French aristocrat Marquis de Mores founded the town of Medora in the spring of 1883 on the east side of the Little Missouri River, across from a small military outpost. His empire is best known for ranching, but the crafty marquis had other business interests, too. He shipped salmon from the Columbia River to the East Coast. He also had ideas for building a pottery works and growing cabbages under glass.
One of his projects was a stagecoach line from Medora to Deadwood in the Black Hills - the Medora Stage and Forwarding Company. It was a shorter run than the stage serving Deadwood from Pierre. De Mores envisioned the stage carrying mail, passengers and freight to the bustling gold mining town. The Bad Lands Cow Boy newspaper and The Dickinson Press disagreed over the best route to Deadwood. Dickinson, you see, was also jockeying for a Black Hills route. Each paper cited the other town’s proposed road as impassable, but the Marquis had a route surveyed from Sully Creek across the Heart River’s headwaters and branches of the Grand and Cannonball rivers and through hills and valleys south into the Black Hills. But he had problems with managers of the stage line. He felt cheated by two Medora characters, and sought his third manager in A.T. Packard, the editor of the Bad Lands Cow Boy newspaper. When Packard said he knew nothing about stage lines, De Mores said it made no difference: “You will not rob me.” Packard took the job.
The marquis promised to secure a mail contract. Packard waited impatiently for money from De Mores to establish the stage line. Eventually the money came, but in small sums delayed over the summer. Packard began buying up horses at bargain prices. The horses were wild and unbroken and thrashed when restrained by harnesses and collars. A series of relay stations were established all along the route. On this date in 1884, Packard was in the midst of a dry run of the stage line, returning to Medora from Deadwood. Six horses pulled the 11-seat Concord coach. The trip lasted 35 ½ hours, or two days and one night. The stage line was met with enthusiasm, but its demise was soon to come. There was no mail contract. Packard went back to his newspaper and his duties as Medora’s chief of police. The Medora Stage and Forwarding Company was discontinued months later in the spring of 1885.
Dakota Datebook by Jack Dura
The Bad Lands Cow Boy. 1884, Oct. 9. Page 1
The Bad Lands Cow Boy. 1885, May 21. Page 4
Bismarck Weekly Tribune. 1884, Sept. 19. Page 6
Hagedorn, H. (1921). Roosevelt in the badlands. Theodore Roosevelt Nature & History Association: Medora, ND
State Historical Society of North Dakota. (1990). The WPA guide to 1930s North Dakota. State Historical Society of North Dakota: Bismarck, ND