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One of the oldest structures in the central Black Hills, Miller Cabin gets some TLC

Published: Sep. 16, 2021 at 7:44 PM CDT
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RAPID CITY, S.D. (KOTA) - A once abandoned cabin in the Black Hills dating back to the 1890s was rediscovered in the 1990s.

It has been being kept and preserved since the 2000s, and recently it has seen some more repairs.

It was built in roughly 1879 as a bed and breakfast style cabin for wagon trains off of the Cheyenne/Deadwood trail. Janie Knutson, Mystic District Archaeologist with the Forest Service, says, “Stay the night, get a good meal and have their hoses taken care of.”

The property was abandoned in 1888 where “they started their own ranch and actually started the town of Deerfield South Dakota,” says Knutson.

Why Deerfield?

See, the Millers would see all kinds of people from the wagon trail on their 300 acres who would salt their wheels for traction just like we do now and “A lot of salt would accumulate around this particular cabin and all the other houses owned by the Millers,” says Knutson.

All the salt attracted deer who would congregate in the field, and Knutson says “hence the name, Deerfield.”

In the ‘40s, FDR decided to make the Deerfield reservoir. The land was purchased by the federal government and the cabin was auctioned to the Anderson’s who moved it by OX cart to its current location.

Knutson says you can see the modifications each family put into the building, and “it’s been much loved over the years.”

She says this cabin is a representation of the day-to-day South Dakotan of the time.

“They mostly had homes just like this and they lived out average lives where they were ranchers, they were families and they were members of our community.”

The cabin’s history can be used as a means to reflect upon one’s own in a way Knutson describes as, “oh, maybe my family was like this too!”

The Forest Service has had the building since 1979 and has made a point to preserve it.

“There are rarely buildings that last this long in the Hills,” says Knutson, “just naturally things decay over time.”

Recently the Forest Service patched it up and fixed a collapsed porch, because “what we were doing is making sure this can be enjoyed by everybody in the Black Hills,” says Knutson.

There may be a fence around the structure, but it’s not their to keep people out. They constructed a new gate for access. Although Knutson warns, “you may have to jump over a log or two!”

Regardless, Knutson says it’s safe and nothing’s going to come down on you.

“Please, come out,” Knuston says!

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