here
"There's some evidence that [the show's characters] are safety-valve types. They're people who say, as Ellsworth does, that they might have "f***ed up their lives flatter than hammered s***, but they're beholden to no human c*******r".... But they're not, Turner-style, out there to get an opportunity to civilize themselves. Which is to say, they don't go West because only there can they get a patch of land and settle, Jeffersonian-like, into civilization."

Rather, people finding their way to the mining town are looking for a new start—often because the economy has destroyed their other options.

"In several conversations on 'Deadwood'," notes Rauchway, "we've been told that these people have bumped into each other in other boom towns, before those booms went bust, and now their predilections have brought them here. And we can infer that soon they'll move on again. If they're the advance agents of civilization, they're doing that work unwillingly."
hereEric Rauchway