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History and Mystery in the Black Hills

Whether you've journeyed through the captivating expanse of the Black Hills or proudly call this region home, you've undoubtedly been steeped in the riveting narratives of historical figures and events that have graced these lands. From the renowned stories of Wild Bill Hickok, Seth Bullock, and Calamity Jane, to a host of others, the roster is endless. Yet, amidst these well-known stories, there lie hidden gems, tales obscure to many. Consider the intriguing account of Lewis Thoen and his siblings, along with the enigmatic Thoen Stone—a saga proposing they might have discovered gold in the Black Hills 40 years earlier than the Black Hills Gold Rush.


Then there's the tale weaving the unbreakable bond between Seth Bullock and Theodore Roosevelt, a friendship that grew formidable. The chronicle of the Frawley and Anderson families further adds to the mosaic of narratives waiting to be explored.

In this blog, we embark on a profound journey, delving into the depths of these narratives that await you on the Thoen Stone Tour, an expedition thoughtfully crafted by Black Hills Adventure Tours.


The Thoen Stone


The story of the Thoen Stone is that Ezra Kind and his party of seven who traveled to the Black Hills in search of gold in 1833, which during the time period prevented them from entering the area legally. It was said that Ezra and his group had found the gold in 1834, and grabbed all the gold their horses could carry. The inscription that was supposedly carved into the stone by Ezra Kind says “Got all the gold we could carry our ponys all got by Indians I hav lost my gun and nothing to eat and Indians hunting me.”





In 1887, the Thoen Stone got its name from the Thoen brothers, Louis and Ivan Thoen, who had found the stone while collecting sandstone on Lookout Mtn, near their home in Spearfish. It was said that the stone was buried seven feet deep into the ground.

Since the discovery of the stone, there has been controversary surrounding it, even until today. Some wonder if the inscription on the rock was originally there by Ezra Kind himself before presumably dying in the Black Hills. The cause of his death is still unknown. Some believe Louis Thoen may have inscribed it himself, impersonating Ezra Kind, as Louis Thoen was a stonemason. Stonemasonry is the craft of shaping and arranging stones, often together with mortar, to form structures.


You can find replicas of the Thoen Stone in Deadwood at the Saloon #10 and in Spearfish, on a hill above the Spearfish City Park, near the Passion Play. You can see the original stone located in the Adams Museum in Deadwood.


Seth Bullock and Theodore Roosevelt


Seth Bullock held the distinction of being Deadwood, South Dakota's inaugural sheriff. His initial encounter with Theodore Roosevelt occurred in 1892, during the latter's exploration of the Dakotas. As time passed, their friendship grew stronger: Bullock participated in the Spanish-American War and actively supported Roosevelt's campaign during the 1900 presidential election.


Following Roosevelt's passing in 1919, Bullock took it upon himself to ensure his dear friend's memory was cherished in Deadwood. Collaborating with the Society of Black Hills Pioneers, he orchestrated the transformation of Sheep Mountain's name to be changed to Mount Theodore Roosevelt. Furthermore, Bullock orchestrated the construction of a stone tower, now renowned as the "Friendship Tower." It is said that it was purposely built so that you can see it from Seth Bullock and his family’s grave at the very top of the cemetery in Deadwood.





The Frawley’s


If you’re native to the Black Hills, you might remember seeing this ranch that’s no longer operational but kept in preservation to keep the history of the Black Hills and these families alive. You can view two parts of the Frawley Ranch known as the Draper Roadhouse and the Courtyard Barns, as you head towards Deadwood from Spearfish. What once was a huge cattle business, is now available for weddings, surrounded by Ponderosa Pines and the calming sounds of Miller Creek.


The Draper Roadhouse, not far from the Courtyard Barns was a former stage stop for many travelers in stagecoaches and freight companies. Constructed in 1888, this building stood in stark contrast to the modest rural constructions of its era due to its substantial size and intricate design. The Drapers, its original owners, went a step further by adding a pump and separator room. This innovation facilitated water transportation into the house, pioneering indoor bathrooms in a time when such a concept was far from common in the region. The establishment also encompassed facilities designated for hosting visitors' horses and livestock.


By 1912, the property changed hands to Henry Frawley. This transition marked a new chapter for the residence as it transformed into a boarding place for ranch hands. Nearly a century later, in 1977, the house underwent restoration efforts and resumed its role as the Frawley family's home. This legacy persisted until the passing of Hank Frawley in April 2017. Today, you are able to rent out the house for events such as family reunions, business retreats and weddings. The house sleeps up to 19 people, with 7 bedrooms, 3 bathrooms, a full kitchen, 3-stall garage, patio, and large deck with stunning Black Hills views. It’s Located on 110 acres with lots of privacy and views of the buffalo herd off the back deck.




The Anderson’s


The Anderson ranch, visible on your right while driving from Spearfish to Rapid City on I-90, stands as a testament to history. Though it is no longer operational, diligent efforts are consistently invested in its preservation. Once a thriving dairy farm, the Anderson ranch was the creation of James Anderson. Its primary purpose was to supply and provide dairy products to the miners in Deadwood. In a significant era of its past, the family diligently milked over 100 cows twice daily to meet the constant demand. A critical element that greatly contributed to the success of the dairy farm was the strategic placement of the ranch in proximity to a spring ran by the ranch, which maintained a consistent temperature of 40 degrees throughout the year. This natural resource facilitated the preservation of dairy products at a cool temperature during the summer and prevented freezing during the winter months.


James made the 10-mile journey to Deadwood on a daily basis, where he marketed an array of products including butter, cream, milk, garden-fresh vegetables, beef, and pork. This assortment was conveniently transported in his wagon for sale. On the 22nd of July in 1890, Henry Frawley married Christina Anderson, the daughter of the Andersons, who was fondly referred to as the "jewel of the valley."


Upon the passings of the original Andersons, Henry and Christina took ownership of the Anderson Ranch. As the years progressed, the ranch expanded, and by the time 1910 rolled around, it had reached its peak, thereby granting Henry Frawley the ownership of the ranch.





Are you intrigued by the captivating tales throughout this blog? Eager to dive deeper into the rich history and legends that shape the Black Hills? Look no further than the Thoen Stone Tour offered by Black Hills Adventure Tours. Led personally by the very author who penned these captivating narratives in "The Kind Whisper," Alan Maas. This tour guarantees an immersive experience like no other. As you journey through Deadwood, The Frawley Ranch, Spearfish, and beyond, you'll uncover the very sites where history and legends intertwine, and an encounter with the enigmatic Thoen Stone itself. Prepare to be enthralled, enlightened, and left wanting more as you embark on this extraordinary adventure. Book your tour today and let the stories come to life in ways you never imagined.

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