Western Frontier History

True discovery of the Black Hills came with the onset of gold discovery. Gold discovery opened up the west for expansion and miners flocked from earlier gold boom locations into the Black Hills hoping to strike it rich. Since Colonel George Custer’s expedition of 1874 confirmed the presence of gold in French Creek, (near present-day Custer, SD) word spread quickly and triggered the Black Hills Gold Rush.  

By 1876, approximately 10,000 people populated the Hills. Mining camps were established near Custer, Hill City and Deadwood, and as the gold rush continued, it gave rise to the lawless town of Deadwood, which rapidly reached a population of nearly 5,000. The town of Deadwood also attained notoriety from characters like Wild Bill Hickok & Calamity Jane, as well as Seth Bullock. 

Bullock was appointed as the first Sheriff of Deadwood. As the economy changed from gold rush to steady mining, Deadwood lost its rough character and settled into a prosperous town.

Re-enactors of Seth Bullock & Teddy Roosevelt
(Photo: Re-enactors portray Seth Bullock & Teddy Roosevelt)

While Sheriff of Deadwood, Seth Bullock became friends with neighboring Deputy to the north, Teddy Roosevelt who hailed from Medora, North Dakota. The two men worked together often and forged a lifelong friendship. Roosevelt remembered Bullock’s dedication to upholding the law, and in 1884, appointed him U.S. Marshall of South Dakota.

When Roosevelt became president in 1901, he quickly chose Bullock as one of the first Forest Supervisor's of the Black Hills National Forest. Much later, after hearing of Roosevelt’s death, Bullock commemorated their friendship by building a monument named Mount Roosevelt, also known as friendship tower. Bullock and Roosevelt held in common a high regard for nature and thus, the tower is a testament to their friendship and efforts to maintain conservation of public lands.

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