Not much is left in the mining ghost town of Spokane. But what is left is worth the short hiking from Playhouse Road in the southern Black Hills of South Dakota. The public land site is just north of Custer State Park and south of Mt. Rushmore National Monument. And a short 12 miles scenic drive northeast from the town of Custer.
► Our video on the Historical Main Street of Deadwood, South Dakota. Also in the Black Hills
The ghost town is one of many ghost towns that can be found in the Black Hills that still have structures to explore. And just another remnant of the mining boom days all over the Black Hills. People first came to Spokane in the 1890’s for the gold. But they soon discovered that silver, lead, copper, zinc and other minerals could also be extracted from the Spokane Mine. But as the minerals ran out, so did the people. By the 1940’s the mine, as well as the whole town, was abandoned. And now owned and
Don’t miss our video below: “We Found A 1890 Ghost Town in the Black Hills.”
Most of the mining equipment and buildings have been removed. But there are many structures that still stand or exist as a pile of wood. The land is littered with many old cars that are skeletons of their former glory. One of the most intact structures is the caretaker’s house, which is thought to have been occupied until the 1970’s. It is often mistaken for the schoolhouse. I believe the schoolhouse has recently collapsed further down the path. You can find many recent pictures of the intact schoolhouse on the internet. See our tour video on Spokane: Click Here to watch video.
Just up the hill from the caretaker’s house is the gravestone memorial of James Fernando Shepard. The memorial was erected by his grandchildren. I say memorial, because I do not believe James is buried there. On FindAGrave.com it indicates he was cremated. Which is a strange ritual for the time. It reads “murdered over a mining claim.”
The miner, James (Jim) Shepard, was murdered over a mining claim at the age of 58. The murder of Jim shocked the Spokane community. Another miner, Frank Cox, did assessment work for the Spokane Mine and jumped a claim on a mine. On June 21st, 1908 Jim Shepard was upset about this claim and drove his stake at the same site. Frank Cox’s wife was on her way to the schoolhouse to teach Sunday school. She observed Shepard driving his stake into the ground. And of course informed her husband. By that evening, Shepard was riding his horse, bringing his cow back to the house. Suddenly, Cox and his son Henry approached Shepard. Cox yelled, “You son-of-a-bitch, you have driven your last stake!” Then Cox shot Shepard. Wounded Shepard was able to make it home. Jessie Shepard, his wife, rode for help. But help didn’t arrive in time. The town was shaken by the murder. It is said that at the funeral, the crowd was described as “angry and hostile.”
According to records, the minister had the congregation point the finger of guilt at whoever they felt had committed the murder. Everyone pointed the finger at the Frank Cox’s house. From then on, the Coxes were ostracized by the Spokane community. The Frank and Henry Cox were put on trial. But the evidence was considered unsatisfactory and they were freed.
Some think that Spokane and the lone memorial of James Shepard on the hillside were the inspiration for the Marshall Tucker Band’s song “Fire on the Mountain.” The song is the story of a man seeking treasure during the gold rush. The man in the song packed up his family and headed west with his family. And as the song tells it he was, “shot down in cold blood by a gun that carried fame, all for a useless and no good worthless claim.” The miner, James Fernando Shepard met a similar fate. And his wife was left with a worthless claim. Many also believe the song was about the California Gold Rush. But you cannot deny James’ story to be the similar.
Click to purchase the Deadwood movie. Which takes place in the Black Hills: “HBO series and movie, Deadwood“
We highly recommend you plan a trip to Spokane and the Black Hills. Between Mt Rushmore, Deadwood, The Crazy Horse Memorial, Custer State Park, Devil’s Tower and more, you will not be disappointed. Make sure to check out all our Deadwood and Black Hills video: Click to start our Black Hills playlist
Directions: Take either Iron Mountain Road or Playhouse Road to Forest Service Rd 330. Turn north on FS 330, but keep an eye out on your right for a gated Forest Service path/trail almost immediately after the turn. Park at the gate turn-out and take an easy one-mile walk on FS 330. See embedded location map showing building locations below. GPS coordinates: N43.840657, W-103.376041. Click to see Colorado Martini’s map of the ghost town. Each red marker on the map has a marker description and pictures.
Recommended book: Ghost Towns of the Black Hills: https://amzn.to/2XMDRdD
Do not miss watching our video:
We Found A 1890 Ghost Town in the Black Hills | Spokane South Dakota
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- Mill and Superintend House, South Dakota Public Broadcasting, https://www.sdpb.org/blogs/images-of-the-past/spokane-south-daktoa-black-hills-ghost-town/, Retrieved Jun 7, 2020.
- Mill, South Dakota Public Broadcasting, https://www.sdpb.org/blogs/images-of-the-past/spokane-south-daktoa-black-hills-ghost-town/, Retrieved Jun 7, 2020.
- Grave of James Fernando Shepard, FindAGrave.com, https://www.findagrave.com/memorial/95184692/james-fernando-shepard, Retrieved Jun 7, 2020.
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