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Author photo. Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division, George Grantham Bain Collection (Reproduction Number: LC-DIG-ggbain-05789) (cropped)

Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division, George Grantham Bain Collection (Reproduction Number: LC-DIG-ggbain-05789) (cropped)

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Frederick Russell Burnham, DSO (May 11, 1861–September 1, 1947), was an American scout and world traveling adventurer best known for his service as Chief of Scouts to the British Army in Colonial Africa and for teaching woodcraft (i.e., scoutcraft) to Robert Baden-Powell, becoming one of the inspirations to the founding of the Scouting Movement. Burnham was born to a missionary family on an Indian Reservation in Tivoli, Minnesota (near Mankato). In the 1880s, he worked as a cowboy and a hired gun in Arizona for the losing side of the Pleasant Valley War, the most violent of the range wars. During this time he also fought against the Apache, was hired as a scout for the U.S. Army in the Geronimo champaign, worked the silver mines, and became a professional hunter. In the 1890s, Burnham joined the British South Africa Company as a scout and headed north, fighting in both the First and Second Matabele Wars. He return to the United States to take part in the Klondike Gold Rush, but was called back to Africa to fight for the British Army in the Second Boer War. As Chief of Scouts for Lord Roberts, Burnham was elevated to the rank of Major and earned the Distinguished Service Order for his heroism, the highest decorated American in the war. He returned to California and Mexico and during World War I, was active in counter-espionage for Britain and was selected by former U.S. president Theodore Roosevelt to raise a volunteer infantry division for service in France, similar to the Rough Riders. In 1923, Burnham struck oil at Dominguez Hills, California, and his family moved to the new housing development of Hollywoodland. An avid hunter and conservationist, he was one of the original members of the first California State Parks Commission, serving from 1927 to 1934, and he was president of the Southwest Museum of Los Angeles from 1938 until 1940. He helped lobby for the Cabeza Prieta National Wildlife Refuge and the Kofa National Wildlife Refuge for Desert Bighorn Sheep in Arizona, dedicating both in 1939, and he campaigned for several state parks in California. At 86, Burnahm died at his home in Santa Barbara and was buried near his former ranch at Three Rivers. Mount Burnham was dedicated in his name in 1952.
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