I like visiting museums. They tell stories about past people, tell tales of the land, and generally provide insight into the place I am visiting. And, I have always loved black and white photos. But let’s face it, they can be dry—not Tri-State Museum in Belle Fourche, South Dakota.
At first glance, it may look like many museums you have browsed in the past. There are artifacts like old horse saddles and gramophones. There’s even an x-ray machine for taking exact (although slightly radioactive) photos of patrons’ feet for making the perfect shoe. Thankfully, no one does this anymore.
However, if you start reading the labels on the walls, the past comes alive through the colorfully written word. I was thoroughly entertained and have never read so much at a museum! From the story of the wolf that killed $50,000 worth of livestock before he was captured and died in 1925, to the stories of the men and women who worked and lived in the region’s saloons.
There is a fascinating exhibit on the founding of Belle Fourche and the demise of a town three-miles away called Minnesela. The original county seat, thanks in part to Seth Bullock, it is now a ghost town and Belle Fourche is the county seat.
You may remember Seth Bullock of “Deadwood” fame. The show ran on HBO from 2004 to 2006. We were big fans but “Deadwood” told only a small portion of Bullock’s long and full life. Turns out, he was friends with Teddy Roosevelt.
I also learned that Belle Fourche, although mostly a livestock town, was known for sugar beets production, just like my town of Loveland, Colorado. I did not know about this similarity.
After exploring the museum and purchasing a couple of books in the gift store (one about Seth Bullock and the other about Germans from Russia who migrated to work at sugar beet farms), we went through the John Spaulding Cabin. The cabin was relocated from the Lower Redwater River to the museum property.
The museum area is a wonderful area to start walking the paved river trail that runs through Belle Fourche. After admiring the flag display, we walked Fritzi down the trail and through disc golf course that is nearby.
Belle Fourche was unusually lush over the weekend of our visit. Our trip corresponded with the Black Hills Roundup, always held over the 4th of July. The area had received a lot of rain in June, including an epic hail storm that destroyed a lot of crops and set some farmers back a month or so.
If you are in Belle Fourche, South Dakota, go to Tri-State Museum, and be entertained while learning things. It’s worth the price of admission which is a donation, so be sure to leave one.
Thank you to Visit Belle Fourche for hosting our stay and Debra Elliott for graciously opening her home to us, and to Milly for putting up with Fritzi.