Great Western Cattle Trail being marked through North Dakota
by: Lane Henkins, KXNet
Jul 28, 2020
Once upon a time, back when North Dakota was just a territory, not a state, and before highways and interstates carried us from place to place…a different sort of highway saw a lot whole of traffic.
“7to 9 million head of cattle and horses moved up the Great Western Trail,” said Great Western Trail Marker Project Manager Darrell Dorgan.
That ocean of cattle moved this way because cowboys in Texas were following the money. Back in the 1880s, cattle could be sold for $8 a piece in Texas. But farther north in Kansas, Nebraska, the Dakota territory and even Canad, the cattle could be sold for $20 to $35 a head, so the herds moved north– and so did a Frenchman known as the Marquis De Mores.
He saw the opportunity to be part of a booming beef industry. He wound up founding the town of Medora in 1883.
“They wanted to cut out the middle man. They said it would save a lot of money here, we’ll butcher right here, with our refrigerated cars. We’ll ship our product all the way to New York. And therefore we would make Dakota Territory the center of meat industry in the west,” said Chateau De Mores Assistant Site Supervisor Ed Sahlstrom.
As most North Dakotans know, the Marquis wasn’t the only big name in the area at the time.
“Theodore Roosevelt was known to come over to the Chateau and dine with the Marquis and Madam. He borrowed books from their library, biographies and history books, and international travel books and took them off to his ranches,” said Chateau De Mores Site Supervisor Anna Killian.
Neither would last long in the Dakota Territory. After a couple of years Roosevelt returned to New York and the Marquis began to feel the decline of the Great Western Cattle Trail, thanks to more settlement and a cattle disease known as Texas Fever.
But the Great Western Cattle Trail is still in use today, by people like you and me...
more, including video report [2:51 min.]