1880 Town
and Longhorn Ranch

Murdo, SD

June 15, 2002

As we traveled west through South Dakota on I-90 we started noticing signs about the 1880 town. One of the things that peaked our interest was the information that part of the movie "Dances With Wolves" was filmed there. We decided to stop by and learn about this interesting place. We learned that when Richard Hullinger bought 14 acres at Exit #170 back in 1969 he had no plans for an attraction. In 1972 a gas station was built at this location along with forming an idea of an old west attraction. Later, an additional 80 acres was purchased. About that time a movie company came to a small town nearby to film an 1880 era movie. A main street set was constructed from old buildings and a number of Indian relics and antiques were borrowed from Clarence Hullinger, Richard's father. Winter set in and the filming was abandoned. The movie company returned home giving the main street set to Clarence for the use of his artifacts. The movie set was moved to the 80 acres and the 1880 Town was born. Along with the beginning of 1880 Town began years of collecting what is now an authentic 1880 to 1920 era town from buildings to contents. Clarence and Richard have kept historical value on an equal balance with public appeal , choosing buildings that are not only interesting to look at but are also historically correct for an early South Dakota town. The displays and buildings range from Indian relics from the 1870s to the fourteen-sided barn built in 1919. A tour of the town begins at this unique barn. The barn boasts an automated hay and manure handling system. It took three days and thousands of dollars to move the 45 miles from its original location south of Draper. In the barn you will see fine antique buggies, toys, stalls with horses in them, a working turn-of-the-century Coinola, saloon piano from Deadwood. From the barn, the whole town lies before you in a beautiful panoramic view. The first building on the north side is the Vanishing Prairie Museum. The museum was built to house the more valuable collections, many from the General Custer period. Items displayed are a pair of boots and an old army saddlebag from the Custer battlefield that were found at an Indian campsite, parade helmets worn by U.S. Cavalry Indian Scouts with the crossed arrow insignia, Indian dolls, arrowheads, a complete authentic cowboy outfit, photographs, and selected interiors of fine Dakota homes. The collection also includes Buffalo Bill items and a tribute to the late Casey Tibbs, 19-time World Champion Rodeo Cowboy. From there going down main street are the buildings which were part of the movie set that started 1880 Town. Each has a completely authentic display inside depicting normal 1880 life, from the playing cards on the barroom table to the merchandise on the general store shelves. The Dakota Hotel was moved from Draper. Built in 1920, it still carries the scars made by cowboys' spurs on the staircase. One of the things that I found really different was a costume rental shop adjacent to the Hotel. For a few dollars men, women, or children could rent a costume that they could wear while they continued their discovery of this unique place. The costumes were, of course, outfits that would be worn in the 1880s. The men could be anything from cowboys, to gentlemen gamblers, to soldiers. The ladies anything from the most proper lady to the most "improper" lady. This is the first place that I've seen that actually let you wear the costumes while actually putting yourself into the mood of the time. The Gardel & Walker Livery Barn holds a variety of early engines and two wagons from the Indian war era. On an open lot next to the livery is the antique machinery display. St. Stephan's Church, built in 1915, was moved from Dixon, South Dakota, with everything intact, from the stained glass windows to the bel l (which, along with the school and fire bell, you are free to ring). The C&N Dept, Express Agency, and Telegraph Office was relocated from Gettysburg, S.D. It is filled with railroad equipment right down to a piece of wood with "Tex K.T." carved by the k i ng tramp in 1927. Next on the tour through time is the land office; a completely restored national bank; the jewelry store, which was built in 1891; and the newspaper office. The little fire company contains fire fighting rigs, reminiscent of a small town . Most of the equipment is hand pulled and operated. In 1977 several scenes from the documentary "Love for the Land", produced by Clint Roberts, were shot at 1880 Town. The ready-made set made a valuable contribution to the story of the men and women who came to settle in South Dakota with a dream and a promise of 160 acres. The town hall which came from Belvidere was renovated in 1984 and the film "Love for the Land" can be seen throughout the day. Step inside the back door to see the Mayor's office. Next door are the lumber yard the pioneer home. The one-room schoolhouse will bring back many memories for those who were lucky enough to attend one. Ring the bell and step inside to see the ink-well desks, textbooks, reciting bench, and roll-up maps. Up front by the blackboard sits the huge stove that never did heat the back of the room and the view through the windows is still the same beautiful prairie that lured the attention from many a young student's studies. About a quarter of a mile east of the town is a homestead complete with windmill, corrals, barn, house, and of course, an outhouse. For the tourist, history buff, or antique collector, 1880 Town on I-90 is a good place to stretch your legs and your imagination. The sign at the entrance reads" 1880 Town, Dakota Territory, elevation 2391 feet, population: 170 ghosts, 9 cats, 3 dogs, and 3905 rabbits. Perhaps added to that should be "And a whole lot of Western Heritage".

Good Luck! Have Fun! and Stay Safe!