NAMING WRITES: Setting the record straight on J.H. Keith Memorial Park

TOP RIGHT: This photo, presumably taken in 1891, shows the original pavilion in the background, which was built by the Carlsbad Spring Company in that same year. Looking closely on the far left hand side in the distance, is the town of Cascade Springs. This view is no longer attainable due to the growth of new trees. (Helen Magee Heritage Collection)

BOTTOM LEFT: Edna Keith, sitting far right, donated the land to Black Hills National Forest for the creation of J.H. Keith Memorial Park in the 1960s. Also pictured in this photo is: (Sitting L-R) Lauretta Lawless, Gena Salisbury, Viola McClanahan. (Standing L-R) Maude Petty, Edith McClanahan. (Photo courtesy Fall River County Historical Society)

BOTTOM CENTER: “The Ramblers” getting ready for a performance at the original pavilion. The date on the lower right side of the pavilion appears to say April 5, 1908. Notice the difference in architecture between the original pavilion and how it looks today. (Photo courtesy Peggy Sanders, Images of America: Fall River County and Hot Springs, Views from the Past, 1881-1955)

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Cascade roadside park was named for a woman, not a man

Publisher’s Note: This story about the Keith family is the next in an ongoing series of stories by the Fall River County Herald-Star to highlight the history of the people behind the names of many of our county’s buildings, landmarks and attractions.

By Marcus J. Heerdt

HOT SPRINGS --- J.H. Keith Memorial Park is located approximately eight miles south of Hot Springs on Highway 71 near the old townsite of Cascade Springs.

The park is managed by Black Hills National Forest and features picnic tables, a pavilion, walking paths, and Big Geyser and Sulphur Springs, both of which flow into nearby Cascade Creek.

Various historical documents, books, and newspaper and magazine articles reference Mister J.H. Keith as the man behind the name of the park. However, this is not true.

J.H. is Josephine Helen Keith - one of the original settlers of Cascade Springs in the early 1880s. Josephine owned 3,250 acres of land that stretched from the present-day park all the way south to Cascade Falls.

Josephine never spelled out her first name when conducting business “and all legal documents were signed ‘J.H. Keith’ as it was not socially acceptable to let it be known that a woman held title to land in her own name.”

In the 1960s, Josephine’s only remaining heir, her daughter Edna, deeded 25 acres of land over to the Forest Service “to preserve forever the herein described premises as the J.H. Keith Memorial Park.”

Josephine was born in Philadelphia on Dec. 18, 1858, to Edwin and Helena Dunwoody. After the death of her mother, Josephine and her father moved to Chicago to be closer to her sister, Mrs. Frank T. Allabaugh.

In 1880, the Dunwoody and Allabaugh families headed to the Black Hills together and eventually settled in the canyon along Cascade Creek and “built the first two buildings in the area, one of which was a hotel.”

In 1882, the small community was granted a post office and Frank T. Allabaugh served as the first postmaster.

The Carlsbad Spring Company formed in 1890 and bought extensive tracts of land in the Cascade Springs area in an effort to create a warm springs-based health resort.

During this time, the Cascade Springs Sanitarium and Bath House was constructed and promoted as a place to cure various ailments. This building was the “sparkling gem” of the community.

By 1891, more than 200 people lived in Cascade Springs and the town had over 50 buildings, including a bank, barbershop, general store, saloon, drug store, bowling alley, and a school.

A regular stagecoach ran between Cascade Springs and Hot Springs, and the Carlsbad Spring Company later made plans to build a trolley line between the two towns, but this line was apparently never built.

The boosters of Cascade Springs were disappointed when the railroad decided on a route through the southwestern portion of the Black Hills that bypassed Cascade Springs and instead ran through Edgemont.

The Dunwoody family decided to move out of Cascade Springs and lived for brief periods of time in Custer City, Rapid City, Sturgis, and Whitewood, before finally settling in Deadwood.

In Deadwood, Josephine met Jacob Griffin Keith, a well-traveled man who was born in Kirkland, Ill., on Dec. 10, 1850. While living abroad in Australia, Jacob heard about gold discovered in the Black Hills, and decided to move to the region in 1880.

Josephine and Jacob were married in Deadwood on Dec. 11, 1883, and had three children together: Eva, Edna, and Helen.

Jacob was active in the Deadwood community and owned various properties in the northern Hills. He was a charter member of the Deadwood chapter of Modern Woodmen of America, helped create one of Deadwood’s first baseball teams, owned multiple gold mines, and was co-owner of the Keystone/Merchants Hotel (present site of Gold Dust Casino & Hotel on Main Street).

Jacob also co-owned Crystal Cave (also called Bethlehem Cave), about 10 miles south of Sturgis. Cave tours began in 1892 and the cave “became a regular stop on the Black Hills & Ft. Pierre Railroad.”

In 1893, the Keith family moved to Chicago...and so did the cave. Jacob cut out 300,000 pounds of cave formations from Crystal Cave and filled numerous train cars with stalagmites, stalactites, crystals, dogtooth spar, and boulders.

The cave pieces were sent by rail to Chicago for the 1893 World’s Fair (also known as the World’s Columbian Exposition). Jacob constructed a cave exhibit in the fair’s Horticulture Building and charged five cents for admission. The reconstructed Crystal Cave had many passages, seven rooms, and used 100 light bulbs.

After Chicago, the Keith family lived in New York, Atlanta, Atlantic City, N.J., Colorado Springs, Colo., and abroad in Europe.

In 1900, the Keith’s returned to South Dakota and lived for a brief time in Deadwood. Due to Josephine’s failing health, the family moved back to the place where she first settled in the Hills, Cascade Springs.

The Keith family went into the cattle business and ranched along Cascade Creek.

In 1902, the family purchased the old Allen bank building and made it their home (the only prominent remaining structure still standing at Cascade; currently a private residence.)

Jacob continued to travel, and once again took his Crystal Cave exhibit to the 1904 World’s Fair in St. Louis (Louisiana Purchase Exposition).

In the 1910s, the Keith family continued to purchase land along Cascade Creek, with much of it in Josephine’s name (signed J.H. Keith).

Josephine was the final postmaster of Cascade Springs and served until Dec. 15, 1914, when all mail was then redirected to Hot Springs.

In 1926, both Josephine and Jacob contracted a severe strain of the flu and were taken to the Lutheran Hospital in Hot Springs. Neither could recover from the after effects of the virus, and Mr. and Mrs. Keith died in the same year, eight months apart.

The April 13, 1926, edition of the Hot Springs Star reported: “The community has been deeply shocked by the death, last Saturday at seven o’clock, of Mrs. J.G. Keith, the wife of J.G. Keith, of Cascade Springs. Mrs. Keith was taken to the Lutheran hospital last week suffering with flu that developed into pneumonia. Every effort was made to combat the illness but without success. Mrs. Keith was a member of the Presbyterian church of Hot Springs. Mrs. Keith was a devoted wife and mother; a true friend by all who knew her. She will be greatly missed in the community and sincere sympathy is extended to her husband who is now ill in the Lutheran hospital and to her daughters.”

Jacob was transferred to the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn., and died there on Dec. 1, 1926. The Hot Springs Star stated: “Mr. Keith was a valued citizen; a man whose dealings were a synonym for integrity and whose character was such that he was a strong influence in the life and progress of his community.”

Josephine and Jacob are both buried in Evergreen Cemetery in Hot Springs.

Unfortunately, out of the Keith’s three daughters, only one survived well into adulthood.

In April 1903, the Hot Springs Weekly Star reported: “Miss Helen Keith, the fifteen year old daughter of Mr. and Mrs. J.G. Keith, died at the home of her parents at Cascade. She had been sick about a week with appendicitis, though it was not supposed her condition was serious. The parents are almost heart-broken in sorrow. Miss Helen was an exceptionally vigorous and healthy young lady and her death came as a shock to her many friends throughout the Hills.”

Many years later, the Keith’s oldest daughter Eva, along with four of her close friends, died in an automobile accident in Illinois.

After the death of her parents and sisters, the only remaining member of the Keith family, Edna, inherited the land along Cascade Creek.

Earlier in her life, Jacob sent Edna to college at Columbia University in New York. She earned her master’s degree and moved back to Cascade Springs in the 1910s and was a teacher at several rural schools in Fall River County.

During World War I, Edna was in Europe while serving with the Red Cross and met Colonel George Florence. The couple married and settled in Columbus, Ohio, after the war.

Each summer, Edna visited Cascade Springs and lived in her family’s old residence, the Allen bank. Sadly, each time she returned “she would find that vandals had taken or destroyed some possessions that meant much to her.”

In 1962, Edna donated a portion of her family’s land to Black Hills National Forest for the creation of J.H. Keith Memorial Park with the following conditions:

1.) The park is for the use of the public and for no other purpose.

2.) None of the water arising on said premises shall be diverted except for the use and development of the said memorial park

3.) The present entrance to the park shall be maintained in its present condition and that any replacement thereof shall always prominently bear the inscription “J.H. Keith Memorial Park”

4.) The pavilion now on said premises shall be maintained and preserved in its present condition.

Edna returned to Ohio and died in 1974 after having “the misfortune of falling while coming out of the bank in Columbus and broke a hip from which she did not recover.”

J.H. Keith Memorial Park has experienced many changes through the years.

The pavilion dates back to 1891, when the Carlsbad Spring Company constructed it for the use of a bandstand over Big Geyser springs “for the enjoyment of the public” and to tame “the two foot high water spewing out of the ground.”

In 1953, the pavilion was “refurbished using as much of the old material as was possible.” Restoration crews reinforced the pavilion’s rock foundation, replaced missing wood pieces on the roof, and fixed the railings.

In 1994, Black Hills National Forest installed picnic tables with rock inlays along with concrete pads, vault toilets, and made the park accessible in accordance with ADA standards.

Although today’s visitors to the park use a new parking lot and footbridge for access, those who look carefully will still see the original entrance with the old rock and iron gate a little farther down the road (see photo) that reads, “J.H. Keith Park,” in accordance with Edna’s wishes.

Each Christmas season, Edna “eulogized the beauty of her lovely Cascade with some view of the park and an original verse to explain it.”

When she sold the remaining sections of her land along Cascade Creek to a private landowner, Edna wrote:

“An important milestone in Cascade history is being taken now. Mrs. Edna Keith Florence’s acres are being purchased by Oakley Lamphere of Sturgis. In some ways, Cascade is considered the best Ghost Town in South Dakota. It was to be a great summer resort with medicinal springs. The legend still remains, and we hope Oakley Lamphere may perpetuate the beauty and the history of Cascade for years to come. Buildings have either disappeared or become poorer year-by-year; but the beauty of the park, the creek, and the valley are incomparable.”

Author’s note: After an extensive search, this is the first time that Naming Writes has been published without a photo of the actual person for whom a place is named. Two factors may have contributed to this. First, the Keith family’s history was hard to track down because they were “all over the place.” The Keith family lived in numerous towns in the Black Hills region as well as Chicago, New York, Atlanta, Atlantic City, N.J., Colorado Springs, Colo., and abroad in Europe. Second, out of their three children, two died young and Edna, apparently with no children of her own, died in Columbus, Ohio. If anyone has a picture of Josephine and Jacob Keith, please contact the Herald-Star at (605) 745-3930.

Thank you to Mike Runge at the City of Deadwood Archives, Wanda Aaberg, and Peggy Sanders for their contributions to this story. Information and photos for this article obtained from the books “Fall River County Pioneer Histories,” “The Water Cure,” “Images of America: Fall River County and Hot Springs, Views from the Past, 1881-1955,” newspaper, Forest Service, and BLM archives, and the Helen Magee Heritage Room.

Fall River County Herald Star

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