The Gilded Age, the years following the Civil War, was a time of great economic expansion. Railroads stretched across the country and cities became centers of industry. This was a time of capitalism and get-rich schemes. Capturing the spirit of the times, reformer and author Henry George said, “Get money, honestly if you can, but at any rate get money!”
Men such as John D. Rockefeller had cornered the oil market, Andrew Carnegie had forged the steel industry and James J. Hill had fashioned a railroad empire. Men with capital were searching for new schemes which could turn an investment into a fortune in a short time.
The cattle industry became the new “get-rich quick” scheme. Newspapers and magazine articles proclaimed the huge sums of money investors were making in the ranching and beef processing industry. Books praising the high plains as the ideal place to raise cattle were sponsored by the railroads to encourage settlers to move west. Western states and territories published official guides boasting of the mild winters, abundant rainfall and bountiful grass.
By the 1870's newspaper accounts had encouraged investors from the east and Europe to invest heavily in the cattle industry. Before 1879 most of the capital came from the eastern United States. After 1879, foreign investors, especially Englishmen and Scots, began to overtake American interests. It was this glowing picture that attracted the young Marquis de Mores to Dakota Territory.
The first settlement at the point, where the Northern Pacific Railroad would cross the Little Missouri River, was a military establishment named Cantonment Badlands. Established in November 1879, its soldiers provided protection for the railroad building crews from raiding Indians. It was located about 3/4 mile northwest of the present town of Medora. It was officially abandoned in March 1883.
The town of Little Missouri was established on the west bank of the Little Missouri in 1880. By 1881 the railroad was completed west to the Sentinel Butte station. By the time the Marquis arrived at Little Missouri in early April 1883, the town boasted nine buildings. He chose the area carefully for his cattle empire. The crossing of the Northern Pacific Railroad with the Little Missouri River along with the natural protection of the badlands gave him everything he needed: water for the cattle, ice for the packing plant, abundant grass and shelter for the cattle and direct shipping to market. He bought nearly nine thousand acres of land and established a new town on the east bank of the river. It was named Medora, in honor of his wife.
Something to think about:
Would you have gone to Dakota Territory if you had the same information that the Marquis did?
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