2018 Dakota Territory Times Black Hills

FREE! Take One! DAKOTA TERRITORY TIMES OLD TIME HISTORY OF THE BLACK HILLS SUMMER 2018 Mount Rushmore: The making of a monument Ninety-one years ago the carving began on Mount Rushmore. It was in 1927 that the late President Calvin Coolidge handed the late sculptor Gutzon Bor- glum tools and told him to begin work on this gigantic undertaking. “We have come here to dedicate a cornerstone laid by the hand of the Almighty,” Coolidge told the 1,000 people who at- tended the Aug. 10, 1927, ceremonies. “The union of these four presidents carved on the face of the everlast- ing Black Hills of South Dakota. . . will be distinctly American in its conception, in its magnitude, in its meaning.” A handful of unem- ployed miners who were simply looking for work in the depth of the Depression toiled with Borglum and eventually came to realize his dream as their own. Those drill-dusty men Bor- glum trained to be his pow- dermen became so skilled in the use of dynamite that they could blast their way to within two inches of the fin- ished surface. Mount Rushmore was named quite by chance in the 1880s by a rough team- ster who was driving Charles E. Rushmore, a New York lawyer, through the Black Hills. “What’s the name of that mountain?” Rushmore asked. “It hasn’t any,” was the response, “but why don’t we name it for you.” Rushmore later do- The mountain carvers in August 1941, just two months before the completion of the carving. Back row, from left, Or- well P. Peterson; Ernest "Ernie" Raga; Otto E. "Red" Anderson; Matthew P. Reilly, foreman: Able Ray Grover. Norman E. "Happy" Anderson; Joseph August "Joe" Bruner; J. Edwald "Ed" Hayes; Marion Gesford "Mony" Watson; Gustav Louis "Gus" Schram; Earl E. Oaks; Robert "Bob" Himebaugh; Albert Basil "Bake" Canfield; Robert Howard "Bob" Chris- ton; and James Lincoln Borglum, superintendent. Front row, Jay Fernando Shepard; Alton Parker "Hoot" Leach; Clyde R. "Spot" Denton; Patrick LeRoy "Pat" Bintliff' Ernest Wells "Bill" Reynolds; Gustav R. "Bay" Jurisch; James "Jim" LaRue; Frank J. Maxwell; and John "Johnny" Raga. Ray Grover, Red Anderson, and Hoot Leach were also part of the crew in 1931. None of these men are known to be alive today. nated $5,000 towards the carving of the monument that bore his name. The work at Mount Rushmore started very slowly due to the lack of funds. The work was sea- sonal; a season was from the first of April to the end of October. Many seasons were even shorter because the money was not avail- able. The majority of the men were hired locally. A few of the men had previously worked for Borglum at other locations; the first su- perintendent, Jesse Tucker, worked for Borglum at Stone Mountain in Georgia. Several men who were sculptors in their own right had previously worked for Borglum, which included assistant sculptors Ivan Houser and Hugo Villa; the third superintendent, Bill Tallman; chief carver Luigi Del Bianco; foreman Matthew Reilly; and carver Joe Bruner. During the carving of Mount Rushmore, from 1927 through 1941, there was a large turnover of em- ployees. More than 360 men worked on the moun- tain even though there was an average of about 35 men working at one time. Many miners were em- ployed for the carving oper- ation. They were experi- enced in drilling and handling explosives. A good many of the workmen had worked in the mines in Keystone and the surround- ing ares which included the Homestake Mine in Lead. Since the work was sea- sonal, most of the men worked at other jobs during the winter months, and many of the men did not re- turn for another season be- cause they may have found another job which they thought provided more se- curity. It is safe to say that the majority of the Mount Rushmore workers lived in Keystone during the carv- ing years. Keystone was a rural community, absent of running water and indoor toilets, as compared to the urban population of Rapid City and other major cities in the Black Hills. Housing was plentiful, but some were not too desirable. As mentioned previ- ously, there were many houses available from the heydays of mining around the turn of the century. A house rented from $5 to $15 a month. It is probably safe to say that some of the workers occupied aban- doned shacks without pay- ing any rent. As a token of their appreciation they spent a little time fixing up a place for the privilege of having a roof over their heads. Harold “Shorty” Pierce, a winchman for many years, paid $5 a month for a small cabin with a dirt floor near the Etta Mine for his family of five children. Most folks did not miss luxury because they had never experienced it. It was very common to take a bath once a week in a washtub in the middle of the kitchen floor on a Saturday night. Electricity was a luxury Continued on next page —