For roughnecks in search of trouble, Deadwood was the place to go. An outlaw town—its very beginnings as a mining camp violated government treaties with the Sioux—Deadwood soon acquired a reputation that dime novels could hardly exaggerate. It attracted both the great and the gritty. Calamity Jane lived there, Wild Bill Hickok was shot in the back there and Buffalo Bill was an irregular visitor, not to mention Seth Bullock, Mineral Jack, Slippery Sam, Cold Deck Johnny, and Belle Haskell, the best-known madam in town.
To reform the town's notorious habits, Federal Judge Granville G. Bennett moved to Deadwood with his family in 1877, and his young daughter, Estelline, grew up with the town. She saw it change from a congeries of horse thieves, claim jumpers, road agents, painted ladies, and slick or shabby gamblers to a middle-class railroad town, a little dazed by its history and success. Her story of the settlement that grew up around Deadwood Gulch remains one of the finest and fullest accounts of the taming of the West.