Fort Pierre Deadwood Trail
After gold was discovered in the Black Hills in 1874, there became a need to
transport people and freight to the “Hills”. One of the shortest and easiest
travel routes was overland from Fort Pierre, S.D., the nearest river landing, to
Deadwood, the epicenter of gold mining.
From 1874 to 1908, thousands of tons of freight and hundreds of people arrived
in Fort Pierre by riverboat or railroad destined for Deadwood. From Fort Pierre
the freight was loaded on wagons pulled by teams of draft animals, usually oxen.
The people rode horses, in stagecoaches, in wagons, or walked. From Fort Pierre
the wagon trains headed west along the 200 mile route known as the Fort Pierre
to Deadwood Trail, which followed an old buffalo trail used by Indians and fur
During the 1970’s, and in recognition of our nation’s Bicentennial, local
rancher and historian Roy Norman and his wife Edith marked the Trail from Fort
Pierre to Grindstone with handmade signs that told the story of the Trail. Many
of these wooden signs are in disrepair and some have been destroyed.
A group of local volunteers have located the Norman signs and documented the
Global Positioning System (GPS) location of each. Eileen Fischer, Fort Pierre,
and Patricia Adam, Pierre, are leading the effort to replace the signs and
preserve the history that was gathered by the Normans.
If you are traveling west on State Highway 14/34, you will notice eighteen new
signs already in place. An additional twelve signs will be added to complete the
The Deadwood Historic Preservation Commission is providing a grant requiring
matching funds for the project.
Recollections of a Norman Family Member
Roy and Edith Norman were instrumental in the development and growth of their
community and the communities of South Dakota. Their initiative, leadership and
preservation of many historical interests have left family, friends, and
citizens of South Dakota with a history to be proud of and the challenge and
opportunity to learn, grow and enrich our heritage for generations to come.
The Normans organized the “Old Stanley County Historical Society” and Roy served
as the first president of the organization as well as helped organize the
Verendrye Museum in Fort Pierre.
The Normans devoted much of their time and resources marking the location of the
old west trails throughout South Dakota. Beginning in the early 1970’s, the
Normans personally dug post holes and painted signs marking the route of the Old
Deadwood Trail going west from Fort Pierre. In one year alone, they put up 52
signs. They undertook the task of doing the same for several of the old mail
routes, wagon trails, army trails, Indian trails, and stagecoach trails that
crisscrossed the prairie. It is estimated that they have erected 250 to 300
signs. To discover the actual trails used by pioneers and Indians, Roy and Edith
spent years researching old surveyor’s maps developed in the 1800’s.
It was told to be by my Grandpa Roy Norman at a young age, that the reason he
was marking these old trails and historical significances was for us; people of
our generation and future generations, and historians, so that we would not lose
a part of our history and sacrifices that our ancestors endured to make this
great state what it is today.
I feel his mission is being accomplished for the stories he would come home and
tell, I know are true! As we scout these old trails the ranchers are telling the
same ones and more. And that my friends, is what he wanted the most.