Cantonment

The cantonment was an abandoned army compound on the west bank of the Little Missouri River that served as a hunting lodge and headquarters at the time Theodore Roosevelt first appeared in Dakota Territory.

The cantonment was built in the spring of 1879 by the U.S. Army to protect survey and construction crews for the Northern Pacific Railroad. It consisted of eleven buildings arranged around a central parade ground: a barracks, quarters for four officers, a nine-bed hospital, a 100' x 22' storehouse, a blacksmith shop, quarters for two laundresses, an administration building, a bakery, a guardhouse, an ice house, and stables for 22 animals.

About 50 soldiers of the Sixth U.S. Infantry had been stationed there for approximately three years, until the completion of the NP railroad line. The construction of the cantonment was managed by Captain Stephen Baker. The facility was abandoned on March 24, 1883, just six months before Roosevelt made his first journey to the badlands.

Roosevelt’s acquaintance Henry H. Gorringe purchased the cantonment for $1,500 from the government of the United States shortly after it was abandoned. He intended to turn it into a hunting resort. In the months before TR’s appearance, Gorringe was refurbishing the officers’ quarters and the hospital and operating a store and “hotel.”

When Roosevelt first appeared in the Dakota badlands on the night of September 7-8, 1883, he stayed at the Pyramid Park Hotel on the west bank of the Missouri River. The next morning, after breakfast, he made his way to Gorringe’s cantonment to obtain the services of a buffalo hunting guide. It was there that he met Joe Ferris, who helped TR get his first buffalo and became his friend.

Gorringe had intended to accompany Roosevelt on the buffalo hunt. At the last minute, he backed out of the plan. Roosevelt made the journey alone.

A fire destroyed part of the cantonment in early 1887. The buildings that survived the fire were either torn down or hauled away. Medora resident John Goodall moved the free-standing hospital building to Dickinson in the fall of 1888.