Fred M. Hans: Indian Fighter and Frontier Scout

Frederick Hans pic


Train Robbers Fear Fred Hans — Although “Fred” is Mild-Mannered His Colt .45 Has Laid Low Many Western Desperadoes.

Western bandits who prey upon the express treasure and passengers carried by the railroads have been so active of late that the managers of properties in that section are making extra efforts to outwit the robbers. The success of Messenger Baxter in killing a road agent on the Burlington, near Omaha, a few weeks ago has put new life into the railroad people. The Union Pacific, the Burlington, the Rock Island, and the Northwestern out of Omaha are arming their messengers anew with Winchester “pump” guns, having new shells with sixteen buckshot each loaded for them, and in other ways are preparing to exterminate the first road agent band that attempts to hold up one of their trains.

Every large railroad operating out of Omaha employees from one to a dozen men whose exclusive duty it is to protect their trains from bandit raids, trail the robbers after they hold up the train, and chase them into the fastnesses of the mountains and kill or capture them. Of all the famous characters who have made bandit hunting a business, none is better known than Frederick Hans of Omaha, who is chief of the Northwestern bandit hunters. For years it has been the business of Frederick Hans to protect the treasure trains of that company operating through the Black Hills.

fighting a gang pic

From Deadwood to Omaha the Northwestern carries the treasure of the great Homestake mines. During some months this company ships over $100,000 in treasure over this road. The lines of the company are operated for many miles through a wild and desolate section after leaving Deadwood. It is a most inviting spot for the work of road agents. The fact that these treasure trains escape the raids of bandits is undoubtedly due to their fear of the man who is the head of the force of bandit hunters the company employs.

Mild -Mannered but Dangerous.

Fred Hans is a mild-mannered fellow with blue eyes and of most affable address. As he saunters along the streets of Omaha he is about the last man in the world one would pick out for desperate work with rifle and revolver. Yet this same pleasant-appearing fellow, with his careless smile has been in more desperate affrays with road agents, killed more outlaws, and sent more to penitentiaries than any man in the West today. “Fred,” as he is known to nine-tenths of the people of Omaha that he gets a chance to see once a month or so, but most of his time is spent “up in the hills,” circulating among that element that is most likely to engage in hold-ups.

It is his business to locate all these characters the moment train is held up in his territory. This he can very nearly place the responsibility for a train robbery in the Northwest the day after it occurs. Incidentally, it may be said that Fred Hans carries a considerable number of bullet wounds on his person, slight testimonials of his many desperate fights.

Shacknasty Jim pic

Above image from the American Antiquarian Society website.

Another image and The Modoc Indians: A Native American Saga
by Cheewa James, Modoc Tribe of Oklahoma
(Shacknasty Jim’s great-grandson) can be found HERE.

It was Fred Hans who went into the “Hole in the Wall” after “Shacknasty Jim” and his outlaw band and killed the leader and two of his companions before he returned. Again Fred Hans met five members of the famous “Robbers’ Roost” gang one bright morning on the Running Water in South Dakota. He had but shortly before that been instrumental in piloting a posse of Custer citizens to the lair of the band where nine of them had been killed, and they thought to get even. The fire road agents waited until Hans rode close to the sand hill behind which they were hiding, then rode down on him, firing their rifles as they galloped. A fortunate shot passed through the heart of the horse that Hans  was riding. Using the animal for a shield, the railroad bandit hunter got out his heavy pistols and began business right there. He only shot four times. The first bullet he fired passed through the heart of the nearest bandit, the next one struck one of the horses of the oncoming gang and killed it, the third bullet passed through the head of another bandit, killing him instantly, and the fourth passed through the body of one of the gang and he died later. The two remaining members of the band surrendered and were taken into Custer by Hans. The men he killed on the spot were known as “Texas Fleet Foot” and “Mountain Pete.” The other tow, “Long Tom” and “Skinny,” were sent to the penitentiary for life.

Colt’s 45’s His Choice.

This is the kind of a man who guards the Northwestern treasure trains through the territory west of the Mississippi River. He is probably the quickest and deadliest shot with a revolver in the West. He carries two enormous “forty-fives” of the Colt pattern of thirty years ago. The fact that the guns are of the vintage of another generation does not worry Fred Hans. He has been presented by different people with a number of handsome modern pistols, but he says he can’t shoot them like his[he] can his own “irons.”

Discussing bandit hunting and the methods of road agents in holding up trains, a few days ago Fred Hans said recently:

“It requires a man of very desperate courage to undertake to handle a railroad train crowded with passengers. Of course, you find men every day who are willing to take the chances involved in spite of the fact that few of them escape the consequences long enough to enjoy whatever they have secured in the hold-up. In truth, it is not the act of robbing the train that requires the greatest exhibition of skill and daring, but rather the escape after the crime has been committed. You see, in robbing a train the band stands little chance of opposition. Passengers are as a rule unarmed. and the express messengers are not in a position to make much of a fight. The use of dynamite by road agents is a terrifying element for express messengers. The minute the bandits start to make their escape, however, they come in contact with fighting men who are as well armed and well mounted as they are knows how to use their guns. This is the element of danger that deters many bandits from attacking a railroad train.

“When a gang of men contemplate a hold-up now, the first thing they do is to arrange for their escape. A route of retreat is selected, and the bandits go over the trail, so that they can follow it, night or day. They frequently secrete food for themselves and horses along the route and lay in plenty of ammunition. The Black Hills and the country in Southern Wyoming are favorite resorts for train robbers these days. Here most of the desperate road agents live. These men are, however, not of the class that will undertake single handed to rob a train. They operate like the James gang did, but of course are not so dangerous, because they have not the sympathy of the community in which they operate. They are not so expert with firearms as the James gang, neither are they bound together by associations such as made the James gang so successful. Those bandits merely trust each other as long as they are together, and they know it is a matter of self-preservation

Bandits’ Outfits Expensive.

“The same energy, hardship and daring these men expend in robbing trains, if turned into honest channels would reap for them a great deal more substantial profits than the dangerous business they engage in, but they are attracted by stories of enormous hauls, made by train robbers and dazzled by reports in the newspapers that this or that gang secured a hundred thousand dollars in a raid. Of course these raids sometimes net the robbers a big sum, but in most cases they do not get enough to pay the expense of the undertaking. It costs a pile of money for a gang of six or seven Western desperadoes to prepare for a train hold up. They must have the best horses money will buy, they must get a city crook, as a rule to handle the dynamite; they must have white powder for their guns in the event of a collision with a posse, which is quite certain, and a thousand little details. The minute the news of a hold-up is flashed over the wire we start posses from a dozen different points. These close in on the robbers. The road agents are afraid to split up in the face of a possible fight. They know they will be killed one at a time if they do not stick together. That is their only chance and of course it makes the trail easier for us to follow.

Tracking Bandits pic

“The ‘Hole in the Wall’ country is the place these Western bandits now make for. That is a wild section and most difficult of access. If the gang gets in there it is hard to get at them. Usually we merely wait for them to come out, and then we get ’em.

“Most of the bandits we come in contact with are of the most desperate character. Of course they know that sooner or later they will die with their boots on. Most of them are wanted for some crime that would keep them in the penitentiary for life if it would not carry them to the scaffold, and so of course they will not surrender. I usually hunt these characters singly and with only my pistols. It is my experience that in the wild country, a desperate character, seeing a lone man who does not carry a rifle, will permit him to approach where otherwise he would hide if the same man was armed with a rifle or accompanied by others. With my pistols I can get close to a bandit on the plains and then I jump from my horse, use the animal as a breast-work, and begin to shoot before the robber expects the attack. He surrenders or is killed, just as he prefers. My experience is that a quick shot with a pistol is worth a dozen long-range shots with rifles.

Deadly Range of 300 Yards.

“I have had some measure of success hunting road agents and have been forced to kill some of these desperate characters, but all of my work has been done with a heavy revolver. I do not recall a fight I have been in, except possibly when I was scouting in the Indian service, where I used anything but my revolvers. I can kill a man at 300 yards every shot with my pistol. I carry on my watch chain today a rifle bullet I cut from the heart of my horse. It is a souvenir of the fight I had with the ‘Robbers’ Roost’ gang on the Running Water. The man who fired the shot used a Winchester and was firing at me from a distance of 500 yards. Before he reached the range of my pistols he had probably shot at me six times, one of his bullets plowing a furrow through the top of my scalp, but the moment he came within range of my heavy revolver I placed a bullet squarely between his eyes. This was Fleet Foot, probably one of the worst murderers and road agents the West has ever produced.

“I usually carry three heavy revolvers when hunting road agents, and carry about 500 extra shells. I would rather have plenty of cartridges than plenty of food when I am looking for real bad people. My experience, however, is that train robbing has been made so dangerous that it is losing its popularity and will totally disappear in a few years.

Davenport Daily Leader (Davenport, Iowa) Nov 7, 1900

Frederick Hans pic2 full


Frank Daniels of Omaha Placed Under Arrest.

OMAHA, Neb., Aug. 5. — (Special) —

Frank Daniels of this city, was taken to Logan, Harrison county, Iowa, this evening on a requisition charging him with robbing a freight car. His arrest grew out of the arrest of Dick Latta, by Special Detective Hans on the night of July 6, near California Junction on the Northwestern road. The detective secreted himself beside the boxes of goods that had been thrown from the train and Latta and his companion were caught when they came to get the good. Latta was held, but the companion escaped after Detective Hans fired four shots. Latta is a young man twenty-two years old living with his mother at 1622 Burt street. Daniels is one of the Daniels brothers who live near the railroad tracks in a shanty. Daniels proves to be the brother of Officer Hans’ first wife, and it is said by the friends of Latta that the two Daniels brothers got Latta into the trouble for the purpose of making some cheap glory for the detective, the plan being to allow them to escape and to hold Latta. Latta had refused to tell who was with him, and the detective showed a lack of enterprise in finding out. Latta today signed an affidavit implicating Daniels. Daniels once lived at Blair.

The Nebraska State Journal (Lincoln, Nebraska) Aug 6, 1901


“Detective Fred Hans, of the Elkhorn road is getting a whole glob of notoriety out of an arrest he made over in Harrison county a few days ago. It seems that Hans got Francis Daniels to go in cahoots with a fella by the name of Dick Latta for the purpose of plundering a freight car so that the great detective could get a chance to arrest someone just to convince the officials of the railroad that he was still true and always working for their interests.

Yesterday’s Bee contained a long article by Daniels’ accomplice laying blame on him and making it look rather ‘fishy’ for Hans when we remember that Daniels is a brother-in-law, and another article gives an interview with Daniels who claims Latta was at the bottom of it. Both Daniels and Latta are in jail in Mo. Valley and the outcome of the robbery will be watched with a great of interest by residents of this place. Daniels was arrested here three years ago for having stolen Emmett Bolt’s carpenter tools and served several months for the job. Everybody here knows Detective Hans and this escapade only brings to mind the time when a couple of men were sent to the pen for stealing corn, when it looked mighty much like Hans had his hand in the planning of the theft. Great is Hans the Detective!”

Blair Courier (Blair, Nebraska) Aug 8, 1901


“Fred Hans is surely getting his share of the ills of life since he did that wonderful piece of detective work when he landed young Latta behind the bars for breaking into a freight car near California Junction a couple of weeks ago. Hans was arrested last week over there on the charge of conspiracy and his hearing set for the 20th inst, but on Monday, Francis Daniels confessed in his part in the crime and ‘peached’ on Hans as the bloke who put up the job, his trial has now been set for September 10th.

The people of Blair and Washington county are watching this case with a great deal of interest and when they think of the ‘smooth’ work of this chief of detectives of the F. E. they are inclined to let their memory wander back to the time when they were kids and read “Old Sleuth” novels behind the corn crib and wonder if that wasn’t where Freddie got his inspiration to become a detective. To hear Hans tell it he has had many close calls and narrow escapes but never got in too late. From reading the World Herald of a couple of years ago we are constrained to believe that paper has a reporter who has a vivid imagination or was allowing Hans to make a big sucker out of him, when it told of Hans being a government scout for a number of years and describing some of his adventures on the border. In the light of this case folks are now bringing to mind many pieces of work that could be traced to his instigation.

Blair Courier (Blair, Nebraska)  Aug 22, 1901


Governor Savage issued an extradition warrant yesterday and immediately evened up the population of the state by issuing a requisition. The man extradited is Special Detective Fred M. Hans of Omaha who is charged with hatching a conspiracy to have a Northwestern train robbed of freight so he could reap the glory of a capture. Hans was sent to Logan, Ia., just across the Missouri river, where he is wanted on the charge of perjury. Frank Daniels, brother-in-law of Hans, was one of the two men implicated in the robbery. Dick Latta who was captured says he was led into a trap. Hans swore at one of he hearings that Daniels was not present when the capture was made, and Daniels testified that he was present. The requisition was for James Toman, under arrest at Cedar Rapids, Ia., who is wanted at South Omaha on the charge of assaulting James Koskeh, August 20, with intent to murder.

The Nebraska State Journal (Lincoln, Nebraska) Aug 27, 1901



LOGAN, Ia., Aug. 27, — The latest case of Fred M. Hans of Omaha, the railway detective charged with perjury in the Latta-Daniels arrests, has been set for September 2. He has retained Rodifer & Arthur of this place to defend him.

The Nebraska State Journal (Lincoln, Nebraska) Aug 29, 1901





Case Continued Till Tuesday to Give Porter’s Attorney’s Time

Governor Savage sat as a court yesterday and listened to argument from an attorney who told him why he should honor a requisition from the governor of Iowa for the return of Garnett C. Porter to Logan, Ia., on the charge of perjury. He also heard two able attorneys set forth reasons why he should not do any such thing. The day was warm and the governor took off his coat to permit the oratory to have its full effect. At the conclusion of the hearing he gave the defendant until Tuesday at 10:30 a.m. to show further cause why the requisition should not be honored. Mr. Porter was represented by Frank Ransom and Will F. Gurley of Omaha and the great state of Iowa was represented with due dignity by George William Egan of Logan.

Mr. Porter appears to have got into all this trouble through a desire to act as a press agent for a detective who was going out to make a raid on robbers of freight trains. Mr. Porter is a newspaper correspondent living at Omaha. When Special Detective Fred Hans invited him out to see the fun he could not resist the temptation to become a war correspondent for a short time. After two robbers were caught, Dick Latta and another man, the latter escaping in some mysterious manner, it was charged in the newspapers that the detective concocted the robbery and that his brother-in-law was the man who got away. Latta was held and pleaded guilty. The robbery of the cars took place on the Northwestern railroad on the Iowa side of the Missouri river and therefore the trial of Latta took place at Logan. Latta finally signed an affidavit charging that Hans and his brother-in-law hatched the burglary and induced him to enter into the scheme. Hans and Porter both made statements in court in regard to the case which led to the charge of perjury. Hans was taken to Iowa and gave bond for this appearance. Now an effort is being made to get Mr. Porter on Iowa soil to answer to similar charge.

The Nebraska State Journal (Lincoln, Nebraska) Oct 23, 1901

scales of justice


Sioux City, Ia., Oct. 24. — Fred M. Hans, formerly a railroad detective, well known in the west, has been found guilty of the murder of David Luse on April, 1901, at Ainsworth, Neb., and was today sentenced to life imprisonment.

The Daily Review (Decatur, Illinois) Oct 24, 1903

I couldn’t find anymore about his murder/conviction, but he must have gotten released for one reason or another.

hans gravestone

Gravestone picture from Find-A-Grave, posted by Dennis & Gal Conn Bell.


Famous Indian Warrior Crushed in Elevator Shaft


Defended Whites in Battle Against Red Men

OMAHA, Neb. — (Associated Press)–

Fighting, smiling, gray-haired, old “Lone Star” Fred M. Hans, Indian fighter, frontier scout and possibly last of the real “two gun cross arm draw” experts net death here last night with his “boots on.” But death did not come on the field of battle where he had so often faced it, nor on the wings of a bullet. He was crushed to death in an elevator shaft at the Omaha World Herald plant where he was night watchman.

Lone Star was caught by the elevator when he attempted to move the control lever from the outside and the lift suddenly shot upward.

Lone Star began his career as plainsman at the age of 16, when he left home to search for a brother kidnapped by Sioux Indians. He broke into fame first in 1876 in the “Hole in the Wall” country, Powder River, Wyoming, when single-handed he shot and killed “Shacknasty” Jim and his two fellow bandits. It was Lone Star’s hammer fanning that won the unequal fight.

The Indians called him “We-Cha-Pe-Wan-Ge-La,” which means Lone Star.


Other high spots of Hans’ life were:

Shot and killed two stage coach bandits April 12, 1877, near Valentine, Neb. Shot five Indians in battle of Little Missouri near Black Hills, August 31, 1877, saving the lives of a party of twenty prospectors. Killed eleven Indians with 12 shots, using both guns, hammer fanning, in the battle of Wounded Knee, South Dakota, in 1892 [I think this should be 1891]. Killed bandit Ainsworth, Nebraska in 1878. Shot and killed bandit in Fremont, Neb., in 1897. Was official war department investigator of Custer massacre and followed Sitting Bull six hundred miles on horseback, inducing him and his band to return to the reservation.

Was present at Sitting Bull’s death; was chief scoutmaster for General Phil Sheridan for six years; was chief special agent of the Northwestern railroad for years. In all Hans was credited with having killed eight white and twenty Indians.

“I was never beaten on the draw,” he often declared.

Until a month ago, Hans wore a scalp lock 13 inches long which he kept curled under a skull cap as he sat around in the Herald editorial rooms at night, often displaying his skill with his two guns to reporters and visitors.

“No one is after it now,” he explained when he ordered his lock cut off.

Lima News (Lima, Ohio) Apr 18, 1923



World Herald Company Pays $2,650 to Heirs of Nightwatchman Killed in Elevator.

State Compensation Commissioner, L.B. Frye has approved a lump sum settlement in which the World Herald Building company of Omaha paid $2,650 to the heirs of an employee, Fred M. Hans, night watchman who was instantly killed by a freight elevator of the World Herald building, April 17. The heirs agreed to this and the case was dismissed. The question of whether Hans had dependent heirs or was negligent in starting the elevator which killed him had arisen. The divorced wife, Roberta M. Hans, is alleged to have resumed marital relations. She was given $1,525 of the lump sum settlement and is to pay the cost of burial over and above $150 allowed by law for that purpose. The federal bill was $369. Lillian Caroline Budd, a child of the deceased watchman, was given $875. Grace L. Davis, another child was given $100.

The Evening State Journal and Lincoln Daily News (Lincoln, NE) Sep 21, 1923


great sioux nation-1

Read the book written by Fred Hans: (Google Books link)

The great Sioux nation:  A complete history of Indian life and warfare in America By Frederic Malon Hans. 1907

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4 Responses to “Fred M. Hans: Indian Fighter and Frontier Scout”

  1. Fred Hans 5 Says:

    I am Fred M. Hans V

  2. Jami Says:

    This is my Great Great Grandfather..

  3. Dean Trytten Says:

    Fred “Lone Star” Hans is my Great Grandmother’s older brother.

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