This is the story of how a simple stroll down a new street led to a book about a lost world. In the Deadwood of 1959, Calamity Jane and Wild Bill Hickok were long gone, but I could hear echoes of the 1876 Black Hills Gold Rush still reverberating. Deadwood had fascinating tales to tell, but seeing a storefront lettered with the name Goldberg’s Grocery was especially intriguing. Could there have been Jewish people amidst this raucous stampede for golden treasure?
Indeed, there had been a significant, vital Jewish population, but their stories were fading away. These were not the gunslingers, but they were sturdy, venturesome, pioneering people, here to participate in the opening of a new frontier. They were ready to start new enterprises, prepared to turn the dust beneath their boots into a grand opportunity. They brought their families and their traditions, they helped stabilize the Wild West of the Black Hills Gold Rush, and they left a valuable legacy.
Beyond Deadwood, the hills and prairies and Badlands held stories of these people who traveled by shank’s mare and steamship and stagecoach, hoping to grab the gold ring. With years of research revealing countless surprises, this was a reminder that there are valuable stories everywhere worth keeping. On this far-flung edge of the Diaspora, I knew I had found another Jewish world to explore.
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The book takes a more extensive look at the background and presents some of the Jewish personalities who helped stabilize and develop this frontier. Framed as a historical journey, with much original material drawn from newspaper accounts, illuminated by historical photos, this book is filled with absorbing stories tthat bring the Black Hills Gold Rush and its people to life.
Ann Haber Stanton writes from careful research, a lively interest in the history she portrays, and a deep personal interest in the often-ignored Jewish participation in our western history. If you haven’t read her books, you haven’t gotten the whole story of the Black Hills and Deadwood.–Linda Hasselstrom