Custer History - 12 Mile Ranch
Written by Dolsee Davenport
September 25, 2020

One of the most fascinating historical stories involves the Heumphreus family and 12-Mile Ranch. In 1876 Joe Heumphreus bought some land and cattle, and settled with his wife twelve miles southwest of Custer. Once Joe finished his buildings, he was visited by a representative of the newly formed Cheyenne/Black Hills Stagecoach Company. The stagecoach would be passing right by the front gate of the ranch. Once an agreement for providing overnight services was reached, several cabins were built.  From the very first, Twelve Mile Ranch became a center of hospitality.  Among its early prominent guests was Captain Seth Bullock, organizer of T. Roosevelt’s Rough Riders and for many years United States Marshall for South Dakota.  Seth slept in the bunkhouse as did many others who passed through.  Teddy Roosevelt had stopped overnight at the ranch during his younger days while he was ranching in North Dakota.  Other notable guests who stayed at Twelve Mile were the outlaw Johnny Owens and “El Comancho” (W.L. Phillips) famous painter, writer, and lecturer. 

Jesse James took over one of the bunks for a much-needed sleep after a very long ride.  His short stop at the ranch was not made public at the time.  As the story would go, the African American couple who worked for Joe were southern friends of Jesse James so he went to them first.  The couple asked Joe to give Jesse lodging for the night, but they did not say who the gentleman was.  It wasn’t until Jesse left that they told Joe that their overnight friend was Jesse James.

Over the next 9 years, the ranch became one of the most important rest stops for the Stagecoach. One of the unique log cabins that was a part of 12-Mile Ranch has recently been acquired by the 1881 Courthouse Museum and can be seen in the southeast corner of the Museum’s property.

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Custer, SD 57730



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