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JOHN G. HIGGINS, Editor and Proprietor.

Columbus, Platte, NE
Saturday 21 March 1885
page 4





    At four o'clock on last Saturday Afternoon, March 14, 1885, Major Frank J. North died at his home in this city.

    When a man like Frank North passes away from earth, the departure calls for more than a mere mention.

    Major North was born at Ludlowville, Tompkins county, New York, on March 10, 1840. In the Fall of the same year his parents, Thomas J. and Jane A. North, removed from New York to Plymouth, Richland county, Ohio, where they lived on a farm for a few years, and afterwards the father engaged in the mercantile business. When sixteen years old, Frank removed with his parents to Omaha, Nebraska, having by this time received a good common school education. In the Spring of 1857, his father perished in a severe snow storm while in charge of a surveying party some miles out from Omaha, and hence the care of the family devolved upon Frank and his elder brother James E. At this time he developed those strong points in his character, for never were hands more willing to toil for those that were dear, nor was ever heart kinder to the loved ones. In the Spring of 1858, he accompanied his brother James to Columbus, and for three years thereafter was engaged in farming and freighting, and in 1861 he took the position of clerk and interpreter at the Pawnee Reservation; having previously familiarized himself with the Pawnee language. He remained in this position until August, 1864, when be organized a company of Pawnee Scouts and proceeded with them to aid Maj. Gen. Curtis in his wars against the hostile tribes of the west. In this campaign, which lasted all the Summer of 1864, Major North manifested that wonderful knowledge of Indian character for which he was afterwards so distinguished, and displayed that quick keen insight into Indian war tactics that won for him the reputation of having been the most successful officer known in our western Indian warfare. His bravery and success attracted the notice of Gen. Curtis, who procured for him that Fall a captain's commission. In December, 1864, he mustered in his company of Pawnees under the Captain's commission with a few white men as under-officers, and was immediately ordered to Fort Kearney for active service against the warlike tribes in that section of the country. From Fort Kearney he proceeded to Julesburg to join Gen. Connor's command. In May, 1865, they marched into the Powder River Country and operated against the Sioux, Arapahoes and Cheyennes, and were actively engaged until November of the same year. In one of his expeditions during this campaign while accompanied by about forty-five of his faithful Pawnees, he followed the trail of a body of Arapahoes for a day and a night and discovered their camp about two o'clock in the morning. At daylight he charged the camp of the enemy, and after a fierce struggle every one of the enemy was killed, and strange to say, Major North's command escaped without even a wound. The Indians considered the success of this battle as miraculous and looked upon their commander as invulnerable and endowed him with more than human powers. The tactics of Indian warfare differ from that of the civilized nations. They seldom or never fight in solid bodies, but scatter and make sudden dashes and then disappear to dash in again at another point. In one of the encounters of this campaign with the Sioux and Cheyennes in a mountainous country, the battle became a running fight, and while Major North was pursuing the retreating enemy he discovered that his command had fallen back and he was separated from them over a mile. He immediately started back, whereupon the retreating enemy turned on him and shot and lamed his horse. He at once dismounted, and being fully armed, he used his horse for a breast-work and single handed fought off the enemy, at the same time leading or driving the lamed steed and halting betimes to send shots into the pursuing savages. In this way he finally reached a river and in crossing his horse was killed, but he escaped, and strange to say without a wound. This incident was also recognized by the Indians as miraculous and led them into a still stronger belief that their loved commander possessed a charmed life. His command was mustered out in the Spring of 1866. In the Summer of that year he was appointed post trader at the Pawnee Reservation and remained there until March, 1867, when he received a Major's commission and enlisted a battalion of Pawnees, consisting of four companies and started for the west to protect the engineers and workmen employed in building the Union Pacific railroad. On this expedition he was accompanied by his brother Luther, who was in command of one company. In this campaign a severe engagement took place at Plum Creek in which forty-two under his command fought one hundred and fifty Ogalala Sioux and Cheyennes under the famous Chief Turkey Leg. The Major, as usual was victorious and captured a large amount of property that the hostiles had stolen and plundered from the whites, and he also took as prisoners the wife and son of the Chief, who were in the Fall of the same year exchanged for three white boys and two white girls, aged 16 and 18, that had been a long time held as prisoners by Turkey Leg and his tribe. A few days before the battle of Plum Creek, Turkey Leg and his followers had wrecked and burned a train and killed many and took a large amount of booty, all of Major North recaptured on this occasion. The battalion was mustered out that Fall, but was organized by the Major the next Spring and did duty during the succeeding Summer along the line of the Union Pacific railroad. In 1869 he again went out with the same command on an expedition with General Carr into the Republican Valley Country against the Cheyenne Indians under Tall Bull. He fought the battle of Summit Springs, in which one hundred and twenty of the enemy were killed and eight hundred horses and mules and a large amount of property retaken. In this encounter the enemy were 900 strong. In 1870 he had command of the same Pawnee forces and served along the line of the Union Pacific railroad.

     From 1871 to 1876 Major North was employed as post guide and interpreter at Fort Russell and Sidney Barracks. In September 1875, shortly after the Custer Massacre he was ordered by General Sheridan to organize a company of Scouts to join Gen. Crook in his campaign of 1876-7. He assisted at the capture of Red Cloud in October, 1876, and was in active service in the Powder River country and participated in many severe engagements with the Cheyennes under Dull Knife. His command was mustered out in the Spring of 1877, on which occasion Major Gen. Crook, who was in command of the Department of the Platte paid him the high compliment of addressing him the following letter:

Hd. Qrs. Dept. of the Platte,
In the Field,         
Camp Robinson, Neb.  
April 19th, 1877.

     Comd'g, Pawnee Scouts,
                    Sidney, Neb.


*   *   *   *   *   *   *

     I think it only just and appropriate to thank you for your excellent behavior during the time of your stay in the Military service under my command, and to say that the soldierlike conduct and discipline of the Pawnee Scouts is the most eloquent testimony that could be adduced to prove your fitness for the position you have held as their Commanding Officer.

I remain Very Respectfully,               
Your Obedient Servant,          
Brigadier General.

     On retiring to civil life, Major North engaged in the cattle business in company with W. F. Cody, familiarly known as Buffalo Bill, and continued in that business until 1882, when he disposed of his interest in the cattle ranch. In the Fall of 1882 he was elected a member of the Nebraska legislature on the democratic ticket by an almost unanimous vote of both parties. In the legislature he was noted for his sound judgment and faithful attention to duty, and his voice and vote were always on the right side. In 1884 he became associated with Mr. Cody, "Buffalo Bill", in the celebrated "Wild West" exhibition, and was with the Wild West at New Orleans until about the 5th of the present month, when he started for Nebraska on business connected with the enterprise. At St. Louis he was taken ill with a severe cold, perhaps on account of the too sudden change of climate, and on reaching Omaha, was quite low and unable to proceed further. After a few days of careful treatment at Omaha, be recovered sufficiently to venture on his journey to his home in Columbus, which he reached on Wednesday of last week. Congestion of the lungs in addition to an asthmatic affection of long standing was fast absorbing his vital energies. From 11 o'clock in the forenoon of Friday, until 5 o'clock in the afternoon, life was trembling in the balance, but by evening a change for the better intervened, and hopes brightened at the prospect of his recovery. Kind hands pressed his brow and loving hearts breathed out words of cheer and comfort. He himself spoke confidently of his recovery. The mother's heart began to rejoice, and the gloom of that afternoon was dissolving in the light of a joyous hope that the dear one would be spared. It was but a rift in the clouds. Saturday morning he grew weaker; during the day he became apparently unconscious, and on that fateful Saturday afternoon the mortal struggled gently with the immortal; the spirit seemed to slumber peacefully on its earthly couch. About four o'clock soul and body took a last embrace unseen by mortal eyes--a long farewell unheard by mortal ears, and the form of Frank North was cold in death and his spirit was with his Maker.

     The funeral was one of the largest ever witnessed in Columbus. The ceremonies were held in the Opera House, on Tuesday March 17, at 10 o'clock, A. M. The building was densely packed, floor and gallery, The floral offerings were chaste and beautiful. Rev. Dr. Doherty, Episcopal Minister, from Brownell Hall, Omaha, preached the funeral sermon. It was earnest, pathetic and mildly eloquent as became the occasion.

     We endeavor to produce the substance of this touching discourse which is as follows:

     My dear friends when I started on this melancholly errand which has brought us together here to-day. I thought that mine was to perform the part of an affectionate friend to a bereaved family rather than to take the conduct of this religious solemnity. I supposed that Rev. Mr. Goodale, priest of this parish would be present and he of course who has lived among you intimately knows and is known by you, would be the proper person to speak now, when your tenderest sympathy, and the spring of deeper human feeling are moved so mightily. I might fitly have assisted him, which indeed I hoped to do.

     It seemed to me though that this occasion demands that something be said besides the church's appointed service so soothing, tender, comforting and hope-inspiring as it is to those dear friends, who mourn, alas, a much loved, but now lost one. I shall have to ask you to overlook my unstudied statements and to believe that if I do not speak wisely and worthily of our departed friend, I will speak at least kindly and affectionately.

     Friends, this is no ordinary funeral. A great man has fallen among us, and his remains are here for the last sad office of religion, honor and reverend affection at our hands. If Major Frank North had lived in other days and in other lands than ours, he would have died a knight or an earl, and a blazoned coat of arms would have rested on his funeral pall. In our simpler and, as we believe better days, he has justly earned the title of "Nature's Nobleman. Bold as a lion, gentle as a woman, Simple as a child. He was a pre-eminently grand representative of the pioneers of Nebraska. He has made himself an honorable place in the history of our state. In the civilization of the great west. His name is known to this great nation, associated with noble actions. He will live in story as long as we are capable of appreciating the brave, the simple hearted and the true. Those who knew him by reputation admired him; to know him personally was to love him.

     Called by the loss of his father to the dignity and responsibility of a man when but a mere child he became the prop of a noble and dear mother and under the guidance of the Orphan's Father he grew into a famous defender of the frontier families of this state an industrious and successful developer of the great recourses of this new country and a wise and conscientious representative and adviser of the people.

     It may be said in justice to the old settlers of Nebraska, that their homes for love and tenderness, for purity, fidelity and simplicity, are among the most beautiful models to be found in any country. The founders of these homes are failing around us now. The places that knew them, know them no more, the long-familiar faces are fast becoming loved memories only. As we follow the solemn processions, hear the oft-repeated "ashes to ashes," count the empty places by the old firesides, a chilly sense of desolation creeps over us. Shall we see their like again?

     Among these old model homes, our heritage from the past and our earnest for the future, was the home of our dear departed friend. And it may be truly said that the teachings and example of the respected and revered mother of our deceased friend had much to do in forming his character.

     Brave and merciful, as a soldier; trusted, tried and true, as a citizen; as a neighbor, the esteemed, loving and loved friend of every man, and the enemy of none. He was an affectionate and dutiful son; a tender, loving, indulgent husband and a most thoughtfully and self-denyingly fond father.

     No matter how or where engaged hardly one day was ever permitted to pass by him without writing to his daughter.

     Now his story is told; his struggle is passed and he is early gone to his rest. His history is brief, but eventful and one of which none need be ashamed. The changes and chances of this mortal life threw him into a strangely mixed and confused whirlpool of humanity. He mixed, as indeed he had to mix with the bad as well as with the good, but he, was always the some good man and true.

     Since it has been my privilege to know the North family, now these seven or eight years, I have felt a pride in this man, as a citizen of my adopted state, a friend and a brother.

     As his remains lie here before us, and his memory must every be ever with us as a sacred thing, we cannot but be sadly impressed with the vanity and fleeting character of all earthly hopes and relations. What more? Only this, my dear friends, may God help each of you, and may he help me in the midst of this poor world of dying men, sorry partings and sad farewells, to have our faith so fixed on the Living, Loving One, and our hope so anchored on the Rock of Ages that life's fitful fever over, we may have a sure resting place in Him and that at the glorious Easter Day we may awake to a happy meeting and an unending re-union

     During the delivery of the Reverend Doctor's sermon many hearts in that vast throng were melted and many eyes dropped warm tears. A throb of emotion pulsated through the dense crowd at the speaker's allusion to the virtues of the good mother who is loved and revered in this community as few women are loved and revered

     Major North had been a sufferer for many years. When two years old he had a severe attack of lung fever, producing asthma which clung to him until he came west. During the first twelve years of his residence in the west he was almost free from this ailment, but owing to the frequent exposures incident to his campaign life, the malady again set in and pursued him until death relieved his sufferings.

     In 1865 on Christmas Day he was married to Miss Mary L. Smith, niece of Samuel C. Smith, of this city, a most estimable and worthy lady, who for seventeen years adorned and blessed his home. Mrs. North died February 9th, 1883. He bore this tribulation as became a devoted husband and brave man-- ever cherishing her memory in silent sorrow.

     Mr. North received many encomiums and flattering testimonials in recognition of his distinguished public services. From among many such we print the following joint resolution passed by the legislature of Nebraska, in 1877:


Returning thanks to Major North
     and his Pawnee Scouts:

     Resolved, By the Legislature of the State of Nebraska. That the thanks of this body and of the State of Nebraska, are hereby tendered to Maj. Frank J. North and the officers and soldiers under his command of the "Pawnee Scouts" for the heroic manner in which they have assisted in driving hostile Indians from our frontier settlements.

     Resolved, That the Secretary of State is hereby instructed to transmit a copy of the foregoing resolution to Major Frank J. North.

WM. MCLENNAN,          
Speaker of the House of Representatives
E. B. TAYLOR,             
President of the Senate.
Approved February 23rd, 1870.
DAVID BUTLER,           
Governor of Nebraska.


     In July 1884, Mr. North while engaged with the Wild West Exhibition at Hartford, Connecticut, met with a severe accident in which seven of his ribs were broken and also received internal injuries. He lay almost at the point of death for many days. On this occasion an incident occurred which forcibly illustrates the estimation and confidence in which he was held by the Indians.

     In this exhibition Mr. North had charge of a large body of Pawnees, who at each performance went through the mimic forms of Indian war. On the evening of the accident, the Major lay helpless in an upper room of the hotel at Hartford, and the Wild West outfit with its immense train of buffalo, wild ponies and other animals was about to depart for exhibition in a neighboring city for the following day. The Indians refused to leave the place while their beloved commander remained. They believed he was to die and no entreaty could induce them to forsake him. At length, two of their principal men were permitted to enter his room, and approaching his bedside they asked him if he was going to die. "No", said Major North "I will not, why should I die." The Indians knowing the severity of his injuries, and confident that he could not live, supposed he was not fully conscious, and to test the soundness of his senses, asked him the further question if he knew them. The Major answered, yes, and told them their names. This satisfied them that be was in his right mind. They once more asked if he would, die, to which he again answered no. They then spoke out and said he had never told them a lie; had never deceived them and that they had full faith in his words and they went away as confident of his recovery as they had before been of his death. This grand trait in Major Norths character was one of the elements that went to constitute his complete mastery over the mind of the untutored sons of the forest and plain. He never deceived them-- he never lied.

     He leaves an only child, Stella, a bright and accomplished girl of fifteen years.

     Major North was a man of fine personal appearance, a erect and stately form, being nearly six feet two inches in height.

     To say that Mr. North was a good man would not do him full justice--he was more. Honesty with him was no strained obedience to conventional rules, but a principle in-born in his nature. He could no more be dishonest than he could reverse the order of the nature that God gave him

     Truth, the twin sister of honesty, had a permanent home in his heart. "He never deceived us, he never lied."

     Courage, a virtue that rests like a garland upon the brow of manhood, was his in a high degree. He knew no fear. And while he possessed that courage that led him through the din and clash and smoke of battle, he also displayed in a marked degree that higher courage--courage to do right

     The bravery of his spirit was only equalled by the warmth and kindness of his heart. This gentle virtue diffused itself among all his associates like a sweet fragrance, but was more particularly manifested in the filial devotion rendered to his mother, even up to the latest days of his life. While absent during the last Fall and Winter at New Orleans, although amid the engrossing scenes and busy whirl of an exciting occupation, scarce a day elapsed wherein he failed to send a fond missive to his loved mother. Generous almost to a weakness, it was a always a greater pleasure for him to give than to receive. Self-sacrifice for the welfare of others was his predominant trait. Thoughtless of self and zealous of the safety and happiness of his friends and his fellows, he ever labored to the end that others might enjoy a greater good. He was true and faithful to every trust. Broad and liberal in all the instincts of his manhood, his was a soul that was not circumscribed by narrow confines.

     His was a nature that bounded over the fictitious barriers that separate parties, creeds and nationalities and said to every man, "you are my brother." His was a morality that sought the good and spurned the bad -- a morality that rose higher the simple conventionalities of men.

     He may not have been orthodox church member--but he was his own priest and the world was his church and his life was a prayer. He may not have absorbed the refinements of the theologians or worshipped after the appointed forms of the orthodox denominations, but an instinct of humanity swells up within us and tells us his soul will reach the highest Heaven

     Suffering as few men suffered yet his sufferings were his own and his joys he bounteously divided with his fellow men. He covered his pains and his sorrows with smiles. The gloom of his sadness was hidden in the heart that no man might know it, but the warmth and the sunshine were radiated and shed for those around him. When Frank North died his death left a vacancy in life--a void in the hearts of the people who knew him. His form has perished from among us, but the memory of his noble manhood is with us. The sun has set but its golden glow shall remain in the heavens. The rose has withered but his deeds remain and the fond memories of that noble nature are hovering round us like silent Angels. May they ever be with us as the years roll by--fonder and dearer will they grow as we near the other shore, sad, yet cherished companions and we would not part with them. We would not if we could, forget the memory of Frank North.

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