Vickie McDonough Introduces the Marquis de Mores

Researching is not my favorite thing to do. I’d rather be brainstorming with my writing buddies while eating homemade snacks. But research is necessary. I will confess I enjoy going on research trips—just getting away from home makes it worthwhile.


When I sold a three-book deal for a trio of stories set in historical North Dakota, I rejoiced and then said, “What have I done?” I knew nothing about N.D. and had never been there. So I started researching, looking for a place to set a ranch. I found out that most historical ranches were in the Southwest part of the state around The Badlands, where there are abundant grasslands intermixed with steep buttes, beautiful rock formations, and wide valleys.


While narrowing down exactly where to set my ranch, I stumbled on the story of a French marquis, Antoine Amedee Marie Vincent Amat Manca de Vallombrosa—oi, what a mouthful—(better known as the Marquis de Mores) who came to the Dakota Territories in 1883 with the dream of shipping dressed beef back east in refrigerated rail cars to provide urban dwellers better meat. My first thought was…they had refrigerated trains back then? Yep, they did.


The Marquis de Mores invested heavily in his dream. With the help of his father-in-law, Baron Von Hoffman, the Marquis incorporated the Northern Pacific Refrigerator Car Company in April 1883. He built a meat-processing plant just west of the Little Missouri River. The plant could process 150 beef carcasses per day.


The tiny town located where the plant was built was named after the river, but had the nickname of Little Misery. The Marquis didn’t like that so he built his home—a twenty-six room chateau—on the east side of the river and started a new town which he named after his wife, Medora.


The Marquis and his industrious wife were involved in many enterprises including cattle and sheep ranching and the Medora-Deadwood Stagecoach line. They even built a Catholic church in Medora. Things went along well until two horrible winters that killed 80% of all the cattle in the area, as well as growing pressures from Chicago meet producers. When the Marquis’s meatpacking business collapsed in 1886, his commercial empire did as well. His dreams, however, created a romantic legacy that lives on in western North Dakota.

My husband and I visited Medora, which is set in the heart of the Badlands. The tiny town has gone through a restoration revival in hopes of tapping the tourism industry. You can visit the marquis’s home, which is still there and filled with many of his personal belongings and furniture. The meat-processing plant burned down in 1907, but the tall, native-brick chimney still stands in silent tribute to this early attempt to capitalize on the meat-packing business.


I fell in love with the Marquis’ story and with Medora, and I hope to go back someday for another visit. Needless to say, I set my three stories in and around Medora. The first book comes out this fall and is called Wild at Heart. It’s the story of a female dime novelist who is challenged by one of her readers to get her facts straight about the West. Rancher, Adam McFarland invites the novelist to his ranch, expecting a man. But his world is turned upside down by a spunky city gal who wields hatpins for weapons.


So…what jewels have you stumbled upon in your research? 



I would like to offer a drawing for a free book from my website. Winner’s choice, as long as it’s a book I still have copies of.  See them all at:



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51 thoughts on “Vickie McDonough Introduces the Marquis de Mores”

  1. I’ve been to the Chateau de Mores twice now (including to give a presentation last month). Medora is a beautiful little town and that section of the North Dakota Badlands is particularly gorgeous. And I STRONGLY urge everyone to visit the Western Edge bookstore there – it is THE best western-emphasis shop I’ve ever seen and the Ellisons are great people, particularly for visiting authors. Their store is in a converted motel and they still maintain a few rooms; they even put me up gratis when I had my signing there!

    Thanks for posting this, Vickie – brought back a lot of pleasant thoughts about Medora!

  2. Hi Vickie-with-an-ie! Fascinatng story about the Marquis. I would love to see the Badlands. If my husband and I ever make another cross-country drive, I want to head north instead of south.

    You asked about research gems. My current book for LIH is about a mill owner. It’s a continuity, so I had nothing to do with selecting his occupation. Since I know zip about mills, I had to get busy.

    What a joy to find Colvin Mill, fully restored, here in my backyard in northern VA! As the miller ground corn for cattle feed, I watched all the gears, saw the trace and the waterwheel, watched the millstones…everything! It’s the best research I’ve ever done, mostly because it gave me such insight into the characters.


  3. Vickie, welcome back to Petticoats & Pistols! As always, we enjoy having you with us!

    Living here in Nebraska I should have been more familiar with the Marquis, and now I’m especially intrigued with Medora!

    Jeff, how nice to hear about the Western Edge! What a perfect excuse for a research trip. I’ve been itching to see the Badlands!

  4. Hi Vickie,
    Great info on the Marquis. I found his life quite fascinating, the ups and downs of his career. Medora sounds like a place I’d love to visit one day.

    Thanks for blogging with us at Petticoats today. A wonderful blog!

  5. Hi Vickie! Welcome to P&P! I can just imagine your visiting Medora, the way you describe it. Your book sounds great! The first trip I took specifically for book research was 2 summers ago to Alaska and the Yukon for my gold rush series. It was incredibly gorgeous there! Thanks for blogging with us!

  6. I have only been to ND once but found the Badlands there facinating. I had not researched my trip at all because I was just a hitch-hiker, going with my parents to a graduation in Seattle. I was very surprised to see the badlands as I had only ever known about the Badlands of SD and NE. The rugged beauty of them really fires my imagination of what it was like to live and survive in some of those areas.
    I enjoyed the blog and will be watvhing for your book.

  7. Thanks so much for letting me be a guest blogger on P & P. I’ve learned so much from the other posters that it’s nice to give back a little.


    I loved the Western Edge bookstore. Doug & his wife were sooo helpful and knowledgeable about the area.


    There’s a historical museum in Medora with lots of interesting things about cowboys of the area. I took tons of pictures about ranching equipment and cowboy gear.


    How cool to find the research tool you needed right under your nose. That’s awesome!

    For those of you planning to go to the Badlands one day, I highly recommend staying at Eagle’s Nest Lodge. It’s a wonderful log home decorated inside with quilts made by the owner’s wife.

  8. I’m a newbie at fiction writing but an oldie in research spenting much of my life in research of all kinds. I love these little bits and pieces of history about people that make our American Heritage come to life. My first history class in college was taught by Dr. Muncy who told us that if we truly wanted to know and teach history we needed to do it from the point of view of the people and how events affected them and not just dates and places. Vickie, here you have shared with us a bit of history about a man and his wife from across the sea. Your comment that his business folded when the bad winters killed the cattle business gives rise to all sorts of ideas. Hummm, what if you had been a cowboy working for the Macquis de Mores when the bad winters of 1886 struck, or, a French maid who had come over with the family and fell in love with a cowboy. Sorry, my imagination gets to going. Anyway I now want to visit North Dakota. It was a great post.

  9. Your blog today is fascinating, Vickie! I love it when a snippet of research makes a story fall into place. Thanks for being our guest in Wildflower Junction!

    Jeff, I REALLY want to visit the bookstore you mentioned! Sounds like a gold mine.

    Vicki B, I researched a mill in Neligh Nebraska for Land of Dreams and had my hero build one.

  10. Hello, Vickie!

    Don’t you just love P&P? What a forum. And what a wonderful explanation you gave of your research in So. Dakota. No wonder your books are so vivid and accurate.


  11. Don’t put me in the drawing. I have all the books, but I loved this story. There have been many interesting things I’ve discovered while researching for my books. I guess you’ll just have to read them to find out.


  12. Hi Vickie,

    A big welcome to P&P! I hope you enjoy your stay with us.

    Loved the fascinating information on the marquis. That was quite a diamond you uncovered in your research. Medora makes a wonderful name for a town. Has a certain ring to it that says it’s a comfortable place.

    When I was researching a place to set my work in progress, I stumbled upon Thurber, Texas. It was a mining town that was completely owned (lock, stock and barrel) by the Texas Pacific Railroad. It was very socialistic in that all the businesses and homes were owned by the railroad. But, Texas Pacific gave all the people of the town free medical and dental care. I knew that scenerio fit my story so I’ve set it there, except I’m calling the town Genesis instead.

    Hope you have a fun time here. I know you’re scheduled to come back for other dates. Yippee!

  13. Hi,

    I once was searching for facts on the desert and discovered the Sheikh by Edith Hull, and became a fan of romances!

  14. I definitely want to read your book – sounds like a great premise. I married a man from Minn. and his home town is so tiny and so far North – you have to fly into ND to get there. I’m a city girl, and my first trip to the badlands was amazing. I didn’t see another car or person for miles.

  15. Vickie,

    I forgot to say that your book has caught my fancy. Great cover and a wonderful premise. I’m going to have to add it to my list. When does it come out?

    Also, which book of yours was about the woman who stowed away in the back of the hero’s wagon? That was a wonderful story.

  16. I’ve always said history is wasted on the young. I used to hate history class because most of the time I didn’t have a clue about who or what they were talking about (like geography since I’d never left home). And a lot of teachers were more concerned in memorizing dates instead of giving us some really interesting facts. Today I love it!!

  17. Dakota, l love the scenery.l didnt know much about it, but was introduced when reading silhouette desire Dakota Fortunes, in 2007, Charlene Sands wrote the 3rd book in the series, which was by far my favourite. Since then it captured my attention.

  18. That name sure is a mouthful. It has been awhile since I have researched anything… Your post was very informative and I thank you for sharing!

  19. I love history and researching this. You can find so many interesting things out. I used to live in a town called Casper, Wyoming and was shocked at what I found out when I did a little research. Hanging from the lamp post right in the middle of town. The under ground tunnels that were used during prohibition. I never thought that so much could have gone on in such a small boring town. Thanks for the great post.

  20. hi Vickie, what a treasure trove of information! I personally love research but imagining stuff is great fun, too.

    I always feel sooooooo bad learning about the bazillion cattle wandering outside that would freeze to death in bad winters. I always picture them all cozied up in barns. Not so 🙁

    Have a great weekend at Wildflower Junction. I
    look forward to your books.

  21. Vickie, I’m still stuck on the refrigerator cars.
    What a tidbit. they must have…what? been like huge ice boxes? Drag ice out of an ice house and put it in the train car and drive like a maniac for chicago before it melts? Or maybe they’d stop every so often and add ice.

    I suppose, at it’s most basic, it’d be easier to load sides of beef and ice than living cattle, feed, the space and difficulty of handling the animals. Still… I had no idea.

  22. I love the premise for your story, Vickie! It sounds like a fun read. I’m afraid I love the research. It sucks me in and I get all sorts of fanciful ideas about where a story can take off. Wonderful post. Makes me want to visit N.D.

  23. Hi again Vickie,
    We met at the conference. Enjoyed your blog about the Marquis, and the town of Medora. My husband and I visited North and South Dakota a couple of years ago, and spent a couple of days in Medora. What an interesting place! Lauraine Snelling has written several books using that locale. I liked “The Brushstroke Legacy” as it combined present-day Medora with its historical past.
    Can’t wait to read your book.

  24. Hi Vickie! Fascinating story about the Marquis! Since I love history, I find all these tidbits of information very interesting. Your post makes me want to go and visit North Dakota! Thanks for sharing with us today!

  25. Welcome Vickie, I havent done any research yet,but I enjoy reading an would love to go to ND someday,but until then,Ill enjoy reading about it,thanks

  26. Hi, Vickie! I don’t do much research myself, but do enjoying reading about what writers have discovered in their stories. It’s such a treat to have real-world facts and people and places woven into a story that I can’t put down 🙂 Thanks for writing! And researching!

  27. North Dakota my state! Yes!! If you go to my blog.
    My very picture on the blog was taken in Medora of course at the fun place the dresses you up. Now I’ll have to get your books as they come out. I have all of Lauraine Snelling’s that she has set in ND (Red River series, Return to the Red River series, Daughters of Blessing, Dakotah Treasures series–this one is set in Medora area) She has others also that are heartsongs set in ND that of course I have. If it’s set in my state I’m hooked before they are published.
    Actually, the refrigerated cars back in those days were Ice block refrigerated. Teddy Roosevelt was also co-partner with the Marquis. I’m sure to learned it all if you spent time in Medora we’ve been there several times. Love the little town. OK enough. I’d love to win one of your books. And I’ll have to keep my eye out for this series of yours. You have a big thumb up by me. I love ND.


    ABreading4fun [at] gmail [dot] com

  28. Thanks, everybody, for your kind comments about my post about the Marquis de Mores and Medora. It was a fascinating story, and I really enjoyed visiting the marquis’ twenty-six room home, which is still standing and has many of his actual belongings inside. A woman does a reenactment of Medora, the marquis’ wife and who he named the town after, who was quite active in the area.

    Someone asked where they could get my book. They are hard to find in stores because they go to a book club first. You can get an autographed copy from me by emailing me at or at The first book in my North Dakota series is called Wild At Heart and is just now going out to the book club.

    Thanks for sharing all your interesting research jewels!!

  29. Hi, Vickie! Enjoyed reading your blog! I love learning historical facts about different people and places. Your book sounds wonderful! I can’t wait to read it!

  30. Hi Vickie! Nice to see you here. I love your post and learning some interesting history facts. I am not a writer so I don’t do any research anymore. I did when I was in school and I know what a pain it can be, but very interesting.

  31. Vicki!

    Waving frantically here . I loved hearing about your research. What a wonderful insight into your writing process. I actually like the research part of writing — it’s the putting it into a believable storyline that really challenges me. 😉

    Can’t wait to get my hand on your latest!


  32. Hi Vicki

    Love the info. any type of history always gets my attention. I too was surprised to know they had refrigerated rail cars that early back.

    Research is hard work but very rewarding.


  33. Mary,

    I forgot to answer you about the refrigerated rail cars. I have to confess that grabbed my attention rather quickly. I was curious, but didn’t find any further info about the cars and didn’t look too hard since that wasn’t part of my story. I’m guessing they were cooled with ice packed in hay.

  34. Wow! That was interesting. Sounds you feel about that the way I feel about visiting the Naval Air Museum in Pensacola, Florida. It was so exciting to learn about the history of planes and their uses by the Navy and even more seeing some of the actual planes that were used. I am not an author but I can see an author getting a great deal of material from the museum as research for a story.

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