Correcting a Common Misconception: Custer City, SD is NOT the location of Custer’s Last Stand
Written by Dolsee Davenport
September 9, 2019

George A. Custer was born in 1839 in Rumley, Ohio, one of five children born to Emmanuel and Maria Custer. In 1864 he married Elizabeth Bacon whom he called Libbie. During the Civil War, Custer’s rank was Major General. After the war ended, he reverted to his pre-war rank of Captain and then was promoted to Lieutenant Colonel and put in command of the newly formed Seventh U.S. Cavalry.

In 1874, Custer’s orders were to organize a scientific expedition to explore sacred Sioux land known as the Indian Territory (Black Hills). Unofficially, Custer was “ordered” to seek verification of repeated rumors about rich gold deposits. Two practical miners, Horatio N. Ross and William T McKay, were attached to the scientific corps in addition to a geologist and his assistant, a naturalist, a botanist and medical offer, a topographical engineer, a zoologist and a civilian engineer. The detachment also comprised more than 1,000 men.

By July 30 the expedition was camped in an open area east of present-day Custer City, SD. They made this area on French Creek their home for roughly five days. It was during this time that gold was discovered and 21 men put out their stakes and drew up papers for District No. 1, Custer Mining Company before the expedition headed home.

On June 25, 1876, Custer and 12 companies of the 7th Cavalry attacked a massive Lakota-Cheyenne village on the Little Bighorn River in Montana Territory. Custer never anticipated the massive size of the village or the number of warriors ready to fight for their freedom. Contrary to his expectations, the warriors in the village didn’t flee, they counterattacked. Custer and more than 200 of his men were all killed at the Battle of Little Big Horn near what is now Hardin, Montana. He is buried at West Point Military Academy in New York.

The City of Custer was established in 1875 when the Black Hills Gold Rush got its start. When it came to naming the town, most of the prospectors were Civil War veterans and a vote was taken to choose between Stonewall City or Custer City. Although the name Custer City won, the actual tally was reputed to be close to half and half.

If you would like to visit the Battle of Little Bighorn National Monument it is located at 756 Battlefield Tour Road in Crow Agency, MT.

For more information about Custer City please stop in to the Custer Chamber of Commerce Visitor Information Center at 615 Washington Street in Custer, South Dakota.

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