The Fort Laramie Treaty of 1868 established the region as part of the Great Sioux Reservation, but the first expedition of American soldiers explored the Black Hills only six years later, in 1874. What came to be known as the Black Hills Expedition was commanded by Colonel George Armstrong Custer. It was organized to search for gold, inventory natural resources, and scout sites for future forts. The 1,000-man expedition entered the Black Hills through the prairie foothills and alpine forests of what would later become Lawrence County.
Lawrence County was formally organized by the Dakota Territorial legislature in 1877, deriving its name from its first county treasurer, Colonel John Lawrence. With the discovery of gold, the population of Deadwood mining camps quickly exploded, and the county grew to 13,218 in 1880. Lawrence has maintained a slow but steady growth for 130 years to its present population of 24,827.
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.
Established in 1990, the Lead Deadwood Arts Center evolved from a small group of enthusiastic organizers into a member driven, nonprofit agency supporting artistic efforts throughout the communities of Lead and Deadwood.
The Deadwood 1876 Theater is an 1800’s Victorian dinner theater located at the Historic site where Wild Bill Hickok was assassinated by Jack McCall in 1876.
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.
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
The Adams Museum, of Deadwood, identifies, preserves, collects, interprets, and promotes the history and culture of Deadwood and the surrounding Black Hills for the benefit of members of the Northern Black Hills community, visitors to the area, and researchers.
The Black Hills Mining Museum is dedicated to the preservation of the rich mining heritage of the Black Hills of South Dakota. For more than a century, gold mining has been the #1 industry in Lead and in the Northern Black Hills. Today that mining heritage is cleverly depicted as an educational and fun Black Hills Badlands and Lakes Association Family Approved Attraction.
The Days of ’76 Museum, associated with the Days of '76 Celebration, a historic annual parade and a PRCA award-winning rodeo, the museum's exhibits will tell the story of the celebration since it began in 1924. The museum offers rare Native American artifacts, an extensive collection of horse-drawn vehicles and a unique firearms exhibit.
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.
The Historic Adams House was the Victorian home of two of Deadwood’s founding families, including the Adams Museum’s founder W.E. Adams.
Residing in a Carnegie building, the Deadwood Public Library has been located at 435 Williams Street in Deadwood since 1905. This library provides services for people of all ages: bestsellers, e-books and audio books, DVD’s, local history collections, children’s programming, interlibrary loan service, meeting facilities, free internet access, and a continuous book sale online catalog. For more information call 605-578-2821.
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.
The Phoebe Apperson Hearst Library of Lead, located at 315 West Main Street, is a friendly place where patrons and visitors can meet to interact, read a newspaper or magazine, access free public-use computers and wireless internet or just have a cup of coffee and relax. An excellent selection of new release bestsellers, books on CD, e-books, and movies are all available for loan and library cards are free to Lawrence County residents For More information call 605-584-2013.
The Whitewood City Library is located at 1201 Ash Street in Whitewood. This public library provides thousands of books and serial volumes, audio and video materials, and subscriptions to the residents of Whitewood and Lawrence County. For more information call 605-269-2616.
The Lawrence County Historical Society offers oldtimers and newcomers alike an opportunity to learn more about the people and events that have shaped the county. The historical society publishes an online newsletter called Historical Marker.
Historical Photos and Documents Online
The Prints and Photographs Division of the Library of Congress has images related to Lawrence County available online. They include images made by Russell Lee for the Farm Security Administration during the 1930s. Other pictures document historic buildings in the county including the Anderson Dairy Ranch in Centennial Valley.
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 collection also includes postcards and photographs of the 1934 Stratobowl balloon, gondola, and crew. The Spearfish Canyon Post Card Anthology is included in this collection.
To explore other Black Hills area anthologies on the Black Hills Knowledge Network, see our Digital Archives page.
The Denver Public Library has images of Deadwood, Lead and the Homestake Mine from the late 1800s.
The Deadwood Revitalization Project: a collection of documents related to the ongoing revitalization process in Deadwood.
The Black Hills Knowledge Network, in collaboration with local libraries, has constructed an updated archive of Lawrence County news.
The Association of Religion Data Archives provides county-by-county statistics on membership in churches, synagogues and other religious organizations across the country. A 2010 survey of churches in Lawrence County provides only a partial reflection of religious adherence in the area. A majority of people (13,749) were not identified with a specific religion or denomination. Of those who did respond, 3,283 people were members of Mainline Protestant churches. Catholic churches accounted for 2,153 congregants, while another 4,900 people in the area were listed as Evangelical Protestant. For a graph showing religious affiliation in Lawrence County in 2000, click here.