Theodore Roosevelt | Prairie Public Broadcasting

Theodore Roosevelt


On this date in 1912, a man named John Schrank shot Theodore Roosevelt in the chest with a 32 caliber gun. Roosevelt was on the campaign trail as he sought to return to the presidency.


Catching the thieves who stole his boat is one of the most storied adventures of Theodore Roosevelt during his time in the Badlands. The future president and his two ranch hands faced frigid cold, icy water and dwindling supplies to subdue the three thieves on the Little Missouri River. He marched them south to Dickinson for justice.

The Badlands Babies

Aug 12, 2020


President Theodore Roosevelt’s time in what is now North Dakota is known for the hunting and ranching that helped soothe his soul and form his outlook on conservation. There are many famous episodes: his persistent pursuit of his first bison, chasing boat thieves down the Little Missouri River, and giving his Fourth of July speech in Dickinson.


Theodore Roosevelt’s legacy looms large in western North Dakota, where the young, future president ranched and hunted in the Medora Badlands in the 1880s. The National Park in his name cements his place in state history. The efforts to establish a Theodore Roosevelt park in North Dakota reaches back to at least 1921, when the state legislature passed a resolution urging Congress to establish the park around the petrified forest in the Badlands north of Medora.


McKenzie County is the “Island Empire” in North Dakota, owing to the rivers that surround the county. Motorists usually have to cross a bridge to enter the county, and residents rejoiced for having a new one dedicated on this date in 1928.

It was a special event. The Theodore Roosevelt Memorial Bridge spanned the Little Missouri River south of Watford City. The bridge replaced a family-run ferry, which charged a fee for crossing and was hampered by thin ice in fall and ice jams in spring.

In the early spring of 1910, Theodore Roosevelt was being courted by Governor L.B. Hanna and others to allow a statue of TR to erected in North Dakota. The statue was to be sculpted by noted Norwegian sculptor Gustav Vigeland. The location proposed was the campus of the North Dakota Agricultural College, today’s NDSU.

Roosevelt Arrives

Mar 18, 2020


Adding up all his hunting and ranching visits, Theodore Roosevelt spent about a year in Dakota Territory. He visited Medora in 1883 to hunt bison, then returned to try ranching. He had two ranches: Chimney Butte south of Medora, and the Elkhorn, deep in the Badlands north of town.

As Bison Became Rare

Jan 28, 2020

Bison are an ancient species, with fossils tracing their ancestors to over 400,000 years ago in Asia. Scientists believe that at some point, bison began crossing the land bridge that once connected to North America. They spread far and wide, all the way to Mexico and New England. But the largest concentration of bison was here on the Great Plains, with an estimated 60 million of roaming the Midwest. The abundance made bison an excellent source of food and materials for Native Americans. This way of life could have continued, had it not been for the white settlers who hunted the species to near extinction.

“Bright clear sky over a plain so wide that the rim of the heavens cut down on it around the entire horizon…. Bright, clear sky, to-day, to-morrow, and for all time to come.”

Ole Rolvaag’s Giants in the Earth is a classic novel about pioneer life on the prairies of Dakota Territory. The book opens with that description of the prairie. Perhaps like me, you often attempt to visualize the Dakota landscape of a couple hundred years ago. I think about that more now during the winter months when the trees are bare, and the big white blanket covers the landscape. And it really comes to mind for me when I drive down out of the Turtle Mountains to Bottineau when the landscape ahead for several miles is largely unobstructed.

In 2020, we will also be observing the 100th anniversary of women winning the right to vote. Theodore Roosevelt’s position on women’s rights evolved in early years of the 20th century. By his own admission, he followed the lead of the suffragist movement of the time.