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Fansler, Stephen T. (aka S.T. or “Dick”)
b. 1866; d. 1952
Discipline: Photography

Stephen T. Fansler was born in 1866 to John Henry and Jemima Parsons Fansler of Leadmine, West Virginia. He had five brothers and two sisters.

Fansler was a schoolteacher and attended the Missouri School of Business in Cincinnati, Ohio before joining Company D of the 8th Cavalry on October 18, 1890. A sharpshooter, he was assigned to Fort Yates, a military post on the Standing Rock Indian Reservation that straddles the border between North and South Dakota.

He became the post photographer upon his honorable discharge in 1892 and opened a studio with Clarence Fuller, another local photographer. In addition to making portraits of post officers and soldiers, Fansler made several photographs of the Dakotah Sioux and other American Indians from the area. It was during this time that Fansler took on a young apprentice named Frank Bennett Fiske. Fiske was the son of the post’s civilian wagon master and had taken an interest in both photography and American Indian culture at a young age. Fansler helped develop, so to speak, Fiske’s budding photography skills and trained him in common techniques of the day including glass-plate negatives and solar printing processes.

In 1900, Fansler’s wife died and he moved back to West Virginia where his parents could help raise his young baby daughter. He opened a studio and gallery in nearby Davis, which he operated until his daughter died a short time later.

He soon left West Virginia and headed west, making it as far as Yellowstone National Park. (Rumor has it that he rode a bicycle over the Rocky Mountains.) He made several photographs of homesteading families and American Indians.

Eventually, he worked his way back east to Wisconsin where he met Maude Evelyn Newhart, who he married on New Year’s Day, 1902. They had two daughters (Ferne and Althea) before he established a studio in Plum City, Wisconsin, where a third daughter (Virginia) was born.

A wanderer at heart, Fansler moved his family to Mineral Springs, GA where they opened a resort and had another daughter. The business was ultimately unsuccessful and the family again moved, this time to Kissimmee, Florida. Fansler farmed and later owned an orange grove. A fifth daughter (Mable) was born.

After his wife died in 1940, Fansler retired to a life of fishing and serving as president of the local Liars Club, which he helped organize. He died in 1952 and is buried in Tampa, Florida.

- Ben Nemenoff


Richardson, Mable (Fansler’s daughter). Letters written to the State Historical Society of North Dakota. Tallahassee, Florida. April 13, 1987. April 27, 1987. May 28, 1987.

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