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Cephas William “Dick” Parr (1843–1911) never achieved the fame of fellow scout turned showman William Frederick “Buffalo Bill” Cody, though judging by this 1890s publicity photo, Dick struck as dashing a figure. His name is also linked to one of the most storied fights of the Indian wars. In 1900 his third wife, Louise (née Lincoln) Parr, published a fantastical biography that claims Dick was raised by legendary Indian fighter William Harney, captured at age 12 and adopted by the Sioux, and bailed out James Butler Hickok in 1861 after “Wild Bill” killed his first man. At the Sept. 17–19, 1868, Battle of Beecher Island, it continues, Dick not only fought as one of Major George Forsyth’s vaunted scouts, but also held namesake Lieutenant Frederick Beecher as the latter lay dying. Along the way he reportedly served as chief scout for U.S. Army icons Alfred Sully, Winfield Scott Hancock, George Armstrong Custer and Philip Sheridan. Problem is, few of the claims pass muster. “A thorough search of the records,” reads the paperwork for a 1904 pension claim on Parr’s behalf, “fails to disclose any record of the alleged service.” Yet, quixotically, Congress approved the pension.

Turns out Parr did at very least serve as post scout at Fort Hays under Sheridan and Custer in 1868. In the leadup to Beecher Island he pinpointed several hostile Indian villages and advised Forsyth on the selection of his scouts. Dick also loaned the scouts six of his own horses, though he didn’t join the campaign. Still, according to the pension claim Parr suffered from arrow and gunshot wounds received in action at Fort Hays. For the next 20 years he knocked about the West before heading east to settle in, of all places, Brooklyn, N.Y. Parr spent the balance of his life touring in Western garb with his own Rocky Mountain Dick Amusement Company and regaling all who would listen with his exploits, real and imagined. 

this article first appeared in wild west magazine

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