In the spring of 1876, four prospectors including the Manuel brothers, located what would prove to be the greatest strike in the Black Hills of Dakota. It soon attracted the interest of California mining magnate, George Hearst, who purchased the claim and proceeded to develop it and buy out the surrounding claims. Hearst’s wife, Phoebe, used the resulting windfall to establish numerous charities in the Northern Hills, including the Hearst Free Library, the free kindergarten, and Homestake Hospital. She was also a moving force behind the construction of the Brick Store (which housed the Hearst Mercantile), the Homestake Opera House and Recreation Building.
George Hearst made more worldly use of the fortune flowing from the Homestake Mine. He pursued a career in politics with mixed results, ultimately achieving his goal of a Senate seat by appointment rather than election. His purchase of the San Francisco Examiner in 1880 proved more promising, and provided the foundation for the far-flung newspaper empire of his acquisitive son, William Randolph. This pampered only child had led an aimless existence before being bitten by the newspaper bug and creating a new form of sensationalism called yellow journalism, even starting his own “lovely little war” (the Spanish-American War). By the time he had driven his competition out of business however, his father’s fortune was virtually exhausted and he eventually lost his newspaper empire as well.
Working backward then: Teddy Roosevelt became President of the United States because he won the nomination for Vice-President after becoming a war hero in Hearst’s “lovely little war”, which the younger Hearst couldn’t have instigated without funding from his father, George Hearst, who obtained a substantial part of his fortune from the Homestake Gold Mine in Lead, South Dakota.
But what if he had never heard of the Black Hills?