Lawrence County Black Hills National Forest 3N-3E-2
March 23, 1911: "The local forest office will locate a lookout station in Custer Peak and a man will be constantly on the watch for incipient fires, and will telephone the location of such to headquarters and men may be detailed to put them out before they get beyond control. The wire and other materials for this station lies in Rochford and the work of installing the line will soon be undertaken. It will connect with the Nebraska Telephone company's lines near the Bull Dog ranch at Dumont." (Deadwood Pioneer-Times)
July 27, 1911: "It is a notable fact that during the past few weeks, notwithstanding the continued dry weather, there have been comparatively few big forest fires in the Black Hills. This has been due to two causes principally; one, the establishment of a patrol of railroad gasoline motor cars by the Burlington railroad along its route and second, a move by Forest Supervisor Kelleter which makes the discovery of incipient fires a matter of easy accomplishment. His plan has been to establish on the summit of Custer Peak a lookout, who has already been of great service in locating fires and giving notice of their existence to forest officers. The man selected for the job is Frank Towers, who has resided all his life at the Mountain Meadow ranch and is familiar with practically every gulch and mountain in the Black Hills. He has telephone connections with the Deadwood office of the forest service and can be put in communication with all parts of the Black Hills. Already he has discovered numerous fires and has often telephoned in news of an incipient blaze in the timber before people living in the vicinity of the fire knew of its existence. With his field glass, he has a sweep of the country within radius of twenty-five miles and is usually able to locate a fire so accurately that there is no trouble in reaching the scene of the blaze." (The Weekly Pioneer Times)
September 5, 1911: "Another fire was reported by the look-out on Custer Peak about 10 o'clock Saturday night, who located it at the site of some cabins owned by Albert Steel of Lead, on Elk Creek. Ranger Smith was notified and was on the scene with a force of men and had the fire under control by 1 o'clock Sunday morning. The fire destroyed the Steel cabin is supposed to have been of incendiary origin." (Deadwood Pioneer-Times)
1911: A 12x12 lookout building was constructed and a telephone line built. ( "IMAGES OF AMERICA - BLACK HILLS NATIONAL FOREST Harney Peak and the Historic Lookout Towers" by Jan Cerney and Roberta Sago - Arcadia Publishing 2011)
June 30, 1912: "The value of the move made by the local forest service in establishing a look-out on top of Custer Peak, was proven during the past week, when Frank Tower, the man stationed there, discovered three incipient forest fires and gave the alarm in time to prevent a spread of the conflagration. Yesterday he discovered one in the southern hills forest district, a short distance from Sheridan, Pennington county, and advised the Custer office. A force of fire fighters were sent out and were engaged in an attack on the flames, according to the last report reaching Deadwood yesterday evening. The extent of the fire is not definitely known, but it is believed to be of considerable magnitude." (Deadwood Pioneer-Times)
June 11, 1914: "The family of Frank Tower, the forest service lookout on Custer Peak, had a narrow escape from death Friday afternoon, during a terrific electrical storm which swept that portion of the Black Hills. At the time, about 4 o'clock in the afternoon, the lookout himself was absent and the station was occupied by his wife and child and Mrs. Tower's sister. Several sharp flashes of lightning warned them that they were in danger and they took refuge in a storm cellar, which has been dug on the peak, as a place of safety in just such emergencies. They had scarcely entered the cellar when there came a vivid streak of lightning, which struck the station, broke the windows of the building, burned out the ground wires of the telephone and destroyed the instrument. The furniture was thrown about the room and one side of the building scorched." (The Weekly Pioneer Times)
July 23, 1914: "The lookout station on Custer Peak is proving to be a valuable asset in the equipment of the forest service fire fighting department and results in bringing news of incipient fires, generally before the information arrives from other sources, especially when the blaze originates in some place remote from human habitation." (Deadwood Pioneer-Times)
October 1, 1914: "The fires along the Crouch line were reported by the lookout on Custer Peak, who telephoned the news to the local forest office, after four had broken out. The last two he failed to report, knowing they would be discovered when the forest officers arrived in the locality." (The Weekly Pioneer Times)
July 15. 1916: "During the past year the forest service has made extensive improvements at the Custer Peak Lookout station. The sides of the cabin have been replaced by windows, making it possible for the forest guard to get an observation of the forest in all directions without any interference of a wall. This opens up the entire country for constant observation. In the center of the room a special map table has been erected and fastened to the floor. This table and map oriented with the cardinal directions. On the discovery of a smoke or fire, a direction sight is obtained by means of an alidade which being centered on the map makes it possible to at once get the direction of the fire from the lookout. Upon the determination of the location of the fire, report by telephone is made to the forest officer nearest the fire so that immediate steps can be taken to extinguish it or prevent its spread. By all these means for detection and determination of location it has been possible to greatly reduce the extent of the annual fire damage and really make very effective the protection of the natural resources of this region." (Lead Daily Call)
June 12, 1918: "A new and improved method of locating forest fires is being installed at the Custer Peak and Cement Ridge lookout stations of the Black Hills forest. The accurate location of a column of smoke rising from a timbered country ten to thirty miles distant from the lookout is a difficult matter unless the smoke can be reported simultaneously from two or more observation points." (Deadwood Pioneer-Times) The introduction of the Osborne Fire-Finder.
April 21, 1921: "The lookout man at Custer Peak, reported a large fire in the vicinity of Rockerville, and a force of men was sent out to fight it. Last reports received from there were to the effect that that fire was still raging." (The Weekly Pioneer-Times)
April 25, 1923: "The Custer Peak Lookout Station has been opened for the season with Forest Guard Frank Tower in charge. He will be occupied during the first part of the season in the construction of a new lookout house." (The Deadwood Telegram)
April 26, 1923: "Forest Guard Frank Tower moved to the Custer Peak Lookout Station last Sunday and opened the station for the season. He will be occupied until the fire season starts, in the construction of the new Lookout house. This will be a glassed-in structure 14-ft. square, with a cupola or Crowsnest, in the upper story 7-ft. square. This is the latest design of Custer Peak, and when completed will add much to the efficiency of the lookout station." (The Weekly Pioneer Times)
April 22, 1925: "Supervisor Duthie of the Black Hills forest reserve drove out to the Custer Peak district for the purpose of paying a visit to the lookout station there and to look over the situation in that district generally." (The Daily Deadwood Pioneer-Times)
June 22, 1928: "Mr. and Mrs. A.J. Menard came down from their lofty home under the very summit of Custer Peak yesterday morning and spent the greater part of the day in the city. Mr. Menard had business with the forestry officials of the Black Hills forest, and while he was transacting it Mrs. Menard spent a part of the time shopping. The Menards are probably occupying the loftiest home, with the exception of the lookout on Harney Peak, that there is from the Rocky Mountains to the Atlantic coast. Mr. Menard, who is in the forestry service, is the lookout on Custer Peak, which is 7,200 feet high, and has, with the assistance of Mrs. Menard, converted the cabin, located within a few feet of the summit of the peak being easy of access, a good road leading to within a few yards of the top, many visitors ascend to the lookout station, and the view, even better than that which can be obtained from Harney, is well worth the trip." (The Deadwood Daily Pioneer-Times)
October 23, 1928: "Alex Bernard had been all summer on lookout station on Custer Peak wife his wife and little baby, and although they had many visitors, for there is a good and easy road to within twenty feet of the summit, it was a very lonesome place, especially when thunder storms were raging and the wind and rain were running and falling wild. However they stuck it out, the baby grew in health and weight and Mr. and Mrs. Bernard were good company, one to the other, and time passed pleasantly." (Deadwood Pioneer-Times)
1941: The present rock base with a wood lookout cab was constructed with labor from the Civilian Conservation Corps. ( "IMAGES OF AMERICA - BLACK HILLS NATIONAL FOREST Harney Peak and the Historic Lookout Towers" by Jan Cerney and Roberta Sago - Arcadia Publishing 2011)
August 15, 1946: "Mrs. E.A. Nelson and daughter Eleanor came in from the Lookout Station at Custer Peak today to spend the day with friends. Mr. and Mrs. Nelson, who are former Lead residents, arrived back in the Hills from the northwest coast several months ago and have been in charge of Lookout Station since. Their daughter Eleanor will attend Black Hills Teachers College this coming year." (Deadwood Pioneer-Times)
May 19, 1948: "Lightning played around the fire lookout station on Custer Peak Monday night to such an extent that Jim Meyers, lookout, suffered electric shock. The station was filled with electricity for some time during the storm, and he came into Deadwood Tuesday for rest and treatment. Ranger Hugh E. Martin took over the station Tuesday, and it will be manned by a substitute for a few days until Meyers recovers from the mild shock." (Lead Daily Call)
April 28, 1952: "The Custer Peak lookout will be staffed May 1 by John Sloss, Deadwood." (Lead Daily Call)
April 24, 1962: "Custer Peak fire lookout, south, south of Deadwood, on the Black Hills National Forest was opened Tuesday. John Sloss, lookout for several years, is on duty. The lookout will be maintained for now on a temporary basis, Charles Hathaway, Nemo district ranger said. If the weather changes and there is snow or rain, the lookout will be closed during that time." (Lead Daily Call)
April 25, 1962: "When John Sloss, Deadwood, opened up Custer Peak fire lookout for the Black Hills National Forest Tuesday he found that the station had been broken into during the winter months while it was closed. The break-in was apparently quite recent, Charles Hathaway, district ranger said. A further investigation is being made. Sloss went on temporary duty at the lookout Tuesday because of the fire hazard brought on by drought and warm weather." (Lead Daily Call)
2008: A Passport in Time project made much needed repairs on the structure that aging and weather had caused.
August 4, 2016: A team of veterans have been busy helping renovate the Custer Peak Fire Lookout. Work done includes replacing some exterior boards, repainting the exterior and other items.
National Geodetic Survey
DESIGNATION - CUSTER PEAK LOOKOUT TOWER PID - PU2339 STATE/COUNTY- SD/LAWRENCE COUNTRY - US USGS QUAD - MINNESOTA RIDGE (1956)
DESCRIBED BY COAST AND GEODETIC SURVEY 1950 (VRS) THE STATION IS LOCATED ABOUT 9 MILES SOUTH OF DEADWOOD, AND ON THE SUMMIT OF CUSTER PEAK.
IT IS A ROCK HOUSE WITH AN OUTSIDE STAIRWAY ON ITS SOUTH SIDE THAT LEADS TO A GLASS ENCLOSED CROWS-NEST. ITS DIMENSIONS ARE ABOUT 20 BY 20 BY 30 FEET. THE POINT OBSERVED WAS THE TOP-CENTER OF THE STRUCTURE.