Recently a collection of articles from the Dickinson Press crossed my desk and I was charged with the task of organizing and annotating them. They were written by the Honorable Alfred White who was one of the earliest residents of Dickinson, North Dakota and published in several editions of the Dickinson Press from August 1931 to January 1932. One of his articles mentioned a man who lived and ranched in the Medora area during the time Theodore Roosevelt was founding the Maltese Cross ranch. The man, Arthur Clark Huidekoper, was very much like Theodore Roosevelt. Huidekoper was born in Pennsylvania to a wealthy family and had come west to hunt and to live the western adventure. In 1881,when he visited the Badlands of Dakota, he was already an established stockman in Pennsylvania and he saw the opportunity to expand his cattle and horse breeding operations in the unsettled West.
He founded the HT Ranch about 25 crow flying miles south of Medora and it quickly became one of the largest ranches in the area as Huidekoper bought up and fenced off large tracts of railroad land. According to White, this location made Huidekoper a neighbor of White’s and also of Theodore Roosevelt’s Maltese Cross spread. Although, due to the vast openness of western Dakota, neighbor is used loosely because the ranch houses were several miles apart and it was common to go days without seeing another person.
The winter of 1886-87 hit every cattle producer hard. Many lost as much as 90% of their herd. It was the same for Huidekoper who lost a large portion of his cattle herd. Despite the hard winter and the toll it took on the cattle, the horses on the HT Ranch fared surprisingly well. That hardiness led Huidekoper to sell his cattle and focus on breeding and raising draft horses to be sold from his ranch in Pennsylvania. It was this forward thinking that made it possible for the HT Ranch to thrive for another 20 years when so many others did not. While Roosevelt and Huidekoper had stories with similar beginnings and a point in time where they existed as neighbors, their stories are very much their own, each man able to forge a lasting impression upon those around him.