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Looking Back: Two authors explore Spearfish’s past in new book
By Michel Nolan   - 04/17/2007

Black Hills Pioneer

SPEARFISH - A historic town deserves a historic recollection of its past -and for a couple of South Dakotans - Spearfish is one of those towns. Authors of "Spearfish" Jan Cerney and Bobbi Sago are both incredibly excited about the book's publication and are looking forward to having people peruse its pages. On the shelf today, the pages flip through hundreds of years of the community's past.
In a 128-page documentation of the history of this ever-growing town, the authors cover everything from citywide Fourth of July celebrations to the blazing past of Black Hills State University. A sort of pictorial review, Cerney said she thinks the book turned out wonderfully.

"I hope people enjoy the book, Spearfish just has a unique history," Cerney, a retired teacher, said.

Sago, said it has been a lifelong dream to finish a book and said once she got to writing and sorting all of the pictures, "That is when the project became really exciting. I was so in awe the whole time because of all the details involved in our history that I had no idea about."

A special collections librarian and archivist at the Case Library at BHSU, Sago grew up in Western Montana and said the small town feel of Spearfish has always been something she's enjoyed.

The two authors started working on the book in July and had a strict deadline through of three months to get everything together. The authors split up the project, with Sago writing the introduction and a few of the chapters, while Cerney wrote the rest. During the beginning of the process, a lot of the work included locating and sorting all of the historic photographs used in the books.

Sago and Cerney utilized different tools when researching the information for "Spearfish." Cerney said she read several books written about Spearfish, while the rest is from her own knowledgeable background from having lived in Spearfish. Sago said a lot of her research came from the Leland D. Case Library for Western Historical Studies and University Archives where she works.

"I also consulted with Charles Haas from the Black Hills Passion Play and Paul Higbee, an experienced Spearfish author.

"I tried to make this book interesting by including images that are not often used, to bring a fresh historical view of the area," Sago said.

Cerney said her favorite part of the book still has to be the section that talks about Spearfish Canyon. In the fourth chapter, the pages talk of the fishing, the old railway and even the historic Latchstring Inn and its famous guests. "It is still unspoiled," she said of the area.

Another one of her favorite pieces of history in Spearfish is the story behind the Thoen Stone,

"That was probably the first recorded visit of the white man to this area. It has such pathos about it ... the tragedy."

Both, in the end, enjoy driving by the downtown stores and seeing the cover peeking from behind the glass.

Sago said she's glad the project is finished and both really hope people enjoy reading what is behind the cover.

"I hope readers will appreciate the interesting history and beauty of the area. I firmly believe in preservation of history," Cerney said.

A book signing has been slated for Wednesday afternoon at Black Hills State University. Cerney and Sago will both be available for comments and a meet and greet outside of the University Bookstore located in the student union from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m.

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