Wild West


Samuel McMaster, superintendent of the Homestake Mine in Lead, a few miles southwest of Deadwood, Dakota Territory, was sitting in his office a little before noon on Jan. 17, 1879, when A.L. London and Abe Cohen, the owners of the rival Pride of the West Mine, strode through the door with Deputy Sheriff James Lynch. Lynch served McMaster with a cease-and-desist order, demanding the superintendent stop work on the Grand Prize Mine, claimed by both the Pride of the West and the Homestake. “You needn’t bring a regiment to give notice,” McMaster sneered. “You’d be perfectly safe by yourself.”

But no one was safe when Superintendent McMaster was seeing red. Born in Ireland in 1840, he’d traveled the world as a hardscrabble miner. His task in the Black Hills of Dakota Territory was to ensure the smooth and uninterrupted operation of the Homestake, owned by George Hearst, Lloyd Tevis and James B.A. Haggin—cease-and-desist order be damned. Minutes after London, Cohen and Lynch left his office, McMaster strode down to the Grand Prize shaft entrance, which Pride of the West men had sealed off with planks. As McMaster removed one of the boards, Pride of the West guard Joseph Lewis pulled him away.

Raising the plank in hand, McMaster threatened to bludgeon Lewis, who responded by drawing a revolver. The Homestake superintendent wisely retreated, but back in Lead he used his pull to have warrants for malicious trespass issued against Pride of the West owners London and Abe Cohen and several

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