Custer Expedition’s 150th to be celebrated

In recognition of this summer’s 150th anniversary of the 1874 Custer Expedition and the start of the gold rush, the Custer County Historical Society and the Leland D. Case Library for Western Historical Studies at Black Hills State University are planning presentations, demonstrations and self-guided historic tours as part of Custer’s Gold Discovery Days, Sunday, July 21.
In the summer of 1874, Lieutenant-Colonel George Armstrong Custer led about 1,000 men and 110 wagons on an expedition through the Black Hills. By early August Custer had set up camp on French Creek about three miles east of today’s downtown Custer. Prospectors with the expedition found a small amount of gold in nearby French Creek. News of the gold discovery was carried by scout to Ft. Laramie where a telegraph line transmitted it to the nation’s newspapers, igniting the Black Hills Gold Rush and altering the course of the region’s history, with effects that resonate to the present day.
The July 21 commemoration will begin at 10 a.m. with presentations at the Custer High School theater, moving at noon to the site where Custer and his troops camped two miles east of the high school. The camp site is along Hwy. 16A, on a pasture owned by John and Nancy Gausman, who have granted access for this one-day event, organizers said.
The high school theater presentations will feature local historian/author Paul Horsted with an overview of the expedition and the photos taken in 1874; David Wolff, professor emeritus from Black Hills State University, discussing the history of the gold rush, from the Gordon Stockade through the discovery of the Homestake Mine; and Whitney A. Rencountre II, chief executive officer of Crazy Horse Memorial representing the Native perspective.
Planned events at the camp site portion of this day include self-guided tours with significant places marked; Seventh Cavalry re-enactors discussing early military life; gold panning demonstrations; a photographer showing the early “wet-plate” camera technique; a band performing 19th century martial music; Native American cultural displays; and more to be announced.
Attendees may also visit other historic sites in the immediate area, including locations where W.H. Illingworth made some of his iconic photographs 150 years ago. Custer State Park will have staff at nearby Gordon Stockade to provide tours and give demonstrations (a state park entrance license may be required to visit Gordon Stockade.) Other nearby sites include the First Discovery of Gold location and the Annie Tallent Monument. These places will be marked on a map made available to visitors.
This event is a fundraiser for the non-profit Custer County Historical Society/1881 Courthouse Museum and the Case Library Scholarship Fund. It’s free of charge with donations and advertising sponsorships accepted to help cover expenses. There are several sponsorship/donor levels with benefits up to and including a personal tour of historic sites around Custer donated by Horsted.
More information and online donation is at this link For questions call Horsted at 605-673-3685 or email, or text Wolff at 605-430-5148.


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