Deadwood Magazine


High above Old Deadwood

You can see Old Glory wave.

In the shade of stately pine trees

Lay the many graves

Of the gamblers and the miners –

A quiet lonely sight.

Laying side by side with preachers

Are the ladies of the night.


The Celestials had their bones sent

Back home across the sea,

But a forgotten few remain

And in Potter’s Field they sleep.

The children had their section –

The Jews and Masons, too –

All pioneers a’resting

From when the country was brand new.


Now Mount Moriah holds them –

Both the good and bad –

The princes and the paupers

Are now equal it is said.

Shining through the pine boughs

Moonlight shadows dance and sway –

Or is it a reunion

Of another time – another day?

Deadwood’s historic Mount Moriah Cemetery becomes a busy site the latter part of May when families and friends place Memorial Day tributes on graves of the more than 3,000 people buried there.

A popular stop for summer tour buses, the historic cemetery on a high hill overlooking the town attracts more than 100,000 visitors each year. They come to see the spot where Wild Bill Hickok, Calamity Jane, Preacher Smith and other famous Deadwood characters were laid to rest. Admission fees are used for cemetery maintenance.

Mount Moriah Cemetery was not the original burial place for the 1876 gold mining town. James Butler Hickok and Henry Weston Smith were first interred in a "Boot Hill" several hundred yards down the hill in Whitewood Gulch. A new cemetery was established on higher ground in 1878 when the less precipitous Ingleside area was needed to build homes for new residents of the growing gold camp. The bodies, were moved to the new location and the cemetery became the residential area of Jackson and Taylor streets.

Owned and maintained by the city, Mount Moriah has been undergoing a massive $3.5 million renovation, a Deadwood Historic Preservation Commission project funded by gaming-generated proceeds. The restoration has involved rebuilding of the walls and terraces and repair of steep hillside roads. Monuments have been refurbished, decorative ironwork and masonry restored. Trees have been pruned and signage updated for the convenience of walking tours.

Created by local artist David Young, a bronze replica of an original 1891 J. H. Riordan statue was installed on Wild Bill’s grave two years ago.

Oval shaped like many Victorian-era cemeteries, Mount Moriah takes its name from Masonic rituals. Prominent citizens who founded the cemetery were buried in the Masonic section and many of the cemetery streets have Masonic names. A Jewish section has tombstones inscribed in Hebrew and Civil War veterans are buried beyond the grave of Preacher Smith. By special government permission, the U.S. flag flies over Mount Moriah 24 hours a day.

Plots are no longer available at the historic cemetery. Burials are now limited to individuals and families who previously purchased plots.


Copyright 2004 © Deadwood Magazine

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