About Francis Jeffrey Dickens
Francis Jeffrey Dickens was the third son of Victorian novelist Charles Dickens and his wife Catherine Dickens née Hogarth.
Francis Dickens was nicknamed “Chickenstalker” by his father after the character Mrs. Chickenstalker in the Christmas book The Chimes that he was writing at the time of Francis’s birth; however he came to be called Frank by those who knew him. He was born in England and went to school in Germany to train to become a doctor. Giving up this ambition, he obtained a commission in the Bengal Mounted Police and served in India for seven years. Following his father’s death in 1870 he inherited some money, but he soon went through this, and his aunt, Georgina Hogarth (Catherine Dickens' sister) used her influence with family friend Lord Dufferin, then Governor General of Canada, to get Francis Dickens a commission in the North-West Mounted Police. Dickens joined the North-West Mounted Police as a Sub Inspector in Canada in 1874 shortly after the March West which brought the original police force of 250 members to the modern provinces of Saskatchewan and Alberta. He would remain in the force 12 years, serving at Fort Walsh, Fort Macleod and Fort Pitt, getting promoted to Inspector in 1880.
During the North West Rebellion of 1885, Francis Dickens was in charge of the defence of Fort Pitt on the North Saskatchewan River. Francis Dickens' diary written during his charge at Fort Pitt, though very brief, is an important document of the events of the siege that led to the evacuation of the mounted police from the fort. On his website, David J. Carter describes the events at Fort Pitt.
This site [Frog Lake, following Cree attacks on priests and Hudson's Bay Company employees and family members] was 35 miles northwest of Fort Pitt. Dickens sent out three scouts to reconnoiter. When they returned they were attacked by Cree warriors; one escaped unharmed, one was wounded – played dead then crawled to the ‘fort’, the other Constable Cowan was killed within sight of Fort Pitt then the warrior cut out young Cowan’s heart and ate a piece of it before the horrified defenders of the fort. The NWMP detachment were outnumbered and outgunned 200 to 20. Negotiations led to the civilians agreeing to become prisoners of the Cree and Big Bear. The Chief gave Dickens and his men a short time to abandon the fort. This they did, and traveled amongst the ice pans in a leaky scow. Scouts from Fort Battleford reported that everyone at Fort Pitt had been massacred however after six days on the river Dickens and his men arrived at Battleford and received a hero’s welcome.
Following his discharge from the Mounted Police in 1886 (for reasons of ill health--he was becoming increasingly hard of hearing among other infirmities) Frank was going to embark on a series of lecture talks in the US (as his father has successfully done), but died of a heart attack at a friend's house in Moline, Illinois the night of his first speech. He was 42 years old.