Harold Schafer’s Medora
Perhaps more important than the founding of Harold Schafer’s Gold Seal Company on this date in 1942 was his decision and dedication to revive the small southwestern North Dakota community of Medora.
The original town site in Billings County was founded in 1883 along the Northern Pacific Railroad just east of the small settlement named Little Missouri. The new town was named for Medora von Hoffman, daughter of a wealthy New York City banker and wife of a young French nobleman, the Marquis de Mores.
The Marquis’s lofty plans to build a meat packing empire in Medora quickly failed, however, and the family left the area in 1886, returning to France.
Medora is also noted for another colorful resident, Theodore Roosevelt, a young New York politician. His first visit was to hunt buffalo in September 1883, and he eventually owned two large ranches in the area.
The town died down somewhat after their departures, and it remained a simple cattle town until the late 1950s, when Harold Schafer and his Gold Seal Company began a major restoration and modernization of the western town.
Schafer developed many new attractions and businesses through the Theodore Roosevelt Medora Foundation, which is now 20 years old. The “Old Four Eyes” production, begun in 1958, became the Medora Musical in 1965. Now 41 years old, the musical runs from June 2 through September 3 this year.
One of North Dakota’s top tourist attractions, Medora offers wide-ranging activities to suit the entire family—museums, wonderful shops, entertaining programs and a fun, fort-like playground for the little ones.
Horse and buggy rides set the mood for a reach back into history. And the North Dakota Cowboy Hall of Fame’s new Center of Western Heritage and Cultures also takes visitors back to North Dakota’s earlier days. It opens for its first full season today.
And for the golfers, there’s the Bully Pulpit Golf Course and its amazing views. In 2005, the course gained national recognition as America’s best new affordable public course and one of the top 10 new U.S. courses.
Those who enjoy wildlife and the wide open spaces are more likely to head out for scenic drives on the 95 miles of back-country trails in the Theodore Roosevelt National Park.
And we can’t forget two special weekends in Medora—Memorial Day weekend when the cowboy and cowgirl poets come to town and the first weekend of December when the whole town is decked out for its Cowboy Christmas.
There are really too many sites and sounds to mention them all, but one more comes to mind—the Harold Schafer Heritage Center, where you can hear and see the story of Schafer’s life, his successful Gold Seal Company and his continuing commitment to Medora and North Dakota.
By Cathy A. Langemo