Guide to the Troy L. and Watson Parker Collection (Subject Files) At the Leland D. Case Library for Western Historical Studies

Descriptive Summary

Creator: Troy L. and Watson Parker
Title: Troy L. and Watson Parker Collection
Dates: 1862-2003 (Bulk Dates 1957-2000)
Quantity: 15 drawer(s) (35 linear feet)
Collection ID: MSS.TroyL&WatsonParker
Repository: Leland D. Case Library of Western Historical Studies
E.Y. Berry Library-Learning Center
Black Hills State University
Spearfish, SD 57799

Biographical Note

Troy L. Parker first came to the Black Hills in 1909. He was visiting college friends in Deadwood. The Hills must have made an impression on him. In 1925 John Bland, inventor and mining engineer, and a group of Chicago business men joined to establish a county club, golf course, and summer homes in the Black Hills. This syndicate bought property in Palmer Gulch near Hill City. The Parker family moved to Palmer Gulch from Evanston, IL. The partners' fortunes were reduced by the stock market crash of 1929 and Troy Parker bought them out. The Parker family ran the Palmer Gulch Lodge Resort and Dude Ranch from 1927-1962. Troy and his wife, Janet had two children, Watson and Ellen.

Known at the "Dean of Black Hills History" Watson Parker was a well-respected Historian and prolific writer on the History of the Black Hills. Watson was born in Evanston, IL June 15, 1924, prior to the family's move to the Black Hills.

During World War II Parker served in Europe and the Philippines with the U.S. Army, 1248th Engineer Combat Battalion as Staff Sergeant in the Medical Detachment. After returning home, he pursued higher education, earning his A.B. in Liberal Arts from the University of Chicago 1948 and a B.S. from Cornell University in 1951. In 1950 he married Olga Glassman Parker. Together they had three children, James, David, and Rebecca. Watson and Olga returned to Hill City and managed the Palmer Gulch Lodge from 1950-1960.

Watson then attended the University of Oklahoma where he received a Masters and PhD Western American History and Plains Indian Cultural Anthropology. In 1965 Watson moved his family to Oshkosh, Wisconsin where he taught at the University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh until his retirement in 1986. After retiring he and Olga returned to the Black Hills, splitting time between Palmer Gulch and Rapid City.

His first book, Gold in the Black Hills, was based on his dissertation published in 1966. His second book, written with his boyhood friend Hugh Lambert, was Black Hills Ghost Towns published in 1974. It has remained the authoritative work on that topic. Combined with his final book, Deadwood: The Golden Years, these three books are the cornerstone in any Black Hills scholars' and enthusiasts' library. In addition to these three titles, Watson wrote more than 40 articles on Black Hills and Western history and 40 scholarly book reviews. He had a gift for making scholarly topics accessible to all.

Watson was bestowed with many awards and honors. They include: the Dakota History Conference award for Distinguished Contribution to the Preservation of the Cultural Heritage of South Dakota and the Northern Plains, 1986; the Rodman Paul award for Mining History, 1993; West River History Conference Herb Blakely Award, 2007; the Westerners' Living Legend Award, 2009; and in 2011 he was inducted into the South Dakota Hall of Fame.

After a long battle with Pulmonary Fibrosis, Watson Parker passed away at home on January 9th, 2013. He will be long remembered for his vast knowledge of the Black Hills and as a man of strong opinions and dry wit.

Scope and Contents

The collection contains a vast array of materials relating to the Black Hills. There are some materials from Watson's research, but the majority of the material is ephemeral publications especially tourism. There is also a small series of postcards. There are a few older historic documents, but the bulk of the materials are from the time after the Parkers stopped managing Palmer Gulch Lodge.

Acquisition Information

Received December 2004 - transported by Dr. David Wolff

Related Material

Watson Parker Notebooks - (Part of the Troy L. and Watson Parker Collection)

Preferred Citation

Troy L. and Watson Parker Collection, Leland D. Case Western Historical Studies, Black Hills State University

Processing Information

Rehoused and inventoried by Special Collections Staff and volunteers spring and summer 2005. Description prepared by Bobbi Sago.


Due to the extensive size of the collection, a database was created in Microsoft Access. Database subject entries include information about the types of materials on a given subject and the date span for each type of material. The database can be searched at: