Sunday, July 31, 2011

Dead Man's Hand

Before my book came out, someone asked if I had included the final resting place of Charles Henry Rich. Rich was a friend of Wild Bill Hickok and ultimately dealt him two black aces and two black eights in Deadwood, South Dakota. According to legend, this was his hand when he was murdered in a saloon on August 2, 1876. To this day, it's known as the Dead Man's Hand.

I was surprised that I had never heard of this local legend since I have an ear for this sort of thing. I was given directions to the cemetery and put it on my list and left it at that.

A few days ago, a friend emailed me asking if I knew the name of the man and the cemetery where he was buried. I sent her the information. This morning I happened to run into her at breakfast and asked if she'd found it. She hadn't, but we talk about it a little bit then went our separate ways. My husband and I realized we had over an hour to kill before the movie we were on our way to see, so we decided to find Mr. Rich.

The cemetery was easy enough to find. It's located in Miamiville near Camp Dennison (234 Center Street, Miamiville). We looked around the cemetery for about a half hour for the distinctive monument we'd seen photos of.

It was only after scouring every row that we came to the conclusion it must have been vandalized or removed. Turns out, the story might be even more interesting than I originally thought. Some say it was taken down by the family years ago in order to have the famous saloon scene carved into it. Others say the same, only to have it cleaned. I cannot verify the authenticity of this, nor do I totally understand what it going on here--but in the Find A Grave page comments, I came across this website which appears to be run by relatives of Charles Henry Rich:

It appears there was some dispute over the ownership of the gravesite, the rights of the family vs. those of the county and the State of Ohio and some copyright issues. I had heard at one point the family desired some compensation from the government. One thing is for sure--the marker is gone and we could not find evidence of a temporary marker.

It seems a shame that Mr. Rich, a man who lived so colorful a life, lies in an unmarked grave (I'm assuming) over this. But then again, maybe his Wild West life followed him back to Miamiville. Whatever has happened, I hope that one day we will be able to visit this wonderful monument again.


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