Deadwood’s Mount Moriah

This may seem morbid to some but I’ve always loved cemeteries. I love walking through them, reading the tombstones, imagining the person’s story. Did they achieve their hopes and dreams? Did they know love? Were they loved in return? How did they die? So many questions go through my mind. One of the most interesting trips my husband and I went on before he passed was to Deadwood. So much history there. Deadwood is where Wild Bill Hickok met his end in the Nuttal and Mann’s Saloon, shot by Jack McCall. Hickok, as well as Calamity Jane and a whole lot of others, is buried in the Mount Moriah cemetery.

Records show that in Deadwood’s first three years as a town there were 97 murders and suicides.

Here are few of Mount Moriah’s residents:

POTATO CREEK JOHNNY was a Welch immigrant at seventeen years old and looking for gold and excitement. Johnny (real name John Perrett) stood just 4’ 3” tall and as he grew older, he let his hair and whiskers grow long. Folks said he resembled one of Snow White’s dwarfs. Then one memorable day in May 1929, in working his mine, he discovered one of the largest gold nuggets anyone in South Dakota had ever seen. It weighed 73/4 troy ounces and valued at $45,000 at today’s currency rate. The find thrust him into celebrity status and he became a regular in all the parades. Folks from all around visited the cabin he built by himself in the woods. In 1943 at 77 years old, he took sick and died. He’s buried next to Wild Bill and Calamity Jane.


PREACHER SMITH was the first missionary in Black Hills and he was undoubtedly one of the most famous good guys. His real name was Henry Weston Smith and he walked into Deadwood with a wagon train in May 1876. He began preaching on the jam-packed street to the cutthroats, gamblers, prostitutes, and anyone who would listen. Tough, grizzled miners wearing guns would sit on the wooden planks or stand and listen to him. They always passed the hat at the end. August 20, 1876, he preached his last sermon and headed to a nearby town. He never made it. They found him three miles from Deadwood, shot through the heart. The killer was never found. All of Deadwood’s businesses shut down for the burial on Mount Moriah.


CHAMBERS DAVIS came to Deadwood in 1877 from the Denver Mint. He was an expert at ore testing an opened an assayer office on Main Street. He had a credit of $100,000 with which he was able to buy ore for California companies from eager prospectors. He was young and had a beautiful young wife, Adrienne. They were a popular young couple and were mentioned frequently in the social columns of the newspaper. In June 1878, she died very suddenly at the age of 33 of unknown causes. Then a year later in April, Chambers also died very suddenly and was buried next to his wife.


KITTY LEROY was Deadwood’s most famous soiled dove. The magnetic beauty was also a bigamist, married to five men all at the same time. Kitty was always armed to the teeth with two pistols, a couple of Bowie knives, and a dagger she tucked into her long brown curls. She wore huge diamonds in her ears and knew how to show a man a good time. In fact, men fought and killed over her. She was a professional dancer in the saloons and was often found at the card tables where she cheated men out of their hard-earned gold. Sam Curley, her fifth husband, was a faro dealer and very jealous. On Dec. 7, 1877, he caught Kitty in bed with another man and shot her, then shot himself. She was only 28 years old. Their funerals were held in the Lone Star saloon and they buried in a double grave. A month after the tragedy, ghostly apparitions were seen and continued until the saloon was demolished.


These are just a few of the interesting stories that are buried in Mt. Moriah cemetery. I’ll end this with a poem someone wrote upon the death of Marie Gaston, Deadwood’s first librarian.

How vainly we struggled to save her,

Around her how deeply we mourned,

When back to her Maker who gave it

Her beautiful spirit returned.


I just love visiting old cemeteries. In a plot next to my parents in the small country cemetery where they’re buried is a family who all died in the 1800s. The wife’s name was Texanna and I used her name as my heroine in a story I wrote for Give Me a Texas Ranger. I’m always finding something of interest. Do cemeteries interest you? Maybe you have one you’d like to share.

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Here in the Texas Panhandle, we do love our cowboys. There's just something about a man in a Stetson and jeans that makes my heart beat faster. I'm not much of a cook but I love to do genealogy and I'm a bit of a rock hound. I'm also a NY Times & USA Today bestselling author of historical western romance. You can contact me through my website and I'd love to connect with you on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest and more. HAPPY READING!

51 thoughts on “Deadwood’s Mount Moriah”

  1. I’m just loving your blogs about theses folks buried In Deadwood.
    I saw a beautiful tombstone last week out on inspections that was a butterfly. I’ll be up in the area Wednesday, I’ll try to stop and take a picture and share it on your street team page.
    My flowers are so beautiful this morning. My heart is overflowing with joy. Love you Sister friend.

    • Good morning, Tonya………Thank you for coming. A few of these are different from what I posted on my personal blog. I wanted to change it up. These people who once lived in Deadwood are really fascinating. Potato Creek Johnny was such an odd little man. The account I have of him said he would often do a jig in the middle of the street to entertain people. Strangely, too, he sold his gold nugget to a man for a mere $200. That is weird. A butterfly tombstone? That must be something. Yes, please take a picture. I’d love to see it.

      I’m glad you’re enjoying the flowers. Sometimes words simply can’t say what’s in someone’s heart. I’m happy you like them.

      Much love, sister friend. 🙂

  2. Linda, what awesome stories!!! People are amazing, today and yesterday, for all time. Love hearing about such quirky characters who weren’t fictional–they were real people. Kind of reminds me a bit of my grandmother who was quite a character. She called the police, “the laws,” and she liked cemeteries, too. Not only that, talking about morbid, she kept pics of all of our family who had passed away, lying in their coffins beside her bed, until she parted this world.
    Her name was Clarine and like your Kitty, she had 5 husbands, but not all at once. LOL Actually, she married my father’s father twice, once when her parents set it up when she was 14 or 15 (can you imagine?), and then the second time for love. She also built 28 apartments herself during WWII and taught my father all about building, plumbing, electrical, etc. She was a corker.
    Your real life stories made me think of her. Living was a lot tougher back then, in some ways.

    • Good morning, Hebby…..I love having you. Thank you so much for stopping by. Oh my! Clarine sounds like a winner. You know, it used to be a custom to photograph loved ones lying in their coffins. A very weird practice if you ask me. But the thing I love about Clarine was her drive to provide for herself. She didn’t sit back and whine. She got busy and did something about her situation. I can’t imagine marrying what would be her own father-in-law. Goodness! And then marrying the son. She was so young! I really can’t imagine how tough life was back in those days.

      Have a blessed day and thanks again for coming.

  3. Before perpetual care cemeteries, there were cemetery workings. The folks would come to clean up and maintain the cemetery and have a big reunion with lots of food and stories. Do not have much of that any more.

    • Good morning, Jerri……..I know what you mean. Used to everyone would pitch in and take care of a cemetery. The little country one where my parents are buried still do that. Once a year, everyone in the community gathers at the cemetery with a covered dish. They eat and talk, then get to work and clean up the graves. It’s a really nice tradition.

      Thanks for coming! Love you, lady! 🙂

  4. Loved your blog, Linda! Real life characters from times past are soooo fascinating. Your post reminded me of my grandmother who was both morbid and a pistol. She liked cemeteries, but she also kept pictures of all of our passed family, in their coffins, right beside her bed. She was an interesting character, too.

    • Hebby….I have a picture my grandmother took of her dead triplets in a coffin. They’re dressed up and look like they’re asleep. Very morbid if you ask me. I’d like to have known your Grandmother Clarine. Yep, she’s quite something. 🙂 They don’t make them like that anymore. Such a zest for life and a will of iron. It must be where we get the characters in our stories.


  5. I enjoy visiting old cemeteries too. I just wish my husband enjoyed them as much so I had someone to go to them with. the few times he did go, I pretty much had to drag him with me.

    • Good morning, Janine……Men don’t really get it. They don’t “see” the stories that are buried with the people. I think it’s just so fascinating, especially when there’s some kind of written account of the people. In one Texas cemetery I visited the man had his wife on side of him and his mistress on the other. Wonder what the wife thought of that? Ha! On the mistress’s tombstone were the words “courtesan of (whatever his name was).” That left no doubt who she was in relation to the man. Just very odd.

      Have a blessed day! Big hugs!

  6. Linda, I think I confused you on the marrying part of my grandmother. Her father and my grandfather, Clarine’s first husband, struck a business deal, and she was kind of part of it. The marriage formalized the partnership. She was very young when she had my father and then she couldn’t have any more children. She divorced my grandfather because he was such a rolling stone, but then, later, between husbands, she remarried my grandfather (my father’s father) because she really loved him. That’s a bit less scandalous then you thought. Sorry, that I didn’t explain it properly. But no, she wasn’t a whiner. She was a hard worker, never knew any other way to be and tough!

    • Hebby….Oh, I get it. An arranged marriage. They used to do that a lot back then. In my family tree are sisters (my aunts) who all married their first cousins. I don’t think they’d allow that today. I really admire your grandmother. She was quite a lady. 🙂


  7. I love to stroll through cemeteries too, especially the ones with really old tombstones. My oldest daughter’s middle name is Irene. Her middle name is named after her father’s mothe, she died in childbirth when Victoria’s dad was only 3 years old. When we buried my Nanny we explored the cemetery. It’s a family cemetery for my mothers fathers side of the family. I had no idea how many Irene’s were on that side of my family. Victoria was only 10 at the time and really grasp her middle name because she felt so honored. I have to admit I never loved her middle name it was to honor the woman that would have been my mother-in-law and my husband was raised by the stereotypical wicked step-mother. The markers for babies and children break my heart and the old cemeteries have so many of them. It especially breaks my heart if the little ones only have rocks or plot markers. That makes me want to buy them a real headstone. I loved the history in this blog! Now I’m wanting to go to a cemetery and explore.

    • Good morning, Stephanie…….Your daughter connected with her history. How wonderful about all the Irene’s. My second oldest sister is Irene Fay and she was named for an aunt who owned and ran several bars. She was wild, wild woman. It’s very odd that my sister Irene turned out to be really religious. Maybe she’s trying to overcome her namesake. ? Yes, the baby graves are sad. I sit by them and wonder who they might’ve become had they lived. And I wonder if they were loved. When I get some time, I want to go out to an old cemetery here and just walk around. That would be a very pleasant, interesting day.

      I’m glad you enjoyed my blog and some of Deadwood’s history. Have a blessed day!

      Love you, lady!

  8. I don’t care for old cemeteries. They bring to mind newer ones that leave uncomfortable memories.

    • Good morning, Estella……I’m sorry to bring up an uncomfortable subject for you. Cemeteries aren’t for everyone. Thanks for coming.

      Have a blessed day!

  9. Good morning, Linda! Thank you for sharing your great post. I find cemeteries very interesting. There is one not for from us where many circus people are buried. There is a headstone that is a big top, one that has elephants, even one that has a tight rope walker on it. Walking through, you find out what job the person had and it is very interesting.

    • Good morning, Melanie…..Great to see you on this beautiful morn. I’m happy that you like my post. Oh wow! I’d love to visit that cemetery where circus performers are buried! Those tombstones would be something to see. Yes, that would be very interesting. Here in Texas there is a cemetery in Mason where a lot of Texas Rangers are buried. They all have a bronze marker that looks like their badge only larger. It’s a moving sight. Some are quite old.

      Have a blessed day! Big hugs!

  10. I do like going to cemeteries there is one a couple of blocks from me and I went over there one day just to look. A lot of the stone were so old you couldn’t read anything on them. The writing was worn off.

    • Good morning, Quilt Lady……I hate when I can’t read the writing. But that’s what eventually happens. The elements and time steals everything. Still, sometimes you can get a sense of the person and that’s really nice. I don’t think we can fully see the future until we see the past.

      Much love and hugs!

  11. Mt Moriah is indeed an interesting place to visit, I agree, as is the saloon where Wild Bill was shot. Calamity Jane is buried next to Wild Bill in Mt Moriah. As for the name “Texanna,” by coincidence that was the name of the area my great-grandfather lived in in Indian Territory downriver from Belle Starr who lived close by. Very very interesting places to visit.

    • Good morning, Eliza…..I hope you’re having a very good day. You know, I could spend a month in Deadwood and not get bored. So much history there. How interesting about your great-grandfather living in Texanna and so close to Belle Starr! You always have the most interesting stories. It’s really great to know so much about your family. 🙂

      Much love and hugs!

  12. Linda, I think we are kindred spirits. I’ve always loved cemeteries! When I was growing up in Seminole, OK, there was a park just down the street from my house and right next to it was a cemetery. It was a fascinating place. The groundskeeper LIVED in the cemetery! As kids it was hard to imagine anyone doing that. Also there was a really pretty building made out of stones in the middle of the cemetery where everything was kept…you know…shovels and such. (SHIVER) LOL

    My friends and I would walk around and look at the tombstones and do just what you’re talking about–imagine the lives of these people–that was back when people could put the pictures of their loved ones on the tombstones and little mementos of their lives. If my leg didn’t give me such trouble I would join one of the cemetery preservation societies and go help with that. I think that is so interesting, and I’m a hug “name” collector, too–always on the lookout for unusual names.

    Very interesting post–I love to learn about these people!

    • Hi Cheryl……Yes we are indeed kindred spirits. We’ve always had so much in common. That cemetery in Seminole OK sounds like a really old one. Back in the earlier days, the groundskeeper did used to live there. Sorry your leg is keeping you from volunteering in a preservation society. If I wasn’t so old and unbalanced I would too. Cemeteries are great places to collect old names. I once saw one that was Saluda Ann. I’ve always loved that name but haven’t used it so far.

      Love you and big hugs!

  13. Such an interesting post, Linda. Old cemeteries hold their own special sort of fascination and it always makes me wonder about the story of the life behind the name on the headstone.

    Hugs and smiles to you!

    • Hi Miss Shanna……I’m glad you enjoyed my post. There are no places like old cemeteries for mystery, love, and ghosts. I always leave with a story in my head every time I go to one.

      Love you, lady!

  14. I do not really visit cemeteries, but old sites always make me wonder… who lived here, what things were like for them, etc.

    • Hi Colleen…….I know what you mean. Here in the Texas Panhandle in the country, I’m always driving past an old abandoned house that’s falling down and I always wonder about the people who lived there. I’m sure you have a lot of those old sites there in Arizona.

      Big hugs!

  15. My hubby and I would wander through cemeteries on dates! We both love reading the headstones and contemplating their histories. So many unique things written and seeing how young or old people were can make your imagination run wild. We still enjoy it to this day and have passed the love of it down to our four kiddos. Our favorites have been on Mackinac Island and along the lake shore of Lake Michigan in little towns.

    • Hi Susan P…….What a very good thing to pass down to your kids. Small towns have the most interesting cemeteries I think. I love the tombstones that have verses or poems on them. People used to write very touching tributes on the stones. Now, it’s mostly just the name and dates. People don’t seem to care as much as they used to in the slower, simpler times.

      Big hugs!

  16. Fascinating article, Linda. I used to live in a small apartment complex next to a cemetery with a pond, curving roads and trees. Peaceful. I used to “power” walk and enjoyed stopping to catch my breath and read the headstones. One day, the police were called when two women were fighting over the ducks in the pond. Yes, they were IN the pond. They were drunk women who wanted the ducks for Thanksgiving! Not kidding.

    • Hi Diane……Oh how funny! I’m sure the police were shaking their heads. Of all things to be fighting over. When I lived in Wichita Falls, there was a cemetery right out our back gate and I used to walk there. It’s really nice and peaceful, except sometimes teenagers used to like to park in there and make out. I interrupted more than one.


  17. I enjoyed your post Linda I may not go out of my way to visit a cemetery but I love going to old cemeteries. There is one near my house and some of the headstones go back to 1798. They are very worn and you can’t read much of them. We had noticed that they were also neglected. Considering how historical these graves were, at least to me they should have been cared for. Thankfully a week after we were there an article in our paper explained a group of people were going to restore the church & graveyard.
    Carol Luciano

    • Hi Carol…….I’m happy that you enjoyed my post. Wow, that cemetery is really old. I would love to visit there. No telling what stories are hidden under the dirt. I’m glad your town is interested in restoring the cemetery and church. If not, all that history will be lost and that’s very sad.

      Sending big hugs!

  18. My mom’s family is from Lancaster Co, PA. We went to the cemeteries to take pictures of the tombstones of my ancestors. My dad is from Tennessee, and we went to cemeteries to take pictures of that side of the family, too. Sometimes, that’s the only way to find one’s family history which has been lost to family members passing away before stories are told. Older stones are deteriorating, so it’s important to document them while one can.

    • Hi Denise…….I’m so happy to see you. I’m glad you enjoyed my post. I agree that cemeteries are good places to find your family history. Good for you. You don’t want that get lost.

      Big hugs

  19. Yes Linda I am like you in the respect to a cemetery I love walking thru and trying imagine what the person’s life was like. I especially love to read epitaphs they sometimes can give a lot of info about someone with very few words. Enjoy your blogs!! Have a Blessed day!! Love you bunches!!

    • Hi Miss Glenda……Thanks for coming. I think we must be sisters. We like a lot of the same things. I agree about those old epitaphs and poems people used to put on those stones. Very interesting.

      Love you, lady!

  20. Great blog, Linda. As you know, I love cemeteries and together we’ve visited a lot of them. My son-in-law in Kansas took me to one of the old Wichita Cemeteries not long ago and it was amazing. There are plots such as a Sgt. from the Ohio Inf.; Texas Inf. from Sp. American War; a canon dated 1847; and a engraved plaque listing many of the founders who are “Resting Place of Pioneers Since 1872” which lists their occupations and information on them. Of Course there was one Texas Ranger, yes in Wichita, Kansas, World War 1, etc. It’s so interesting. But the most fascinating cemetery that I always stopped at on my way to San Antonio is in Menard, Texas. They have two, but one has a huge percentage of Texas Rangers. I’d stop and check out the graves, including removing grass and trash. I love that cemetery. There are so many that I can’t list them all. Big hugs, Sister Filly. P

    • Hi Phyliss……I’ve been to a good many cemeteries with you. Remember that one in Calvert? They had some very old graves and the man that was buried between his wife and mistress. So funny. I love that cemetery in Menard. So many Texas Ranger graves. Lots and lots of stories.

      Much love and hugs!

  21. I love cemeteries, they are full of history. I learn so much walking through them. I stick with the oldest one in a city.

    • Hi Kim……..We are kindred spirits. I learn a lot too, not only of the people, but of a city. You can get a good feel about a town from their cemetery.

      Have a blessed day!

  22. We visit cemeteries whenever we get a chance, especially when traveling. The cemeteries in Williamsburg, VA are interesting. There is more writing on them than you usually see. The cemeteries in New Orleans, LA give you a good idea of the peoples that moved into and through the area. The character of the different ethnic sections, the religious beliefs and practices, and how families grew and morphed are all on view. In small local cemeteries and graveyards you see families, the health of the population, life expectancies for the young and old. Of course it is “fun” to visit famous cemeteries to visit the graves of the famous and infamous. One I have missed visiting twice is the historic cemetery in Savannah. Maybe next trip. The cemeteries in Quebec, Canada were interesting. The grave markers listed the wife by her maiden name and married to.. her husband’s name – Mary Ann LaPort wife of James Robert Devereaux plus their birth and death dates. It makes genealogy research a little easier. We visited one graveyard where the metal crosses were all lined up in rows on one side of the church. The rows were only about 3 feet apart and the markers were barely inches apart. There was no way the coffins had been buried under them. We asked around town (a bit hard when few people spoke english) and found that they needed to expand the church parking lot. So they moved the markers and paved over the graves on the other side of the church. We once rented an old farmhouse in the country across the road from an old cemetery. The were the quietest neighbors we ever had.

    • Good morning, Patricia…..Great to see you.I would love to visit the old cemeteries back East, especially those from the American Revolution. Wow! You’ve traveled all over. How interesting. The cemetery in Savannah would hold a lot of Confederates. I visited a similar on in Vicksburg that had so many Confederates in it. How odd about the cemetery at that church where they just lined the metal crosses in rows on one side of the church then paved over the graves. Horrible! Yes, that farmhouse across from an old cemetery had to have been so peaceful.

      Love and hugs!

  23. Linda, great post! This brought back memories of a family trip years ago through the Badlands. Deadwood was a fun stop although the kids were too young to understand why Mom was having so much fun reading Tombstones in the cemetery 🙂

    • Hi, Marin……Nope, kids don’t get it but yours probably do now. 🙂 I think South Dakota has the most interesting history. I’d like to go again sometime. Reading tombstones is like reading a good book. 🙂

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