Q: Did someone really discover a petrified man buried near old Forest City in Potter County, SD?
A: The story of Potter County's petrified man is told in Stanley Vestal's book THE MISSOURI.
Briefly, the petrified man was a hoax concocted by bored locals who
created a petrified body and buried it near Forest City. So successful
was the hoax that the locals took the body to the 1893 Chicago World's
Fair, exhibiting it all along the way for a dollar a viewing. The hoax
wasn't exposed until after the turn of the century when they repeated
the stunt and tried to sell the next body. The buyer and his wife got
into such a terrible fight over the purchase that the buyer murdered his
wife and then killed himself.
Q: What caused the demise of old LeBeau?
A: Murder . While not exactly in Potter County, LeBeau was close by in Walworth County....
On December 11, 1909, a bartender, "Bud" Stephens, in DuFran's saloon shot David G. "Dode" Mackenzie twice in the chest. Mackenzie was the son of Murdo Mackenzie, the legendary cattle baron and general manager of the Matador. As Dode staggered out the door of the saloon, the bartender pumped another two bullets into Dode's back. Bud was tried for murder. Murdo Mackenzie hired one of the highest priced lawyers available to prosecute Stephens. Saloonkeeper DuFran could only afford a young, still wet-behind-the-ears, 23 year-old attorney to defend Stephens. The jury was composed of homesteaders who had no use for the Matador. In March, Stephens was acquitted -- self defense. An angry Murdo MacKenzie never shipped another load of cattle out of LeBeau. About two months following the acquittal, a major portion of the town burned down -- arson by persons unknown. With no cattle to ship, the railroad pulled up its tracks. The town has not exactly dried up -- it is now under the waters of the Oahe Reservoir.
More Potter County Trivia:
The First Non-Native Settler in Potter County was Eli Bacon Vincent, who was born in Ohio in 1850 and graduated from Michigan University Law School in 1873. Starting a law practice proved to be too slow for him, so he pulled up stakes and moved west. He landed at Fort Sully, and afterwards at Fort Bennett across the Missouri River from Fort Sully. The year was 1875.
For four years after that he worked for the US government as the Boss Farmer at the Cheyenne River Agency. The native people nicknamed him Enochenee which meant “Hurry up” because hurrying to get things done was his principle of life.
He then bought 700 acres on the Missouri River bottom and tried his hand at ranching, but by 1884 he had sold out & returned to his hometown in Ohio where he married and raised his children. He died there in 1939.