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Frank Ellis Ferree

"The man is the nearest thing to a holy man that we've seen in these parts for a long, time." -A Harlingen, Texas, Businessman


Frank Ellis Ferree
"Border Angel"
Quick Facts
  • Birth: August 6, 1894 in Nebraska
  • Death: March 10, 1983 in Texas
  • Parents: Josiah Benjamin Ferree & Isabelle E. Kenyon Ferree
  • Never Married
  • Descended from Daniel & Marie Ferree through their son, Daniel, Jr. and Anna Marie Leininger.
  • Devoted his life to helping the poor, the homeless, and the sick for 42 years.
  • A man poor in money, but rich in what he did with his life.

Born on the prairie in Nebraska, Frank Ferree, with only an eighth grade education, struggled across the United States from Nebraska to Colorado, California, and Wisconsin looking for a satisfying destiny. That destiny was to be found in the outskirts of Harlingen in the Rio Grande Valley of Texas. From the area of that great state that borders on Mexico, comes a strange and beautiful story of a man who has been compared with Albert Schweitzer, given the highest medal of achievement by the Mexican government, and who has been a guest of honor at a White House dinner.

Frank Ferree was known as "Border Angel", "Gringo Messiah", "Saintly Scavenger", "El Amigo" "Holy Man of Harlingen", "Holy Man of the Rio Grande", and "Albert Schweitzer of the Rio Grande Valley".

In 1979, a book was written about the life of Frank Ferree entitled "Border Angel". The author of that book was Bill Starr, an award winning free lance writer, newspaperman, and friend of Frank Ferree. In the preface of that book, Bill Starr wrote the following.

He looks and dresses like a bum, but don't let that bother you. You've never dealt with anybody quite like Frank Ferree, a completely humble man, easily approached, and at 83, he's still going strong. He is a personal friend with the last four Mexican presidents, and of two past U.S. presidents. He's the only man known who can simply walk into the presidential offices in Mexico City, sit down, and talk with the chief executive. He is equally at ease with the most degenerate criminals in rat infested cesspools called prisons along the Border.

Dozens of medals, citations and parchments have come Frank's way from Freedom Foundation, the governor of the Mexican state of Tamaulipas, the mayors of Texas and Mexican cities, school administrations, service clubs, Mexican welfare agencies, and a recommendation for Mexico's Aztec Eagle Medal, the highest honor which that nation can award to a citizen of another country.

Frank Ferree has, I think, lit a candle, rather than curse the darkness.


Frank Ferree
clinic coffin road
Providing donated medicine.

Making a child's coffin.

Administering aid to needy child.

Frank Ferree's Early Life

  • Born August 6, 1894, in a small village on the Platte River near Omaha, Nebraska.
  • When he was fifteen the family moved to northwestern Nebraska to homestead. In the eighth grade at that time, the move ended his formal schooling.
  • Loved the pioneer life in Nebraska, the open spaces of the plains, and being close to nature.
  • At age twenty-one he left home. After a year he returned and later described this excursion away from home as the darkest days of his entire life.
  • Filed his own homestead claim but soon tired of the hard labor of making a home in the rough country of Nebraska.
  • Joined the army in 1918 and served in France.
  • Got a job with the postal service as a rural mail carrier and for ten years delivered mail on horseback, carrying letters in a saddlebag strapped behind his saddle. Later bought a Model T Ford and hired his brother, Fred, to help.
  • After the death of his father, he and his mother loaded the Model T with their belongings and headed west settling near Central City, Colorado, on an eighty acres homestead. Over time increased his holdings to three thousand acres.
  • Began developing an interest in faith healing and studied the science of numerology.
  • Mother died in 1937. Grief stricken, he traded the three thousand acres in Colorado for eight hundred acres of Wisconsin lakefront timberland sight unseen.
  • Without ever seeing his Wisconsin land, he headed for Hollywood, California, where he worked for a while as a caretaker of a mansion.
  • Deciding to check out his timberland, he traveled to Wisconsin. Sold the trees for lumber and the lakefront property to a developer.
  • From a man in Denver, he bought twenty-three acres of land just outside of Harlingen, Texas, and headed south.

Frank Ferree's Destiny

  • He bought an old frame house, had it moved near the road that bordered his property; divided six acres to sell lots; built a small studio-type building; hung out a shingle and began giving massage treatments.
  • He was busy, happy, and doing what he had wanted to do for a long time.
  • At the age of forty-eight, he came down with a fever that lasted about two weeks. He would get well for a while but the fever kept reoccurring. After year of this, for the first time in his life, he ask God for something - to heal him. The fever went away in a matter of seconds.
  • Became interested in music, took music lessons, and joined a large choir. Began to learn the words and meanings of the Scriptures and wondered why so little was spoken about healing when it had been the work of Jesus.
  • He became a true believer and developed his own religious convictions which he never mentioned unless asked and never tried to force them on anyone else.
  • He believed he should use any and all means to cure the sick, combined with the simple, strong faith of the true believer.
  • Stories of those he helped are numerous. He sought help where help could be provided. In his book, "Border Angel" Bill Starr wrote, "The blind were made to see, the crippled walked, the poor were fed and clothed. He used any means at his disposal and God created the miracles."
  • Turning his attention to the desperate, starving, Mexican families along the border and the hardships of "wetbacks", he put forth effort to find a solution to their problems. He operated a small clinic in a donated building, distributed medicine, food, and clothing to the needy; communicated with both Mexican and US government officials; negotiated fair pay rates; listened to the concerns Valley farmers had with the problem.
  • Obtained signed orders from the Mexican president that allowed him to cross the border trouble free to pass necessities of life to the poor and needy in Mexico without harassment from border officials.
  • Received many accolades and awards; was nominated twice for the Nobel Peace Prize.
  • His work for the needy continued until his death on March 10, 1983, at the age of eighty-nine. He is buried on his land in north Harlingen.
    Monument Inscription
    Grave Marker Inscription
    AUG 6, 1894 - MAR 10, 1983


    1942 FUNDADOR
    In as much as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethern, ye have done it unto me." Matthew 25:40

The work of Frank Ferree is being continued by the Frank Ferree Border Relief, Box 981, 2403 N. 7th Street, Harlingen, TX 78550-3909. It depends entirely upon voluntary contributions, of which every penny is used for direct relief of needy persons.

More about the life and work of Frank Ellis Ferree can be found in the book "Border Angel" written by Bill Star, published by Vantage Press. The book can also be found online at www.mcallen.lib.tx.us/books/ferree/b_angel0.htm