Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Seth Bullock Review

From the back of the book:

'Much of Seth Bullock's modern renown comes from television, motion pictures, and his friendship with President Theodore Roosevelt. But Bullock was much more than the frontier law enforcer portrayed in fictional accounts. In Seth Bullock: Black Hills Lawman, David Wolff examines the life work of Bullock as he helped build Deadwood, found the town of Belle Fourche, and promote the Black Hills.

Wolff explores the many ventures that Bullock delved into once he moved from Montana to the Black Hills at the start of the gold rush in 1876. He points out that Bullock quickly became an integral part of the burgeoning community, attempting to create a lasting legacy for himself by working within local and regional politics, through his various businesses, and in his many positions at the forefront of Black Hills law enforcement and forest management.

Bullock's life epitomized that of many entrepreneurs and pioneers across the nation, and Wolff describes the struggles and successes that this thinker and dreamer experienced in his forty-three years in the Black Hills.'

The book is, obviously, about Seth Bullock but because of his involvement in the town, by necessity, it becomes not only a biography of Bullock but also of Deadwood itself. Bullock may have been a lawman but he had many other positions in town too and was also an entrepreneur who had his hand in many business deals. Making sure that Deadwood survived was very important to Bullock and Wolff outlines his involvement in trying to organize and start what the town would need. You are told about mining, and trying to attract businesses and railroads, and start banks, and organize a government and all the many other struggles and obstacles the town needed to overcome to survive and grow. The book revolves around Bullock and his involvement in many of these things but it does broaden to a wider scope in that it shows the birth and growing pains of the town and its surrounding environs and all the other people who helped along the way. I didn’t know much about Seth Bullock when I started the book and it was very interesting to learn how involved he was in the workings of Deadwood and to see how farsighted and far-reaching his business ideas were. I also liked the close look at all that it takes to start a frontier town and keep it going, all the hard work and effort and not just the gunfights and glory. But I have to admit that there came a point when I had heard more about processing ore than I really cared to. Wolff researched his subject well as you can tell from the copious notes and long bibliography. The writing was easy to read and understand but definitely academic in style and reads more like a text book than a story. It is full of interesting information and nitty-gritty details and I would definitely recommend it to anyone interested in Seth Bullock or the old west in general.

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