Encyclopedia of the Great Plains

David J. Wishart, Editor

MORES, MARQUIS DE (1858-1896)

The Marquis de Mores was a part-time resident of the Badlands of western Dakota Territory for only three years, 1883–86, but the French nobleman left his mark on the region's history. The village he founded and named after his wife, Medora, is a thriving tourist site where the tall, brick chimney of his meatpacking plant still stands as a lonely symbol of his ambitious business enterprises.

Born in Paris on June 14, 1858, Antoine- Amedee-Marie-Vincent-Amat Manca de Vallombrosa was well educated and fluent in English, German, and Italian. He fell in love with a young American woman, Medora von Hoffman, the daughter of a wealthy New York banker, and they were married on February 15, 1882, in Cannes, France. Working in his father-in-law's Wall Street bank, de Mores looked for investment opportunities, and in April 1883 he chose a site near the Little Missouri River in the Dakota Badlands as the place to make his entrepreneurial dreams a reality. He formed a corporation known as the Northern Pacific Refrigerated Car Company and began buying cattle and building abattoirs, a meatpacking plant, and a railway spur to provide growing eastern markets with fresh meat shipped directly from the range in refrigerated railcars. In addition, the Marquis built a large home (today known as the Chateau de Mores State Historic Site), a hotel, a Roman Catholic church, blocks of businesses, and a brick home for his in-laws. Many of the structures still stand.

The Marquis and his family typically spent part of the year, from the late spring to the early fall, in Medora, where despite the challenges of his cattle and ranching operations, the Marquis found time, money, and energy to invest in sheep and horses, ship salmon in from the Columbia River, and begin a stage and freight line between Medora and Deadwood in present-day South Dakota. Though the Marquis had the financial backing of his father-in-law, his many business ventures failed: opposition from other meat dealers in Chicago and New York limited his beef distribution efforts, and the stage line lost its bid for the mail contract, which left it unprofitable. Though the Marquis participated in stockmen's associations and entertained guests such as fellow rancher Theodore Roosevelt, he could not escape controversy. Charged with the 1883 murder of a Badlands cowboy, Riley Luffsey, the Marquis was tried and acquitted three times. The de Mores family left Medora in the fall of 1886, but the Marquis continued to attract attention. When he moved from the United States to France, his anti-Semitic positions and views on social reform brought him disapproval and arrest. In June 1896 he was killed in North Africa and was buried in Cannes, France.

Janet Daley State Historical Society of North Dakota

Arnold O. Goplen. The Career of the Marquis de Mores in the Badlands of North Dakota. Bismarck: State Historical Society of North Dakota, 1994.

Virginia Heidenreich- Barber, ed. Aristocracy on the Western Frontier: The Legacy of the Marquis de Mores. Bismarck: State Historical Society of North Dakota, 1994.

D. Jerome Tweton. "The Marquis de Mores and His Dakota Venture: A Study in Failure." Journal of the West 6 (1967): 521–34.

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