Naming the County

Lawrence County derives its name from its first county treasurer, Colonel John Lawrence, (1839 to 1889). It is located on the western border of South Dakota. It is bordered by Butte County on the north, Meade County on the east, Pennington County on the south and the State of Wyoming on the west. The cities of Deadwood, Lead, Spearfish, Whitewood and the township of St. Onge are located within Lawrence County. The County Seat is located in historic Deadwood.

At the session of the Dakota Legislature of 1874 to 1875, acts were passed which established the limits and jurisdiction the counties of Lawrence and Custer. It was not until February 22, 1877, however, that a treaty with the Sioux Indians was ratified which ceded the Black Hills to the United States, finally allowing formal organization of Lawrence, Pennington and Custer counties.

Officially Organized

Lawrence County was officially organized in April 1877. The boundaries extended from the two branches of the Cheyenne River on the east to Wyoming on the west and to the Belle Fourche River to the north continuing to Pennington County on the south. However, the organization of Butte County in 1883 and Meade County in 1889 reduced the county to less than half of its original size, making it the smallest in area of the Black Hills counties. Nonetheless, it was considered to be the most important, containing one-half the population and wealth of the Black Hills. The assessed valuation for Lawrence County for 1903 was nearly 11 million dollars.


Originally, the Governor served as a commissioner in each of the three counties, and two commissioners were selected from within each county. It was decided by the governor and the two commissioners that the county seat for Lawrence County would be in Crook City. However, the decision met with such opposition that it was reversed. The first board meeting was called to order in Crook City, then adjourned to Deadwood without any public business being transacted. Later, a general election made Deadwood the permanent county seat. 

For more information on the courthouse, please see the Lawrence County Courthouse page.

Lawrence County has a rich and illustrious history spanning over 100 years. It is home to Homestake Gold Mine, the worlds longest producing gold mine. Deadwood, at one time the largest town in South Dakota (and the Dakota Territory), was the central hub for trade and transportation in the region. "Wild Bill" Hickock, a well known scout, and eventually a frontier Marshall, was shot and killed in Deadwood in 1876. Calamity Jane, a pony-express rider and army scout, settled in Deadwood in the late 1800s, and is buried next to Wild Bill Hickock in the Mount Moriah cemetery in Deadwood.