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Arts & Life

Black Hills murder inspires new single by 'Cottonwood Boys'

Cottonwood Boys
Cottonwood Boys perform live at SDPB Black Hills studio

This interview is from SDPB's daily public-affairs show, In the Moment, hosted by Lori Walsh.

In the ghost town of Spokane, South Dakota, you'll find a lonely grave. It's the final resting place of James Shepard who, as legend has it, was shot down in cold blood over a worthless silver claim.

According to the story, in 1908 James Shepard staked a claim on a piece of land already claimed by Frank Cox. When Cox and his son confronted Shepard during a stormy night, Cox allegedly shot him with a shotgun. Shepard was mortally wounded and died the following day. Cox was able to avoid the gallows due to lack of evidence and fled the community with his son. The town of Spokane eventually faded away, leaving behind abandoned buildings and James Shepard's grave.

Clayton Ryan was inspired by Shepard's story during a visit to the Spokane ghost town. He teamed up with Tom Frear to write their new single the "Watchman of Spokane."

The Cottonwood Boys play the "Watchman of Spokane" during a life performance at SDPB's Black Hills studio.