Great Plains Studies, Center for


Date of this Version



Great Plains Quarterly 33:3 (Summer 2013)


© 2013 Center for Great Plains Studies, University of Nebraska


With this edition of Captain Jack Crawford’s letters, Paul Hedren has made another valuable contribution to the historical record of the Black Hills, the Great Sioux War, and frontier journalism. Hedren presents Crawford’s letters from 1875 through 1876, introduced by an extended biographical sketch and a lucid description of the larger historical context. Crawford (1847–1917) emerges as a familiar frontier type—born in Ireland, raised in Pennsylvania, twice wounded during the Civil War, who then learned from Buffalo Bill Cody and others how to dress and act like the buckskinned scout, and most of all, how to tell stories about his rough-and-tumble frontier experiences.

The letters that form the core of this book come from Crawford’s two years as a correspondent for the Omaha Daily Bee, when he witnessed the early mining boom in the Black Hills and then participated briefly as an army scout during the ensuing hostilities with the Sioux. As a correspondent, he wrote glowing letters about the “land of gold,” describing not only the mineral wealth but also the scenic beauty of “cathedrallike cliffs” and “natural amphitheaters surrounded by walls of granite.” Crawford downplayed the casual personal violence in the mining towns, emphasizing instead that the miners were “good, law abiding citizens” anxious for duly constituted state and federal laws, an infusion of outside capital, and a regular post office.