fort Laramie in 1876 by Paul L. Hedren; Gold in the Black Hills by Watson Parker.)