In 1910, 34 year old Hugh Fugate moved his family from Wisconsin to the Nemo, SD area where he took employment as a logger for the Homestake Lumber Company until 1918. From 1918 until 1946 he was employed in Rapid City, SD by Warren Lamb Lumber Company and Buckingham Lumber Company. During his life as a logger, lumber man, and carpenter Hugh developed an avid interest in petrified wood. Hugh and a friend named Black purchased some land near Piedmont, SD that had an abundance of petrified wood. In 1938, Hugh and his son Ed, who was also working at Warren Lamb, purchased Black’s portion of the land and started the Black Hills Petrified Forest as a part time business that relied on donations for its operation.
Ed enlisted in the US Army during WWII and served in the South Pacific Theatre. When Ed returned from the war, he and his wife Floy purchased Hugh’s interest in the business and operated the Petrified Forest at Piedmont, SD until 1955 when construction of I-90 removed access to their business. In 1956, Ed and Floy along with their three small children Bob, Bill, and Patty moved their business to its present location 1 ½ miles east of Kadoka, SD. They chose the name Badlands Petrified Gardens because of the proximity to the Badlands and “Gardens” rather than “Forest” because the petrified wood was gathered and placed at its present location rather than having been found at that site. In 1976 Ed and Floy incorporated their business to include their three children.
In 1986 Ed and Floy returned to Rapid City, SD to live. Bill has managed the Gardens since that time. Bob and his wife Kathy have faithfully worked during the summer months when they were on break from teaching school. Since their retirement from teaching they have continued to help operate the Gardens during the summer months.
Over the years many people have worked summers at the Petrified Gardens. In the early years, high school and college students were hired. Bob, Bill, and Patty began working at the gardens when they were able to take over the summer jobs. Later their children Jason, Bob, and Jim joined the work force for several years before moving on to their own careers. The year 2006 marked the first time since 1985 that at least one of Ed and Floy’s grandchildren was not employed at the Gardens.
Thousands of visitors from all over the world have viewed our attraction. During the filming of “Thunderheart” actors Val Kilmer, Graham Green, and Sam Sheppard visited our attraction. Michael Ironside of the movie “Starship Troopers” also visited the Gardens. In the year 2000, the Badlands Petrified Gardens was a featured question on the popular TV show “Jeopardy”.
The Fugate family is proud and honored to have shared our beautiful collection of petrified wood, fluorescent minerals, and fossils with thousands of people over the years. Please stop by and tour our Gardens and view our extensive collection. We are always glad to see old friends and make new ones.