Every time we so much as touch a toe out of state, I’ve put cemeteries on our travel itinerary. From garden-like expanses to overgrown boot hills, whether they’re the final resting places of the well-known but not that important or the important but not that well-known, I love them all. After realizing that there are a lot of taphophiles out there, I’m finally putting my archive of interesting tombstones to good use.
Seth Bullock is probably one of the most important Wild West icons you’ve never heard of. (Unless you were a fan of Deadwood, of course.)
Bullock, a 27-year-old man looking to open a hardware store in Deadwood, South Dakota, had only been in town for a single day when Wild Bill Hickok was shot to death in a saloon. The people of lawless Deadwood realized they needed help controlling crime, and since Bullock had previous experience as the sheriff of Lewis and Clark County, Montana, they decided he was the man for the job. Wyatt Earp was also considered, but left town once Bullock informed Earp that his services were no longer required.
During his tenure as the sheriff, Seth became very close with a deputy sheriff from Medora, North Dakota. He eventually served with this pal—Theodore Roosevelt—in Roosevelt's Rough Riders. Bullock later assembled a group of 50 cowboys to ride in his friend's inaugural parade. Not long into his presidency, Roosevelt appointed Bullock the U.S. Marshall for the District of South Dakota, proclaiming him "a true westerner, the finest type of frontiersman."
The two remained lifelong friends, and when Roosevelt died on January 6, 1919, Bullock worked for six months to make sure that a monument was erected in his honor on Sheep Mountain in Deadwood. Why the rush? Seth didn’t have much time left himself. The memorial, including a Friendship Tower made of Black Hills stone, was dedicated just two months before Bullock died of cancer on September 23, 1919.
It’s said that Seth personally requested to be buried facing the memorial to his friend, and Deadwood didn’t let him down. They gave their sheriff a very private final resting spot that’s at least 750 feet away from the rest of the cemetery, up a steep hill and down a long path. Let me show you:
These days, the mountain the Bullocks overlook is called Mount Roosevelt, not Sheep Mountain, something Sheriff Bullock surely would have been pleased by.
See all entries in our Grave Sightings series here.