After I visited Hillhead in 2014, it was pointed out to me that I missed the building that was once the school. So, when I was planning a trip to shoot some places around Aberdeen in June of 2015, I decided I would travel through Hillhead again on the way back home and see if I could get a shot of the school.
The old grocery store looks much as it did in 2014, standing alone along the highway where little traffic passes. An eighth of a mile north, there’s a small, barely noticeable driveway where you can pull off the highway.
Not even ten feet off the road the “driveway” becomes two rutted wheel tracks that descend into a natural depression shrouded in overgrowth. I stopped the car and stepped out, and immediately got a shudder when I saw the old school, barely visible through the dense tree cover. There was something very haunting about it.
I walked a little further down the path and stepped forward into the brush, and there it was… the former school. I could hear an animal making noise in the brush, and since I was traveling alone on this day, I elected not to go any further onto the grounds. Even so, I ended up with a few dozen woodticks who tried to hitch a ride when I was about to leave.
Hillhead’s local lore includes intriguing tales involving thirties-era gangsters, even Pretty Boy Floyd. Brown Earth Church, which was featured in our book, Churches of the High Plains, is another great site in this part of South Dakota, not too far way.
Photos by Troy Larson, copyright Sonic Tremor Media