When I first discovered the landmark 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
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
They say that the lawman’s ghost still haunts the halls of the nearby Bullock Hotel. 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 blog, post a comment, and show some love on social media.