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Mt. Moriah Cemetery and a Possible Haunting by Seth Bullock

Updated on September 1, 2016
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Cynthia is a writer, artist, and teacher. She loves studying language, arts and culture and sharing that knowledge.

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Mt. Moriah Cemetery - Deadwood, SD

On a recent road trip, I headed to Deadwood, SD. Yes, the same one that is the namesake of the TV show.

I only had an afternoon, so I had to pick the most interesting places to visit. Mt. Moriah Cemetery topped the list.

The cemetery is just above the town.

It has a number of different sections, each with different characteristics. There are potters fields with unknown graves, overlooks, and a number of notable figures from history.

Mt. Moriah wasn't the first cemetery in Deadwood. The first one was Ingleside Cemetery. Most, but not all of the folks buried there would be relocated to Mt. Moriah.

To this day, sometimes residents who live in where the former cemetery was say they sometimes come across remains when they're remodeling.

It was a most unusual tour, culminating with a possible encounter from the town's famous sheriff.

Where is Mt. Moriah in Deadwood?

A markerMt. Moriah Dr, Deadwood, SD -
Mt Moriah Dr, Deadwood, SD 57732, USA
get directions

3,400 people are buried at the cemetery above Deadwood.

Walking Tour of Mt. Moriah Cemetery

When I arrived, I purchased a pass from the ticket booth. In 2016, ticket prices were only $2 per person. For that we got a newspaper filled with information about the cemetery.

We began our tour over by the sections called "additions," which were added after the cemetery itself opened.

The road overlooked a forest and it was a little sad to see one of the three potter's fields. The people buried in these fields are unidentified.

The South Potter's Field
The South Potter's Field | Source

Brown Rocks Overlook

I walked by a number of sections, but one of the first major stops was the Brown Rocks Overlook. The town of Deadwood sits in the valley below.

The elevation, surprisingly, is only 4802 feet.

A US flag always flies above the cemetery. It took an act of congress to allow the flag to fly 24 hours a day.

I continued the tour and saw the gravestone of Hui Ta Mei-fen.

He was a Chinese man who had some influence in the town. In fact, Deadwood had a small Chinese immigrant population, but when they died, they usually just had a wooden headstone.

The US Flag flies 24 hours a day at Mt. Moriah Cemetery.
The US Flag flies 24 hours a day at Mt. Moriah Cemetery. | Source

Children's Section and Mass Grave

Sadly, once the tour passes Mei-Fen's grave, the Children's Section and Mass Grave come next.

Like many other towns at the time, many children came down with a number of diseases, including scarlet fever, diphtheria, and other ailments.

The mass grave includes people who were victims of mining and lumber mill accidents.

Fire was a huge problem, too, in Deadwood itself. Sizable portions of the town burned to the ground on at least three different occasions.

Life wasn't easy for anyone in Deadwood - fires, mining accidents, childhood diseases were all part of the deal.
Life wasn't easy for anyone in Deadwood - fires, mining accidents, childhood diseases were all part of the deal. | Source

Want to see more? Check out a photo history of the town

Seth Bullock

Seth Bullock was Deadwood's first sheriff and he was quite popular. In fact, his grave is located where it is because he wanted to face Mt. Roosevelt as the two had been friends.

Bullock was originally from Ontario, but eventually settled in Deadwood with the hope of striking it rich, like nearly everyone else who went there.

He left his wife Martha behind in Michigan while he scoped it out for safety.

Interestingly, he got there one day before the famous Wild Bill Hickok was shot in the back and killed.

The town demanded law and order and it was Bullock who took the job. He was level-headed and clever and devised creative ways of dealing with outlaws, strikes, and other issues that arose in the town.

It was while Bullock oversaw the town that he happened to run into Theodore Roosevelt who had been on his own mission to capture a fugitive.

At the time, Roosevelt was a Deputy Sheriff. Having much in common, they struck up a friendship to the point where Roosevelt would send his sons to stay with Bullock's family in the summers.

Before he died, he requested that he be buried above Mt. Moriah and facing Mt. Roosevelt. Bullock had built a monument to Roosevelt in honor of his friend after his death in 1919.

Interestingly, workers completed the project in July of 1919 and Bullock died two months after that.

The Road to Bullock's Grave

A sign points to the trail that will take you 750 ft above the cemetery to Seth Bullock's gravesite.
A sign points to the trail that will take you 750 ft above the cemetery to Seth Bullock's gravesite. | Source

A View on the way up

The scene on the hike up to Bullock's grave. You can see Deadwood below.
The scene on the hike up to Bullock's grave. You can see Deadwood below. | Source

Seth Bullock tapped me on the shoulder!

I opted for the walking tour (which I recommend - you can take your time to read the gravestones and look through the cemetery newspaper for interesting facts), and walked up to Bullock's gravesite.

It's 750 ft above the rest of the cemetery. My only regret was that I didn't bring more water. It's like climbing nearly eight stories!

He's buried there along with his wife Martha.

Little rocks,stones, some coins and little bits of glass decorate his grave. These signify that someone had visited his grave and put them there as little tokens of remembrance.

I walked around to the front of his grave and did my own remembrance for a famous man who did so much for the town of Deadwood.

But when I was about to leave, I was walking out of the little gate and felt something tap me on my shoulder. I looked for a little bug or a leaf - anything - that would have been heavy enough to feel like the tap of a finger.

I saw nothing. Immediately I looked back toward Bullock's grave and got the sensation that it was he who had tapped me on the shoulder.

I hadn't been scared. I just smiled and told him and Martha "thank you" for letting me visit and possibly reminding me to enjoy life and to take it easy.

Seth and Martha Bullock's Grave

You can see the little rocks that people have left.
You can see the little rocks that people have left. | Source

A Little Calamity Jane History

Calamity Jane's Grave and History

Walking back down to the main part of the cemetery, I made sure to stop at the gravesites of these two awesome characters from history.

Calamity Jane is really Martha Canary. She grew famous probably due to being orphaned when she wasn't very old and had to find her way in the Wild West.

She had many adventures - some more seedy than others - and wore men's clothing to possibly help her as she did business as a scout, and worked on a bull train.

For her tough exterior, she did help nurse folks back to health, even risking her life by taking care of people during the smallpox epidemic.

But, if you've seen the show, you might recall her as an alcoholic. She died young, at age 47, or close to it. Some say that she loved Wild Bill Hickok and never quite recovered after his death.

Her grave has a gargoyle on it, a symbol of her friendship with Dora Dufran who was a madam and oversaw quite a few brothels in Deadwood and surrounding towns. She knew Calamity Jane from letting her work as a maid.

Wild Bill & Calamity Jane

Calamity Jane's last wish? Bury me beside Wild Bill.
Calamity Jane's last wish? Bury me beside Wild Bill. | Source

Who's Your Favorite Character From History?

See results

James B. Hickok, aka Wild Bill

This poor fellow was murdered from behind at Deadwood's No. 10 Saloon in 1876 only a couple months after arriving in Deadwood. The culprit? Jack McCall who would later be tried and hanged for Wild Bill's murder.

Wild Bill, they say, had an uncanny aim and a talent for using two guns at once. He was able to shoot equally well with both hands.

He'd been married - the same year he'd died, actually - but Calamity Jane always liked to say that they had "a thing."

Three years after he died, townspeople disinterred his body from the first Deadwood cemetery and relocated him to the newly established Mt. Moriah Cemetery.

Wild Bill was known for being extremely calm in any situation which served him well in his adventures as a scout, and Deputy US Marshal, spy and sharpshooter. He was even involved in a pistol duel...which he'd won.

Wild Bill is commemorated with a bronze statue at his grave.
Wild Bill is commemorated with a bronze statue at his grave. | Source

© 2016 Cynthia Sageleaf

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    • cclitgirl profile image
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      Cynthia Sageleaf 12 months ago from Western NC

      Deb - haha! You know...it's not that far from where you live! And I can imagine you'd have a wonderful time - the animals up there are incredible! They have to be hardy due to the climate and winds. So good to see you!

    • aviannovice profile image

      Deb Hirt 12 months ago from Stillwater, OK

      Sounds like a fascinating place. I'll bet Seth Bullock would have been quite the person to talk with. Maybe one day, I'll end up in Deadwood looking for birds. You never know...

    • cclitgirl profile image
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      Cynthia Sageleaf 12 months ago from Western NC

      Dianna - Wild Bill TV you say? Oh man! I might have to look that one up. He was a short-lived but interesting character! But yes, so much interesting history for sure. Thank you so much for stopping by. Have a wonderful evening! xo

    • teaches12345 profile image

      Dianna Mendez 12 months ago

      What an interesting post on this cemetery. I remember watching the Wild Bill TV show as a child. It was a favorite of mine. I think cemeteries with history like this are worth a trip.

    • cclitgirl profile image
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      Cynthia Sageleaf 12 months ago from Western NC

      Hey there, Sha! Haha, well...it was very interesting. The historical significance was astounding. A little sad, yes, but oh so interesting. Thanks for stopping by!

    • bravewarrior profile image

      Shauna L Bowling 12 months ago from Central Florida

      I'd be afraid to tour a cemetery, but might be inclined to visit this one. It really doesn't look like a resting place for the dead.

    • cclitgirl profile image
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      Cynthia Sageleaf 12 months ago from Western NC

      Paint drips - thanks so much! I had my trusty DSLR and love photo editing - so thank you so much!

      Blessings to you! CC

    • cclitgirl profile image
      Author

      Cynthia Sageleaf 12 months ago from Western NC

      Big Bro, that's great! I didn't know you've been there. I really enjoyed the cemetery and you're right: we didn't see a whole lot else while we were there. And it's good to be back! I think I love this better than blogging. By far. LOL.

    • PAINTDRIPS profile image

      Denise McGill 12 months ago from Fresno CA

      Very cool information and photos. Almost like being there. I loved it.

      Blessings,

      Denise

    • billybuc profile image

      Bill Holland 12 months ago from Olympia, WA

      The pictures brought back memories. I'd forgotten the name of that cemetery. It really is a great stopover for any traveler. The cemetery is worth the exit if nothing else about the tourist trap of Deadwood. :) Thanks for the article, Lil Sis! It's good to have you back here writing again.

      Hugs from Olympia