Transcript-Discover Presidential Log Cabins Electronic Field Trip to Theodore Roosevelt National Park

What follows is the transcript from a live Internet chat that occurred on Weds. Nov. 1, 2000 with Bruce Kaye, Chief Naturalist at Theodore Roosevelt National Park in Medora, ND.

Schools from across the country logged on and asked questions about Theodore Roosevelt's time in the Dakota Territory, prior to becoming President of the United States. Following is a transcript of the Electronic Field Trip.

<TR Park>Welcome to the Discover Presidential Log Cabins Electronic Field Trip to Theodore Roosevelt National Park in Medora, ND. Today we will be discussing the restoration of Theodore Roosevelt's Maltese Cross Cabin as well as the time period during which Roosevelt lived in the Dakotas.

<Martin Middle> Where was Theodore Roosevelt born?

<TR Park> He was born in New York City in 1858.

<Sycamore> On your web site you talk a lot about what Roosevelt did for conservation. Can you tell us more?

<TR Park> While president he established 5 National Parks and 18 National Monuments. He also established the United States Forest Service.

<Martin Middle> What made Theodore Roosevelt decide to go to the badlands?

<TR Park> The first time he came here it was to hunt bison. While here he fell in love with this land. He also formed a partnership to ranch cattle.

<Sycamore> How often did he come to his ranches? what did he do while he was there?

<TR Park> From 1884 to 1886, he came here about 25 times. And stayed for a total of about 300 days. While here, he was one of the cowboys. He rode horses. He hunted. He read books.

<Martin Middle> Did Roosevelt buy the Maltese Cross Cabin, or did he build it?

<TR Park> He had it built during the winter of 1883-84.

<Indianola Elem.> What kinds of problems were there at the cabin that you needed to repair?

<TR Park> Rain and snow was getting into the cabin causing the logs to rot and staining the inside of the walls. The gable ends were cracked.

<Perry Middle> Had the cabin ever been renovated before?

<TR Park> When it was brought here in 1959, it was taken completely apart. Then each log was soaked in a preservative solution and then put back together. Over the years only very minor maintenance has been done to the cabin. Except two years ago, the roof was redone.

<Colonial Hills Elem.> Did he live alone in the cabin?

<TR Park> He lived in the bedroom that's on the first floor. There was an attic where at least 2 to 3 ranch hands lived.

<Martin Middle> I heard that the whole cabin was moved. How did you do that?

<TR Park> When it was moved here in 1959 it was picked up entirely and placed on a flat bed truck. When it was moved to St. Louis and Portland, it was taken apart.

<Perry Middle> Did Roosevelt return to the West after his Presidency?

<TR Park> Yes. Several times to the west. And to North Dakota, five times.

<Colonial Hill Elem.> Can we visit the cabin and if we can what are the hours and days?

<TR Park> Yes. It's open every day of the year except Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year's Day, 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.

<Perry Middle> Are any of Roosevelt's furniture or possessions still in the cabin?

<TR Park> Yes. His writing desk, a cupboard and a traveling trunk.

<Colonial Hill Elem.> What did he write while he was in the cabin?

<TR Park> He wrote about his experiences in the badlands that can be found in such books as "Ranch Life in the Far West." He also wrote letters to his family and friends.

<Sycamore> Why was he called TR? Did everyone call him that and did he have a middle name?

<TR Park> He was named after his father. And TR stands for Theodore Roosevelt (no middle name). He was called Mr. Roosevelt out here. The press called him "Teddy."

<Russell Middle School> Is Roosevelt's cabin still in the location it was built on? If not, what is the history of the transport of the cabin?

<TR Park> No. It's been moved several times. It's currently 7 miles to the north. The cabin has appeared in St. Louis, Portland Oregon, and Bismarck, ND.

<Falls City Middle> Has the park been expanded since its establishment?

<TR Park> Yes. It was established in 1947 as a memorial park. In 1948 they added the North Unit. There have been a few other boundary changes over the years.

<Navarro Elementary> T.R. was "sickly" when he went west, was there any illness, or what?

<TR Park> No. He was of slight build. He developed muscles while working the life of a cowboy.

<Perry Middle> Why was Roosevelt called the father of conservation?

<TR Park> As president, he established 5 National Parks and 18 National Monuments. He also established the U.S. Forest Service. And he helped protect wildlife like the bison, by establishing 55 bird reserves and game preserves.

<Washington Elementary> Why was Roosevelt's time in the Dakota's so important?

<TR Park> He learned many lessons while he was here that he took to the White House. He saw bison disappear and other animals like the grizzly bears and wolves. He saw misuse of the land. He helped correct many of these problems as President.

<Russell Middle School> When Roosevelt lived near Medora, was the town already past its prime, or was it still booming in the cattle industry? Also: Is Roosevelt considered by many historians to be worthy of his place next to Washington, Jefferson, and Lincoln on Mt. Rushmore?

<TR Park> No. Medora had just started the year that he arrived (1883). And yes. Because of his conservation efforts, his humanitarian deeds, his dealing with world powers all helped to make him an important person.

<Falls City Middle> How could Mr. Roosevelt hunt when he couldn't see very well?

<TR Park> He wasn't the best shot, but he took many shots. He did wear glasses, which helped.

<Navarro Elementary> TR was a very interesting man, what was his position when he went to Cuba to fight?

<TR Park> He volunteered and was a colonel.

<Perry Middle> Where are the other national parks and monuments Roosevelt helped establish?

<TR Park> He established Crater Lake, Wind Cave, Sully Hill, Platt, Mesa Verde National Parks. And 18 National Monuments, such as Devil's Tower, Petrified Forest, Chaco Canyon to name a few.

<Falls City Middle> Did you find artifacts in the cabin?

<TR Park> No. Not the Maltese Cross cabin. He did have another home in the badlands called the Elkhorn Ranch. We did find artifacts there.

<Navarro Elementary> What Army he was in during Cuba?

<TR Park> He served with the First Volunteer Cavalry, also called the Rough Riders. It was with the United States.

<Washington Elem.> How often did Roosevelt visit the area while he was President?

<TR Park> He visited the area twice while President.

<Russell Middle School> Was Roosevelt a political influence on Medora citizens? In other words, did he guide any Medora people to become politically active on a state or national level?

<TR Park> He did influence some of the people he worked with. One or two became sheriff. One became a postmaster. But as far as a politician, we don't believe so.

<Falls City Middle> Does anyone still live in the park?

<TR Park> No, not year round. However, inside the park boundary, park employees do live there.

<Navarro Elementary> How old was TR when he moved to his cabin and when he became president.

<TR Park> He was 25 when he moved into his cabin. He was 42 when he became president. And he was 60 when he died.

<Angel of God Elementary> We heard in the video that his wife and mother died on the same day. Can you elaborate?

<TR Park> His wife died of Bright's disease (kidney related). And his mother died of typhoid. They died on Feb. 14, 1884.

<Washington Elementary> How does the cabin restoration program work?

<TR Park> Aurora Foods provided 1 million dollars to fix up log cabins. Through a partnership with the National Park Foundation and Aurora Foods, the park was given money to fix up the cabin.

<Russell Middle School> Excuse us for speaking out of turn, but we would like to know the answer to this: If President Roosevelt were asked, "Where are you from?", would he mention Medora? (The answer to this will help clarify the significance of Medora on Roosevelt's life)

<TR Park> He was from New York and that is where he would say he was from. However, he often said if it wasn't for his time in North Dakota, he wouldn't have become President.

<TR Park> Be sure to visit the park's web page at www.nps.gov/thro. Thank you for spending time with us!