The new settlement was located at the forks of Haycreek, Redwater River and Belle Fourche River; hence the name of Belle Fourche which is French for “beautiful fork.” It was soon platted and lots were sold. Free lots were offered to businesses moving in from Minnesela and in spite of the hatred generated by the struggle, many merchants accepted. Early day Belle Fourche was a cow town, catering to the needs and wishes of the cattlemen and cowboys. One street, now 5th Avenue, is still called Saloon Street by old-timers.
Belle Fourche is one of the most important livestock shipping rail-heads in the West. The wool shipping warehouses are the largest in the US even today. The city is the trading center for a three-state agricultural area encompassing 21,000 square miles in NW South Dakota, NE Wyoming, and SE Montana known as the Tri-State Area. A hub for livestock auctions and wool shipping, Belle Fourche also is the center of a bentonite mining industry. The downtown area’s architecture retains the aura of the early 1900s; many of the buildings now contain antique shops. Belle Fourche is still the business hub for the Tri-State Area serving a large area of ranches and farmers.
Belle Fourche Historiography
Historiography (literally “history writing”): to write, draw, describe and record the stories and experiences of the people whose lives form a culture, a region, a nation or an era. The river of civilization flows through the centuries, linking our lives to the past and the future. Clustered on the banks are people who live hardworking, family oriented lives. History is the story of what happens on the banks.