Teddy Belonged to the West

Last Updated by Brian Gevik, Text by Gary Enright - Director - 1881 Courthouse Museum - Custer on
Images Courtesy 1881 Courthouse Museum, Custer, SD

teddy roosevelt portrait

If there ever was a President of the United States that truly belonged to the American West, it was Theordore Roosevelt.

Teddy Roosevelt as a young man

Born in an elite family in New York, “Teddy” Roosevelt longed to travel to the western states and following a trip to what is now Yellowstone National Park, he purchased a ranch in the North Dakota Badlands near the small town of Medora.

Teddy Roosevelt's ranch

His ranch was located just a few miles north of the Black Hills of South Dakota and Roosevelt relished living in the “Wild West,” a far cry from his native surroundings in New York.

Black Hills, South Dakota

It was his friendship with Seth Bullock that led to Roosevelt’s frequent visits to the Black Hills, as well as to Wyoming and Montana.

Rough Riders

After TR returned to the East Coast at the outbreak of the Spanish-American War, he volunteered to lead a unit of the Army he called the “Rough Riders” against Spanish troops in Cuba.

Teddy Roosevelt in uniform

TR looked every bit the part of a westerner fighting in the war that freed Cuba and the Phillipines.

Teddy Roosevelt campaigning

After that war, TR entered politics and was eventually elected as America’s 26th President.

Panama Canal Construction

TR never changed his drive to be an “active” President, traveling to the Panama Canal to personally inspect the progress of that major project.

Teddy Roosevelt on safari

Following his Presidency, TR traveled the world, visiting South America and going on a safari in Africa.

cowboys in the 1905 inaugural

Even rising to the highest office in American politics, TR never forgot his South Dakota friends. He asked Seth Bullock to gather up forty “true cowboys” to ride in his inaugural parade in 1905. This included future Western movie actor Tom Mix, and Theo Shoemaker, the man who would later become Sheriff of Custer County, South Dakota.

Seth Bullock

Roosevelt later named Seth Bullock the U.S. Marshall for the Black Hills.

Teddy Roosevelt

While he never returned to the Dakotas after his political life was over, he never forgot what he called, “The happiest days of my life,” ranching in the rugged West and enjoying the Black Hills and Badlands that he ever forgot.

Teddy Roosevelt - mount Rushmore

And South Dakotans loved TR back… so much so that they included his image on Mount Rushmore where he proudly takes his place among other great Presidents: George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, and Abraham Lincoln.

TR Photo 12088.jpg


Dakota Midday

Interview with Gary Enright, director, 1881 Courthouse Museum, Custer

Host: Lori Walsh