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Deadwood Wagon Trains Meet in the Black Hills September 28, 2008

Posted by prairiewoman in SoDakLand Trail.

Dad & Mom & I took a trip to Deadwood to see the wagon trains come into town.  Of course we also took a little time to check on the casinos lining the street.  I mean we just felt it was our duty to leave $$ behind. 

You tube photos from the trail at: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aDJB6btEOqA

Deadwood Wagon

Wagon trains converge on Deadwood
By Scott Aust, Rapid City Journal Saturday, August 16, 2008
Amid the steady staccato hoof beats and jangling harnesses, plenty of whoops and hollers greeted two wagon trains that converged on Deadwood on Friday after more than two weeks on the trail.
Hundreds lined the streets of Deadwood to welcome riders from Fort Pierre and from Cheyenne who traveled hundreds of miles to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the last wagon train to haul freight to the Black Hills.

With his white beard and black bowler hat, Lefty Olson fit the image of a trail ride cook. Olson was one of two cooks who made meals for the Cheyenne trail riders as part of the Heart-D chuckwagon, owned by Judy Nielsen.

Olson, who was making his first trail ride, said the group had some hail and rain a couple of days but didn’t have much trouble during the trip. And despite the excitement of a rattlesnake and porcupine wandering into camp, he had a blast.

“I think people liked being out in the open, the simple life. You’re not competing against anybody or keeping up with the Joneses,” he said.

Though the cooks used a metal triangle to call people to supper, the menu was better than the stereotypical cowboy staple of beans and biscuits. Riders were served apple sausage and sourdough pancakes, ham, eggs, fried chicken and even prime rib and roast lamb.

“We did fix beans, too. We fixed them several different ways. People nowadays can’t eat beans every day because they’re system can’t take it,” he said.

Gerald Kessler, wagon master for the Fort Pierre group, said it felt “pretty doggone good” to bring the train’s 45 wagons and hundreds of riders and horses in after a 240-mile, 17-day journey.

“It’s pretty humbling when you think about it, to have that many people follow you,” said Kessler, who raises mules on a ranch near Fort Pierre. “When we started out, we really didn’t realize how much enthusiasm and interest there was in South Dakota and Western history. But when you look back and see a couple of miles of wagons and riders, it’s pretty humbling.”

It also was a family affair for Kessler, who was accompanied by his son and four grandchildren, the youngest of which was 7-year-old Kylie Kessler. His 91-year-old mother even drove a team of mules herself for a couple of miles.

“I don’t know how many pictures were taken, but I’ll tell you what, you just want to see John Wayne ride over the hill,” Kessler said. “When you get a reception like we did, you know there’s people interested, and you know you made an impact.”

Kessler also praised the landowners who allowed wagons to cross their property, and in some cases came out to the camp at night to share some history of the land.

“They opened up their hearts and their land to us,” Kessler said. “They went way beyond what we expected. They were so proud of Western history on their places; they talked with us and visited with us.”

Ben Kern, wagon master for the Cheyenne group, declined to say much when approached for an interview. He did say he was not happy with the way his group was treated by organizers of the event or with the lack of media coverage his group received.

Kern’s core group of five wagons and 14 people left Cheyenne on July 28 for the 296-mile, 19-day journey that followed the old Cheyenne-Deadwood stage route.

“We had a good trip. We enjoyed it. We represented Wyoming. Then we got into South Dakota — why, they forgot about us,” Kern said.

Contact Scott Aust at 394-8415 or scott.aust@rapidcityjournal.com



1. Chris - September 28, 2008

Did you go to Deadwood via Wagon Train, or Chevrolet?

2. prairiewoman - September 28, 2008

We went in the 4 wheeled red wagon but I sure wanted to go on that wagon train. What a blast.

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