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Valentine McGillycuddy diary

McGillycuddy on General George Crook's Black Hills expedition (via Wikipedia; original in National Archives and Records Administration)

Valentine McGillycuddy (1849-1939) on General George Crook’s Black Hills expedition (via Wikipedia; original in National Archives and Records Administration)

L. Tom Perry Special Collections is pleased to announce the availability of a new digitized collection: Valentine McGillycuddy diary (MSS SC 139). This includes one volume of a handwritten record of McGillycuddy’s duties as a surgeon with General George Crook during the Big Horn and Yellowstone Expedition of 1876, including an description of the Battle of Slim Buttes, September 9, 1876 and the death of the Sioux chief, American Horse. The diary continues, beginning December 14, 1876 in the hand of McGillycuddy’s wife, Fanny, and describes garrison life at Camp Robinson, Nebraska. Dated 1876-1877.

The following is from a Wikipedia article on McGillycuddy: “Valentine Trant McGillycuddy (1849–1939) was a surgeon and controversial pioneer of the effort to build a sustainable relationship between the United States and the Native American people.

As the surveyor for the Newton-Jenney Party, Dr. McGillycuddy was the first known person to climb Harney Peak in the Black Hills of South Dakota. He then served as Contract Surgeon with General George Crook during the Battle of the Rosebud (June 17, 1876), the Battle of Slim Buttes (September 9 and 10, 1876), and the Horsemeat March (1876).

As Assistant Post Surgeon at Fort Robinson and later as Indian Agent for the Red Cloud Agency, Dr. McGillycuddy was known to the Lakota of the modern-day Pine Ridge Indian Reservation as “Friend of Crazy Horse”, and was the doctor who treated Crazy Horse at the time of that Lakota war leader’s death.

While Dr. McGillycuddy may have been a friend to Crazy Horse, he was not so much loved by some other Lakotas, including Red Cloud, a major Sioux chief. Red Cloud’s accusations of mismanagement led to several investigations of Dr. McGillycuddy’s administration. Under pressure to arbitrarily fire a loyal clerk, Dr. McGillycuddy eventually resigned his post. Later, in the days leading up to the Wounded Knee Massacre (1890), Red Cloud conceded that Dr. McGillycuddy had been a “young man with an old man’s head on his shoulders.”

Dr. McGillycuddy would later serve as mayor of Rapid City, South Dakota, Dean of the South Dakota School of Mines and Technology, delegate to the South Dakota State Constitutional Convention, and South Dakota’s first State Surgeon General. The mansion he built in 1888 is still standing today in Rapid City.

McGillycuddy died at age 90 in Berkeley, California. His ashes are entombed at the top of Harney Peak behind a plaque that reads “Valentine McGillycuddy, Wasicu Wacan (Lakota: translates as Holy White Man).””


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