WASHINGTON - The U.S. Department of Transportation has released $515,283 for improvements to the Gordon Stockade Area, which is off U.S. Highway 16 east of Custer, Sen. Tim Johnson, D-S.D., announced Tuesday.
"I am pleased that this money is going to the South Dakota Department of Transportation to restore the Gordon Stockade Area," Johnson said in a news release. "This funding helps recognize, preserve and enhance America's scenic roads and highways and historical areas.
The Gordon Stockade was the first white settlement in the Black Hills, the result of a band of gold prospectors violating the Laramie Treaty in 1874. The group of 28, including one woman and a child, arrived on Dec. 23, 1874.
Although the party was marginally prosperous at finding gold in French Creek, the group confirmed the gold discovery claim of the Custer Expedition earlier in 1874.
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U.S. Army troops escorted the Gordon party out of the Black Hills on April 6, 1875. After arriving in Cheyenne, Wyo., some of the prospectors began streaming back to the Hills, along with other people lured by the news of gold, Jessie Sundstrom, manager of the 1881 Custer County Courthouse Museum, said.
The stockade was rebuilt in 1925 by Custer citizens and again in 1941 by the Civilian Conservation Corps.
"This money will be used by the South Dakota Department of Transportation to give visitors to the Gordon Stockade Area a more interactive, historical experience," Johnson said. "Once finished, visitors will come face to face with history by looking at displays of historical dress, crafts and even finding out how to pan for gold. Due to the fact that the existing structure is crumbling, current interaction is limited to viewing the fenced enclosure from a distance. Restoration of the site would open the doors to an interactive historical experience."
Johnson says the money will be used to overhaul the entire site by providing a new access road from the east, constructing a new hiking trail around the lakeside perimeter and relocating the Annie Tallent Monument to an area west of the parking lot at a point where trails divide.
Signs will also be constructed at the west side of the parking area to include weatherproof displays pertaining to Gordon Stockade, the Annie Tallent Monument, information on the Custer expedition, a Stockade Lake pamphlet and a map of the proposed future lake. Public restrooms also will be built.
Custer State Park staff will focus efforts on maintaining the site and reinstituting living-history programs associated with Gordon Stockade.
Johnson said 136 projects in 38 states received funding as part of $20 million in funds released by DOT in celebration of Earth Day.