South Dakota’s state historian starts a podcast

Capitol News Bureau

PIERRE, S.D. (KELO) — South Dakota’s state historian is making history this week with the opening episodes of a podcast, History 605.

The general focus is South Dakota history — 605 is the statewide area code for telephone calls — but it also might be the first recurring podcast among the two dozen departments and bureaus of state government.

Ben Jones said he found the State Historical Society staff, its governing trustees and foundation, state Education Secretary Tiffany Sanderson and Governor Kristi Noem’s office all supported the idea.

“We’ve been seeking to reach more people and I thought it would be an effective way to do that,” Jones said Friday.

In the first episode Jones, who grew up in DeSmet, talks about what he intends the program to be and provides a snapshot of his personal history.

The second episode features Black Hills State University professor emeritus David Wolff, author of The Savior of Deadwood: James K.P. Miller on the Gold Frontier. Wolff describes Miller as “the premier actor” in turning Deadwood from a 1870s mining town to a lasting trade center.

One way, Wolff said, was Miller realizing that a railroad was essential and a community could better prosper as a rail terminus — and Miller eventually bringing two to Deadwood.

South Dakota Public Broadcasting provides the podcast’s tech arm.

“SDPB has been great to work with and their audience has been asking for more state and local history. So when I approached them about this, they were excited to work on it together,” Jones said.

Episodes will be released every other Monday. History 605 is on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, South Dakota Public Broadcasting and South Dakota State Historical Society Press blogs. Links will also be on Twitter @History605 and

Jones wants the podcast to promote the society and its books and quarterly journal.

“The next episode will be released on the 19th and will be with historian Andrew Isenberg, a University of Kansas historian, about his book on the bison’s near extinction during the 1800s,” Jones said. “Other episodes in production are on women’s suffrage, our recent biography on George Custer, the pow wow from the Sisseton-Wahpeton Oyate perspective, and our recent book on Wounded Knee by Jerome Greene.”

The target audience?

“Podcast listeners come from all walks of life, but tend to be younger adults with busy lives. They listen in the car or while exercising,” Jones said. “We hope in making it available on Apple and Spotify we will find the audience outside the state as we see lots of interest from people who used to live in South Dakota or from history buffs around the world interested in the Midwest, Great Plains, Dakota, Lakota, Mandan, and other tribal histories.”

Wolff, in the episode about Miller and Deadwood, said Miller played a further role long after he left life. Wolff said Miller led the drive to build what was called the Syndicate Block. A century later, fire gutted it.

Deadwood U Bet used the video in TV ads across South Dakota. In the 1988 general election, voters approved amending the South Dakota Constitution and opened an exemption to allow limited card games and slot machines in Deadwood.

As Frank Sinatra sang, “Let luck be a lady tonight.”

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