There is no icon of the past that stirs the imagination more than the stagecoach. This method of travel became a legend in the 1800s, especially in the Black Hills of South Dakota. The stagecoach era touched nearly every town and village during the “gold rush” and settlement of the Black Hills.
Custer City, Dakota Territory, 1870s
The oldest and most enduring stagecoach company was the Cheyenne to Custer to Deadwood route. Gold seekers and those who helped build the businesses relating to the gold industry rode in an out of the Black Hills aboard the rough-riding, uncomfortable vehicles, which traveled through the valleys of the “Hills” and delivered mail and gold bullion from the successful mines.
Passenger comfort and horsepower efficiency was uppermost in the minds of the stagecoach company owners. The heavy stage coach, the rough trails, and the ten to twelve passengers on board required that the stagecoach driver stop every ten to fifteen miles to change teams of horses before continuing the to their destination. The 200-plus miles from Cheyenne to Deadwood required multiple stops along the way, including one just south of the town of Custer, Dakota Territory.
In 1876, Joseph Humphreus came to the Southern Black Hills to establish a ranch to raise livestock to be butchered and sold to the local population in the nearby community Of Custer City. The ranch he established was located in what is now Pleasant Valley.
After the log house, barns, and corrals were built, Mr. Humphreus was visited by the owners of the Cheyenne-Custer-Deadwood Stagecoach Company, entering into an agreement to become a stagecoach stop providing sleeping accommodations, meals, and a stable of horses to be changed before the stagecoach continued its journey to Deadwood.
Since the stagecoach stop is located a dozen miles southwest of Custer, it is seldom visited by tourists and those interested in transportation history. That stagecoach stop that has become the focus of the leadership of the 1881 Courthouse Museum in Custer.
In the summer of 2018, the Custer County Historical Society entered into an agreement with Mr. Humpreus’ surviving descendants to move one of the four cabins still existing. That cabin will become part of the 1881 Courthouse Museum complex in downtown Custer.
An 1870s era stagecoach will be displayed alongside this cabin - on public display for the thousands of tourists who visit Custer and its museum every year.
Since the rural area where the “12-mile-ranch and stagecoach stop” is off the beaten path for the vast majority of tourists, this new display will offer a complete history of the stagecoach stop which existed 140 years ago. Work on the display will be completed well in advance of the 2019 tourist season and will be managed by the museum and Historical Society of Custer County.
Visit the 1881 Courthouse Museum Website