Above: postcard I mailed to myself from Medora, North Dakota marking my visit. It depicts TR as he appeared during his ranch days.
Theodore Roosevelt or ‘TR’ the Twenty-sixth President of the United States was shaped by his experiences in North Dakota. I’m fascinated with the man during my recent trip to North Dakota I made sure I included a visit to the Badlands of North Dakota where he spent his time learning about the western way of life. I also visited the Maltese Cross Cabin which is situated in the south unit of Theodore Roosevelt National Park at Medora, ND.
This cabin was originally located seven miles south of Medora in the wooded bottom-lands of the Little Missouri River. The cabin was built for him at his request so he could spend more time at his ranch, the Maltese Cross or Chimney Butte Ranch.
TR first arrived in the Dakotas in 1883 to hunt bison. He fell in love with the land and acquired primary interests in a ranch, namely the Maltese Cross or Chimney Butte Ranch. He thrived on the outdoor lifestyle and at the ranch he actively participated in the life as a working cowboy. The men thought he was a foolish dude from the east, but he earned their respect over and over again with his hard work and upbeat attitude.
On his return to the east he married Alice Hathaway. They had a child on February 12, 1884, but two days later his wife Alice died of Bright’s Disease and his mother also died of typhoid fever in the same house on the same day. He was devastated and leaving his newborn daughter in the care of his family he left for his ranch in North Dakota to attempt to heal his grief.
TR enlarged his holdings by purchasing a second ranch, the Elkhorn, also near Medora. While there he wrote many books about his adventures and his ranch life. Most of all he gained an understanding of the need for conservation. Later on he always told people that without his experiences in North Dakota, he would never have become president.
Roosevelt wasn’t the first president to create national parks, but he was the president who protected the most areas. He set aside over 90 national monuments and national forests as protected areas for future generations. The first one he designated was Devil’s Tower National Monument in Wyoming. I was also fortunate to be able to visit that site and I tell you it is fascinating both as a natural wonder, and also as a sacred Native American site.
While standing in the Maltese Cabin I particularly focused on TR’s writing desk where he spent long hours and also his rocking chair where he held many animated conversations with visitors. It was truly history come alive.