to Campus Currents
gives material to BHSU Case Library
The history of the Black Hills is unique because it is
so recent says local history buff Bob Lee as he talks
about his love of the past and some of the historical
documents he is donating to the Case Library at Black
Hills State University.
Lee was on campus recently to speak to a history class
about the role of Indian scouts in the death of Crazy
Horse. He also turned over some of his personal
historical documents to the Case Library for Western
Historical Studies. In addition to newspaper clippings,
he gave the library a legal document dealing with Poker
Alice's murder of Fred Koetzle in 1913. At the time of
his death, Koetzlea member of K Troop of the 12th
Cavalrywas visiting a brothel.
Lee turned over to the Case Library an 1864 letter
from Col. Joseph Kargi to Brigadier General Samuel
Sturgis and a contract with physician William Sturgis
(1862), signed by R. L. Wood who was the appointed
surgeon general of Illinois. He also gave the library his
Fort Meade research papers and the fort's post returns,
photographs, and drafts of his book Fort Meade and the
Lee said he has been gathering material since 1946
when he went to work for the Rapid City Journal. It's now
time to downsize he said and get rid of some
of the historical memorabilia. His material comes from
years as a reporter, a press aid for Gov. Joe Foss,
numerous books he has authored, and historical papers
presented at local, regional and national conferences.
As a field historian for the Case Library, Lee says
his job was to find historical materialNow
I'm providing my own material.
Recalling the past, his intense interest in the
history of the West is visible. He recalls names and
places as if it were just a few days ago.
The Black Hills are a microcosm of the Western
story, he explains. There were the cattle
drives, timber, cavalry, mining, and boom towns, all part
of the Western experience.
As a young reporter visiting Pine Ridge he had the
opportunity to meet and interview primary historical
sources such as Dewey Beard, a participant in the battles
of the Little Big Horn (1876) and Wounded Knee (1890).
Did you know Crazy Horse enlisted in the Army as
a scout with the rank of first sergeant in Aug. 31, 1877,
and was killed Sept. 5 at Fort Robinson, Neb.?, he
asked, as the story of the West unfolds. There was
an inordinate amount of jealousy and treachery among his
own people. He was killed by a white sentry as an Indian
scout held his arms.
And so the story goesLee recalling historical
anecdotes about Black Hills history. He is still actively
involved with several historical societies founded by
Leland Case, including the Black Hills Corral of
Back to Campus
historian Bob Lee presented all of his Fort Meade
historical research papers to Colleen Kirby, special
collections librarian at Black Hills State University.
The papers, dealing with the fort and Black Hills
history, will be placed in the Leland Case Library for
Western Historical Studies. Lee recently completed a
follow-up volume to Last Grass Frontier: The
South Dakota Stockgrower Heritage, 1964-1999.
The first volume, co-authored with Dick Williams, covered
the 1881-1964 time period.
It was number eight in over 200 chapters
(worldwide), he said. Watson Parker and I are
the only two living charter members.
Currently, there are two other corral chapters in
western South Dakota: Jedediah Smith chapter in Hot
Springs and Badger Clark in Custer.
Today, much of Lee's interest focuses on Fort Meade in
particular and the Black Hills in general.
The average longevity of western forts was 22
years, said Lee. Fort Meade lasted 66 years
(1878-1944)through the plains wars to the space
It's interesting to note, he says, that the Black
Hills area has been developed with five legs of support:
ranching, lumber, mining, tourism and government. These
were all significant factors in this region's growth.
Government's role came about through irrigation projects
(Belle Fourche and Angostura), the state cement plant,
local colleges and the Black Hills National Forest.
As he speaks of this region's history, his eyes focus
inwardly behind dark rimmed glasses to a pristine past as
if concentrating on the most diminutive of details. In a
flurry, the information pours out as matter of fact, as
if it were common knowledge. As a hunter of the past,
stalking primary sources of history, he has become to
contemporary historians a primary source in his own