Lead, South Dakota
Once gold was discovered in the Black Hills in 1874, it was not long before prospectors were combing the Hills for more of the precious metal. Lead was founded by these miners in early 1876, but tended to be a little more civilized than its sister city of Deadwood four miles down the Gulch.
The famed Homestake Mining Company was created with the consolidation of many smaller claims in 1877, and came under the control of George Hearst that same year. Under Hearst’s Homestake, Lead became the quintessential company town, and continued that way for over 100 years, in its life producing over forty million ounces of gold, valuing over a billion dollars. Lead grew as the mining interests and related mills expanded. At one time, mining and logging related to Homestake’s operations ranged from Spearfish Canyon on the northwest to Piedmont and Nemo to the southeast. Homestake closed in 2002 as the oldest, largest and deepest mine in the western hemisphere, stretching over 8,000 feet below the town.
The mine is now the location of the Sanford Underground Laboratory at Homestake, a science and physics laboratory where dozens of universities and research institutions are working on experiments. The mine’s observation deck is open to the public to view the historic open cut. A tour of one of several museums will allow you to step back in time and gain insight into this historic mining town