Why would they name a town Hill City? It is the oldest city in Pennington County, South Dakota. I think the named is derived from the fact that it is near the geographic center of the famous Black Hills of South Dakota. And much like the other small towns here, mining played a central role in its formation. But rather than gold or silver, it was tin mining in the 1880s that brought fame to Hill City.
Nevertheless, Hill City has benefitted greatly from the growth of tourism to Custer, Mt. Rushmore, and the Black Hills. Can you guess why we are here?
The Black Hills Central Railroad restored the narrow gauge railroad back to its former glory in 2001. The railroad has been featured on numerous television shows, such as Gunsmoke, and the soap opera, General Hospital. The original line is now a bicycle trail, named for George S. Mickelson in the 1990s.
But more importantly, American paleontologist, Sue Hendrickson discovered the fossil that would become the most complete skeleton of Tyrannosaurus Rex. Here is the story:
On August 12, 1990, Sue Hendrickson, an American paleontologist working for the Black Hills Institute of Geological Research discovered the fossil of what would become the most complete skeleton of a Tyrannosaurus Rex ever discovered. The fossil was named “Sue” after the woman who discovered it. After discovery, excavation, and transport to the Institute’s facilities in Hill City, controversy arose as to who the rightful owners of the fossil was. The parties in dispute were the land owner, Maurice Williams, the tribe – and thus the federal government, and the Black Hills Institute. On May 12, 1992 FBI agents seized Sue from the Institute over the course of three days. The fossil was shipped to South Dakota School of Mines and Technology. Through the ongoing court battle it was finally decided that Maurice Williams was the owner of the fossil. The federal government later brought a 39 count 153 charge indictment against the institute and several of its members which was related to this case and other fossils. This case turned into the longest criminal trial in South Dakota state history. Finally Peter Larson the president of the institute was convicted on two counts of customs violations for which he served two years in federal prison. Sue was finally auctioned off by Sotheby’s auction house, and sold by Maurice Williams to the Field Museum in Chicago, Illinois for 8.36 million dollars.
What a story! So, my next question is, what else might we find out here? And why would anyone want a fossil named after them?