DEADWOOD | Anyone turning over little more than a shovelful of dirt in the historic town of Deadwood can expect to have an archaeologist peering over their shoulders in case any artifacts from the city’s past are unearthed.
OK, that’s an exaggeration. But while residents are safe from having their flower and vegetable garden plots scrutinized, any private or public construction project requiring excavation is required to have a state archaeologist monitor it in most of the town, which was named a national historic landmark in 1961.
City zoning laws have an entire chapter on historic preservation, Deadwood Historic Preservation Officer Kevin Kuchenbecker said Thursday.
“Any construction within the historic district requires archaeological investigation. That can be anything from a surface review, test pits to a full-out investigation and mitigation,” he said.
State archaeologists are on site during construction of Deadwood’s new Outlaw Square, which broke ground Monday in an area of downtown steeped in city lore.
The square will be built on the current site of the Franklin Motor Inn, a contemporary (by Deadwood standards) motel dating back to the late 1950s or early 1960s.
Before that, Kuchenbecker said, the lot was home to Deadwood’s city hall, an opera house/theater, both of which were consumed by Deadwood’s historical nemesis — fire — in 1952.
The site was also home to a log structure that included a Chinese dwelling and laundry, also leveled by an 1879 conflagration, predating the city hall structure, which was built in 1889.
Kuchenbecker said the city has extensive archives of photographs, fire insurance maps, mineral surveys and newspaper clippings to give an idea of what contractors and archaeologists might encounter during a construction project.
He said archaeologists don’t anticipate any major finds during excavation for the Outlaw Square project, which begins with the razing of the Motor Inn.
But you never know, Kuchenbecker said.
“There are always surprises and unknowns and part of the importance of archaeology is documenting information on Deadwood’s past that we may not know and confirmation of what we do know,” he said.
The construction may reveal interior and exterior foundations of the opera house and city hall, along with charred earth from the log dwelling and laundry.
Any finds of artifacts, say, plate glass shards or square nails used in the early buildings, likely won’t delay construction.
Other projects have unearthed major finds. A four-year study of Deadwood’s Chinatown district from 2001-2004 found 250,000 to 300,000 artifacts that are still under examination in the Historic Preservation archives in city hall.
The discovery of human remains on occasion in the original location of Mount Moriah cemetery in the city’s Presidential District meant only a delay of a few days once a coroner determined circumstances of the death, gender, race and age of any remains, Kuchenbecker said.
Most projects in Deadwood build in a certain amount of time for archaeological investigations that may crop up in the course of construction.
Any artifacts found during the square construction will become property of the city. In the case of a private project, any artifacts found become the property of the landowners.
“Most times the owners recognize the importance of the artifacts to Deadwood’s history and donate those,” Kuchenbecker said.
The ShopKo retail chain has added Custer and Chamberlain to the growing list of small towns in South Dakota that will lose their only department store in the coming months.
A spokeswoman for the Wisconsin-based retail chain said Thursday that it will begin liquidating merchandise at its stores in Chamberlain and Custer this week in advance of closure in the next three months. The statement follows the announcement in December that ShopKo will close stores in Dell Rapids, Redfield, Wagner and Webster in February.
“As of yesterday, Custer and Chamberlain were announced [for closure],” Michelle Hansen, a spokeswoman for Shopko, said Thursday. “They will begin liquidation tomorrow and will close on April 7.”
The December round of closures included about three dozen other ShopKo stores across the Midwest. Other than the six stores now targeted for closure in South Dakota, Hansen said there are no plans at this time to close any of the remaining 14 ShopKo stores operating in South Dakota, including ones in Rapid City, Sturgis, Belle Fourche and Hot Springs.
Each ShopKo location that will be closed employs from 15 to 25 people who will lose their jobs.
Chamberlain Mayor Chad Mutziger said he heard from the local ShopKo manager that the store was performing well and also had been told recently by ShopKo corporate officials that the Chamberlain store was safe.
But this week, he and others in town were alerted that the store near the eastern exit into Chamberlain off Interstate 90 would be closing soon.
“It’s obviously terrible news for our community,” Mutziger said. “Not just the community of Chamberlain but for our whole area.”
The twin cities of Chamberlain/Oacoma along the Missouri River do not have another department store. Mutziger said shoppers looking for a big-box store with similar offerings would have to drive an hour east to Mitchell or more than an hour northwest to Pierre.
Custer and the four other South Dakota towns losing a ShopKo also do not have another local department store.
Mutziger said he is hopeful that when ShopKo closes, locals will do their shopping in town to boost small retailers and soften the hit on sales tax collections. Officials also fear that shoppers who leave town for home products will buy other goods and services they might otherwise have purchased locally.
“We have a vibrant Main Street that carries a mixture of things,” Mutziger said. “Chamberlain is a vibrant enough community that our other businesses can fill those gaps left by ShopKo.”
Experts say the decline in performance of ShopKo and other legacy retailers like Sears is being driven by the ease of online shopping and the rapid expansion of mega-stores such as Walmart and discount retailers, including Dollar Tree and Dollar General.
Over the past five years, ShopKo made inroads into rural Midwestern communities with smaller stores under its “ShopKo Hometown” brand, which has fewer offerings than a full-sized ShopKo.
An ancestry website and DNA sample led to the Jan. 2 arrest of a suspect in a 2012 rape case in Belle Fourche, according to the town's police chief.
Shane Boice, 32, of Nisland, was indicted Jan. 8 in the Butte County courthouse on one count of second-degree rape and two counts of first-degree burglary, court records show. One of the burglary charges is in the alternate, which means Boice can only be found guilty of one of the charges.
Belle Fourche Police Chief Marlyn Pomrenke said the department responded to the reported rape on April 12, 2012, and DNA was collected at the scene. He said the Department of Criminal Investigations later stepped in to help.
"They had evidence at the scene, but if the suspect was never arrested for anything that required DNA, then there was nothing in the system," Pomrenke said.
Investigators eventually sent the DNA sample to the FBI and found one of Boice's relatives on an ancestry website who's DNA was a similar match to the suspect's DNA, Pomrenke said. They then were able to look at the person's relatives and narrow down Boice as the suspect.
Pomrenke said he's not sure when the DNA sample was sent to the FBI or which ancestry website was used.
Attorney General Jason Ravnsborg said he couldn't provide any more details about the case. A spokesman for the FBI in Minnesota, which oversees South Dakota, said he had no information on the case and suggested reaching out to the FBI lab in Quantico, Virginia.
The use of ancestry websites to identify criminal suspects came to national attention when the so-called Golden State Killer was arrested last year with the help of them decades after going on a rape and murder spree in California.
The arrest also sparked a conversation on privacy and ethics regarding DNA and ancestry websites.
There are few details about the allegations against Boice because the affidavit in support of his arrest is sealed.
If he is convicted, he could be sentenced to up to 50 years in prison for the rape charge and 25 years for the burglary charge.
Boice, who is out of jail after posting a $100,000 cash/surety bond, is set to return to court for his initial appearance at 8:30 a.m. on Jan 18, court records show.