Very few mines in the world ever produced gold continuously for more
than one hundred years. The Homestake Mine was one that did, producing 40
million ounces of gold from 1876 through 2001, when the quest for the yellow
metal was brought to an end for good. Over the next few years after the mine
was shut down, tens of thousands of ounces in additional gold were recovered
as mine facilities were systematically decommissioned, and the mill site was
reclaimed and converted to an open-air museum.
For more than 125 years, the Homestake Mine helped support the
livelihoods of countless numbers of people who were directly or indirectly
affiliated with the mine. Sadly, some of these people lost their lives or were
physically impaired while working at the mine or in support of the mine.
Fortunately, a lasting legacy evolved from the dedication, loyalty, and
perseverance of each of these people and every other person who was ever
associated with the mine. This living legacy continues to evolve with the
transformation of the mine into a deep underground science and engineering
The Homestake legacy began to unfold in August and September 1875
when the Bryant, Blanchard, Smith, Gay, and Lardner parties discovered rich
gold placers in Deadwood Gulch. What they found was mostly Homestake gold,
weathered and worn to “nuggets” and “dust.” Fred and Moses Manuel, along
with their partners, Henry C. “Hank” Harney and Alexander “Alf ” Engh, were
latecomers to Deadwood Gulch, arriving in February 1876. For the most part,
these four men were more interested in finding the source of the placer gold or
the “lode gold.” Their prowess and diligence paid off. On April 9, 1876, Moses
Manuel and Hank Harney discovered a rich quartz outcrop upon which all four
men located the Homestake lode claim.
The Black Hills was still a part of the Great Sioux Reservation then, pursuant
to the Fort Laramie treaties of 1851 and 1868. The Teton Sioux, also
known as the Lakota, probably weren’t the first American Indians to have a
presence in and around the Black Hills. Notwithstanding, the Fort Laramie
treaties specified the boundaries for the Great Sioux Reservation and the Black
Hills were included within that description. It wasn’t until the Manypenny Agreement
was signed on September 26, 1876, and ratified by Congress on February 28, 1877,
that the boundaries of the Great Sioux Reservation were modified, thereby excluding
the Black Hills from the reservation and allowing the miners to have a “legal” presence
in the Black Hills.
Toward the latter part of 1877, the California capitalists George Hearst, J.
B. Haggin, and Lloyd Tevis acquired the Homestake and Golden Terry mining
claims from the Manuel brothers, Harney, and Engh. From that point forward,
the California capitalists and their various other investment partners engaged
themselves to try and acquire most all of the mining claims along the Homestake
Belt, providing there was good ore and the price was right.
Their acquisition strategies included such methods as outright force, costly
court battles litigated by the best lawyers, acquisition and control of precious
water rights through separate companies, fair land purchases, creation or
consolidation of mining companies, and acquisition and control of competing
companies through accumulation of company stock. In other cases, the
Homestake capitalists prevailed by simply waiting until the other operators
went broke or some other opportunity presented itself to allow acquisition at
a bargain price. Aided by their money, skill, and shrewdness, the Homestake
capitalists were very successful in fulfilling their passions and paving the roadway
for future generations at the Homestake Mine.