Nestled below the bluffs on the Little Missouri River, Medora was founded in 1883 by the French-born Marquis de Morès. Here he established a large meatpacking plant, stores, and an impressive house now known as the Chateau de Mores (BI8). A young Theodore Roosevelt hunted buffalo in the area and eventually he owned two cattle ranches. Today, the headquarters for the Theodore Roosevelt National Park (BI9) are in Medora. The town also developed with the Northern Pacific Railway’s promotion of tourist travel to the Badlands and the NP’s depiction of the landscape as Pyramid Park. From the early twentieth century, the development of the Red Trail (now I-94) brought motorists to Medora while en route to the national parks farther west. Visitors have long been fascinated by the personable, small-town characteristics of Medora and the character it conveys of a cowboy town of the American West. Cattle ranching and rodeo culture remain popular.
In the 1950s, with encouragement from State Historical Society superintendent Russell Reid, businessman Harold Schafer invested in preserving key buildings, most notably the Roughriders Hotel (BI1). Those investments in local history have continued to the present through endowment of the Theodore Roosevelt Medora Foundation (TRMF). The community retains much of its tourism appeal, although in recent years some historic authenticity has been lost from the rough and tumble frontier town architecture that gave the village such appeal to visitors. Medora, which has been associated with coal and oil development from the early 1900s, has begun to feel the impact of the recent surrounding oil field development.
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