The Charles Nolin Monument and Film - Sturgis, 1932

Posted by Brian Gevik on

In 1876, Charles "Red" Nolin was a 24-year old mail carrier on the trail between Sydney, Nebraska and Deadwood. (Some accounts say that he delivered the mail from Fort Pierre to Deadwood.)

On August 19, Nolin encountered a group of freighters camped along Alkali Creek southeast of present day Sturgis. They'd ended a day's work of hauling hay on the trail from Rapid City to points north and west. Members of the group urged Nolin stay with them for the night and not press on to Deadwood. They believed there were hostile Natives in the area and felt the ride would be too dangerous.

Nolin rode on anyway. According to several accounts, Nolin told the party that he was eager to complete his journey, having promised his mother that he would return home once he'd completed the delivery.

He didn't get far. Nolin's mutilated body was found the next day near what is now Junction Avenue in Sturgis. By all accounts, Nolin was killed by Indians.

On May 30, 1932, a monument to Nolin was dedicated on the spot where his body was found. Two surviving members of the party that met Nolin on his last ride attended the event. In addition to the momument, a dramatic re-enactment of the Nolin incident was produced in the form of a silent film.

The video clip below shows scenes from the dedication event as a lead-in to the dramatic re-enactment. (It's believed that the filmmakers misspelled Nolin's name as "Nolan.")

Images of the Past The Charles Nolin Monument and Film - Sturgis, 1932 A 1932 film re-enactment of the 1876 murder of a mail carrier on the Deadwood Trail.

 

Nolin's death on the trail was not the only murder that August. Reverend Henry Weston Smith, known in Deadwood lore as Preacher Smith, was killed south of Deadwood on August 20th, the same day Nolin's body was found. Indians were blamed for Smith's killing but no one was ever brought to justice. And a white man named George Mason was reportedly killed by Indians after having himself killed a Native man. Mason was buried on the same day as Reverend Smith.

1876 was a time of exceptionally high tension and violence in the Black Hills. The Battle of the Little Bighorn had been fought in June of that year; Deadwood was growing as a viable settlement town built on land promised to the Lakota Sioux in the Fort Laramie Treaty of 1868.

Native Americans have not always been portrayed accurately or with much historical context in movies. Visit this PBS site to view clips and read more about the Independent Lens film "Reel Injun: On the Trail of the Hollywood Indian."

"Personalities with Chuck Anderson"

Vintage radio interviews with well known and not so well known South Dakotans.

Remembering South Dakota Native Hubert Humphrey

Hubert H. Humphrey was one of the most prominent politicians and policy-makers in the United States from the mid...

Personalities: Col. Chuck "Sam" Gemar - South Dakota Astronaut

Chuck Gemar was born in Yankton and graduated from Scotland high school in 1973. He was accepted into the United...

Personalities: Jim McKinney, Fmr. SDSU Band Director

Jim McKinney came to South Dakota State University in 1975 and was SDSU's band director from 1983 until his...

Personalities: A Pearl Harbor Survivor's Story

Charles "Chuck" Isakson (1917-1997), a Webster native and longtime Huron resident, was among some 50 South Dakotans...

Personalities: Joe Foss

Radio host Chuck Anderson traveled to Joe Foss's Scottsdale, Arizona home in 1996 for an interview with one of the...

Personalities: Amy Burnett

Amy Burnett is one of the best South Dakota basketball players ever. Burnett grew up in Huron and led Huron High to...

Personalities: George Hall, Creator and Collector of South Dakota History

While many bookworms spend their time cocooned in public libraries and bookstores searching for the next great story,...

Personalities: The South Dakota State Fair

The South Dakota State Fair is different every year and yet it never really changes. It's a capstone experience for...