By Gregg Hoffmann Special to Published Feb 15, 2009 at 11:39 AM

Some readers might recognize Doc Powell as a contemporary jazz and R&B guitarist. Those with more of a sense of history will probably be familiar with the name as the "blood brother" of Buffalo Bill Cody and through Wild West tales.

But, the Doc in this story had strong historic ties to the Midwest, and specifically to western Wisconsin. Dr. Frank "Doc" Powell practiced medicine in La Crosse in the 1880s, served as mayor of that city and even ran unsuccessfully for governor on the People's Party ticket.

Today, a small memorial stands in Satori Arts, a business in downtown La Crosse. Madison author Michael Bie has become the state expert on Powell in many ways, and has written about the legend on his Web site.

Bie and Powell recently drew interest when it was revealed that Powell had a daughter when he lived in the La Crosse area. No previous biographies of Powell mentioned children. The La Crosse Tribune did a story about Powell and Bie in early January, and the news of a Powell descendant has spread around the Internet.

Much had been written about Powell before the recent stories. Tales of his colorful life vary widely, depending on the sources. Born in 1847 in upstate New York, Powell's family moved to Kentucky and later Chicago and eventually the Plains States area.

While in the latter region, Powell was said to have made the acquaintance of Buffalo Bill Cody, Wild Bill, Texas Jack and other scouts. Some legends say that Powell became a sharpshooter with Cody's traveling Wild West show for a time.

Powell and Cody reportedly were involved in various business ventures ranging from Wisconsin to Wyoming to Mexico. One was the purchase of Indian Hill north of La Crosse, where the men planned to build a sanitarium for Powell's patients and a park for the City of La Crosse. That venture never came to be.

Cody reportedly dubbed Powell his "blood brother." Over time, Powell became part of some legendary Buffalo Bill tales of the West. He was known to fire at glass windows and act wildly when he imbibed a bit.

While those tales might draw the most interest, Powell was home-schooled by his mother and did get training as a physician. He worked for a while as a contract surgeon for the Army, but was eventually blacklisted by the surgeon general.

Doc's mother was the granddaughter of a Seneca medicine chief. In 1876 he was made Medicine Chief of the Winnebagos and was given the name "White Beaver." Another legend has it that Powell received the name as an honor after he saved the life of a Sioux chief's daughter.

Powell liked the name, often referred to himself as it and authored some books and articles about his relationship with the Indians and adventures with Buffalo Bill. It's thought some of those writings stretched the facts a bit, but they helped establish Powell's reputation and endeared him to the people of western Wisconsin.

During his time in the area, Powell ventured for a time into the patent medicine field. The following advertisement appeared in 1885:

"White Beaver's Cough Cream. Heals diseased lungs and cures coughs and colds. Made only by Dr. Frank Powell, Medicine Chief of the Winnebago Indians, La Crosse, Wisconsin. Sold by all druggists."

Doc's medicine reportedly was sold by druggists in the Milwaukee area. In fact, Doc would periodically make sales trips to the biggest city in the state and further spread his tales with newspaper people and others.

Powell was a popular politician while serving La Crosse as mayor and made his runs for governor, but over time some of his antics got old with members of his constituency and he might have gotten bored. He moved west into lumber, mining and other ventures.

Those businesses had mixed success, and in fact some accounts have Powell dying penniless. But the flamboyant Doc continued on with his usual swagger until his death. He died in May1906, near El Paso, reportedly while on his way to California.

Powell reportedly had asked that his ashes be spread at Red Butte, Wy. According to his biographer, his friends transporting Powell's remains got drunk and didn't notice his ashes were falling out of a mule's pack. By the time, they got to Red Butte, Powell's ashes were spread across a wide swath of the West.

Today, there is a building near La Crosse's riverfront named Powell Place. You also can find that small monument to him in Satori Arts.

Online, you can check out Bie's Classic Wisconsin Web site. Other sources on Powell can be found though the Wisconsin Historical Society site.

Gregg Hoffmann Special to
Gregg Hoffmann is a veteran journalist, author and publisher of Midwest Diamond Report and Old School Collectibles Web sites. Hoffmann, a retired senior lecturer in journalism at UWM, writes The State Sports Buzz and Beyond Milwaukee on a monthly basis for OMC.