In His Own Words: Mayhem in Mingusville

Jun 25, 2013

In a long letter to Secretary of State John Hay, Theodore Roosevelt relates two incidents that occurred in a Mingusville hotel during his time as a Dakota rancher. True to his wishes, Roosevelt really did experience the Wild West in what he considered the last true frontier.


This photo by Frank Jay Haynes shows the Northern Pacific Railway tracks leading into Wibaux, Montana, in 1894. During Theodore Roosevelt's ranching years in Dakota Territory, the town was called Mingusville. Photo from Wikimedia Commons 

“In this same hotel, by the way, I had more than one odd experience. It was the place where I was shot at by the fellow who had been on a spree and had shot up the face of the clock. By watching my chance I was able to knock him down, his head hitting the corner of the bar as he went down, so that he was knocked senseless. Upon another occasion I had a small room with one bed to myself upstairs, and had sat up to read, for I usually carried a book in my saddle pocket. Every one had gone to sleep; when a cowboy arrived, very drunk, yelling and shooting as he galloped through the darkness. When the host finally opened the door in response to repeated thumps the sounds below told that he at first had cause to regret having done so. Evidently the puncher seized him, half in play and half in enmity, jammed his gun against him, and then started to waltz around the room with him. The agonized appeals of the host came upward. ‘Jim don’t! Don’t Jim! It’ll go off! Jim, it’ll go off!’ Jim’s response was not reassuring. ‘Yes, damn you, it’ll go off. I’ll learn you! Who in hell cares if it does go off? Oh, I’ll learn you!’ Finally the host reduced his guest to a condition of comparative quiet, which was announced by loud demands for a bed, which was promised immediately. Then I heard steps in the hall, a knock at the door, and when I opened it there stood the host announcing that he was sorry but that he had to put a man in with me for the night. I explained that he was not as sorry as I was – and that the man could not come in. He reiterated his regret, and said that the man was drunk and on the shoot and had to come in. This description did not add to the attractiveness of the proposal and I explained that I should lock my door again, put out my light, and shoot any man who tried to break in. Where the puncher slept that night I do not know, but I was left free.”

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Posted by Grant Carlson on Jun 25, 2013 in History  |  Permalink  |  Comments (0)  |  Share this post

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