Founded by homesteaders in 1876, the settlement of Spearfish took its name from the nearby creek of the same name. The fast-flowing Spearfish Creek carried fish that were “speared” by various Indian tribes that occupied the region before white settlement.
Nestled in a broad valley on the northern edge of the Black Hills, Spearfish grew more as an agricultural settlement than as its mining-dependent neighbors of Deadwood and Lead. Slow and steady growth in commerce and agricultural trade kept Spearfish going as other mining towns experienced highs and lows in population.
Tourism became a part of the Spearfish economy early in the 1890s as the scenic wonders and the attractions of the area were extolled to the world. The spectacular scenery of Spearfish Canyon proved to be a boon for the city; fishermen began to flock into the Hills and the Spearfish area for some great fishing. The Creek was privately stocked with trout as early as 1889; and the Department of the Interior created the D.C. Booth Fish Hatchery at Spearfish in 1896 to stock many regional waters.
Spearfish grew at a slow pace through the middle part of the 20th century, and then things began to happen for the community. Its location, a strong economy, and legalized gambling in Deadwood all had a positive impact on Spearfish’s growth up through the 1990s.
This fast-growing, friendly community is still the home of one of the oldest educational institutions in the state—Black Hills State University which dates back to 1883. As a college town Spearfish is activity-oriented and provides cultural enrichment in various forms. Nearby Spearfish Canyon continues to be a popular attraction in the Spearfish area. Highway 14A, a National Scenic Byway, angles through the 19-mile canyon alongside the rushing creek. Each season offers a panorama of natural beauty.