Deadwood Has Drawn Fortune-Seekers Since 1876. HBO Is Only the Latest.

Opportunity even greeted those who were shunned elsewhere. A Chinese community thrived here, running laundries, restaurants, apothecaries; a Jewish community thrived here as well, opening mercantile shops, grocery stores, haberdasheries.

You can learn much more about those communities, and many of their more prominent members, and pretty much every other person of note who ever lived here and what they did, at the Adams Museum, about as good a local history repository I have ever come across in a town of this size. (Deadwood’s year-round population is only about 1,200.) But, strange as this may sound, they, and what they all experienced and endured, will really come to life for you if you make the trek to Mount Moriah Cemetery, up in the hills above the gulch.

It’ll cost you two dollars to get in, and you’ll have to hike some steep inclines, but it’s well worth the effort, and not just for the lovely views of the town down below. Most visitors don’t venture much further inside than Wild Bill’s monument, near the gates. People leave cash, decks of cards, packs of cigarettes and tiny liquor bottles at his grave.

But the history of Deadwood is spread all around in Mount Moriah’s picturesque verdant slopes: In the Chinese section, which contains few markers (most Chinese sent their dead back to the old country for burial) but does have a ceremonial burner (for religious ceremonies) that has been recently restored, and in the Jewish section, Mount Zion (a.k.a. “Hebrew Hill”), where you’ll find Levinsons and Goldblooms and scores of others. (Though not Solomon Star — portrayed by John Hawkes in the series — who also served 10 terms as Deadwood’s mayor; he’s buried in St. Louis.) It’s there in the large Masonic plot laid out like a celestial lodge, one of only two (I am told) in the entire country, and in mass graves filled with the victims of devastating epidemics and catastrophic fires, and on the tombstones of the everyday people whose epitaphs make clear that there was more to Deadwood than legends and gunfights.

Their stories might not be the stuff of dramatic premium cable television shows, but they are inarguably the stuff of everyday life during the painful, often traumatic expansion of a nation that would someday look back on that period with a nostalgia and awe and desire to recapture it, somehow, in a premium cable television show. And movie.

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