“Our Trip to the Black Hills” by Addie Hoyt Fargo (1899)
In one of Addie’s obituaries, she was described as “a gifted woman possessing…a fine literary ability.”
As a writer, I longed to hear Addie’s “voice.” The written word can provide so much insight into a writer’s soul. I yearned to know Addie better. I wanted to read her words, and have a keyhole peek into her soul.
And then in early February, while I was reading my way through 10 years of the Lake Mills Leader, I found an essay written by Addie Hoyt Fargo. In May of 1899, Addie and Enoch had taken a one-week train trip to the Black Hills of South Dakota. Below is her account of that trip, written in her own words.
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Our Trip to the Black Hills
By Mrs. Enoch J. Fargo
Our excursion party comprising parties of the Wisconsin Press Association with their wives and daughters, numbering 70 in all, left Chicago Thursday at 6:00 pm, May 25th over the North-Western, bound for the Black Hills.
We occupied two handsome Wagoneer sleepers and commenced to have a jolly good time from the very beginning.
M. P. Rindlaub, of Platteville, President and O. F. Roessler, of Jefferson, Secretary of the Wisconsin Press Association directed the excursion, while the genial James Gibson of Madison, district passenger agent of the N. W., assumed complete charge of our party from Chicago to Omaha. At Clinton, Iowa he invited us to step out upon the platform to see the largest railroad locomotive in the United States.
Some of us looked at the wrong locomotive, but the most of us saw a 122-ton affair, almost as big as a church.
Omaha was reached at 9:30 the next morning, where we found cars waiting for us, provided by Omaha’s Street Railway Co., which took us to the Millard Hotel for breakfast, and after breakfast, took us around the city and, and out to the Exposition grounds.
The entire forenoon was taken up with the trip through the grounds and buildings. Talk about a miniature World’s Fair! It is ever so much more than that, and anyone who goes there thinking he is to see something small, will be much disappointed.
The Greater American Exposition will open again in July and as nearly all of the open space has been taken, it promises to be as great a success as last year. There will be a Cuban village, 180 Cubans will arrive in Omaha this week, a Hawaiian village, and 20 families of the Philippines.
This will be a greater attraction than any seen at the Exposition last year.
After our return we were given a banquet at the Paxton Hotel by the officers of the Capital Exposition. The luncheon was preceded by the singing of “America.” Dr. Miller, president of the Greater American Exposition, welcomed the party to Omaha. He invited us to take note as we went like birds of passage through the city what Omaha is. The seat of empire, he declared, had been transferred from the East to Mississippi Valley. It was politically the dominant position of the country. He called our attention to the marvelous progress made by the West, of which we saw but the border, as exemplified last summer in the Trans-Mississippi Exposition.
Since that time, though we might regret the situation forced upon us, we could not help but look up on the situation as it is. An opportunity to know the new possessions in all the phases of their life is to be given. Editor Wilder, of Madison, was called upon to respond.
Representing the state, he said, which had given Vilas, Spooner, Fairchild and a long list of other statesmen, he acknowledged the cordial welcome. These were a band of the editors, their wives and children, and perhaps their sweethearts, seeking to learn the West, but the West was hard to find.
Here we found broad avenues, excelling the devious and narrow streets of eastern cities. We had found the spices of the exposition and realize the half had never been told.
Henceforth the word “Omaha,” would be a watchword with us and we would go to our homes with it fragrant in our memory.
The program was necessarily a brief one because of the early departure of our party for Hot Springs. Three o’clock found us saying good bye to Omaha and our Mr. Gibson, and passenger agent J. H. Gable of the F. E. & M. V., took charge of our party from Omaha to the Black Hills and back, and I assure you he looked after the comfort of us all in the usual hospitable style of the N. W. system.
From Omaha we came over the F. E. and MV, stopping at Rome Millers Eating House at Norfolk for supper, and it may be incidentally mentioned that G. H. Rodgers, the manager of that institution provided us with an excellent meal.
Northern Nebraska is all a rolling prairie; the fields are so green and the horses and cattle look well cared for, but when we got into Dakota, the scene changes. Just before reaching the hills we pass through some of the worst country imaginable, a rocky clay soil, here and there, a lump of pine trees, some buffalo grass, a muddy stream or two and that is all.
This part of Dakota is called the Bad Lands and it’s pretty bad too, though we were told we hadn’t seen the worst of it. From here we begin to go up higher and higher and we see the black hills in the distance and really black they look too. Mr. Gable tells us the reason for this is because the mountains are covered in pine trees, and approached from a distance, this black mass of pine trees rises up against the horizon giving it the appearance and name of Black Hills.
At a previous time they were the home of various Indian tribes and they also constituted the winter shelter of the winter buffalo herds.
We arrive at the foot of Battle Mountain and here we are at Hot Springs, ready for breakfast too, I assure you. We went to the Evans Hotel for breakfast, which is just across the street from the station. This is one of the finest hotels in the West, commodious and cheerful. After breakfast, carriages were waiting to take us to Wind Cave which is 12 miles from Hot Springs, over pine-clad hills and through valleys. Wind Cave in all probability represents an extinct geyser and outrivals the Mammoth Cave of Kentucky, in extent, has been explored in different directions to a distance of 91 miles and so far have found 2,100 chambers, with queer and beautiful formations in each.
There are numerous chambers uniquely named on account of some similarly or appropriate circumstance, Post Office, Theater, Cathedral, Garden of Eden, Fair Ground, etc. We explored six miles of this cave and came out after five hours, glad to stop and partake of the lunch the proprietor of the cave had waiting for us.
After we were driven back to Hot Springs, a few of us went to the Plunge, near the Evans Hotel. A handsome building enclosing the pool is, 75 x 25 feet complete in every appointment. The Plunge is the chief attraction of this popular resort and it is simply irresistible.
Myriads of tiny springs bubbling up from the pebbly bottom supply 100,000 gallons of water per hour. It is from five to nine feet in depth and so clear that the smallest object can be seen at the extreme depth. The water is highly charged with electric and magnetic properties which is highly beneficial for rheumatism.
The temperature of the water is 96 degrees years round, and one plunge almost repaid us for the long trip to Hot Springs. After the plunge we had supper, and then a dance at the “Evans” given us by the citizens of Hot Springs.
Sunday, some of our party went to church, some to the Plunge, and some to climb over the mountains; however, the day was too short and Monday found us upon our way to Deadwood, over the Elkhorn. We had breakfast at Buffalo Gap and got into Deadwood for dinner at the Ballock Hotel. The afternoon was occupied by an inspection of Deadwood until four o’clock when we left over the Elkhorn Narrow Gauge Road for a ride up Bald Mountain, visiting Terry and passing over the summit, which is 8,000 feet above sea level, and from which so fine a view is afforded of the outlying prairies. The atmosphere was favorable so the view could not have been better.
We returned to the Ballock for supper, and in the evening, a dance was given us at the Olympic parlors by the Olympic Club. Right here I might mention the fact that Harry Park, who is a commercial traveler in that section was at the hotel when we returned from Bald Mountain, so we took him with us to the Olympic Dance. Tuesday, Memorial Day, we visited Lead City, the highest city in the hills.
The forenoon was spent in seeing the Homestake Mining Plant, the largest gold mine in the world. We were unable to explore the mine, which is a privilege rarely granted because of danger of serious accident, but we inspected the stamp mills and learned how gold is extracted from quartz by the crushing and quicksilver processes. Rain kept us indoors in the afternoon, so we spent the time in the library building, recently given to Lead by Mrs. Hurst, of California.
At 5 o’clock we left Lead for Piedmont, through the most picturesque country I have ever seen, over hills and mountains through gulches and canyons, the scene changes every moment.
At Piedmont, we resumed our own cars and preceded homeward. We had breakfast at Long Pine, dinner at Norfolk, supper at Missouri Valley and a drive around the city. Arrived in Chicago, Thursday morning, June 1st after having spent as jolly and delightful a week as one could possibly wish.
Mrs. Enoch J. Fargo
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