DEADWOOD — More than 200 people gathered Saturday to help rededicate the Mount Roosevelt Friendship Tower on its 100th anniversary.

The tower is here thanks to a friendship forged more than 100 years ago by two highly influential historical American West figures. Desirous of creating a memorial to his friend’s life, as well as a place where people could view the wide open spaces that they both held dear, Seth Bullock, famous Deadwood sheriff, built the Mount Roosevelt Friendship Tower in 1919 as a tribute to his friend of many years, President Theodore Roosevelt. 

Saturday’s celebration closely emulated the original dedication that was held 100 years ago on July 4, 1919, with then-Gov. Peter Norbeck presiding.

Deadwood Mayor David Ruth, Jr. welcomed the crowd, thanked those involved in performing the program, and introduced fellow guests of honor.

“I’d like to take this opportunity, first, and foremost, to thank you for joining us in enjoying the beautiful views of the Friendship Tower and being here to rededicate this fantastic monument, the hidden jewel of our community,” Ruth said. 

Other featured speakers included South Dakota Lt. Gov. Larry Rhoden, Black Hills National Forest Supervisor Mark Van Every, and the Rev. Michael Johnson.

“One hundred years ago, a group of people gathered in this very place for the dedication of a tower they dubbed Mount Roosevelt,” Rhoden said. “I imagine that day was a bit different than today. None of them would have had cell phones. No one would be snapping photos to post on Facebook. They wouldn’t have been thinking about the air conditioning that waited for them in their homes or cars after standing outside in the sun. But a few things would be similar between that day and today. The value of community. A sense of state pride. And a spirit of friendship.”

Rhoden said the last century has seen Mt. Roosevelt become an icon and a symbol of pride for Deadwood.

“The peaceful walk and scenery brings outdoor enthusiasts and history buffs to the community and bolsters the historic feel of the area. The result is what we see before us,” Rhoden said. “Today, we remember the incredible story of friendship that made this monument possible.”

Van Every drew many parallels between the two friends, including the fact that both men believed in the spirit of the west, both were ranchers, both had political ambitions, both were soldiers, and both were conservationists.

“We all have the privilege to be able to continue to enjoy these lands that these two men had the foresight to set aside for the use and enjoyment of all the American people,” Van Every said. “Their friendship endured all the way up until both of their deaths and about six months after President Roosevelt passed away, this tower was dedicated and then three months later, Seth Bullock passed away. So, an enduring, lasting part of their friendship and a lasting legacy to the things they did for our country and for the national forests.”

Johnson encouraged all in attendance to follow the example of Roosevelt, whom he called a great American who loved humanity more than class and righteousness better than peace. 

“Whenever the creed of commerce shall seek to lay violent hands upon the natural resources of the earth, for selfish purposes, to the exclusion of the common seal, help us to remember Theodore Roosevelt’s great fight for conservation,” Johnson said. “He loved these mountains and forests. May we ever love them, too and preserve them for the generations to come.” 

“May this monument help us to carry such a banner of friendship in the portion of this great country that God has given us the honor in which to reside,” Johnson said.

A Masonic cornerstone rededication ceremony was performed by the Grand Lodge of South Dakota, as both Bullock and Roosevelt were Masons and Roosevelt had an affinity for attending cornerstone dedication ceremonies.

“It is said that Bullock and Roosevelt first met in 1892 on the prairie outside of Medora,” said Grand Master of Masons of North Dakota Lowell Domier. “That chance meeting was the beginning of a friendship that lasted over 30 years, including military service, political campaigns and appointments, family time, and a passion for conservation and western heritage. When Roosevelt appointed Bullock to forest supervisor of the Black Hills National Forest, Bullock’s office was on the second floor of the Deadwood Masonic Temple.”

Also part of the program were the Banner Girls of Leeds, N.D., who performed the National Anthem and God Bless America, as well as the Black Hills Backcountry Horsemen who performed the presentation of colors.

In 1919, the Society of Black Hills Pioneers provided financial support to build the Mt. Roosevelt Friendship Tower. In 1966, the society donated the tower to the United States Forest Service. In 2005, the tower was added to the National Register of Historic Places.

Many partners and agencies worked together to pull the ceremony together, including the Business Improvement District of Deadwood, U.S. Forest Service, Deadwood Chamber of Commerce, Deadwood Historic Preservation, Masons of South Dakota, Northern Hills Recreation Association, Lawrence County Search & Rescue, Lawrence County Sheriff’s Office, and the cities of Deadwood and Lead.

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