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Theodore Roosevelt
and the Dakota Badlands
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Dow, Roosevelt, Sewall
Wilmot Dow, Roosevelt, and Bill Sewall at Elkhorn Ranch.

Roosevelt and the Marquis de Mores

Much has been written about Roosevelt's relations with the Marquis de Mores. A few writers have claimed that the two men were generally unfriendly and at one time were on the verge of fighting a duel.

Several months before Roosevelt first came to the Badlands, the life of De Mores reportedly was threatened by a trio of hunters, including a man named Riley Luffsey. The Marquis and several of his men were involved in a gunfight in which Luffsey was killed. In a trial held July 1883 the Marquis and other defendants were acquitted. But in 1885 another indictment was brought against them for the murder of Luffsey.

At the time of the second trial several men who were testifying against De Mores obtained money from Ferris who served as banker for a few of the local cowboys. Because Ferris was regarded as Roosevelt's man, it appeared to the Marquis that Roosevelt must be behind the opposition to him. At this time several newspapers published accounts of an alleged quarrel between Roosevelt and De Mores. One paper stated that the main reason for their antagonism was that they were like "two very big toads in a very small puddle." While the Marquis was in jail in connection with this second trial (he was again acquitted), and under a serious mental strain, he wrote the following letter to Roosevelt, which has been interpreted by some as a challenge to a duel:

Bismark, Dak., Sept 3 1885

My dear Roosevelt

My principle is to take the bull by the horns. Joe Ferris is very active against me and has been instrumental in getting me indicted by furnishing money to witnesses and hunting them up. The papers also publish very stupid accounts of our quarelling—I sent you the paper to N. Y. Is this done by your orders. I thought you my friend. If you are my enemy I want to know it. I am always on hand as you know, and between gentlemen it is easy to settle matters of that sort directly.

Yours very truly,

I hear the people want to organize the county. I am opposed to it for one year more at least.

An undated draft of Roosevelt's reply follows:

Most emphatically I am not your enemy; if I were you would know it, for I would be an open one, and would not have asked you to my house nor gone to yours. As your final words however seem to imply a threat it is due to myself to say that the statement is not made through any fear of possible consequences to me; I too, as you know, am always on hand, and ever ready to hold myself accountable in any way for anything I have said or done.

Yours very truly,
Theodore Roosevelt.

This exchange of correspondence apparently ended the incident. Except for this incident, Roosevelt's relations with De Mores, so far as is known, were amicable. On several occasions he visited the Marquis and Marquise at their "chateau" overlooking the Little Missouri.

Roosevelt's rough draft of his reply.

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