In 1874, an expedition led by George Armstrong Custer discovered gold in French Creek a few miles from the present day city of Custer. Although the Black Hills, or “Paha Sapa” as the Lakota Native American tribe calls them, were closed to white settlement, many miners rushed to the area illegally to find treasure When it came time to name the town, some residents wanted to name it Stonewall after the Confederate Civil War General, Stonewall Jackson. However, a large number of Union veterans were living in the town and voted to name it after Lt. Colonel George Armstrong Custer instead.
In August of 1875, a group of miners led by Thomas Hooper drew out one-square mile of what would become the town of Custer. A few months later, the Black Hills were opened to settlers and the population began to grow. By May of 1876, Custer was thriving with a population of nearly 10,000 people. However, the town lost all but 14 of its residents when gold was discovered in the northern Black Hills near the town of Deadwood.
Today, over 2,000 people live in this quiet mountain town, located in the heart of the Black Hills National Forest and just minutes from the adventures of Custer State Park, Crazy Horse Memorial, Mount Rushmore National Memorial and two national caves. When you vacation in Custer, you’re located just minutes—not miles— from Black Hills adventure.