Maltese Cross Cabin
came to the West to hunt the elusive bison that
was fast disappearing on the Northern Plains.
Successful as a hunter and impressed by the
country, TR decided to invest in the cattle
business. He purchased the Chimney Butte Ranch,
located seven miles south of Medora, Dakota
Territory, on the Little Missouri River. It
later became known by its brand, the Maltese
Cross. Sylvane Ferris and Bill Merrifield operated
the ranch for TR. This allowed TR to return
to his home in New York City, confident that
his cattle ranch was in good hands. He would,
however, return often to his new home in the
Theodore Roosevelt's request, ranch managers
Sylvane Ferris and Bill Merrifield built a 17'
x 24-1/2' one- and one-half story cabin complete
with a shingle roof and cellar during the winter
of 1883-84. The Maltese Cross Cabin was originally
located about seven miles south of Medora in
the wooded bottomland of the Little Missouri
River. TR's log cabin has also been referred
to as the Maltese Cross Ranch Cabin, since it
was part of his Maltese Cross Ranch property.
of durable ponderosa pine logs that had been
cut and floated down the Little Missouri River,
the cabin was luxurious for its time, with wooden
floors and three separate rooms (kitchen, living
room, and Roosevelt's bedroom). Other features
of the cabin included two doors, several glass-paned
windows, mortar for chinking, and a high-pitched
shingled roof. The high-pitched roof provided
an extra half-story that was used for storage
and as a sleeping loft for the ranch hands.
Access was gained by a ladder and a trapdoor
in the kitchen and through a door in the gable.
misfortunes caused TR to return to his ranch
in the spring of 1884, and he occupied the new
cabin for several months. The following year,
the Elkhorn Ranch was established and TR took
up residence there. However, the Maltese Cross
Ranch continued to be the center of his operations.
In 1899, the Maltese Cross Cabin became the
property of Jack Snyder, a local cowboy. For
a look at where the Maltese Cross Ranch stands
today, take a 10 mile drive over winding dirt
roads south of the town of Medora. Although
it is still in use as a cattle ranch, it is
Is This Site Important?
During his time at the Maltese Cross Cabin near
Medora, TR built a massive body, repaired his
soul, and learned to live on equal terms with
men poorer and rougher than him. TR witnessed
the decline in wildlife and saw the grasslands
destroyed due to overgrazing. He later developed
a conservation program as president that deeply
reflected his experiences in the West where
he had become keenly aware of the need to conserve
and protect our natural resources. As President,
TR established the U.S. Forest Service, five
national parks, 51 wildlife refuges, and set
aside 150 million acres as national forest.
wrote: "I would not have been President, had
it not been for my experience in North Dakota."
Maltese Cross Cabin is the only remaining building
of TR's two Dakota ranches. It reflects the
way of life on the cattlemen's frontier during
the late 19th century, and stands as a reminder
of the events that shaped and influenced one
of America's greatest public figures.
learn more about the Maltese Cross Cabin and
TR's adventures, go to these sections:
Visiting Theodore Roosevelt