Ghost Town LbNA # 20667
|Placed Date||Mar 4 2006|
|Location||BELLE FOURCHE, SD|
|Found By||SDGP (Attempted)|
|Last Update||Oct 12 2009|
The letterbox is located at a historical site where a small town was the first county seat and the first town in Butte County. The town was named Minnesela which is the Sioux word for red waters. Greed, temperance-minded women, a fast horse and Seth Bullock’s behind-the-scenes orchestration all contributed to the town’s demise.
The first home in the vicinity was a sturdy log cabin erected by “Buckskin Johnny” Spaulding and his brother-in-law T.J. Davis, in 1876-77. Other homesteaders moved into the area during the next five years and in early 1882 a town was staked out on the east bank of the Redwater River, a half-mile below Spaulding’s cabin.
Minnesela soon became a prospering settlement with a flour mill, bank, hotel, church, school, several stores and two newspapers. The only town on the prairies north of the Black Hills, it was a strategic location for a trade center. The town’s residents had high expectations of a bright future until they lost out to Seth Bullock’s town, Belle Fourche.
Bullock and his partner Sol Star established their ranch at the confluence of the Redwater and Belle Fourche rivers in 1879. The SB ranch became well known throughout the west for the production of thoroughbred trotting horses and the first crop of alfalfa planted in the spring of 1881.
In 1884 the Marquis de Mores established a stage line connecting Deadwood with the Northern Pacific railroad at Medora in the Badlands of Dakota Territory some 200 miles to the north. A barn was built on Bullock’s land as one the stage stations on the Medora-Deadwood line. A saloon set up in a shack at the De Mores Station offered a welcome oasis for stagecoach travelers and cowboys. This venture wasn’t profitable for the Marquis. After a few runs the stage line shut down. The saloon remained open, a thorn in the side of the good women in Minnesela who were determined to keep their town “dry.”
The hot dry summer of 1886 and the disastrous winter blizzard that followed were calamitous for the entire area; farmers and stockmen suffered heavy losses. By the spring of 1887 Minnesela’s hopes for growth were pinned on the Fremont, Elkhorn and Missouri Valley railroad that was laying tracks into the Black Hills and had established a railhead at the new town of Whitewood.
In 1890 the railroad began to lay tracks north from Whitewood. Minnesela’s residents were elated; they were convinced that their town was the only logical spot for a depot and freight yards. They enlarged their town site in anticipation that the railroad would pay well for track and depot sites. And believing Bullock would be the logical person to negotiate with the railroad on their behalf, members of the newly organized board of trade, (forerunner of the Chamber of Commerce), asked their rancher neighbor to prod railroad officials. Bullock said he’d see what he could do.
At the meeting with railroad officials, Minnesela members learned that the railroad expected the land to be donated. Railroad officers revealed they favored a depot site on an 80-acre tract south of town that was still open for filing. Douglas Sayre quietly slipped out the meeting, saddled his best mount and raced for the land office in Rapid City. When the meeting concluded, railway right-of-way man T. G. Carter went to Whitewood commandeered an engine and also set off for Rapid City. As he entered the land office he met Sayre coming out. Offered $500 for the tract, Sayre laughed and said the price was $5,000 and going up. Then Sayre’s price for what he called the “Golden 80” went up to $10.000. He had no takers.
Always a shrewd businessman, Bullock wasn’t one to ignore the opportunity. He persuaded the railroad officials to build a depot on the site of De Mores, the early day stage station. A large amount of land was donated as a right-of-way across his SB ranch. On August 14, 1890, the last rail was laid and the new town was born. “Call it Belle Fourche, will you?” Bullock requested.
The exodus from Minnesela began. Some buildings were sold; others were moved to Belle Fourche, where free lots were offered to any business moving a building in from Minnesela. The Butte County Bank was one of the first to relocate and others followed. Four years later it also lost the county seat of Butte County to Belle Fourche. Minnesela’s short life span was just a dozen years, from 1882 to 1894. The sign placed by the Butte County Historical Society marks the site of the Minneselan post office and store.
From the Redwater Bridge letter box location, start your journey to the Ghost Town by driving east on Elkhorn Street across the railroad tracks. At the end of Elkhorn Street turn left on National Street. From National Street turn right on Helmer Road. Travel down the Helmer Road for about two miles and after you go by the Riverside Trailer Park, turn left on Gaver Road. After you cross the Minnesela Bridge over the Redwater River it’s not far to the Butte County Historical sign. Look for the sign on the left side of the road. By the trees and the private driveway you will find a parking spot. The plastic box containing two rubber stamps, two pads and a guest book is hiding with the nestlings. There are two plastic boxes; one is a cache container and one is a letter box. Discreetness is important, and please re-hide it well. Thanks, and enjoy!
Did letterbox maintenance and all is well 6-8-06 During Mosquito season you may wish to protect yourself.
Maintenance on 8/15/10 this is a geocache site also and we check both boxes when we do maintenance.