“Hell Roaring Bill Jones”

The man who was known in the Badlands as “Hell Roaring Bill Jones” was actually named “Patrick McCue”.


He had come from Ireland where, apparently, he had become embroiled in an argument with an uncle. The argument quickly deteriorated into an altercation and in very short order the unfortunate uncle had been battered senseless. Whether or not he ever woke from his slumbers is unclear but “Bill” quickly adopted his new name and packed for the New World.


Having made landfall Bill first took a job at the New York City Fire Department but before long he headed for the frontier where presumably his inclinations towards violence would be less burdensome.


For a short time he had been a member of the Bismarck police force but that gig ended one day when Hell Roaring Bill beat the mayor of Bismarck over the head with his gun.
“The mayor he didn’t mid it so much,” explained Bill, “but the Superintendent of Police he guessed I’d better resign.”

Bill moved to Medora where he hoped to find a more progressive mindset. In spite of their obvious differences in education, pedigree, social standing, and wealth, he and Theodore Roosevelt became friends.


One of Roosevelt’s own memories of “Hell Roaring Jones” took place in 1886. Roosevelt had just traveled back to Medora from Dickinson to participate in the county’s first election as an organized governmental entity.


There had been a great deal of concern that the outlaw element would import a carload of railroad section hands from outside the county to vote against the effort to establish organized government in the Badlands. Those concerns were not entirely unfounded.


Roosevelt described what he found upon arriving at the polls:
“I did not reach Medora until the election was well underway. I then asked one of my friends if there had been any disorder.
‘Disorder hell!’ said my friend.

‘Hell Roaring Bill Jones just stood there with one hand on his gun and the other pointing over to the new jail whenever any man who didn’t have the right to vote came near the polls.

There was only one of them who tried to vote and Bill knocked him down.”


“Lord,’ added my friend meditatively, ‘the way that man fell!’
‘Well,’ stuck in Bill Jones, ‘if he hadn’t fell I’d have walked around to see what was holding him up.’”


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(Source: Roosevelt’s Ranches by Rolf Sletten)

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