The earliest evidence of miners in the Black Hills is a small sandstone slab know as the Thoen Stone. The Thoen Stone is named for Louis Thoen who discovered the stone at the foot of Lookout Mountain, near Spearfish on March 14, 1887. Although some scholars dispute the authenticity of the stone, the late historian Frank Thomson devoted much of life researching the history of the men named on the stone. His research added more credibly to the likelihood that the stone is genuine.
According to Frank Thomson, a group of men left Independence, Missouri with the intention of opening a route to Santa Fe, New Mexico during the spring of 1883. while on the trail, the met an American Indian from the Crow tribe who knew of the existence of gold in the Black Hills. It was the Crow guide who led the expedition into the Black Hills.
The only record that exists as to the fate of the explorers is the Thoen Stone. The inscription on the stone reads: "Came to these hills in 1833 seven of us, De Lacompt, Ezra Kind G.W. Wood, T. Brown, R. Kent, Wm. King, Indian Crow all ded but me Ezra Kind, Killed by Ind beyond high hill got our gold June 1834."
On the other side the inscription reads: "Got all the gold we could carry our ponys all got by the indians I hav lost my gun and nothing to eat and indians hunting me."
Although no one knows what happened Kind, it is assumed he died in the Black Hills. For if he had ever made it back to civilization, history might have been rewritten with the Black Hills gold rush preceding the California rush.
In the years following the discovery of the Thoen Stone, Frank Thomson located the descendants of several members of the ill-fated party. All of the descendants confirmed that their ancestors headed west in 1833 and were never heard of again.
The members of the ill-fated Ezra Kind party may have been the first gold seekers to enter the mysterious Black Hills, but they would not be the last.