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RG4229.AM:  James Barcus Frew, 1856-1939

Papers:  1876-1945, 1982

Harrison, Arkansas:  Saddle maker

Size:  4 folders; 0.2 cu.ft.


James Barcus Frew was a saddle maker from Missouri who, in 1876 at the age of twenty, enlisted in the U.S. Army at Cincinnati, Ohio. Later that year he saw action with Company D of the 5th Cavalry in the Great Sioux Indian Campaign, and was eventually stationed at Sidney Barracks in western Nebraska. By early 1877, with the assistance of his father, George Washington Frew, he managed an early discharge from the Army due to his underage enlistment the previous year. Frew subsequently moved to Missouri where he married Isa Dora Clevenger in April of 1878. Ten years later, Frew and his family, including five children, moved to Harrison, Arkansas, where he established the successful Frew Saddlery Company.

In the 1920s, Frew attained a measure of fame as a veteran of Indian fighting days and a living eyewitness to the 1876 “duel” between Buffalo Bill (William F.) Cody and the Cheyenne Indian Chief, Yellow Hand. Frew died in Arkansas on August 16, 1939 at the age of 83.


This collection of papers primarily relates to the brief military career, 1876-1877, of James Barcus Frew and consists of one small box of manuscript material arranged in four series: 1) Correspondence, 1876-1945; 2) Diary, 1876; 3) News clippings, 1931; and 4) Miscellany, 1877-1982. Series 1 consists of one file folder of letters mostly written by James Frew to his parents during his enlistment with the Army from May 1876 to January 1877. Other correspondents in this series include: John Frew, James Bentley Frew (son), and A.E. Long. Series 2 contains a photocopy of Frew’s daily log kept during the Sioux Campaign period, July-October, 1876. A typed transcript is also included. The original pages from the diary have been restricted for preservation. The log includes an account of William F. (Buffalo Bill) Cody’s confrontation with the Indian Chief, Yellow Hand. Printed recollections of this encounter are found in Series 3. Series 4 contains a variety of materials such as Frew’s Army discharge papers and advertisements for the Frew Saddlery Company.

See also the photo component [RG4229.PH].

Note:  For additional information about James Frew, see:

Hedren, Paul L., editor, “Campaigning with the 5th Cavalry: Private James B. Frew’s Diary and Letters from the Great Sioux War of 1876,” Nebraska History, Vol. 65, 1984, pp. 443-466.


Series 1 – Correspondence, 1876-1945



  1. 1876-1945

Series 2 – Diary, 1876

  1. Diary, 1876

Series 3 – Newspaper clippings, 1931

  1. 1931

Series 4 – Miscellany, 1877-1982

  1. 1877, 1935 and 1982


Subject headings:

Buffalo Bill, 1846-1917

Dakota Indians — Wars, 1876

Frew, James Barcus, 1856-1939

Frew, James Bentley

Frew, John

United States. Army. 5th Cavalry

Yellow Hand (Cheyenne Indian)


05-06-2009   Revised TMM/tmm