Biography of Frank J. Decker

The travels and experiences of this well known and substantial resident of Mason prairie would fill a volume and the best way to recount the career of a man is to see what he has done. So we will give in as great detail as we are able to do the review of Mr. Decker’s life.

Frank J. Decker was born in Jefferson County, Indiana, on February 4, 1849. His father, George D., was a machinist, born in France and at nineteen years of age he was head of a large shop. He patented the first shoe pegging machine and was also the patentee of several other valuable inventions. He married Judith, daughter of John and Eleanor Hall. She was born in Kentucky. The father died in 1839 an the mother in 1899. Our subject went to live with his grandmother when he was thirteen and two years later he commenced to learn the harness trade. Next we see him in Kansas City then in Stark County, Illinois, where he worked in the coal mines.

In the fall of 1869, he went to Montana, looked the country over and in his trips nearly lost his scalp, only avoiding that unpleasant experience by secreting himself in the brush. A few nights following this he was awakened in his camp by breathing in his face; carefully lighting a match, he held it to some prepared tinder which displayed a bear who was quite at home, but at this he concluded to depart. Game was plenty in those days in Montana and one day when he had gotten into settled quarters, he heard a disturbance in the yard and went out to find a lusty elk with his antlers caught in the door of the dog house. The dog inside was resenting the intrusion as desperately as circumstances would permit.

In 1870 Mr. Decker landed in Helena and worked there with one man for six years. While he was there, the Chessman reservoir broke and Mr. Decker was in the way of the awful torrent. He was tossed about as a cork and not a thread of clothing was left on his body. He was bruised terribly all over his body but escaped with his life and a broken leg and no clothes. Several others perished in the flood. He was broken in finances because of this catastrophe and made a new start in life. He took up farming and also freighted to Fort Benton from Deer Lodge and other points. He then bought sixty-five head of cattle and. went to the head of the Teton and a hard winter killed all. This left him with a four horse team and thirty dollars. He came west and located in Spirit valley and two years later came and took his present place, known as the Mason creek ranch. He has one hundred acres in meadow, two good barns, a comfortable residence, twenty-five cattle and other improvements and property. Mr. Decker was one of the very first to settle in this part and is well known all over this section, having kept for years a stopping place and feed barns.

Mr. Decker has two children by his former marriage, Emma A., born April 21, 1878, at Helena, Montana; Ella E., born January 20, 1880, at Helena, and wife of Edward Cole.

Mr. Decker married a second time on August 12, 1897. Ida A., daughter of Otto and Anna M. (Robison) Brown, becoming his wife then. She was born in Montana, on June 22, 1880. Her mother was born in Denmark, July 19, 1864. The following named children have been born to this union: Clarence G., born February 11, 1898; Frederic F., born December 28, 1899; Elmer E., born January 9, 1901; all were born in Nez Perces County.

Back to: Nez Perce Biographies

Source: An Illustrated History of Northern Idaho, Embracing Nez Perce, Idaho, Latah, Kootenai and Shoshone Counties, Western Historical Publishing Company, 1903

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