By A. H. KOSCHMANN and M. H. BERGENDAHL - USGS 1968
Pennington County lies just south of Lawrence County and includes part of what is known as the southern Black Hills. From available production records, which are very fragmentary and incomplete, it is estimated that Pennington County had a minimum production through 1959 of about 128,000 ounces of gold; most of it was from lode deposits and small amounts were from placers.
Gold was found in 1875 in the gravels of Spring Creek, Palmer Gulch, Castle Creek, and Rapid Creek by the Jenney expedition (Newton and Jenney, 1880, p. 238-272). Most of the placers were of low grade, and the discouraged prospectors turned northward to the more promising diggings in the Deadwood area and left the southern part of the Black Hills virtually deserted. The new arrivals found that most of the favorable ground around Deadwood had been claimed; accordingly, some of them, prospecting enroute, returned to the southern Black Hills (Hughes, 1924, p. 21-26). In 1876 the Columbia lode in the Keystone district was located; the nearby Bullion lode was found in 1877 (Connolly and O'Harra, 1929, p. 118-119). In the Hill City area, the Gold Metal deposit was explored as early as 1878 (Allsman, 1940, p. 72). Gold mining in the early years was apparently conducted in a desultory fashion, and production probably was small.
In May 1883, tin ore was discovered in what is now known as the Etta spodumene mine, and other discoveries of tin ore in the Harney Park area followed. The tin boom lasted until about 1894, after which gold prospecting was resumed and several significant discoveries were made (Connolly and O'Harra, 1929, p. 115-116). Among these were the Keystone and the Holy Terror lodes which were located in 1892 and in 1894 respectively. In 1898 the Keystone was sold to the Holy Terror Co.; the combined properties have been the largest producers in the southern Black Hills (Allsman, 1940, p. 91-94). After 1903 the most active period was in the early 1940's, when the Keystone mine was reopened briefly. Most of the mines in Pennington County were idle during 1906-27. In 1928 and 1929 some mines were revived in the Keystone district; in 1935 some lode mines and placers in the Hill City district were worked. Gold mining in Pennington County practically ceased from 1943 through 1959. In the county, only the Keystone and Hill City districts have produced more than 10,000 ounces of gold.
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