Seth Bullock - Finest Type of Frontiersman
Seth Bullock, courtesy
"Seth Bullock is a true westerner, the finest type of frontiersman."
was born in Amherstburg, Ontario, Canada on July 23, 1849 to George
Bullock, a retired British Major, and his Scottish wife, Agnes Findley
Bullock. By the time Seth
was five, the family had moved to Sandwich, Ontario when his father
became involved in politics.
Little is known of his boyhood, except that he was frequently at odds
with his father's strict discipline. No doubt, his father’s
military like attitudes concerning politics, discipline, and other
view points ultimately led to Seth's
personal "code of honor.” At the age of 16, Seth
ran away from home, ending up in
where his older sister lived. However, she quickly sent him home
to his parents.
Not to be deterred for long, as soon as Seth
was 18 he left home for good. By the time he was twenty, he was
arriving in Helena in 1867. Following in his father’s political
footsteps, he ran for the Territorial Legislature, but was defeated. However, he did manage to get himself elected as a member of the
Territorial Senate, where he served for two years in 1871-1872. During this time, Bullock
was instrumental in creating the first ever United States National
After serving on the
Territorial Senate, Bullock
was elected Sheriff of Lewis and Clark County in 1873. Quickly
making his presence known, he not only acted as a lawman, but also as
an auctioneer and entrepreneur, entering into a hardware business with
Sol Star. In 1874, Bullock
married his childhood sweetheart,
Eccles in Salt Lake City,
Utah. But when the hardware partners saw a better opportunity in
he sent his wife and newborn baby girl back to the security of her
family home in Michigan.
on August 1, 1876, in wagons filled with hardware goods, including
picks, pans, shovels, dynamite, cooking utensils, and more, Seth
and Sol immediately set up their hardware store in a tent.
entrepreneurial pair bought a lot and built a false front building to house their
business, advertising furniture, wall paper, lamps, and hardware.
the time they arrived,
had already gained a reputation as a hell-raising camp, filled with
miners, transients, gamblers,
and prostitutes. The day after their arrival,
was shot by the coward
Jack McCall. Outraged, the camp began to demand law enforcement in the ungoverned
Though it is commonly thought that Bullock
first marshal, that is incorrect. Actually, the camp's first marshal
was a man named Isaac Brown who was elected by the Miner's Court after the
trial of Jack
McCall on August 5, 1876. However, when Isaac Brown, along with the
Reverend Smith, and two other men named Charles Mason and Charles Holland
were traveling between Crook City and
they were ambushed and killed on August 20th. Leaving an open position,
the miner's court soon met again, this time electing Con Stapleton.
In March, 1877, Seth Bullock
was appointed by Governor Pennington as the first Sheriff of the newly
formed Lawrence County. He was also sheriff of the provisional government
in what is now known as South Dakota.
Undaunted by the county's lawless and dangerous nature, Bullock wasted no time
appointing several fearless deputies to help him "clean up” the town.
Before long, order had been established in the former hell-raising camp.
never killed a man while serving as the Lawrence County Sheriff. According to his grandson, he could "outstare a mad cobra or a rogue
elephant” which was generally enough to convince the rowdy elements to
settle down before any violence ever took place.
becoming more stable, Bullock
sent for his family. Seth's
soon became a pillar of the community. With
having more time on his hands, he spent much of it ranching and raising
horses on a section of land he and Sol had purchased at the divergence of
the Belle Fourche River and Redwater Creek. Bullock
also dabbled in mining and politics while continuing to serve as Deputy
United States Marshal.
1884 while bringing a horse thief named Crazy Steve into
for trial, Bullock
encountered Theodore Roosevelt for the first time. Roosevelt was
then the Deputy Sheriff from Medora,
and the two shared coffee and beans over the tailgate of a chuck wagon on
the rangelands near Belle Fourche. The pair quickly formed a
friendship that would last through Bullock's
the late 1880s Bullock persuaded the
Fremont, Elkhorn and
Missouri Valley Railroad to build across the ranch, free of charge. Located three miles northwest of the town of Minnesela, the railroad
arrived in 1890, and Seth founded the town of
Belle Fourche. Bullock and
offered free lots for any building moved from the town of Minnesela and
soon the new settlement soon took over the county seat. Belle Fourche would later become the largest livestock shipping point in the
In 1894, the hardware
was struck by fire and
decided to build
Deadwood's first hotel over the original store and warehouse. At a
cost of $40,000, the three-story, 64 room hotel boasted steam heat and a
bathroom on each floor. Completed in 1896, the
quickly became the most sought after luxury hotel of its time. This
historic hotel still stands today, continuing to providing lodging as well
as a 24-hour casino.
the Spanish-American War broke out in 1898,
volunteered as one of Roosevelt’s Rough Riders and was named a Captain of
Troop A in Grigsby's Cowboy Regiment. However, the outfit never saw
combat as they sat out the short war in a Louisiana training camp. After his short stint in the war,
was from thereon referred to as "Captain.”
When Theodore Roosevelt was elected president,
organized a group of fifty cowboys, including Tom Mix, to ride in the
President’s inaugural parade in 1905. Later that year, Roosevelt
as the United States Marshal for
a position he held for the next nine years.
When Roosevelt died in January, 1919, it was a terrible blow to
Bullock. Soon he enlisted the help of the Society of Black Hills Pioneers and
erected a monument to the deceased president. Dedicated July 4, 1919 it
was the first monument to the president erected in the country.
on the Redwater Bridge, Belle Fourche at the time of a horse sale on
the Star &
Ranch, 1880s. Photo courtesy
Hardware Store on the corner of Wall and Main Streets, 1877.
Just a few months later,
died of cancer on September 23, 1919 at his ranch near Belle Fourche. He
was buried in Mount Moriah Cemetery along with several other colorful
Wild Bill Hickok
The gravesite once faced toward Mount Roosevelt across the gulch, but the
view is now obscured by a half-century growth of ponderosa pines.
Weiser/Legends of America,
updated October, 2016.
Hills Historic Characters & Tales
Rough & Tumble Mining Camp
Deadwood, South Dakota Timeline
HBO's Deadwood - Facts & Fiction
Bullock - A Pillar of Deadwood Society
Solomon Star - A
Hotel courtesy Bullock Hotel Properties
Roundup on the Belle Fourche, 1887.
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