Mount Rushmore History

In 1927, sculptor Gutzon Borglum, lured to the Black Hills by Sen. Peter Norbeck and other South Dakota officials, began carving his massive American monument into the side of nearby Mount Rushmore.

Keystone welcomed the good-paying jobs for 25 to 30 men each year. And during the Depression, these were often the only jobs available. By its completion in 1941, however, Keystone had discovered something else – in the first year 393,000 tourists came to see the famous carving. Before long, tourism was Keystone’s primary industry.

Today, more than 2 million people a year visit Mount Rushmore, and nearly all of them come through Keystone. Motels, restaurants, museums, attractions and a wide variety of gift shops greet these visitors every year. In addition, Custer State Park, the Crazy Horse Memorial, other Historic Attractions & outdoor recreation have ensured that Keystone is here to stay.

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In 1876, just two years after the Custer Expedition discovered gold in the Black Hills, prospectors found placer gold along Battle Creek two miles east of present-day Keystone. They established a town and named it Harney. The placer gold, in gravel along creek beds, played out after just a couple of years. Harney disappeared.

In 1883, the Harney Peak Hydraulic Gold Mining Co. used high-pressure water to blast the gold from deep in the gravel beds. At one time, a 200-foot-tall trestle spanned the 700 feet across the gulch over present-day Winter Street. That same year, 1883, the hard-rock Etta Mine was established to mine mined mica, tin and other minerals. Other operations soon followed, including the Keystone Mine, the Ingersoll Mine and the Holy Terror Mine -- named for the wife of one of the mine’s founders.

Over the next several decades Keystone’s rock yielded gold and more exotic minerals such as arsenic, feldspar, mica, beryl, cassiterite, tantalite, columbite, amblygonite, lepidolite, spodumene and quartz.

The Keystone Historical Museum is housed in the old Keystone Schoolhouse building of early Victorian architecture. Built in 1900, it served as Keystone's full-time school until 1988.

The Museum houses early day mining tools, historic pictures and photo collections, rock and mineral collections, and historic displays including Carrie Ingalls memorabilia.

Follow the numbered signs and read about the history of one of the fastest growing boom towns in the Hills. There are 19 stations on the walking tour, each with a sign in description of the location.

The signs were provided by Craig Stump of Stump Signs and Graphics of Rapid City.

Although you might not know it by driving down Winter Street, known as “The Strip,” Keystone is one of the Black Hills’ oldest towns, with a rich history that dates back to the earliest days of the Great Black Hills Gold Rush.

Take a drive down Madill Street, and you'll see Old Keystone, with historic buildings, shuttered mines and an Old West history that rivals Deadwood, Custer, Rapid City and Hill City. The story of Keystone is a story of a resilient little city that refused to become a ghost town.

In 1911, Carrie Ingalls arrived in Keystone to manage the Keystone Recorder and other Black Hills newspapers. No one knew it at the time -- not even the Carrie – but she would become Keystone’s most famous citizen.

Her older sister, Laura Ingalls Wilder, published the first of her “Little House on the Prairie” books in 1932. Laura chronicled the pioneer life of the Ingalls family, including her older sister Mary and younger sister Carrie.

The family settled near De Smet, S.D., in 1879, and Carrie spent the rest of her life in South Dakota. By the time she moved to Keystone, Carrie was 41 and a veteran newspaperwoman. On Aug. 1, 1912, she married David Swanzey and quit her job to raise her stepchildren. She lived in Keystone until her death in 1946. At the free Keystone Historical Museum, you can learn more about the 35 years Carrie spent in Keystone.