Hat Creek Dateline: 1874/08/05
by Ed Cook, Contributing Writer
Charley Reynolds, one of General Custer's most experience scouts came through today from the heart of the Black Hills. He carried a message from Gen. George A. Custer that there was indeed "gold in the Black Hills." This message, telegraphed shortly from Fort Laramie, rushed across the nation. Rumors of gold in the Black Hills had been heard for many years, but this was the first official confirmation that it was actually there. Very few prospectors had been in the Hills and lived to tell about it.
Remember that he Black hills had been treatied to the Indians in 1851 and again in 1868 and most prospectors were driven away or killed on the spot by the Sioux. Father DeSmet, the Belgian missionary, had long before explained to the Sioux the great value gold held to the whites. He also told them that the white man coming into their country looking for gold would spell their doom. This missionary also obtained the promise of the Sioux that they would never tell where the gold was to be found.
The news of gold came at a time when the nation was in a business depression as a result of inflation after the Civil War. The news of "new gold fields" was indeed welcome, as hundreds of thousands of men were out of work all over the country because construction projects had been closed, banks had failed and many railroads were in the hands of receivers.
The government tried to stop the gold-crazed rush to the Black Hills because of the problems it would cause with the Indians while negotiations were under way to get back the Black Hills from the Sioux. Numerous government official sources even denied that gold had been found. Gen. Phil Sheridan issued orders to all commanders of frontier posts to curb the rush to the Black Hills. The Dept of the Platte was ordered to burn all wagons, destroy all outfits, and arrest all leaders attempting to enter Sioux country.
The denials and prohibitive military orders only tended to wet the desire of the men to go after the gold again. Starting in 1849, the great tide of gold prospectors had flowed to California, then Colorado and Nevada, on to Oregon and New Mexico then to Arizona up to Idaho over into Montana, and now many thought this may be their last chance to strike it rich. Thus, the stage was set for the Black Hills Gold Rush.
(Sources of Information: "Hat Creek and hard Times" by Ed Bryant and "Black Hills Stage and Express Routes" by Agnes Wright-Spring.)