“I had a group of travel agents from 32 countries come through, so I asked them, when you go home--what do people want to see?,” says Rick Thompson, executive director of the North Dakota Cowboy Hall of Fame (NDCHOF). “They basically said this is what people want to see...the cowboy.”
The streets of Medora are rife with history and western culture, whether it be the smiling, singing cowboy-hat bedecked Burning Hills Singer of the Medora Musical or the faces and stories that line the walls of the NDCHOF. Our friend Russel Schubert said it best when he said, “If you’re bored in Medora you’re doing something wrong.” With plenty of historical buildings, unique museums, and nostalgia, there are plenty of points of interest for the old soul.
History comes alive with History Live on the Porch of the Chateau de Mores. The Marquis de Mores was the founder of Medora and named the town after his beautiful wife. Known for his rifle skills, European flamboyance and business endeavors, he was one of the many colorful characters from Medora’s past. The Chateau was he and Medora’s hunting cabin and summer home, built in 1883. It still contains many of their personal possessions, as well as the original furnishings, and is open for tours during the summer.
One of the most well-known figures in Medora’s history was the 26th president of the United States, Theodore Roosevelt. In fact, Roosevelt once said,"I have always said I would not have been President had it not been for my experience in North Dakota." One can even visit his rustic Maltese Cross cabin in Theodore Roosevelt National Park.
Joe Wiegand portrays Roosevelt in a one-man performance called TR Salute to Medora in the freshly renovated Old Town Hall Theatre. He had a great stage presence and was quick on the draw when he turned to the audience for a quick Q&A session.
The theatre itself was beautiful, the walls adorned with murals by “Cowboy” Joe Breckenridge who was known as “The fastest painter in the west” after painting at the World’s Fair in Chicago. He was also known to have painted movie sets in Hollywood and Hanson’s Bar in New Rockford with a similar theme -- for a bar tab.
I had the opportunity to stay in the Hyde house, one of the oldest structures standing in Medora. Built in 1883, it is one of three houses built to house the employees of the Marquis de Mores. Quaint and cozy, it was filled with antique furnishings and modern conveniences and was centrally located in downtown Medora.
We found ourselves in Medora the same weekend as the rodeo so it’s safe to say that the wildlife wasn’t just limited to the park.The rodeo was full of thrills, chills and spills, complete with bucking horses, bulldogging, and trick riding via the Calamity Cowgirl trick riders based out of Noonan, North Dakota.
If trick riding isn’t your bag, the much tamer and safer trail rides are offered in Medora and in the park. We had the opportunity to go on a relaxing hour-long ride.The ride is through the Medora Riding Stables. The stable provides the horses for the Medora musical, and the riders are employed by the stable.
An interesting part of the trail took us along the remains of Old Highway 10, North Dakota’s first highway. One landmark that we passed was known as Signature Rock, where road-weary travellers would stop to stretch their legs and carve their initials in the sandstone. According to our trail guide, one signature is dated 1926.
It’s not hard to see why people from all over the world would come to Medora, rich in history, adventure, and western culture. One can easily say that Medora is one of the crown jewels of our state.
by Sabrina Hornung
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