Letter: Violence part of history, but will drop request for gallows in Medora
Violence part of history, but will drop request for gallows
In the past week, a news story based on a concept of mine has spread throughout the country. It is an application I made to the Medora Zoning Commission to construct a replica Old West gallows on my property on which to stage “hangings.”
A song by Waylon Jennings comes to mind: “Don’t You Think This Outlaw Bit Has Done Got Out of Hand.”
Lost in the clamor, for the most part, is my original and stated intent — an historically accurate, educational lesson in frontier justice, with emphasis on justice.
Like it or not, violence was an integral part of our frontier experience.
The Marquis de Mores, founder of Medora, killed a man a few weeks after arriving in the Badlands in 1883.
An award-winning museum drama, “Recollections of Murder and Mayhem in Medora,” deals tastefully and accurately with this violent incident every weekend throughout the summer. The iconic photo of Medora’s “Hanging Tree” from 1896, replete with numerous dead bodies, is a result of the brutal murder of Ed Severson.
An immensely popular “Wild West Shootout” is also held regularly at Medora. Medora has many attractions, and they have varied appeal for different people of different ages.
To me, staging an old west hanging would be no worse or more harmful than watching a magician carve up a girl on stage, or seeing a knife-thrower in action.
All are illusions meant to simulate danger; and the hanging would carry with it a moral lesson, that serious crime carries serious consequence. The proposed hanging scenario would clearly be the result of an outlaw having put himself in that position by his own actions.
I remain convinced that, if presented as envisioned, it would be an educational and interpretive prism into our past. In fact, the majority of people who have talked with me personally have expressed their support. Nevertheless, if even a minority of visitors finds such an option offensive, I owe it to my hometown to remove the potential irritant. Thus, I will be withdrawing my application for the gallows.
People have many things to think about and talk about. Because of this story, people all over the country were suddenly thinking and talking about Medora and southwest North Dakota.
I believe that is a good problem to have. Perhaps some people who had never heard of Medora will stop in to see what all the fuss was about.
Douglas Ellison, mayor of Medora