Belle Fourche History
What does Belle Fourche mean? How do you say it? Why did the town form and when? Our story is one right from the story books of the wild west!
Building the west
Belle Fourche River
Belle Fourche River (French for “beautiful fork”) was named by French fur traders, referring to the confluence of what is now known as the Belle Fourche and Redwater Rivers and the Hay Creek. The river was named in the 1780’s, many years before the town was established The new settlement was located at the forks of Hay creek, Redwater River and Belle Fourche River.
Our Pioneer Story
In 1876 gold was discovered in the northern Black Hills. As the gold mining made Deadwood famous, the area north of the Black Hills was settled by pioneers who would become the source of the necessary supplies.; meat, milk, and vegetables. In 1890 the Fremont, Elkhorn and Missouri Valley railroad reached the area and began looking toward the plains to the west. Seth Bullock, frontier marshal and rancher on the Redwater, quietly worked at persuading officials to build a depot on the site of De Mores, an early day stage station. On December 28, 1890, the railroad reached the area and was joined by the depot and the new town of Belle Fourche was established. Seth Bullock and his partner Sol Star donated a right-of-way against his ranch to the Fremont, Elkhorn and Missouri Valley railroad and donated land for their Pioneer Townsite company for a land auction held on June 9th, 1891. Belle Fourche was soon platted, and lots were sold. Free lots were offered to businesses moving in from Minnesela and despite the hatred generated by the struggle, many merchants accepted.
Belle Fourche is one of the most important livestock shipping railheads in the West. The railroad shipping corrals were on the Middle Creek, north of the Belle Fourche River which made the cattle separated from the townsite which was safer for both animals and people. The sheep industry became active in the 1890’s and remains even today. The wool shipping warehouse “Center of the Nation” is one of the largest in the US, handling nearly 2,000,000 pounds. The city is the trading center for a three-state agricultural area encompassing 21,000 square miles in NW South Dakota, NE Wyoming, and SE Montana. A hub for livestock auctions and wool shipping, Belle Fourche also is the center of a bentonite mining industry. The downtown area’s architecture retains the aura of the early 1900’s and is listed as an Historic Commercial District on the National Register of Historic Places.
How Do You Say It?