Frank Grouard

Frank Benjamin Grouard (also known as Frank Gruard and Benjamin Franklin Grouard) (20 September 1850 – 15 August 1905) was a Scout and interpreter for General George Crook during the American Indian War of 1876.[3] For the better part of a decade he lived with the Sioux tribe before returning to the society of people of the U.S.A. He was present at the immediate aftermath of the Battle of the Little Bighorn and several other historical fights of the 1800s including the Wounded Knee Massacre.

Frank Grouard
Frank Grouard in 1876
BornSeptember 20, 1850
The Society Islands
DiedAugust 15, 1905
St. Louis, Missouri
Ashland Cemetery, St. Joseph, Buchanan County, Missouri, United States
AllegianceUnited States of America
Service/branchUnited States Army
RankChief Scout
Unit3rd U.S. Cavalry
Battles/warsIndian Wars
Spouse(s)Lizabell "Belle" Ostrander [1862-1912][1]
ChildrenBenjamin Franklin Grouard, b. 1896[2]

Early yearsEdit

Grouard was born in the Society Islands in the south Pacific Ocean,[4] the second of three sons born to Benjamin Franklin Grouard, an American missionary for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, and a Polynesian woman.[5][4]

He moved to Utah with his parents and two brothers in 1852, later moving to San Bernardino in California. After a year in California, Grouard's wife returned to the South Pacific with two of the children, leaving Benjamin with the middle son, Frank. In 1855 he was adopted into the family of Addison and Louisa Barnes Pratt, fellow missionaries for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints with his father. Grouard moved with the Pratt family to Beaver, Utah, from where he ran away at age 15, moving to Helena, Montana and becoming an express rider and stage driver.[6]

Indian ScoutEdit

Rocky Bear (left) and Frank Grouard (right)

In about 1869, while working as a mail carrier,[7] Grouard was captured near the mouth of the Milk River in Montana by Crow Indians who took all his possessions and abandoned him in a forest where he was found by Sioux Indians and later adopted as a brother by Chief Sitting Bull.[5] He was probably accepted by them as an Indian because his Polynesian features resembled those of the Sioux.[6] Grouard married a Sioux woman and learned to speak the Sioux language fluently, taking the Indian names 'Sitting-with-Upraised-Hands' and 'Standing Bear',[8] (Yugata), as he had been captured wearing a bearskin coat.[9] For seven to eight years he lived in the camps of Sitting Bull and Crazy Horse until he managed to escape, becoming an emissary of the Indian Peace Commission at Red Cloud Agency in Nebraska. In 1876, Grouard became a Chief Indian Scout in the United States Army under General George Crook, fighting Sioux Indians. By February 1876, many Indians were leaving the reservations with some refusing to return when ordered to by the United States government. General Crook began his winter march from Fort Fetterman on March 1, 1876 with many companies of troops and with Grouard as his Chief Indian scout and interpreter.[6]

Indian WarsEdit

When Sitting Bull heard that Grouard was Crook's Chief Scout, he saw an opportunity to kill him in battle. By March 17, 1876, Grouard had located He Dog's (Lakota) and Old Bear's (Cheyenne) combined village on Powder River in Montana. He followed the trail left by two hostiles, who had been spotted the previous day, all through the night, even when their tracks were covered during a snowstorm.[6] General Crook, in his May 1876 report wrote, "I would sooner lose a third of my command than Frank Grouard!"[10] Other scouts, jealous of Crook's preference for Grouard, tried to turn the General against him by claiming that Grouard had joined up as a scout in order to lead the Army into a carefully orchestrated trap, but Crook saw through all this.[11] On occasions when scouting Grouard would dress as an Indian so that genuine Indians would take no notice of him.[12][13] Thus, Grouard could pass as an American and an American Indian.

He was a major participant in the Rosebud campaign, and saw action in the Battle of the Rosebud. General George Crook and his officers, having retreated from the Rosebud, were hunting in the foothills of the Bighorns when Grouard, known to the Brulé as 'One-Who-Catches' and to the Hunkpapa as 'Standing Bear',[6] was acting as guide. Between 9 and 10 in the morning of June 25, 1876 Crook's forces were in Goose Creek Valley when Grouard saw the smoke from Indian signal fires in the distance, which indicated that George Armstrong Custer's command was engaged with the enemy, outnumbered, and being badly pressed. The officers present used their field glasses but could make no sense of the smoke signals and laughed at the idea that a half-Indian could have such knowledge of their meaning.[5] To prove that he was right, at noon Grouard mounted his horse and rode towards the signals, reaching the Little Bighorn, a distance of some seventy miles, at 11 pm on June 25. Here he discovered the bodies of the slain before being chased back to Goose Creek by hostiles, bringing the news of Custer's death to Crook.[14]

Crazy HorseEdit

Grouard has been blamed by some as being instrumental in the subsequent death of Crazy Horse.[5] In August 1877, officers at Camp Robinson received word that the Nez Perce of Chief Joseph had broken out of their reservations in Idaho and were fleeing north through Montana toward Canada. When asked by Lieutenant Clark to join the Army against the Nez Perce, Crazy Horse and the Miniconjou leader Touch the Clouds objected, saying that they had promised to remain at peace when they surrendered. According to one version of events, Crazy Horse finally agreed, saying that he would fight "till all the Nez Perce were killed". But his words were apparently misinterpreted, perhaps deliberately, by Grouard, who reported that Crazy Horse had said that he would "go north and fight until not a white man is left".[15] When he was challenged over his interpretation, Grouard left the council.[16] Grouard claimed that he was present when Crazy Horse was killed.[17]

Grouard was also present at the Yellowstone Expeditions and the Battle of Slim Buttes. He was assigned to the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation during the Ghost Dance Uprising and was present at the Wounded Knee Massacre of 1890.[18] Grouard later served as a U.S. Marshal in Fort McKinney, Buffalo, Wyoming and was involved in the Johnson County War of 1892.[6]

Marriage, family and later yearsEdit

By 1893, Frank Grouard had become famous, and his father, Benjamin Franklin Grouard, who hadn't seen his son since 1855, read of the publication of a biography of the scout. Benjamin Grouard then travelled to Sheridan, Wyoming, where he immediately recognized his son despite a forty-year separation.[19] Frank was married in Amazonia, Missouri on April 10, 1895 to Lizabell "Belle" Ostrander (1862-1912).[20] At least one son, possibly two, seem to have been the result of this union, Benjamin Franklin Grouard, also known as Frank B. Grouard Jr., born in St. Joseph, Missouri on May 15, 1896.[21] The marriage seems to have been brief or Frank was mostly absent from his wife and family for public records primarily list his wife and sons as living with the latter's parents. Grouard's son Benjamin F. Grouard was married at St. Joseph, Missouri on November 28, 1912 to Ethel M. Poe. The later fate of him remains unknown.[2]

Frank Grouard died at St. Louis, Missouri in 1905 where he was eulogized as a "scout of national fame".[6] He was buried with full military honors at Ashland Cemetery in Saint Joseph, Missouri.[22]

In fictionEdit

Grouard appears in Flashman and the Redskins by George MacDonald Fraser as the illegitimate son of Flashman and Cleonie Grouard, Flashman's mistress and a slave and prostitute. Fraser has Grouard being brought up by Indians after Flashman sells his pregnant mother Cleonie to the Navajo. In the story, the Harvard-educated Grouard rescues Flashman during the Battle of the Little Bighorn while fighting against the American Army as a Sioux.[23]

On televisionEdit

The actor Bruce Kay, who appeared only five times on screen between 1955 and 1958, played Grouard in the 1958 episode, "The Greatest Scout of All", on the syndicated anthology series Death Valley Days, hosted by Stanley Andrews. Frank Richards (1909-1992) was cast in the same episode as Sitting Bull. In the story line, the half Sioux Grouard is caught in a culture clash but becomes a highly regarded scout for the United States Army, who is dispatched on the toughest of assignments.[24]


  1. ^ Lizabell "Belle" Grouard burial site
  2. ^ a b Missouri Marriage License, 1912, Lic#1121, St. Joseph, Missouri on November 28th, 1912 Grouard's son Benjamin F. Grouard was married to Ethel M. Poe - both were listed as being under the age of 21
  3. ^ Cozzens, Peter (2001). Eyewitnesses to the Indian Wars, 1865-1890: The long war for the Northern Plains. Stackpole Books. pp. 592–593. ISBN 0-8117-0080-1. Retrieved 2009-04-25.
  4. ^ a b Thrapp, Dan L. (1991). Encyclopedia of Frontier Biography: G-O. University of Nebraska Press. pp. 592–593. ISBN 0-8032-9419-0. Retrieved 2009-04-25.
  5. ^ a b c d Dobson, G. B. "Little Bighorm - From Wyoming Tales and Trails". Retrieved 2009-04-25.
  6. ^ a b c d e f g Field, Ron; Richard Hook (2003). US Army Frontier Scouts, 1840-1921. Osprey Publishing. pp. 24–25. ISBN 1-84176-582-1. Retrieved 2009-04-25.
  7. ^ Cozzens, Peter (2001). Eyewitnesses to the Indian Wars, 1865-1890: The long war for the Northern Plains. Stackpole Books. p. 651. ISBN 0-8117-0080-1. Retrieved 2009-04-25.
  8. ^ Vestal, Stanley (2008). New Sources of Indian History 1850-1891. Read Books. p. 339. ISBN 978-1-4437-2631-3. Retrieved 2009-04-25.
  9. ^ DeBarthe, Joe (1958). "Frank Grouard's Story of the Battle". Life and Adventures of Frank Grouard. University of Oklahoma Press. pp. 95–101. Retrieved 2009-04-25.
  10. ^ DeBarthe, pg18
  11. ^ DeBarthe, pg 18
  12. ^ DeBarthe, pg 246
  13. ^ DeBarthe, pg 338
  14. ^ DeBarthe, pgs 255-256
  15. ^ Cozzens, Peter (2001). Eyewitnesses to the Indian Wars, 1865-1890: The long war for the Northern Plains. Stackpole Books. p. 532. ISBN 0-8117-0080-1. Retrieved 2009-05-05.
  16. ^ DeBarthe, Joe (1958). "Frank Grouard recalls Crazy Horse, #1". Life and Adventures of Frank Grouard. University of Oklahoma Press. pp. 53–54. Retrieved 2009-04-25.
  17. ^ DeBarthe, pg 343
  18. ^ Encyclopedia of Frontier Biography 3 Volumes by Dan L Thrapp Published by Arthur H Clark Company (1988) ASIN: B0017Q82J2
  19. ^ DeBarthe, pg 23
  20. ^ Andrew County Marriage License Applications, 1895, page 51; Frank Grouard was listed as being a resident of Sheridan County, Wyoming
  21. ^ World War I Draft Registration, No. 502, Detroit, Michigan June 5th, 1917
  22. ^ Frank Grouard burial site
  23. ^ Fraser, George MacDonald (1982). Flashman and the Redskins. Harpercollins. ISBN 0-00-721717-X.
  24. ^ "The Greatest Scout of All on Death Valley Days". Internet Movie Database. Retrieved November 1, 2018.

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