The real Deadwood

Peter Fish explores the South Dakota town made famous by the hit TV show

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  • A town full of characters: Molly Parker plays Alma Garret.

    Deadwood actress Molly Parker

    Doug Hyun Courtesy of HBO

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Deadwood has even disturbed the dead. Mt. Moriah Cemetery has long attracted visitors wanting to view the side-by-side gravesites of Wild Bill and Calamity Jane. Farther up the hill, hidden in pines, Seth Bullock's grave was mostly ignored. No more. Now Deadwood fans hike up to pay respects to the show's hero, placing flowers, change, and phone cards on his gravestone. Also notes: "Vic and Becky from Christchurch, Dorset, England. Come all the way to see you."

Back to the future

Deadwood's third season runs into this fall, and a fourth season seems unlikely. But the show has already altered the town for the better. "The Hollywood Deadwood and the real Deadwood have become a family," says Kopco. Cast members have come to visit; Kopco and her husband have gone to California to see filming there. ("Especially during the night scenes, it was positively eerie," Kopco says. "I felt like I was going back in time.")

Deadwood has even helped Deadwood preserve its history. In 2005 the fate of the Homestake Mine's archives ― 126 years' worth of irreplaceable history ― was suddenly in question. Odds were the collection would be sold off or donated in pieces and scattered around the country.

"I told David Milch about it," recalls Kopco.

"He said, 'Would $25,000 help you out?' " Now the Homestake archives will remain in Deadwood, housed in their own building not far from Adams Museum, and will be viewable to scholars around the world via the Internet. Thanks to a violent, profane television show, a town's legend is being polished for the pleasure of future generations. Up on his mountainside, Seth Bullock should be smiling.

Info: Adams Museum & House (free; 54 Sherman St., Deadwood; 605/578-1714). Visit www.deadwood.org, www.adamsmuseumandhouse.org, and www.hbo.com/deadwood for more info.

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