Slope County, in which I reside, puts on an “old-fashioned fair” every year in the late summer, and I have been put in charge of this year’s fair show. This charge tasks my committee with writing and producing a play to be performed during the fair at the end of August. Because it is the county seat’s centennial this year, we have been focusing on the town’s history. Therefore, in my spare time, I have been researching the history of Slope County to come up with stories that we can re-enact. I did not ever think that this would lead me back to my position at the Theodore Roosevelt Center.
While reading histories of families that lived near the county seat, Amidon, I stumbled across a name I recognized; however, I could not think why that name was familiar. Frank Roberts homesteaded just west of Amidon after having worked for ranchers as a young man, and I read a lengthy and intriguing description of his ranching operation.
Frank Roberts was born in Minnesota in 1859 and headed west in the 1870s, looking for work. He worked for hunters and trappers in a series of fascinating events until he came west to Little Missouri, where he began working for ranchers. One of the ranches for which Roberts worked was the HT Ranch, a large horse ranch located west of Amidon. After his marriage, Roberts and his wife homesteaded a place of their own in the vicinity. Roberts’ story is a classic account of life on the prairie in the early twentieth century.
As I continued my perusal of the family’s history, another name rang a bell. Harry Roberts, Frank’s son, wrote several pieces for the Slope Saga, a collection of memoirs submitted by families in the county. In one of these pieces, Harry states that he ended up as the custodian at the Chateau de Mores in Medora. After reading that, I noticed a picture of Frank Roberts, and the caption mentioned “Teddy” Roosevelt.
So, I conducted a search of our digital library. We have several items that mention the Roberts family, one of which is an article written by Harry entitled, “As I Remember” – one of a series of columns he wrote for the Dickinson Press over a number of years. Another item, written by National Park Service historian Ray H. Mattison and begins with a quote by Mr. T. F. [Frank] Roberts, the “oldest resident of Billings County.” Mattison relates that Roberts was born in Minnesota in 1859, which matches the account in the Slope Saga, and Roberts is quoted in Mattison as saying, “I’m the oldest man living who rode the range with Roosevelt.” My research for the Slope County fair brought me right back to Theodore Roosevelt.
Old range riders remember Roosevelt, , From the Theodore Roosevelt National Park collection.
By the time Frank Roberts made this claim to Mattison, likely in 1949, he was ninety years old and had moved to Medora to be with his son. The land Roberts homesteaded over 100 years ago remains in the family.
Slope Saga. Slope Saga Committee, 1976. Print.