Finns In Deadwood

I had heard little bits and pieces about Deadwood, South Dakota.  I even drove through town once.  I knew there was some history there but didn’t really know how much.  Oddly it was TV, HBO more specifically, that showed me the story of Deadwood.  Still I did not expect to find Finns there, but there were.  They were even mentioned (poorly) on the HBO series.

Finns worked many of the mines of the Black Hills.  The Black Hills Gold Rush (1874) brought men from as far as Europe, including many Finns, looking for streets of gold.  The biggest was the Homestake Mine which was discovered by three men in 1876.  George Hearst developed the mine starting in 1877.  The mine operated until 2001.  Finns had been mining in Finland since 1540, so I’m sure they played major roles in the Homestake Mine.

DeadwoodFinns first settled in Suomi in the Dakota Territory.  A postal mistake named the town instead, Snoma. Many of the Finns working at the Homestake Mine lived in Snoma.  They originally came from Olou.   Miners traveled 21 miles to Deadwood for work.  When the Chicago, Northwestern Railroad reached Fruitvale in 1911 the residents moved closer to the railroad or the mine.

At its peak Snoma had a general store, post office, saloon, blacksmith shop, lumber yard, hardware store, livery stable, hotel, barber shop, and an ice house.  All that remains of the town today is a Finnish cemetery and an artesian well.

Another town popular with Finns working in Deadwood was Roubaix to the southeast.  At its peak Roubaix had a population of 500 and of that 80 were Finns.  Many were from Laupua.  The town had a post office, boarding house, churches, school, and a newspaper.   Of the churches two were Finnish, an Evangelic and an Apostolic Lutheran.  Where those in Snoma were mostly here for mining, most of the early Finns in Roubaix were either ranchers or in the lumber industry.  But the town grew as the mine did, and many more came for mining later.  The town is now considered a ghost town.

One comment

  1. I’m big into genealogy and learned a while back one of my great-great uncles moved to Deadwood to strike it rich in the gold rush shortly after arriving in Northern Michigan from Finland. I recently found out he was the first Finn to be married in Deadwood and the second to have a child in the town. I would love to find more information about him in old records.

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