arrived in the Dakota Territory in 1883
as a sickly "four-eyed Eastern tenderfoot"
but quickly became a rugged cowboy with
a ranch of his own. Theodore Roosevelt,
known as "TR," was only 24 years old when
he began his adventure in the untamed West.
Soon he was wearing fringed buckskins and
a buffalo robe while riding the wild "badlands,"
hunting giant bison and elk and herding
was born in 1858 into a wealthy New York
City family. Imagine how he must have felt
when stepping off the train in the town
of Little Missouri for the first time. The
town's tiny group of buildings was crowded
together on the west bank of the Missouri
River. The place had a sense of humor, however.
It included a saloon called "Big-Mouth Bob's
Bug Juice Dispensary!"
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 West.
thrived on the vigorous outdoor lifestyle,
and at the Maltese Cross Ranch, he fully
participated in the life of a working cowboy.
In 1884, TR returned to the badlands and
started a second open-range ranch, the Elkhorn.
That year, both his first wife and his mother
died on the same day. TR returned to the
West over the next few years to live the
life of a cowboy, explore, invigorate his
body, and to have the Little Missouri Badlands
renew his spirit. TR actively participated
in ranch operations in the badlands until
1887, but he maintained his ranching interests
in the area until 1898.
passion for the great outdoors led him to
become a renowned author on the subject.
In 1885, he published Hunting Trips of
a Ranchman. Two years later, he published
The Winning of the West and the next
year published Ranch Life and the Hunting
Trail. His books depict the often rough,
always interesting life of ranchers and
cowboys in the late 1800s.
Roosevelt took a few precious items with
him from his big city life in New York.
Can you guess what some of these items were?
He arrived in North Dakota with a toothbrush,
spectacles (eyeglasses), and a "dude's"
vocabulary including phrases such as "Hasten
forward quickly there." TR later discovered
that spectacles were considered as a sign
of "defective moral character" in the badlands!
more about the Maltese Cross Cabin:
Visiting Theodore Roosevelt