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Dictionary of Wisconsin History

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Search Results for: Keyword: 'white beaver'

Term: Powell, David Franklin ["White Beaver"] 1847 - 1906


wild-west showman, patent-medicine manufacturer, politician, b. Kentucky. He grew up in Omaha and in Lone Tree, Nebraska Territory, where he served some time as an army scout. In Nebraska, Powell met and be-came friendly with William F. ("Buffalo Bill") Cody. Although most of Powell's frontier exploits are clothed in the legend of the dime novels and obscured by his own flamboyant carelessness with fact, he was presumably an expert shot, and, according to his own account, received his Indian name, "White Beaver," by saving the life of a Sioux chief's daughter. In 1869 he won a medical scholarship to the Univ. of Louisville, where he studied intermittently for several years. He then returned to the West and reportedly served as assistant post surgeon at various army camps, including Fort Laramie. About 1876 he settled in the La Crosse area, where, according to several tales, he became chief medicine man for the Winnebago Indians after curing their chief. He toured for a number of seasons with Cody's wild-west shows, and in 1881 opened a medical practice in La Crosse. There he engaged in local politics, and was mayor of La Crosse (1885-1886, 1893-1897). Throughout his life Powell was closely associated with W. F. Cody, both as a partner in Cody's far-fetched business schemes and as a hard-drinking crony. Together they engaged in several La Crosse real estate speculations, and they also had a wild scheme to colonize Mexican lands. For a number of years Powell's own chief source of income was derived from the manufacture of patent medicines. In 1903 Powell left La Crosse to manage the Cody Syndicate. Wis. Mag. Hist., 35, 36; A. H. Sanford, et al., Hist. of La Crosse (La Crosse, 1951); Milwaukee Sentinel, May 9, 1906.

View a related article at Wisconsin Magazine of History Archives.

View newspaper clippings at Wisconsin Local History and Biography Articles.

[Source: Dictionary of Wisconsin biography]
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