Seth Bullock Tamed Deadwood’s Wild Mining Side

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Seth Bullock, 1893

When Seth Bullock and Sol Star arrived in Deadwood, South Dakota, it was a wild mining town.

The day after Bullock and Star arrived in Deadwood, the famed Wild Bill Hickok was shot to death. According to Black Hills Visitor Magazine, after Hickok’s death, Deadwood residents “triggered a new demand for law and order in Deadwood, and resulted in Bullock’s appointment as the first sheriff of Deadwood a few months thereafter.”

Bullock Served as More than a Lawman

While serving as a member of Montana’s Territorial Senate in 1871-72, Bullock introduced a resolution to set aside Yellowstone National Park. “He had personally explored the region, and saw that its natural wonders should be protected. The resolution was adopted by the Territorial Legislature, and soon thereafter a similar bill was introduced in both houses of Congress. Yellowstone Park was established by federal statute on March 1, 1872,” states his biography.

He also worked to bring a federal fish hatchery to Spearfish, South Dakota.

Partnership with Star Brings Bullock to Deadwood

Bullock and Star arrived in Deadwood in August of 1876 and quickly began their hardware store, selling goods from a tent, according to legendsofamerica.com. They eventually bought a lot and built a building for their store. When the building burned in 1894, the Bullock Hotel was built on the site. The partners also bought a ranch where Bullock is credited as bringing the crop of alfalfa to South Dakota, according to Black Hills Visitor.

The ranch was also the site of other beginnings. Bullock and Star convinced the Fremont, Elkhorn, and Missouri Valley Railroad to build a line across their ranch. When the line came in to service in 1890, according to Black Hills Visitor, free lots were offered to anyone who would move their business to the new site. The town of Belle Fourche was born. According to legendsofamerica.com “… the new settlement soon took over the county seat. Belle Fourche would later become the largest livestock shipping point in the United States.”

Teddy Roosevelt Becomes a Lifelong Friend

Bullock and Roosevelt met in 1884 while carrying out their respective law enforcement duties. “During the Spanish-American War, Bullock had volunteered for active service in the Cavalry and was named Captain of Troop A in the famous Rough Riders Cowboy Regiment,” states Black Hills Visitor. Bullock was appointed as the first forest supervisor of the Black Hills during Roosevelt’s term as vice president. As president, Roosevelt “soon appointed Bullock as United States Marshal for South Dakota, a position he held for 9 years,” according to Black Hills Visitor.

Bullock died in September of 1919, just months after dedicating a statue of Roosevelt, who had died in January.

Roosevelt is quoted as saying, “Seth Bullock is a true westerner, the finest type of frontiersman.”