Col. A. B. Welch’s Biography

little story no. 14 welchCol. A. B. Welch’s Biography

The biographical content is directed primarily at his contacts with the Indians of the Dakotas.   

Article 48 May have a tie to Everyone in Standing Rock to their Parents, Grandparents or Great Grandparents!!!!   

Born September 26, 1874, Derbe/Corydon, Iowa. Family Homesteaded near Armour, South Dakota, c.1880-1884.   

Lived in Tacoma, Steilacoom and Orting, WA, c. 1889-1899. Father was Methodist Minister in these communities. Attended Puget Sound University, Tacoma, c. 1895-1898.   

Served with Company D, 1st Washington Volunteer Infantry. Philippine Insurrection ..  April 30, 1898 to November 1, 1899.

1899 Battles:  Santa Ana Feb 5, Tay Tay June 3 and morning June 4, Calamba July 26, Guadelupe Mar 13, Pateros Mar 18, Pasig Mar 17, Laguna de Bay Mar 19. 1899 Skirmishes: Pateros Feb 15, San Pedro Macati Feb 15-22 and April 9,16, 20, 27, Calamba July 27. 1899 Engagement: Calamba July 28

Commissioned Captain – 1st North Dakota National Guard, June 9, 1913. Worked and Lived in Iowa and the Dakotas c.1900 until 1919, then: Lived in or near Mandan, North Dakota for balance of life as Store Keeper, Postmaster, Friend of the Indians, Founder of El Zagal Shrine

Adopted son of Chief John Grass, March 1913, Grass ‘gave’ his Warrior Name, Charging Bear, to Welch

Served in 1917 Mexican Campaign, chasing Pancho Villa. Commander of Company A, 1st North Dakota National Guard

Served in France during World War I. Landing December 27, 1917,  until discharge December 19, 1919 as Major, Field Artillery Section, 3rd Army. Training Jan. 3, 1918 – July 1, 1918 at Camp LaCourtine and St. Aigman.

Champage-Marne Defensive at Epernay, July 15-18, 1918. Aisne-Marne Offensive at Chalons Sur Marne, July 18-31, 1918. Meuse-Argonne Offensive at Montfaucon, September 26-November 11, 1918.

March to the Rhine November 11,1918. Army of Occupation December 3, 1918 to August 10, 1919 as Officer in Charge of District No. 6 .. Cochem area.

Died June 30, 1945, Mandan, North Dakota


 Index of Articles

1. First Contact with Indians, 1882

2. Honorable Discharge, 1899, after service in the Philippines

3. Adoption as the Son of Chief Grass, 1913

4. Mexican Border “War” 1917

5. World War I Orders

6. Appeal to Teddy Roosevelt to join his Command

7.  Letter to Chief John Grass, April 1918

8. Article for Paris Journal, June 1918

9. White Man Chief of Sioux Indians, Jun3 1918

10. The Indian Soldier, a New Element in the U.S.Army

11. Military Congratulatory Message from HQ, Nov. 1, 1918

12. Final Campaigns of WWI at Sedan Front, Nov. 1918

13. Mandan Celebrates, Nov. 11, 1918

14. Welch’s Billet, Mertlack, Germany 1918-1919

15. AH, HA a Secret Sweetheart?

16. Going Home from WWI in France

17. Welch Ramblings, his own Manuscript

18. An Observation from January 1922

19. Big Chief is Legion Boss

20. Sioux Squaws form lodge for War Mothers

21. Van Hook, May 1923, Decoration Day

22. Major A. B. Welch Biographical Article, April 14, 1924

23. Photo of Welch, on Horseback, “The Spirit of the Bad Lands”


 25.  WW1 Generals Godfrey and Hunter Liggett at Mandan, June 20, 1926

 26. Welch appeal for Food & Clothing for the Sioux Tribe for the 1927 Winter

27. Letter from Geo. Heye, Museum of the American Indian

28. Bismarck H.S.Student interviews Welch 

 29. Welch revisits his Adoption Ceremony

 30. Armistice Day, Glen Ullin, Nov 11, 1930What the Troops did on the Front Lines, Nov. 11, 1918

31. Ceremony of Welch Adoption Required Year

32. Shriner Convention, Cleveland, 1931

33.  Welch in Full Sioux Regalia

34.Schmoozing with Ford Motor Co.

35. Death of Adelaide Welch, his wife

36. Greeting Ferenc Molnar

37. Welch loses Postmaster job to a Democrat, shortly after Roosevelt’s 1932 election

38. Al Zagal, Seattle, 1936

39. Letter from Poplar, Montana, Sept, 2, 1936

40. Welch graduates from job at Bottineau ‘Transient’ Camp

41. A. B. Welch, late 1930’s/early 1940’s

42. Offering his entire Collection for Sale Undated, probably early 1940’s

43. Poses at Fort Manuel Site

44. Welch address at Steele, May 30, 1940(?)

45. Glidden Graphic Death Article

46. Mandan Pioneer Death Article

47. A.B.Welch Home & Grave…Oct. 2006

48. Welch’s Golden Rule Store Account Book with Standing Rock Indians 1920’s





1.  First Contact with Indians, 1882

Photo of Newspaper article describing Welch’s first contact with the Sioux



2. Honorable Discharge, 1899, after service in the Philippines


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Welch’s Diaries, photos, maps of his participation in the Philippine Insurection will be featured in a separate Post.


3. Adoption as the Son of Chief Grass, 1913

Photo of Welch drawing of adoption site, 1913.


The full adoption ceremony is posted elsewhere on this web


4. Mexican Border “War” 1917

Photo of Welch with two of his Sioux soldiers, Camp Mercedes, Texas, 1917.


Welch’s Diaries, photos, maps of his participation in this rather strange “War” will be featured in a separate Post.


5. World War I Orders



6. Appeal to Teddy Roosevelt to join his Command

Photo of appeal to Theodore Roosevelt to have Indians in his Sioux regiment, 1917



7.  Letter to Chief John Grass, April 1918


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Photo of Welch all dressed up for World War I, 1918



8. Article for Paris Journal, June 1918


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9. White Man Chief of Sioux Indians, June 3 1918


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10. The Indian Soldier, a New Element in the U.S.Army


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11. Military Congratulatory Message from HQ, Nov. 1, 1918



12.   Final Campaigns of WWI at Sedan Front, Nov. 1918


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13.  Mandan Celebrates, Nov. 11, 1918

Photo of Victory Day, Mandan, N. D., Nov. 11, 1918



14.  Welch’s Billet, Mertlack, Germany 1918-1919



15. AH, HA a Secret Sweetheart?



16.  Going Home from WWI in France



Battle, engagements, skirmishes  Meuse Argonne, Sept. 26, 1918 to November 11, 1918. Medals awarded   None. Wound chevrons authorized  None. War service chevrons authorized  Three Gold Service Chevrons. Remarks   Served in U.S., France and Germany from July 15, 1917 to Oct. 7, 1919 with Hdq 41st Division, 46th Ammunition Train, 3rd Ammunition Train .. Victory Button (Bronze) issued


17. Welch Ramblings, his own Manuscript


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18. An Observation from January 1922


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19. Big Chief is Legion Boss



20, Sioux Squaws form lodge for War Mothers



21. Van Hook, May 1923, Decoration Day


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22.Major A. B. Welch

Biographical Article, April 14, 1924



23. Photo of Welch, on Horseback, “The Spirit of the Bad Lands”




…But, it has been suggested that, as I had many Indians serving with me in the World War, the story of the Indian soldier would be of especial interest.

abw-4-mexican-warIn 1916 my regiment was on duty along the Rio Grande on the Mexican Border as a detached unit, returning to its home station in February 1917.  A member of my company, a highly-educated Sioux Indian, named Cloud, was detailed to the Regimental Adjutant’s Office and became invaluable in that position.  It was my pleasure, not long since, to listen to his voice broadcast from a Chicago station 1000 miles from where I sat, a very interesting discourse on the Dakotah Indian and his present status.

My organization was called into the Federal Service soon after returning from the Border and, in March 1917, was on guard duty at the important N.P.Railway Bridge across the Missouri river between Bismarck and Mandan.  This was the only railway bridge spanning this great natural barrier for a distance of 445 miles.

Anticipating the entrance of the U.S. into the war, I took steps toward for formation of an entire Indian Battalion.  This organization was offered to ex-President Roosevelt and was to have been a cavalry unit of his command, but you all will remember that he was not successful in obtaining commission, and he authorized me to relieve the Indians from their promise to enlist.  It was very evident that the Indians were much disappointed in this affair, as they looked upon Roosevelt as a great man, and many of the older men remembered him while he was ranching in Dakota.

However, Frank White, an ex-Governor of our state, and a Filipino veteran of 1898-99, who is now the Treasurer of the U.S.(note: serving 1921-28), received a commission to form another regiment and I became active in assisting him, hoping to be able to raise this Indian company.

Consequently, I went to the Standing Rock Reservation, in uniform , in order to feel out the temper of the Indians upon the point of service in the army.  I had sent a rider messenger before me and, at some distance from the camp, I was met by a committee of old men who wore the heraldry of coups won in battle, in times past.  We sat together upon the grass, and then, being careful not to break any of the ceremonies and keenly upon the lookout for any ‘bad sign’ which might decide the question even before I might have had time to address them.  I stated my mission in the usual frank and blunt manner of speech in council – telling them that I was not “Mato Watakpe, their brother,” that day, but was an officer of the Army and was raising a war party to go against the enemy.  No one answered, but I could feel the pleasure which they suppressed.  After our smoke we proceeded toward the camp of about 100 hundred tipis and wall tents.

biog253-red-fish-photoAs we neared the entrance to the circle from the east, with the tents of the Hunkpapas on the south and the Hunkpati on the north, the traditional formation of camping, horses were brought and everyone was mounted.  We rode into camp and old Red Fish, the Master of Ceremonies, accompanied by singing men and women on foot, made the entire circle.  Before many tents Red Fish planted a painted red and black stick in the ground.  This stick was an invitation to appear at the council; and afterward, when the men did come, they handed the stick to Red Fish and sat down.  When the man was not present or could not come, the stick was brought just the same and given to Red Fish accompanied by a present of meat or ship’s bread.  Several hundred people we present.  I shall never forget that council, for there was enacted that day a ceremony of the raising of a war party with all the rites of the old time Sioux – a ceremony of tremendous excitement but held in least as no one but an old time Sioux can do.

We sat for fifteen minutes in silence; the moment was full of intense suppression.  A woman in full costume was singing an old war song somewhere outside the council circle and the crowd drew nearer.  An old man leaped to his feet and sung of his youth; of his bravery; he had passed the pipe then; but now he was old and feeble; and, as he painfully sat down upon the grass, he shot a glance from his blazing eyes to the hill where their last Sun Dance has taken place many years before and, unable to longer retain his composure, there burst from his throat that long, chilling, in-drawn cry of the Dakotah warrior, which has been heard on many a battle field from the Falls of St. Anthony on the Mississippi to the Lake of the West where the waters are salt.I drew out my pipe, which had been used in the ceremony of adoption, and filled the bowl; I rammed the kinikinik close, lighted it and drew it into the good coals; I passed the pipe stem first with a quick, sure movement to my old friend Red Tomahawk, who sat on my right hand.  I did not doubt but that he would take it, but it was a test.  He took it; he smoked the two hissing draughts, and slowly returned it to me.  It was passed to other old men and no one refused – I had been accepted as a fit leader of Indian soldiers.  And I want to say right now, that, never, not even as I crouched low in the jungle while hostile Filipinos passed, or hugged the earth under German machine gun fire, have I lost quite so much vitality as I did that hot day in the camp of the Dakotah in the valley of the Cannon Ball, when I was tested out as a leader of the fierce warriors of the Sioux.


It was important that the attitude of Chief Grass be known before proceeding to enlist the young men, and, as the old gentleman was sick at his log house nearly fifty miles away, Col. Settle, U.S.A. and myself went down to see him the next day.  There on the ground upon which the Spanish trader, Manual Liza, built his first fort in 1807, we talked over the prospects of war with Germany.  He was anxious that his young men should go.  I was surprised at his grasp of events and I asked him to give me a message for the white people.  In this he repeated what he had told me several times before, that


“Our real name, Dakotah, means friendly people.  I never counciled war unless my people were stuck first.  We have been struck now and a man should fight if he is not a woman.  I am not afraid for my young men to enlist.  They will get chances for honor in battle which their fathers had in abundance.  You may tell the people that they must fight hard with happy hearts and that John Grass, the Sioux, believes our country will win with honor, because we are in the right.”

When the people of the reservation learned that Grass looked with favor upon the young men going to war, there was much excitement; feasts and dancing were the order of the day and I anticipated no difficulty in obtaining as many men as were needed to fill the unit.  But the War Department objected and informed me that “it would not look with favor upon the formation of a complete unit of any distinct racial characteristics, except those Negro regiments as now provided by law,’ giving as its reasons that the experiment had been tried in frontier days when a company of Sioux Scouts had been organized, and that, owing to the Indian’s love of home and family, there had been much difficulty in holding the men together in the stern years of the 70’s and the experiment had been classed a failure.  They did not have any objections, however, to the Indians enlisting together with white soldiers, and when the Company left Newark in the fall of 1977, I had Indians from four tribes in the ranks.


A short story of eternal love:  A few days before the organization entrained for the eastern coast, one of my Indians asked for permission to marry and I granted his wish.  The young wife was very anxious to go to war also with her husband, even as her mother had done in the old times, but, of course, I explained that this was not permitted.  The young Indian woman was much disappointed.  As I was taking a last survey of the Armory after the company had marched to the train, the soldier came to me and said, “Brother, you know my wife?”  “Yes, what is it?” “Well, she’s dead now.”  The poor girl had committed suicide because she could not go along with us.  As we were than under orders, and the train was in the yards, I was compelled to leave the body of the young wife where she lay in the care of my wife and other ladies who promised to attend the funeral.  I want so say that the great church was crowded and I have been told that there never a sadder funeral in that city, than that for the poor Indian girl who wanted to accompany her husband to the war.  The soldier was decorated with the Croix de Guerre of France and wears one Silver Star and five Bronze Stars in his ribbon.

I have been asked many times about the conduct of the Indian soldier under fire, especially that of artillery, and I can truthfully say, and very proudly, too, that I have never known of a single individual displaying cowardice.  They many have been terrified, as most of the rest of us were at various times, but I never gave an Indian soldier an order which he did not intelligently carry out or die in the attempt.  This did not surprise me in the least, for the highest hope of the old Indian was to be able to have the people call him a brave man, and that quality was imparted to the sons in a remarkable degree.


One of my boys, an Arikara whose Indian name was Charges Alone, but who enlisted under the name of Rogers, became such a good night-raider and sniper that he was sent back to the U.S. as instructor, but not before he had been twice cited for bravery by the Commanding Officer of the First Division. He was credited with killing 33 Germans in 30 days at the front!


Another, named Young Hawk, was captured and disarmed in the wire of No-Man’s Land by five of the enemy.  Seizing an opportunity, he killed three of his captors over his knees with his bare hands, and, although shot through both legs by the remaining two, took them prisoners and marched them back to the American trenches.  As they took off his leg at the station, he only remark was that he would not be able to ride bucking broncos anymore.

A young Sioux named Grass, a great favorite with his white buddies, the grandson of Chief Grass, together with about 19 other soldiers, fought off an enemy plane with rifle fire, while filling canteens at a shell hole at Soissons.  Circling and attaining altitude, the bird man once more passed over head and loosed a bomb which killed 19 of the volunteer water bearers.


Excerpt from Welch’s address at the Funeral of Albert Grass, May 19, 1921:  “…For three days he had fought with his battalion in such a battle as the Americans had never known before then.  With roar of hundreds of heavy guns in his ears; the stunning crash of rending shells; the maniacal chatter of machine guns; the steady undertone of rifle fire; with the every present danger of low flying enemy planes and with the grass bending low before the sweeping deluge of sudden death – this man volunteered to supply his few remaining living and wounded comrades with water.  In this he undertook an act of valor to perform, beyond that which could be expected from any brave man.  And in that self-imposed mission of loyalty, he heroically lost his life.  With the battle cry of his fathers upon his lips and with his rifle hot in his hands, his life was torn from him as swiftly as by a stroke of lightning.  And there upon the shell-wrecked ground, made sacred to us by the very fact of his blood thus shed for principle and freedom, he lay dead upon the altar of devotion and sacrifice.”

Blue Earth, another silent but intelligent Sioux soldier, met death before the Hindenburg Line to the left of Montfaucon in the Argonne.

There are so many others – Mulhern, with a row of machine gun bullet holes in his legs; Vanderwall, killed in action; Bear Ghost, Grey Bull, Smith the Gros Ventre; Star the Mandan; Elk, Red Beans, Douglas, Little Chief, Dean, Two Horses, Brave Bull, Hopkins, Red Stone, Fox and others who were wounded and gassed;  Yellow Fat, who died of his wounds when only forty miles from his home on the Dakotah prairies.

Those of you who were not permitted to leave your own country and actually engage in operations of the army in foreign fields, know better than I, of the activities which did engage your attention at home.  On the reservation of the Standing Rock, Chief Grass was appointed the first President of these different societies including the Red Cross.  The Indians who were left went into the Red Cross with the same enthusiasm that had been noticed when their young men enlisted and later appeared among their people in uniform.

The tents of the parents of soldier boys were decorated with pieces of red or black cloth, for among the Sioux, black is the color of war and red is the color which relates to bravery or wounds.  The relatives of soldiers were treated everywhere with the greatest respect and consideration, and even today at practically every gathering, it is a common sight to see some women come over to the grant of a tent of a mother of an ex-service man and sing a song in honor of the soldier and his relatives.  When she has finished she will always utter a high tremulo, twice, and this will be answered from many quarters by other women who shout the name of the soldier and give this tremulous song of encouragement and victory.

The manner in which the Indians raised money for the Red Cross and other activities is quite different from the practices of other organization among the white, and I believe that you would enjoy hearing how they managed to raise money for that purpose:

A dance and feast would be announced to take place in some district and Indians for many miles around would soon be camped in the vicinity.  By the time the dance day had arrived, there would be several hundred people at the appointed place.  During the dances, the father or mother of a soldier would step to the center of the ring and the Heralds would announce that they would give a horse to the Red Cross in honor of their son; someone else would give a sum of money for the same purpose in honor of his son; others would give bead work or feather head dress or clothing or food.  During the dance the name of the soldier would be heard in the singing and the dancing would continue for many hours, after which the material gathered would be auctioned off and the proceeds would be handed to the Red Cross officials.  Many thousands of dollars were raised in this manner and all of the money went to war activities. The Indians bought many Liberty Bonds, also but this was not looked upon with great favor, for they wanted the money raised to go to the soldiers and did not want any interest in return.  It was a real gift.  I am informed that they raised several times their portion of financial aid, easily.

When I returned from Germany late in the fall of 1919 I was visited by a committee who informed me that there would be a great Victory Dance held on the Standing Rock and the Indian soldiers were invited.  Of course, I attended this dance.

There was erected a high pole upon which hung the skin of a wolf, representing the enemy, and the dancing took place around this.  The returned soldiers had been invested with feather head dresses and the permission to wear paint had been conferred upon them and the right to take a warrior’s place in the dance.  I also was given the right to display three white feathers and two read ones.  The white feathers represent wars engaged in and the red represent wounds received.  I had taken with me some enemy helmets, swords, medals, etc., which I had obtained in the Argonne.  After I had made a speech, and displayed these trophies, there was a rush to lay hands upon them and they were soon whisked out of my sight, to appear again in the next dance, which to say the least, was some wild affair. After the dance the parties who had or carried these war relics, gave money or horses or beef steers to the Red Cross society for the honor of having carried them.  I remember that the Indian who wore a silver helmet gave $50.00 and the one who danced with an enemy sword gave $25.00.  An old Indian woman by the name of Mrs. Crow Ghost, who wore paint for me, made a liberal present for that debatable honor.  Every soldier was sung for and flags were carried for those who paid the supreme sacrifice, and as these were carried around, the people would advance and take hold of the flag for an instant, and then run to the enemy and strike the post upon which the wolf skin hung.



Trophies, including scalps, from battle fields were always brought home to the women in the olden times, and remembering this, I had several hundred buttons from the uniforms of the enemy, and these I presented to the women.  These buttons and belt buckles were much sought after and are still highly prized by the women who received them.












25.  WWI Generals Godfrey and Hunter Liggett at Mandan, June 20, 1926



26. Welch appeal for Food & Clothing for the Sioux Tribe for the 1927 Winter


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27. Letter from Geo. Heye, Museum of the American Indian


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28. Bismarck H.S.Student interviews Welch


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29. Welch revisits his Adoption Ceremony


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 30. Armistice Day, Glen Ullin, Nov 11, 1930.  What the Troops did on the Front Lines, Nov. 11, 1918


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31. Ceremony of Welch Adoption Required Year



32. Shriner Convention, Cleveland, 1931


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33.  Welch in Full Sioux Regalia

Photo of Welch dressed in full Sioux regalia


34. Schmoozing with Ford Motor Co.




35. Death of Adelaide Welch, his wife




36. Greeting Ferenc Molnar




37. Welch loses Postmaster job to a Democrat, shortly after Roosevelt’s 1932 election





38. Al Zagal, Seattle, 1936




39. Letter from Poplar, Montana, Sept, 2, 1936

Can anyone translate this letter to Welch?


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40. Welch graduates from job at Bottineau ‘Transient’ Camp




41. A. B. Welch, late 1930’s/early 1940’s



42. Offering his entire Collection for Sale Undated, probably early 1940’s


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Photo of Welch Medicine Lodge in his basement.


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Welch Medicine Lodge



43. Poses at Fort Manuel Site



44. Welch address at Steele, May 30, 1940(?)


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45. Glidden Graphic Death Article


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46. Mandan Pioneer Death Article



47. A.B.Welch Home & Grave…Oct. 2006




48. Welch’s Golden Rule Store Account Book with Standing Rock Indians 1920’s

 (No hints how these bills, totaling $5,497.30, and most likely from his Golden Rule Store in Mandan, were paid, if ever)


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