~May 18, 1883 • Black Hills Daily Times ~

Deadwood’s Deluge.

Sudden Rise of the Waters of Whitewood, Caused by the Rain and Late Snows Up in the Hills.

A Mighty, Seething, Swirling Flood, Rushing Through the City With Terrible Velocity.

Every Bridge in Deadwood Gone Down Toward the Missouri River.

Many Valuable Structures Undermined and then Engulfed.

Scenes And Incidents.

It is seldom in this country that we have to call the attention of our readers to damage done by water, an element that costs more money in this country to procure for legitimate purposes than in any country we know of but nevertheless it is our duty now to give such news.

On Wednesday about noon the barometer took a downward tumble, and the knowing ones predicted a terrible storm, especially as it kept going down, down. Yesterday afternoon it commenced raining, not of a violent, in the states July kind, but a steady pouring down, that increased in volume as age was obtained. The snow that had been lingering in the lap of spring on the mountain tops soon yielded to the softening embrace and came rushing down in rivulets at first, then torrents.

The gulch that runs through the city has always been so insignificant that no attention has ever been paid by property owners to its original channel, and to suit the shape of town lots it has been turned here, there and at right angles, and houses built over it as though it had no prior rights.

As the stream began to swell, the mayor and city marshal were to be seen with such force as could be procured, cleaning out the channel to make as much room as possible for the swelling flood.

At 4 o’clock Dan Rathbun telephoned from the Ten-mile ranch on Whitewood that the snow was all leaving the mountains, and the water was higher by half than he had ever seen it, and for the citizens of Deadwood to prepare for a great flood that was coming. About this time the Lee street bridge began caving in, as did also Sam Cushman’s building adjoining. The old Oyster Bay house, on the opposite side, began settling, and then the citizens commenced to realize that danger was imminent.

The Cushman building began settling so rapidly that he moved out his effects, and to prevent the building falling and damming up the channel the fire companies were ordered out, their hose attached on Main and Sherman streets, and when all was in position the building was saturated with coal oil and fired. The colored man who did this was a hero, as he took many chances of losing his life, but he at length made a success of it.

When the order was given for the firemen to attach their hose a number of them started on a run across the sidewalk in front of the Oyster Bay building. In an instant the sidewalk fell with James Northy, engineer of the Homestake hoisting works, and Will Warner, son of the proprietor of the TIMES. At that point the water was not less than twelve feet deep and running with velocity of a cannon ball, through and under the bridge and between the innumerable posts that are planted everywhere in the creek. Hundreds of men witnessed their engulfment and a hundred hearts ceased to beat. It seemed that no man could pass through the maelstrom and live, but in a few moments they came up behind the bridge, swimming like ducks, and were soon on terra firma.

Northy lost his hat, and received a wound on his head, but was not seriously injured. Warner was caught around one of the posts, but extracting himself, soon came to the surface with a slightly damaged leg.

The building was soon ablaze all over, and the firemen had all they could do, raining as it was, to prevent other buildings from catching. In due course of time it succumbed, and in the twinkling of an eye it sank into the stream and disappeared. During all this time the street was thronged with a dense crowd, each anxious to see what was going on, and by their numbers, greatly retarding the work of the firemen.

On Forest Hill and Ingleside, great damage was done to property by the caving in and washing away of embankments and terraces that have been created to protect and beautify the residences of our citizens.

At 4 o’clock the water had broken out of its channel, and came down through Cleveland, almost to its intersection with Sherman Street, and then returned to the prescribed course, taking with it the residence of Hattenbach Bros., that was standing at the rear of their store.

Tom Manning, fearing that there was a flood coming, removed his horses, carriages and his other traps from his livery stable and took them to a place of safety.

At 8 o’clock p. m. a TIMES reporter went down to lower Sherman Street, at its intersection with Wall. He found the water knee deep in the streets, and Seth Bullock with a large force of men building a levee, the materials used being ground oats in sacks, to prevent the water from running into his fireproof basement. The two-story house, as also the stable that stood over the creek, had been undermined by the water, and had turned over toward each other, in a loving manner.

The female seminaries, that are so numerously located in that part of the city, were found in a state of great confusion. The male friends of the lady students were on hand in force, removing their effects—here a man with a trunk, there a half dozen toting away a piano, through water waist deep; and here a maiden all forlorn, in accents loud and bitter, piteously exclaiming: “Where is my man?” “My trunk, oh my trunk!”

At 10 p. m. William Henley, of Gayville, telephoned the TIMES that within an hour Blacktail creek had increased in volume four fold, Deadwood creek one fourth, and only just beginning to raise; all of the bridges gone, the road bed fearfully cut up, and John Allen’s dam washed out.

At the same hour this reporter took a stroll on Deadwood Street. He found Patsy Sullivan’s residence inundated, with water a foot deep on the first floor, and men at work carrying out furniture to a place of safety.

The denizens of bull flats for the first time in their lives were subject to a thorough washing. Tom Manning’s two story livery stable then turned over, standing at an angle of 45 degrees, creaking and groaning as though in labor, and at last, with one grand effort, tumbled into the stream, a mass splinters.

Hurrying around to Lee Street we found the Oyster Bay building in the same fix, and at one mighty effort, brought forth food for the flood. The torrent was irresistible, and swallowed up everything that came within its greedy maw.

The old hook and ladder house on Sherman street, that stood on stilts above the creek was burned down and as the torch was applied, Ben Garr was accidently knocked into the seething flood above the buildings. No one who saw him fall in ever expected to see his lifeless remains, but strange as it may seem, with the tenacity that is born of desperation, he made a brave fight, for his family and his life, and came ashore opposite the Northwestern Stage company’s barn, with a badly contused head, and an exhausted body.

About the same time Harris Franklin’s stable on Sherman Street quietly arose, without flutter or excitement, and sailed away upon the stream.

At the same time the cellars on Main Street were flooded with water, and all hands were engaged in removing their contents to higher localities. The bridge across the creek to the Northwestern stage company’s stables sailed off without any previous warning.

At 11 o’clock, the water still increasing, the building of S. F. Jacoby, on Sherman Street was undermined and came down with a crash. The debris, coming in contact with Butler’s building on Lee Street, carried that with it, and in a few moments nothing was left of either building. The contents of each had been removed.

The bridges across the creek at Pine and Deadwood streets both went out at about the same time, and by this all communication was cut off between the two parts of the city.

There were many incidents that should become historical, but our lack of space unfortunately prevents us from mentioning them. We have the space, however, to mention that Sam Cushman, with a spirit that has always actuated him, when seeing that his building, if left standing, would endanger the whole city, requested the mayor to give orders that it should be burned.

Frank Ickes was also unfortunate enough to be standing near the bank of the stream when it caved in, and to be patriotic, he went in with it, and would have drowned, had not a colored man, at great risk, rescued him. We might mention in connection with these incidents that many important personages got wet inside, by “ringing in” when heroes were treating, and outside, when they became so officious that the firemen had to turn the hose on them in self-protection.


At midnight it was found that the stream had encroached upon the bank below Fink’s pawn shop until about twelve feet of street remained. The China house on the right hand side of the street going down had gone up the flume; the next building, a barn, belonging to George Forbes, was just ready to follow suit. Charles Stacey, with a crowd of men, was moving his family and furniture to the hill above. Chinamen with lamps were running in every direction exclaiming, “G—d d—n Melican weather, no good.”

On Sherman street at the rear of Star & Bullock’s store it was found that one of the female seminaries had been turned one quarter around and was awaiting a good ready to start for the sea. The twin institution below it was as silent and motionless as the sphinx, awaiting the time when her sister above would join her in a voyage across the Stix.

Ismon & Ayers’ warehouse had gone out, Mabb’s shop and in fact a clean sweep had been made below the fireproof of Welch, Farley & Co. The bridge across Sherman street that could not be blown up, was there, and it caught all the drift that came down, sometimes small oceans of water came through the street and as if repenting of its evil deeds, letting it pass through the channel.

To conclude, the mayor, marshal and members of the different fire companies, are entitled to the highest praise for their indefatigable, and untiring efforts to save the property of our citizens, and as an adieu we will say, the water is still raising, and the end, is not yet.


At 1:20 the building on Lee Street owned by Hank Beaman and lately occupied by Sagnio as a restaurant, fell and was carried off by the flood. This leaves but one building, the saloon, on the corner of Lee and Sherman streets. Kidd & Benn’s building is in evident danger, Forbes’ barn referred to above has quit, and Gilman’s tollhouse was in such imminent danger that appeals for help were made to friends on this side who promptly responded to the call.

At 2 o’clock, when going to press, Deadwood Street was being cut away at a fearful rate, the current making for the Vienna bakery on Lee Street. The water seemed to come from Deadwood gulch and was increasing in volume all the time.


At 3 o’clock a. m. the danger was so imminent that the fire bell was rang to call persons to the rescue.

~ September 15, 1883 • Black Hills Weekly Times ~

The Pistol.

Another Probably Fatal Affray.

Yesterday afternoon we were startled by the news that came down from Lead City, that Coa O’Neill had shot and killed Tim Leary. Later information was to the effect that Leary was not dead, and there was a possibility of his wound not being fatal.

The origin of the difficulty dates back to the day Powers and Mosher, victims of the Highland mine disaster, were exhumed from the debris. Mosher was a friend of Leary, coming to this country with him, we understand. O’Neill had something to do with digging out the bodies, and said or done something that highly incensed Leary.

Certain it is that since that time there has been bad blood existing between the two men, which resulted in the tragedy of yesterday morning.

From what we can learn the facts are about as follows: Both men had come off the night shift, had gone to a saloon and had drank some, and coming together an altercation ensued. They were separated by mutual friends and each man went home, changed clothes, washed up and came out on the street again. Leary had gone into White & Shea’s saloon, and while there O’Neill came up Main street and passed up to the door of the room in which Leary was standing, talking to some friends. Mr. White done everything in his power to prevail upon O’Neill, who had a revolver in his hand, from entering. At this moment Leary came through the door, pushed Mr. White aside, and as he did so O’Neill went backward a short distance, Leary made a rush forward, as if to strike, O’Neill lowered his pistol and fired, the ball passing in between the sixth and seventh rib on the right side, ranging downward.

Leary fell to the sidewalk and O’Neill walked off. He went over to Terraville where he sat down on a pile of lumber and soon went to sleep. He was soon afterward arrested and brought over to Lead City and kept in the custody of an officer.

Colonel Parker was sent for to defend O’Neill, and soon after his arrival O’Neill was released on $1,000 bonds, and William Roy, who was with O’Neill in the morning and who, it is said, gave O’Neill the pistol and was arrested as accessory, was released on $200 bonds. It is stated that a revolver, loaded and cocked was found in Leary’s pocket, after the shooting.

His condition became very alarming, and the physicians in attendance gave all hopes for his recovery. In consequence of this O’Neill and Roy were rearrested and the bonds of the former placed at $5,000 and the latter at $1,000. One hour later today Timothy Leary breathed his last, and soon as the news reached this city Sheriff Manning and one of his deputies went up after O’Neill.

Later—The news of Leary’s death, telephoned to the sheriff’s office was incorrect, as by the latest news the TIMES could get he was still alive, but his death was looked for at any moment.


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