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The Thoen Stone

The Thoen Stone

A small sandstone slab, known as the Thoen Stone, is perhaps the earliest evidence of miners in the Black Hills. The Thoen Stone is named for Louis Thoen who discovered the stone at the foot of Lookout Mountain near Spearfish on March 14, 1887. Although some scholars dispute the authenticity of the stone, the late historian Frank Thomson devoted much of his life to researching the history of the men named on the stone. His research added credibility to the likelihood that the stone is genuine.

According to Frank Thomson, a group of men left Independence, Missouri in the spring of 1833 with the intention of opening a route to Santa Fe, New Mexico. While on the trail, they met an American Indian from the Crow Tribe who knew of the existence of gold in the Black Hills. It was the Crow guide who led the expedition into the Hills.

The only record that exists as to the fate of these gold-seekers is the Thoen Stone. Carved on it is an inscription claimed to have been scratched by Ezra Kind. Although no one knows what happened to Kind, it is assumed that he died in the Black Hills. If he had ever made it back, American history might have been written quite differently. This discovery of gold in the Black Hills preceded the California gold rush by more than a decade.

In the years following the discovery of the Thoen Stone, Frank Thomson located the descendents of the ill-fated party. All of the descendents confirmed that their ancestors headed west in 1833 and were never heard from again. The members of the Ezra Kind party may have been the first Europeans to seek gold in the mysterious Black Hills, but they were not to be last.


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July 4, 1916
Thousands thronged to watch Ivy Baldwin walk a tightrope across the Open Cut, a distance of 450 feet with a 500-foot drop beneath him.
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