Early miners battled obstacles
by Ed Cook, Contributing Writer
Troops from Ft. Laramie arrived and constructed an outpost here to help keep miners out of the Black Hills. They were ordered to locate the outpost on Hat Creek in Nebraska; however, they built it on Sage Creek (S. Fork of Old woman) instead. This was in Indian Territory and on the main trail from the Black Hills to Ft. Laramie, but by the time the mistake was discovered the name was entrenched in Army files, and impossible to change so Camp Hat Creek remained on the banks of Sage Creek.
Of the many gold seekers getting into the Black Hills, one large group called the Gordon Party had arrived late in the fall of 1874. Troops sent from Ft. Robinson and Ft. Randall to bring them out were caught in a terrible blizzard in late December and had to turn back. The blizzard raged for 10 days with 40 below zero temperatures. There were 24 empty saddles that went back to Ft. Robinson because those troops were too badly frozen to ride. Forty of them were hospitalized with frozen limbs.
The spring of 1875 also brought a lot of miserable weather. It rained on 67 consecutive days and for one 3-week period the sun was hardly ever seen. There were some severe thunderstorms with hail, and on June 2 it snowed for several hours.
In March, two members of the Gordon party arrived in Ft. Laramie with gold dust! Soon, several more arrived. Their stories raised the gold-fever even higher. However, two of the party were detained by the military and used as "guides" for Captain Mix and his men, who were dispatched to bring the miners out from their stockade on French Creek.
Over a thousand men in wagons, horseback, or on foot sloshed their way on the trail from Cheyenne to Ft. Laramie in May. The tide kept up through June as they awaited word from Washington that would not let them legally head for the Black Hills.
Some did not wait, they swam the swollen Platte, bribed the ferryman or hid in freight wagons of Indian goods to elude the military. By mid-summer, there were about 1,200 miners working in the Hills in spite of the military efforts of Captain Pollock and General Crook to keep them out.
On Aug. 12, General Crook had persuaded most of the miners to leave, and the troops of the 2nd and 3rd Cavalry patrolled the Hills until Nov. 17, when they went to winter quarters at Ft. Laramie.
(Information source: "The Cheyenne Black Hills Stage and Express Routes: by Agnes Wright Spring.)