Black Hills Knowledge Netowork

Spearfish artist Dick Termes is known for his Termespheres. Read more about the town's civic life and history.
Spearfish artist Dick Termes is known for his Termespheres. Read more about the town's civic life and history.
Black Hills Knowledge Network photo/Chelsea Gortmaker

Spearfish - Civic Life & History

Spearfish settlers’ first community task, in 1876, was construction of a log stockade described by period journalist Richard Hughes as big enough “to accommodate a large number of horses or cattle, as well as all the people who might resort to it in time of danger.” It stood where Spearfish’s downtown business district is today. The so-called “era of stockade protection” was already history by 1877. Soon after Spearfish people began working aggressively to bring about longer lasting community assets. Successes included the territorial normal school in 1883, a railroad spur through Spearfish Canyon in 1893, and a federal trout hatchery in 1899.

Meanwhile, Spearfish prospered thanks to a diverse range of private enterprises: irrigated farming, cattle ranching, logging, retail, milling, dairy processing, and mining. Permanent structures of locally quarried sandstone rose, including the downtown Matthews Block, developed by cattleman Thomas Matthews and housing an ornate operate house.

Early 20th century Spearfish residents launched a successful campaign to build a highway through scenic Spearfish Canyon. With an eye on tourism, the community struck an arrangement with a passion play from Germany, making Spearfish the production’s summer home. From 1938 through 2008 more than six million visitors traveled to Spearfish to see the story of Christ’s last seven days staged in an amphitheater. Professional actors played principal roles while Spearfish churches earned a portion of ticket revenue by supplying actors for nonspeaking parts.

In the spirit of earlier generations, contemporary Spearfish people—usually as volunteers—have enhanced civic life by restoring Matthews Opera House, initiating a summer arts festival, preserving the trout hatchery and creating the High Plains Western Heritage Center. They’ve worked with city government to develop creekside parks and a cycling path, as well as the Spearfish Rec and Aquatics Center.

Arts & Culture

Built in 1906, Matthews Opera House and Arts Center has gone through many lives. The Matthews consists of a fine arts gallery with 48 regional artists on the street level. Upstairs, the theatre continues to provide community plays, national performance acts and music concerts.

The Woodburn Black Box Theater and the Clare & Josef Meier Hall are located on the Black Hills State University campus. Woodburn provides theatrical entertainment to the public year round.  When it comes to musical performances, Meier Hall shines as one of the most elegant performance venues in the region. 

Spearfish is also home to a number of literary and visual artists. Novelist Kent Meyers' nationally acclaimed books include Twisted Tree, The Work of Wolves, Light in the Crossing, The River Warren and The Witness of Combines. Dick Termes paints "Termespheres," globes influenced by the work of M.C. Escher and Buckminster Fuller.

Summer Seasonal Entertainment

At Spearfish Downtown Friday Nights, live music brings entertainment and fun to Main Street Spearfish. There’s great shopping from Downtown Merchants and Street Vendors, great restaurants and food vendors, and of course, a cold beverage to wash the week away. 

The Spearfish Canyon Acoustic Series showcases our local and regional artists in a six week series in the Spearfish City Park.

Museums, Libraries & Archives

Museums

Established in 1896, the D.C. Booth National Historic Fish Hatchery, formerly Spearfish National Fish Hatchery, is one of the oldest operating hatcheries in the country dedicated to fish culture and resource management.

The High Plains Western Heritage Center in Spearfish features a 5-State Regional Museum founded to honor the Old West Pioneers and American Indians of North Dakota, South Dakota, Nebraska, Wyoming and Montana.

Libraries

Located on the Black Hills State University campus, the E. Y. Berry Library-Learning Center is an information gateway for academic research and scholarship. Librarians provide tools, support, and an intellectually open environment conducive to educational excellence, and lifelong learning for the global BHSU community. For more information call 605-642-6250.

The Grace Balloch Memorial Library, of Spearfish, has resided at 625 N. Fifth Street since June of 1945. When Grace Balloch, an English teacher at Black Hills Teacher's College, passed away in the fall of 1944, she left her entire collection of books, about 1,500, to the City of Spearfish. Those books were the beginning of the Spearfish Public Library. This library provides all residents of the community with opportunities for education and growth by providing a variety of services, including but not limited to access to print and electronic materials. For more information call 605-642-1330.

Historical Photos and Documents Online

The Prints and Photographs Division of the Library of Congress has a handful of historic images of Spearfish online, including several photographs of Spearfish Falls by John Grabill taken in 1889 and 1890. The collection also includes photographs of the Anderson Dairy Ranch compiled for Historic American Buildings Survey.

Photographs from the Leland D. Case Library at Black Hills State University are available through the Digital Library of South Dakota. They include more than 60 items from the BHSU Archives.

Local Histories: A Black Hills Knowledge Network Collection, features historical photos and documents from the archives created in collaboration with local libraries and the Black Hills Knowledge Network. Included in this collection are the following anthologies: 

Postcards: A Rapid City Collection contains postcards depicting various South Dakota landscapes, Mount Rushmore National Memorial, the Needles, Spearfish Canyon, and other natural wonders. The Spearfish Canyon Post Card Anthology is included in this collection.  

The Black Hills Knowledge Network, in collaboration with local libraries, has constructed an updated archive of Spearfish news. To explore other Black Hills area anthologies on the Black Hills Knowledge Network, see our Digital Archives page.  

Religion

The community of Spearfish is home to twenty churches:

Connection Church. 738 North 5th Street. (605) 559-1020

Our Savior’s Lutheran Church. 1020 State Street. (605) 642-3715

Faith Bible Church. 720 North 12th Street. (605) 340-0704

United Methodist Church. 845 North 5th Street. (605) 642-3457

Grace Fellowship Church. 524 West Jackson Boulevard. (605) 717-1155

St. Pauls Lutheran Church. 846 North 7th Street. (605) 642-2929

United Church of Christ. 920 North Main Street. (605) 642-8253

Mountain View Baptist Church. 720 North 12th Street. (605) 642-4036

First Baptist Church of Spearfish. 1120 North 5th Street. (605) 644-7337

St. Joseph Catholic Church. 844 North 5th Street. (605) 642-2306

New Covenant Presbyterian. 1140 North Ames Street. (605) 642-1122

Countryside Church. 625 Woodland Drive. (605) 642-0585

Church of the Nazarene. 1200 North 10th Street. (605) 642-3436

Spearfish Seventh-Day Adventist Church. 290 US-14 ALT. (605) 642-0874

All Angels Episcopal Church. 1044 North 5th Street. (605) 642-4349

North Point Christian Church. 1725 North Main Street. (605) 717-6770

Solid Rock Church. 3025 10th Avenue. (605) 642-0955

Hope Lutheran Church. 913 South 34th Street. (605) 722-3857

Calvary Temple Assembly of God. 240 Old U.S. 14. (605) 642-3844

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