When I first discovered the Friendship Tower in the mid 1980s, I was only 13 years old. I stumbled upon it quite accidentally while hiking through the snow with my little brother, Aaron. The site had fallen into obscurity. There were no paved roads leading to the site; no signs; no parking lot, no gift shop. There was nothing to explain the purpose or meaning of this stone tower. It was a lost monument without fanfare buried deep within the Black Hills of Deadwood Gulch. Well, nothing save a small plaque on its rock wall that read:
IN MEMORY OF
OCTOBER 27, 1858- JANUARY 6, 1919
THIS TABLET IS ERECTED BY THE SOCIETY OF BLACK HILLS PIONEERS
JULY 4 1919
My brother and I entered the tower and took refuge halfway up its spiraling steps. Aaron’s feet were near frozen from trudging through knee-deep snow in cheap plastic tennis shoes. I removed his shoes and damp socks, and began warming his small feet with my hands. As young boys often do while exploring, we reclaimed the discovery as our very own, and renamed it The Castle.
The Friendship Tower outside Deadwood, SD.
The “castle”, or the Friendship Tower (its more official name) was built by the famous lawman, Seth Bullock, in 1919 to honor his close friend, President Theodore Roosevelt. It was the first monument ever built to honor our 26th president who died earlier in that year.
The famous lawman, Seth Bullock with President Theodore Roosevelt shared a powerful friendship.
When Theodore “Teddy” Roosevelt died at the young age of 60, it was a terrible loss for the legendary Deadwood pioneer. In 1898, Bullock had served as a captain in Teddy’s legendary Rough Riders outfit during the Spanish-American War. Later, when Roosevelt was elected president, Bullock organized a group of 50 cowboys to ride in his 1905 inaugural parade. The friendship continued in the years that followed and Roosevelt appointed Bullock as the US Marshal for the state of South Dakota. Bullock remained the US Marshal in that state for nine long years.
Thanks to the influx of tourism into Deadwood over the last couple of decades, the Friendship Tower has now been restored as one of the area’s leading historical attractions. The roads leading to the monument have since been paved and well-marked for visitors to find their way to this historical landmark. I imagine even Bullock himself still makes an uncanny trek into those hills from time to time.
Bullock Hotel, Deadwood, SD
The legendary lawman, Seth Bullock, died of colon cancer shortly thereafter, on September 23, 1919 at his home at 28 Van Buren Street in Deadwood. He is buried in Mount Moriah Cemetery in Deadwood, along with famous names such as Wild Bill Hickok and Calamity Jane. As a symbol of their enduring friendship, Bullock’s grave faces Mount Roosevelt and the two’s bond remains immortal.
Locals say that the lawman’s ghost still haunts the halls of the nearby Bullock Hotel. I don’t know if there is any truth in the legend but I would be more than happy to get a room there to fond out. The Bullock Hotel is the crown hewel of Downtown Deadwood, featuring a traditional ambiance and casino.
Perhaps, when suffering from an unusually restless spirit, Bullock takes to the cool night air and sets out to see an old friend… Perhaps, but that will be for another story. Thank you for reading my article and I hope you visit my site again real soon. Feel free to explore other areas of my site, Big John’s Adventures in Travel. While you are there, please post a comment and show some love on social media.
Posted in Adventurous Places, Historical Journeys, North America and tagged deadwood, friendship tower, roosevelt by Big John with 10 comments.