Frederick Burnham was born in 1861 on an Indian reservation in what is now Minnesota, the son of a Kentucky-born missionary and outdoorsman and his English wife, and a true product of the American west.. When Indians attacked their village during the Dakota War of 1862, Fred’s mother, knowing she couldn’t move quickly enough while carrying him, hid Fred in a corn shock while she fled to another homestead; Fred spent the night there under the stacked corn even as the Indians ran by, and upon his mother's return the following day, she found him unharmed and sleeping. Over the years, he inherited his father’s love and skill for outdoorsmanship, and became proficient in the use of a rifle by the time he was eight. Around 1870, Fred’s father slipped on some ice while carrying an armload of wood; the falling wood left him with serious injuries and a case of consumption from which he could not recover; the family moved to California, where Fred’s father died in 1873. The following year, Fred's mother decided to return the family to Iowa, but Fred, then 13 years old, considered himself responsible for the family, so he decided to stay in California, where he would call upon his frontiersman skills to earn money for their support.