When it comes to Hill City in South Dakota, there is much more than haunted locations to seek out, but also a curious history and controversy that took place within the city. Situated in Pennington County, Hill City serves as the oldest existing city. With a small population reported in 780 during the 2000 census, it is no wonder that throughout the years, this location was almost once a ghost town.
Travel 26 miles from Rapid City in South Dakota and you will find Hill City, which has been nicknamed the “Heart of the Hills.” Because of its location, it is central to an array of destinations, as well as a multitude of tourist destinations. The history of the Black Hills region begins with the mining rush that took place during the late 1800s. Tin mining because quite the rage in the 1880s and caused many people to settle in the area. However, as mining became less of a factor , the land experienced timber and tourism as their main draws.
Hill City would later benefit from the advancements of Black Hills, as Mount Rushmore became established in the 1940s, Custer State Park, as well as the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally. The city would grow to offer many different tourist activities, including art festivals and competitions. Every winter, people flock to Hill City to enjoy the only dogsled race held in South Dakota that brings in international interest.
The History of Hill City
At least by 7000 BC, there is evidence of human population in the Hill City and Black Hills region. By 1500 AD, it is believed that the Arikara settled in the land, which was followed by the arrival of Crow, Cheyenne, Pawnee, and Kiowa tribes. During the 1800s, the Lakota Sioux laid claim to the land, dubbing it Paha Sapa. In 1874, Major General George Armstrong Custer would head an expedition into the Black Hills where gold was uncovered in French Creek, which was 13 miles south of Hill City.
Since gold was discovered, the Black Hills became an open region, where Hill City saw benefit. Mining became quite popular and the first settlers for mining came to Hill City in 1876. The land was then known as Hillyo. This would become known as the second American settlement in the Black Hills region. To this day, Hill City is the oldest city existing in Pennington County.
In 1877, a post office was erected and opened, but the city almost became a ghost town where miners started relocating to the northern parts of Black Hills after gold was discovered in the region. Yet, in 1883, tin became a main objection in the region and was found close to the town, which caused the population to grow once more. At that time, 15 saloons lined the streets, but managed to make room for the Harney Peak Tin Mining, Milling, and Manufacturing Company, who placed their headquarters right on Main Street.
In the second part of this piece on Hill City titled: “The Past Controversy Centered in Haunted Hill City,” you will learn about the headlines that the little town experienced when a very notable controversy developed in the region.