In the five years since skeletal remains were uncovered in Deadwood’s Presidential Neighborhood, historians and scientists have worked avidly to compile a social and genetic background on the individual unearthed during a home construction project.
Deadwood Pioneer: A Face from the Past maps the work of the archeologists, historians, and forensic experts who have pieced together the short life of "Jackson" - so named for his proximity near what is now the intersection of Jackson and Taylor streets, near the original mining camp of Ingleside. Buried in an unmarked grave, the remains were left behind when the original cemetery was relocated to the hills above Deadwood in 1878.
Forensics and DNA sequencing tell us "Jackson" probably had brown eyes, light red hair, and was a descendant of Western Europeans. Dental analysis attest he was a habitual smokeless tobacco user who chewed on the right side of his mouth. His coffin and spent cartridges found in his coat pockets indicate money spent on a burial with a three-round salute. A decorous funeral and pricey dental work suggest affluent connections.
"Jackson" presumably ventured to the Black Hills to seek fortune in the 1870s gold rush. He died in his mid-20s and was buried in Deadwood's original cemetary alongside 100 other pioneers, including James "Wild Bill" Hickok. When the cemetary was relocated to the hills above Deadwood in 1878, "Jackson" was left behind in an unmarked grave. The remains were reinterred at Deadwood’s Mount Moriah Cemetery in a 2016 ceremony.
A fascinating blend of science and history, Deadwood Pioneer: A Face from the Past reveals the likely history and ancestry of a young pioneer and puts a face on Deadwood’s hardscrabble beginnings. Deadwood Pioneer: A Face from the Past premieres on SDPB TV on Monday, May 22 at 8pm (9 CT).
The program is made possible, in part, with support from the City of Deadwood; Deadwood Historic Preservation; the South Dakota Dental Foundation, and the Friends of SDPB.