Frank Mayer (frontiersman)

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Frank H. Mayer
Born (1850-05-28)May 28, 1850
Died February 12, 1954(1954-02-12) (aged 103)
Resting place Fairview Cemetery in Salida, Colorado, U.S.
Residence Park County, Colorado
Occupation Multiple occupations, including:

Buffalo hunter
United States Army colonel

United States marshal
Spouse(s) Marjorie Monroe Mayer (married 1877–1921, her death)

Frank H. Mayer (May 28, 1850 – February 12, 1954) was a frontiersman of the American West. He was a United States Army colonel, a buffalo hunter from 1872 to 1878, and as the U.S. marshal in Buckskin Joe in Park County in central Colorado. He spent his later years in Fairplay, the county seat of Park County.


A native of New Orleans, Louisiana,[1] Mayer moved with his family in 1855 to Pennsylvania, where he spent his boyhood engaged in hunting, fishing, and firearms. He once said that his life goal was to see as many gunshops as possible, and that he did.[2]

At thirteen, Mayer became a drummer boy in the Union Army, in which his father was an artillery officer. Mayer claimed to have witnessed several major battles including Fredericksburg, Virginia in 1862 and Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, in 1863. He claimed as well to have been a witness to the surrender of Confederate General Robert E. Lee at Appomattox, Virginia.[3]

Multiple occupations

Mayer served in the Army for thirty-five years and, having attained the rank of colonel fought in various Indian wars and in 1898 in the Spanish–American War, when he was forty-eight.[3]

According to Mayer, buffalo hunters in the 1870s received a green light from the United States government to eradicate the animal, scientifically known as the bison, because it could not be corralled or domesticated and was "a misfit. So he had to go."[3] The removal of the buffalo also permitted the government to exercise control over the Indian tribes of the Great Plains. By destroying the source of tribal food, clothing, and shelter, the government was able to compel the Indians onto the reservations, regulated by the United States Department of Interior.[3] Mayer claimed to have owned the "deadliest rifle ever made in America" when engaging in buffalo hunts.[1]

In 1878, Frank Mayer, recorded his hunting exploits in Middle Park Basin near Kremmling. At the conclusion of that year's hunting expedition, Mayer had killed and shipped nearly 250 big game animals, including 89 mule deer during a span of 78 days. The diary entry for October 1, 1878 includes the following comment:

"As the migration is now well begun, I encounter elk and deer at all hours of the day. They are crossing the river junction (the confluence of the Blue River and the Colorado River just south of Kremmling, Colorado) in such numbers that shooting them requires no skill."[4]

While a U.S. marshal in the now ghost town of Buckskin Joe, he claimed to have met the beautiful young dance hall entertainer Silverheels, whose stage name was derived from her silver-tipped slippers. She wore a blue or white mask while dancing so as not to reveal her face. Well-compensated by the trappers and prospectors who watched her dance, Silverheels was personally generous, having used her own money to bring in doctors during a smallpox epidemic in 1861 in Buckskin Joe. After the disease waned, Silverheels left Buckskin Joe and was never heard from again. The 13,829-foot Mount Silverheels between Fairplay and Breckenridge is named in her honor. In Mayer's words: "The best we could do was to name the mountain after her."[3] However, Mayer could not possibly have met Silverheels; he was barely eleven years old at the time of the smallpox epidemic and living in Pennsylvania. Like the legendary western figure Jim Bridger, Mayer was a bearer of tall tales.[3]


Mayer penned three books, The Buffalo Harvest, with Charles Roth,[5] and The Song of the Wolf (both 1910), and The Unmuzzled Ox (out-of-print, date unknown).[3] In the middle 1930s, he wrote several articles for the National Rifle Association.[2] He was not found in the United States Census until 1900, when he turned fifty. He claimed to have worked nearly every job possible except that of bartender. He claimed to have visited every country then in the world except Siberia and Tibet. A year before his death, Mayer told an interviewer: "I have lived a full life. I haven't a single regret."[3] He even killed his last buck at the age of 102.[2]

Mayer also lived in Denver but had returned to Fairplay, where he died at the age of 103 in the former hospital building there, since converted into an apartment house.[3] He is interred at Fairview Cemetery in Salida in Chaffee County, Colorado.[1]


  1. ^ a b c "Frank H. Mayer". Retrieved February 18, 2014.
  2. ^ a b c "Rick Mulhern, "In Defense of Frank H. Mayer"". Retrieved February 18, 2014.
  3. ^ a b c d e f g h i Laura King Van Dusen, "Colonel Frank Mayer: Buffalo Hunter, Civil War Drummer Boy, Author, Met Dancehall Entertainer Silverheels When U.S. Marshal of Buckskin", Historic Tales from Park County: Parked in the Past (Charleston, South Carolina: The History Press, 2013), ISBN 978-1-62619-161-7, pp. 53–58.
  4. ^ Gill B. Declining Mule Deer Populations in Colorado: Reasons and Responses. Bruce Gill. Special Report Number 27.2001. Colorado Division of Wildlife.
  5. ^ "The Buffalo Harvest". Public Broadcasting System. Retrieved February 18, 2014.

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