THE MARQUIS DE MORES

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This is an extract of the article, with small photos. You will find the complete article with full-sized photos in my e-book View America: North West - Part 1

In the travel series View America, North West - Part 1 covers Minnesota, North Dakota and South Dakota. It is not a traditional travelogue, but a non-commercial and more or less objective chronicle of an in-depth exploration of these states. Each state is described with its own brief historical background and its main sights, tourist attractions and points of interest.

My book does not describe lodgings, restaurants or entertainment, except where these may interact with the narrative. It is illustrated with more than 90 full-sized photos.

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de Mores

Medora is a small city in North Dakota. It is located in the Badlands, and one of its landmarks is the Château De Mores, built by the Marquis de Mores (1858-1896).

Antoine Amédée Marie Vincent Manca de Vallombrosa was the son of the Duke of Vallombrosa, who owned a castle in La Bocca, near Cannes. Later he received the title of Marquis de Morès et de Montemaggiore, but usually he was called Marquis de Morès.

He sought to make a fortune in North Dakota by raising cattle and processing the meat. His ambitious plan was to revolutionize the industry by slaughtering the cattle in the small railroad town of Little Missouri, and then sending it eastward in refrigerated railroad cars.

the Marquis de MoresHe bought thousands of acres of land and built a factory for meat packing. He also built a summer house with 26 rooms, that the villagers mockingly called "the Chateau de Mores". Still, even that wasn't the end of his building projects, for he also built a hotel, a house for his in-laws, several houses for his workers, a brickyard, a church and several ranches.

He hired many cowboys, set up a stagecoach line, and founded the Pacific Refrigerated Car Company. His intention was to slaughter 150 cattle per day, process them and ship them east. Between 1883 and 1886, the village grew phenomenally, so much even, that the "unfriendly" village of Little Missouri completely died out. Revenge is sweet...

Theodore Roosevelt

One of the Mores' neighbors was the 24-year-old Theodore Roosevelt, an asthmatic and lean young man, who came to the region in 1883 to hunt buffalos. He found the life in the West so interesting that he bought the Maltese Cross Ranch before he moved back east. The cabin in which he lived can still be visited. He became a welcome guest at the Château de Mores.

The Marquis was a most irascible man, and his arguments and fights were proverbial. He was also a formidable marksman who regularly engaged in duels. At one time he was accused of murder and he almost challenged Roosevelt to a duel, because he assumed that Roosevelt was the instigator of the accusations. Had this duel taken place, the course of American history would certainly have been very different since Roosevelt was certainly no match for the Mores. Years later Roosevelt would be elected President of the U.S.!

The end of the Medora adventure

In 1886 and after a period of severe drought whereby the local livestock was almost halved, de Mores' company went bankrupt. The drought was actually not the only reason for his bankruptcy, but as usual in legends, the less positive aspects are somewhat dressed up by historians... The flamboyant Marquis was rarely in Medora to manage his company, and he financed everything with borrowed money since he himself was not particularly wealthy. He suffered from an unlikely megalomania and led an extremely rich and pompous life.

the Château De MoresNext to this, his company gravely suffered from a fierce opposition, if not outright boycott, from the Chicago meat processing companies and their allies, the railroads. Together these controlled practically the entire meat market. Finally, eastern consumers preferred meat from animals that were fed with corn instead of prairie grass.

The marquis and his family left the village of Medora and returned to France, while father-in-law and the other shareholders gracefully settled the 1.5 million dollar loss... The bankruptcy of the meat processing plant was a major disaster for Medora, but the final blow was inflicted by the frigid winter of 1887, which killed almost all of the herds. The local cattle raisers never recovered from this disaster, and Medora became a ghost town.

In 1907 the meat processing plant burned down, and in 1936 the family donated the "château" to the state of North Dakota.

A new beginning for Medora

In 1947 the Theodore Roosevelt Memorial Park was established. In 1958 the Burning Hills Amphitheatre was built to perform the drama "Old Four Eyes", commemorating the 100th anniversary of the birth of Roosevelt.

One of the attendees was the wealthy entrepreneur Harold Schafer, owner of the Gold Seal Company. He thought that it would be a shame to let Medora decay any further and to let so much interesting history disappear. He blew new life into Medora and transformed the town into one of the most touristic attractions of the Upper Midwest.

Video : The Marquis de Mores

 

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