Ft.Pierre to Deadwood Trail Saga #5 | TSLN.com

Ft.Pierre to Deadwood Trail Saga #5

Lonis Wendt

It was often thought that in the late 1870’s-80’s, bull-whackers occupied the lowest rung on the social ladder. Whackers had a reputation of, “not being too smart, taking one bath per year, wearing the same clothes for months, chewing tobacco, swiggin’ bad whiskey and of being ‘bilingual,'” since they were known to “spew out a long, loud, illegible string of cuss words that only oxen could understand!” A few exceptional whackers climbed several rungs on that social ladder!

Our saga for today captures the lives of four whackers who became successful and prominent in Dakota history, men whose likenesses can be found in Halls of Fame, museum galleries and in hallways of certain banks. Jesse Brown noted in his book that in the solitude of walking the Ft. Pierre to Deadwood trail countless times, these men theorized that thousands of miners and speculators were seeking their momentary fortune’s “beneath” the grass roots, but, that a lasting, durable fortune could be made “above” the prairie grass roots. The “open range” was their ticket.

Peter Duhamel immigrated from Quebec with practically nothing to his name. After drifting for a few years, he took advantage of “free land” and homesteaded near Brighton, CO and began amassing a cow herd. After the 1879 grasshopper plague decimated his grass, Duhamel drove his 900 head of cattle north to Dakota Territory. He located his headquarters near Underwood. He promptly lost 600 head of cattle in the killer blizzard of 1881. Undaunted, he continued ventures into the cattle buying and selling business. Between ventures, Duhamel operated his own bulltrain business, freighting hay and wood to camps in and around Deadwood. One summer he put up 80 acres of hay with a scythe and hand-rake! (That’s about 25 football fields.)

In 1885 he sold his 20,000 acre ranch and livestock, then moved to Rapid City. Within a few months, Pete opened the Duhamel Hardware and Saddle Company and quickly gained the trust of the local ranchers and Indians. Hundreds of the popular Duhamel saddle were built in the store, mostly special ordered by cowboys and horsemen throughout the west. Duhamel also invested in the banking business with partner Mike Quinn. For several years, Mr. Duhamel served as president of the banks at Hermosa, New Underwood and Wasta, while simultaneously serving as vice president of the 1st Nat’l and Pennington County Banks in Rapid City. He was a wise whacker!

It was often thought that in the late 1870’s-80’s, bull-whackers occupied the lowest rung on the social ladder. Whackers had a reputation of, “not being too smart, taking one bath per year, wearing the same clothes for months, chewing tobacco, swiggin’ bad whiskey and of being ‘bilingual,'” since they were known to “spew out a long, loud, illegible string of cuss words that only oxen could understand!” A few exceptional whackers climbed several rungs on that social ladder!

Our saga for today captures the lives of four whackers who became successful and prominent in Dakota history, men whose likenesses can be found in Halls of Fame, museum galleries and in hallways of certain banks. Jesse Brown noted in his book that in the solitude of walking the Ft. Pierre to Deadwood trail countless times, these men theorized that thousands of miners and speculators were seeking their momentary fortune’s “beneath” the grass roots, but, that a lasting, durable fortune could be made “above” the prairie grass roots. The “open range” was their ticket.

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Peter Duhamel immigrated from Quebec with practically nothing to his name. After drifting for a few years, he took advantage of “free land” and homesteaded near Brighton, CO and began amassing a cow herd. After the 1879 grasshopper plague decimated his grass, Duhamel drove his 900 head of cattle north to Dakota Territory. He located his headquarters near Underwood. He promptly lost 600 head of cattle in the killer blizzard of 1881. Undaunted, he continued ventures into the cattle buying and selling business. Between ventures, Duhamel operated his own bulltrain business, freighting hay and wood to camps in and around Deadwood. One summer he put up 80 acres of hay with a scythe and hand-rake! (That’s about 25 football fields.)

In 1885 he sold his 20,000 acre ranch and livestock, then moved to Rapid City. Within a few months, Pete opened the Duhamel Hardware and Saddle Company and quickly gained the trust of the local ranchers and Indians. Hundreds of the popular Duhamel saddle were built in the store, mostly special ordered by cowboys and horsemen throughout the west. Duhamel also invested in the banking business with partner Mike Quinn. For several years, Mr. Duhamel served as president of the banks at Hermosa, New Underwood and Wasta, while simultaneously serving as vice president of the 1st Nat’l and Pennington County Banks in Rapid City. He was a wise whacker!

It was often thought that in the late 1870’s-80’s, bull-whackers occupied the lowest rung on the social ladder. Whackers had a reputation of, “not being too smart, taking one bath per year, wearing the same clothes for months, chewing tobacco, swiggin’ bad whiskey and of being ‘bilingual,'” since they were known to “spew out a long, loud, illegible string of cuss words that only oxen could understand!” A few exceptional whackers climbed several rungs on that social ladder!

Our saga for today captures the lives of four whackers who became successful and prominent in Dakota history, men whose likenesses can be found in Halls of Fame, museum galleries and in hallways of certain banks. Jesse Brown noted in his book that in the solitude of walking the Ft. Pierre to Deadwood trail countless times, these men theorized that thousands of miners and speculators were seeking their momentary fortune’s “beneath” the grass roots, but, that a lasting, durable fortune could be made “above” the prairie grass roots. The “open range” was their ticket.

Peter Duhamel immigrated from Quebec with practically nothing to his name. After drifting for a few years, he took advantage of “free land” and homesteaded near Brighton, CO and began amassing a cow herd. After the 1879 grasshopper plague decimated his grass, Duhamel drove his 900 head of cattle north to Dakota Territory. He located his headquarters near Underwood. He promptly lost 600 head of cattle in the killer blizzard of 1881. Undaunted, he continued ventures into the cattle buying and selling business. Between ventures, Duhamel operated his own bulltrain business, freighting hay and wood to camps in and around Deadwood. One summer he put up 80 acres of hay with a scythe and hand-rake! (That’s about 25 football fields.)

In 1885 he sold his 20,000 acre ranch and livestock, then moved to Rapid City. Within a few months, Pete opened the Duhamel Hardware and Saddle Company and quickly gained the trust of the local ranchers and Indians. Hundreds of the popular Duhamel saddle were built in the store, mostly special ordered by cowboys and horsemen throughout the west. Duhamel also invested in the banking business with partner Mike Quinn. For several years, Mr. Duhamel served as president of the banks at Hermosa, New Underwood and Wasta, while simultaneously serving as vice president of the 1st Nat’l and Pennington County Banks in Rapid City. He was a wise whacker!

It was often thought that in the late 1870’s-80’s, bull-whackers occupied the lowest rung on the social ladder. Whackers had a reputation of, “not being too smart, taking one bath per year, wearing the same clothes for months, chewing tobacco, swiggin’ bad whiskey and of being ‘bilingual,'” since they were known to “spew out a long, loud, illegible string of cuss words that only oxen could understand!” A few exceptional whackers climbed several rungs on that social ladder!

Our saga for today captures the lives of four whackers who became successful and prominent in Dakota history, men whose likenesses can be found in Halls of Fame, museum galleries and in hallways of certain banks. Jesse Brown noted in his book that in the solitude of walking the Ft. Pierre to Deadwood trail countless times, these men theorized that thousands of miners and speculators were seeking their momentary fortune’s “beneath” the grass roots, but, that a lasting, durable fortune could be made “above” the prairie grass roots. The “open range” was their ticket.

Peter Duhamel immigrated from Quebec with practically nothing to his name. After drifting for a few years, he took advantage of “free land” and homesteaded near Brighton, CO and began amassing a cow herd. After the 1879 grasshopper plague decimated his grass, Duhamel drove his 900 head of cattle north to Dakota Territory. He located his headquarters near Underwood. He promptly lost 600 head of cattle in the killer blizzard of 1881. Undaunted, he continued ventures into the cattle buying and selling business. Between ventures, Duhamel operated his own bulltrain business, freighting hay and wood to camps in and around Deadwood. One summer he put up 80 acres of hay with a scythe and hand-rake! (That’s about 25 football fields.)

In 1885 he sold his 20,000 acre ranch and livestock, then moved to Rapid City. Within a few months, Pete opened the Duhamel Hardware and Saddle Company and quickly gained the trust of the local ranchers and Indians. Hundreds of the popular Duhamel saddle were built in the store, mostly special ordered by cowboys and horsemen throughout the west. Duhamel also invested in the banking business with partner Mike Quinn. For several years, Mr. Duhamel served as president of the banks at Hermosa, New Underwood and Wasta, while simultaneously serving as vice president of the 1st Nat’l and Pennington County Banks in Rapid City. He was a wise whacker!