Fact or Fiction

  • The aim of this page is to both complement and challenge factual content to be found in the four well-known biographically-based works illustrated below. I highly recommend the three most recently-published should be in the collection of anyone interested in the lives of such a disparate group as the men who served in the famous 7th Cavalry on 25 June 1876, even if none of these volumes is as definitive as generally assumed. A surprisingly large number of the factual errors that continue to be widely perpetuated can be traced directly to Men With Custer: Biographies of the 7th Cavalry, by the late Kenneth Hammer (1995) or the U.S. Army, Registers of Enlistment, though the value of Hammer’s ground-breaking work cannot be over-stated. It is hoped therefore that the information posted here, based almost exclusively on the findings of my personal research from mainly primary sources, and in this instance confined to those born beyond the borders of the present-day United Kingdom, will be well received by visitors to this website irrespective of their level of knowledge of the Battle of Little Big Horn (aka Little Bighorn) and the Plains Indian Wars. New entries will be added from time to time as and when new information comes to light.
  • Peter Russell 

'Men With Custer: Biographies of the 7th Cavalry', Kenneth Hammer, CBHMA, Inc., (1995).

'Military Register of Custer's Last Command', Roger L. Williams, Arthur H. Clark Company, Norman, Oklahoma (2009).

'Men With Custer: Biographies of the 7th Cavalry', edited by Ronald H. Nichols with Daniel I. Bird, CBHMA, Inc. New Expanded Edition (2010).

'Participants in the Battle of the Little Big Horn, Frederic C. Wagner III, McFarland & Co, Jefferson, North Carolina, Second Edition (2016).

The semi-apocryphal words of the fictional Los Angeles police detective, Sergeant Joe Friday.

  • 1. First Sergeant Joseph McCurry, Company H
  • 2. First Lieutenant Donald McIntosh, Company G
  • 3. Private Garrett H. Van Allen (real name Gerrit Houghtaling Niver), Company C
  • 4. Private James Thomas (real name Thomas James Stowers), Company B
  • 5. Private Ernest Wasmus, Company K 
  • 6. Corporal Daniel Nealon, Company H
  • 7. Wagoner Albert Whytefield (real name Albert Schenke), Company K
  • Note: To a lesser or greater extent, Military Register, Men With Custer (2010) and Participants have benefited from the findings of my independent research over many years from primary sources though, until recently, this has mainly been confined to men who were born in the UK (see Biographies page) plus a small number from the Republic of Ireland and mainland Europe. I have chosen to use Nichols here as it contains the most information relating to both pre and post military service. Military Register is essentially aimed at the more serious student, while Participants, which can be read online, is generally less comprehensive and confined to those U.S. personnel who were in the field during the Little Big Horn campaign.

1. First Sergeant Joseph McCurry, Company H

Theodore Ewert, Company H, confided to his diary that "McCurry [the Benteen Baseball Club's opening pitcher] delivers a swift and correct ball, generally to suit the batter, is a sure base runner, briskly if it pays, earns his runs, and is a gentlemanly player withal. .... He is undoubtedly the stay and prop of the club, and is also the best player."

'Men With Custer - Biographies of the 7th Cavalry', Edited by Ronald H. Nichols with Daniel I. Bird, CBHMA Inc., 2010, p. 255.

  • Joseph McCurry, son of Irish immigrants, was captain and star pitcher of the Benteen Baseball Club from 1873 to 1876, and treasurer and leading actor of the Fort Rice Minstrels theatrical group, which also performed at Fort Lincoln and Bismarck.
  • The Yankton Daily Press and Dakotaian, 14 June 1875, p.4.
  • “The McDougall* Base Ball Club played the Randalls [Benteen Base Ball Club] a close contested game on the 8th inst. The score stood,  Randalls 32, McDougalls 19. The Randalls improved on McCurry’s swift pitching, while the fielding of the McDougall nine was miserably poor.” T. O. Dore [Ewert?]
  • (*) First Lieutenant Thomas McDougall, Company E.
  • Bismarck Weekly Tribune, 12 November 1875, p.1.
  • Fort Rice Minstrels – The Fort Rice boys have organized a minstrel troupe consisting of the following persons, some of whom are known to our people as artists of unusual merit: —Joseph. McCarthy (McCurry); Alonzo Plumb;  James Tanner; William F. Davis; S. G. Mawson; Thomas G, Meader; A. B. Bishop; John M. Marshall;* J. M. Walsh and James Stringer. They expect to|give their first, entertainment about Dec. 10th, and hope to visit Bismarck curing the winter.”
  • (*) Farrier John M. Marshall, born Scarborough, Yorkshire, see Biography No. 41.
  • Bismarck Weekly Tribune, 26 January 1876, p.8
  • “The Fort Rice Minstrels did themselves credit in their performance last night. McCurry, Plumb and Bishop were encored again and again. The house was full, – packed and jammed to such an extent that, other ventilation being defective, several panes of window were broken. When the boys come again they are certain to secure a full house.”
  • Bismarck Weekly Tribune, 16 February 1876, p.8
  • Sergt. McCurry and Plumb,* of Fort Rice Minstrel fame, are in town, making preliminary preparations for an entertainment next Monday or Wednesday night. They will perform at Rice tomorrow night
  • (*) Private Alonzo Plumb was described by Ewert as “right field, the funnyman,” don’t profess to play base ball, but thinks he can keep the “nine” in a good humorous vein, thus in good working condition. He is from Ohio, catches pretty fair, is ambitious, but says himself that baseball is not “his forte,” but is on hand when “the laugh comes in.”  He was discharged 3 April 1876, at Fort Rice. He later served in the 1st and 10th U.S. Infantry, and discharged on disability in Washington, D.C. on 13 February 1891.  Sadly, Plumb died, age 43, in an asylum for the insane on 1 March 1893 and buried in Saint Elizabeths Hospital East Cemetery, Washington, D.C., where a small military-style headstone marks the spot.
  • Bismarck Weekly Tribune, 12 June 1876, p. 3.
  • “Sergt. McLaughlin was in the city from Fort Rice Saturday. He says the Minstrels took in $150 at their last entertainment. The programme was acted to perfection. Lowenstein’s Garden, by McCurry and Plumb could not have been excelled in any country. They will appear at Bismarck in a few days.”
  • Due to one member being killed and several wounded, including Joseph McCurry, the Benteen Base Ball Club never played another game after the Battle of the Little Big Horn.
  • McCurry has been suspected as the author of the Reno petition, because of the perceived similarity of his handwriting with that of several of the alleged signatures, although the evidence is far from conclusive.
  • Military Register, 2009, Williams, p.200, tells us that on 2 October 1876 McCurry reverted to 1st sergeant from sergeant major “for [his] own reasons.” He was discharged by expiration of service 22 January 1877, at Fort Rice, as a 1st sergeant of excellent character.
  • Originally promoted by Kenneth Hammer, and perpetuated by subsequent authors, McCurry did NOT live at 4820 Oliver Street, Philadelphia, but [according to the United States Census, 1880] he WAS a boarder in the home of Harry Stafford, 1946 North 10th Street, Philadelphia, and described as  working in a carriage factory. He died, unmarried, of phthisis pulmonalis (TB) on 20 August 1883 in Philadelphia – address given as 1946 North 10th Street – and buried three days later in the city’s Cathedral Cemetery (Pennsylvania, Philadelphia City Death Certificates, 1803-1915).  The plot number is not known.
  • McCurry’s age is shown as 27 in the census and 30 in the Register of Deaths and it seems likely to this writer that he may well have increased his age by two or possibly three years at enlistment to meet the minimum age requirement, i.e. 21. Writing in 1876, Theodore Ewert gives McCurry’s age as 23, which supports he was born in 1853 and NOT 1850 as is published in three of the four books featured above.

  • Obituary – Theodore Ewert – 27 November 1906 (11 March 1847-27 November 1906)
  • Colonel Theodore Ewert, who served in the civil war and later in the regular army, and who was for twenty years connected with the Illinois National guard, died Wednesday morning at the Illinois Soldiers’ and Sailors’ Home at Quincy, of which he had been an inmate since last spring. The funeral will take place at the cemetery of the home this afternoon, and the interment will be at the cemetery of the home. The services will be under the auspices of the Grand Army of the Republic. Colonel Ewert died as the result of a general breaking down of his mental faculties and the system in general. He was 64 years old.Colonel Ewert was a native of Prussia, but came to this country when a youth. On Aug. 9, 1861, he enlisted in Thielman’s cavalry, and re-enlisted Feb. 14, 1864. He was commissioned second lieutenant of the Twelfth United States colored heavy artillery on July 9, 1864, and was mustered out April 11, 1865, at the end of the war. Jan. 24, 1867, he enlisted in company H of the Thirty-sixth United States infantry and was discharged as corporal Jan. 24, 1869. He again enlisted, this time in the seventh United States cavalry, April 1, 1871, and was discharged as sergeant April 10, 1876. April 15, 1878, he enlisted in the Fifth United States artillery, and was discharged as sergeant major April 14, 1883.
  • Colonel Ewert on his discharge from the army in 1883, came to Springfield and was appointed a clerk in the office of the adjutant general. Aug. 30, 1883, he was commissioned captain of Troop C, First cavalry, Illinois National Guard. He resigned Oct. 10, 1884, to accept the position of captain and adjutant of the Eighth Infantry, I. N. G., being commissioned as such Oct. 18, 1883, to rank from April 30, 1883.
  • March 15, 1885, he was commissioned as acting assistant adjutant general and on July 1, 1885, as assistant adjutant general with rank of colonel, serving until his successor was appointed in June, 1889. Dec. 30, 1889, he was commissioned as captain of Company C, Fifth Infantry, resigning May 16, 1890. May 4, 1891, he was appointed assistant adjutant general of the Second brigade, with the rank of lieutenant colonel. He resigned this position Oct. 4, 1892. All this time he was connected with the adjutant general’s office, remaining there until the accession of General Alfred Orendorff as adjutant general in the spring of 1893. He was commissioned Captain and adjutant of the Fifth Infantry, July 14, 1896, holding the position until April 19, 1902, when he was appointed assistant adjutant general, holding that position until General Scott was appointed adjutant general in 1905, when he became custodian of the state arsenal. When his health failed last spring, he was sent to the Illinois Soldiers’ and Sailors’ Home at Quincy.
  • Colonel Ewert was twice married. His first wife died several years ago, and he married Miss Nellie Bell, daughter of Colonel John C. Bell of this city, who survives him, together with one son, Frederick Ewert, now residing in Chicago and one daughter, Miss Etelka Ewert, both children by his first wife. Colonel Ewert was a member of the G. A. R. and of the Modern Woodmen of America. Pub. in the Illinois State Register, Springfield, IL 12-4-1906

2. First Lieutenant Donald McIntosh, Company G

'Men With Custer - Biographies of the 7th Cavalry', Edited by Ronald H. Nichols with Daniel I. Bird, CBHMA Inc., 2010, p. 264.

  • Date and place of birth: It is widely stated that Donald McIntosh was born 4 September 1838 at Jasper House, Montreal, Quebec, Canada. Other references suggest it could have been at anytime from 1835 to 1840. In Lives Lived West of the Divide: A Biographical Dictionary of Fur Traders Working West of the Rockies, 1793-1858 (2013), Bruce McIntyre Watson says that Donald McIntosh was born in 1836, with a question mark! I think it is safe to say that he was NOT born in Montreal and possibly not even at Jasper’s House in present-day Alberta, but as no written record of his birth has been found the precise date and place must remain uncertain.
  • Heritage: Donald’s parents were John (not James) McIntosh and Charlotte Robertson (not Robinson).  He was almost certainly NOT “of the same Scotch family” as Sir James McIntosh, NEITHER, I believe, was his mother, daughter of Scots-born Colin Robertson, a Chief Factor with the Hudson’s Bay Company (HBC) and Theresa Chilafoux,, a direct descendant of Red Jacket.  In the HBC records John McIntosh is styled a ‘Clerk in charge’, not a ‘Factor’.
  • Church records:  ‘Catholic Church Records of the Pacific Northwest. Oregon City’ (1984) – baptisms on 18 Sept. 1842 of Donald, aged 6, and John, aged 3, sons of legitimate marriage of John McIntosh and Charlotte Robertson (godmother was Betsy McIntosh); ‘Vancouver’. Volumes I and II (1972) – baptisms on 13 June 1845 of Jacobus [James], legitimate son of Jean McIntosh and Charlotte Robertson, born Oct. 23, 1843.
  • The Catholic Church Records of St. James Church, Vancouver, now in Washington state – show that on 4 June 1848 Charlotte and three of her children, including Donald were confirmed.
  • Death of father: John McIntosh was shot dead by a “Sickanie Indian” at McLeod Lake, present-day British Columbia, on 8 July 1844 when Donald might  have been as young as four or as old as eight, but not fourteen!
  • Headstone: Donald McIntosh’s headstone in Arlington National Cemetery is inscribed ‘Aged 36’ (see above), not 37 as the 1838 year of birth would suggest, which only adds to muddy the water.

Looking towards the site of the second Jasper House across the Athabasca River.

  • Additional Notes:
  • John McIntosh (1803-1844)
  • 1836-1842 Clerk in charge Connolly’s Lake New Caledonia
  • 1842-1844 Clerk in charge Babines New Caledonia
  • 1844 Clerk in charge McLeod Lake New Caledonia
  • 1844, 8 July “…shot Dead by a Sickanie Indian”
  • Fur Trade Family History: John McIntosh, HBC
  • According to his biography at HBCA, John McIntosh was born about 1803.
    His father, Donald McIntosh, worked for the North West Company, and at its amalgamation with the HBC in 1821, was made Chief Trader.
    Governor George Simpson did not have a good opinion of Chief Trader Donald McIntosh, considering him “qualified to cheat an Indian…. but perfectly Sober and honest.” (Source: HBCA bio sheet and Simpson’s ‘Character Book.’)
    John McIntosh’s mother was a Mohawk woman; no fur trader at that time had an English wife.
    John began his career as a clerk in 1821 at Fort William (Thunder Bay, Ont.), and was clerk-in-charge at various posts in the Lake Superior District and at Lac La Pluie (Rainy Lake) between 1827 and 1835.
    By the time McIntosh met Alexander Anderson at Jasper’s House in October 1835, he had a very good opinion of himself.
    He was a senior clerk, having clerked in the HBC for fourteen years; he was also the son of a Chief Trader.
    In 1835, John McIntosh was about thirty-two years old; Anderson was twenty-one.
    Certainly McIntosh considered himself must more important than any of the other men who worked the 1835 Leather party that Anderson commanded.Anderson’s party had reached Jasper’s House ten days before the Columbia express and the passengers for the Leather party reached the post.
  • Anderson picked up sixty packs of leather and five adult passengers, along with McIntosh’s wife and children.
    Eleven days later the party reached the banks of the Fraser River, but was already short of provisions.
    Winter came early with freezing temperatures, and Anderson’s canoes froze into the ice of the Fraser River near modern-day McBride, B.C.
    They were in serious straits, almost out of food and hundreds of miles from any New Caledonia post.
    Twenty-two people, including McIntosh’s three small children (Catherine, Archibald and Donald?), walked through the snow toward the safety of Jasper’s House, on the east side of the Rocky Mountains.
    “After a few days our provisions were entirely exhausted,” Anderson wrote. “We expected ….to go to bed supperless, …..but no sooner had the illumination of our newly lit fire spread through the valley, when a neighing was heard, and a fine fat unbroken horse…galloped fearlessly into camp…”
    They slaughtered the horse and its meat fed them a few more days.
    From hand to mouth they at length reached Jasper’s House, two weeks after turning back.
    As there were no provisions to spare at Jasper’s, they continued their retreat to Edmonton House, at modern-day Edmonton, Alberta.
  • Anderson returned to New Caledonia by dog-sled, but McIntosh remained at Edmonton House.In the spring he was dispatched to hunt for meat with a few other men.
    They discovered a party of Assiniboine hunters prowling around their horses.
    The Assiniboines were noted horse thieves.
    The men captured eight Natives and brought them into their camp, where they held a mock court-martial and executed them on the spot.
    Anderson wrote that the news of this atrocity caused “a thrill of shame and indignation throughout the country.”
    When the incoming New Caledonia brigade carrying Betsy Birnie arrived at Fort Alexandria, the clerk noticed that “Mr. Anderson arrives he is cordially rec. by Mr. Ogden with the shake of the hands to both Mr. Ogden & myself but no shake of the Hands to Mr. John McIntosh who was standing by us.” (Fort Alexandria post Journals 1837-1839, B.5/a/4, fo. 5b, HBCA)
  • At that time McIntosh was in charge of the difficult Chilcotin post, but in later years he was at McLeod Lake post.
    In July 1844 he was “shot Dead by a Sickanie Indian” and his body disappeared beneath the waters of the lake.
    The HBC men suspected that his death was in retribution for his role in the murder of the party of Assiniboine men years earlier.
  • Perhaps the most interesting part of this story is what happened to one of his children.
    Some of the older boys joined the fur trade and worked at Fort Vancouver.
    But Donald returned to Montreal with his mother [Is this correct?], and later joined the U.S. Cavalry on frontier duty.
    In 1876 Donald McIntosh was part of the first assault when General Custer recklessly led the Seventh Cavalry into the Battle of Little Big Horn against Chief Sitting Bull and his thousands of native warriors.
    Lieutenant Donald McIntosh rode in the first charge, and went down when his horse was killed by an arrow in the head.
    He grabbed a stray cavalry horse but was wrestled from the saddle and clubbed to death.
    Fifteen Canadians were in Custer’s Army, but McIntosh was the first of the Canadian members to be killed.
    The source of this latter information is from an article in Beaver Magazine, Summer 1976, Custer and the Canadian Connections, by C. Frank Turner.

Fort Vancouver, 1850.

  • Additional Notes (Cont’d):
  • James Lowe’s journal entry for June 12, 1845, records the arrival of the interior brigade with the “family of the deceased Mr. McIntosh” who were “brought down to be left here.” Thereby hangs a tale. John McIntosh, a part-Indian clerk who was described as “boastful and tactless,” had long served in New Caledonia. On July 8, 1844, he was shot to death by a Sekanis Indian while tending his fish nets at McLeod’s Lake during a time of famine. His wife, Charlotte Robertson, made secure both the fort and the Company’s property, including the furs, before abandoning the place with her family and the only other male employee. The reason for her being taken to Fort Vancouver is not stated in records thus far examined, but evidently the Company felt an obligation to provide for her. Her children in June 1845 were: Catherine (Kitty), ca. 14 years; Archibald, age unknown; Donald, ca. 10 years; Elizabeth, age unknown; John, Jr., ca. 5 years; James aged 1 year, 7 months; and Julia, age unknown. In addition, there was Marie, ca. 2-1/2 years, the natural daughter of John McIntosh by Nancy, a woman of the Carrier tribe. Mrs. McIntosh was still at Fort Vancouver with several children in 1850. At that time she seems to have been living inside the fort, and perhaps had done so since 1845. At least two of the sons [Archibald and Donald) later entered the [HBC] Company’s service.
  • John F Noble (ca.1828- ?)
  • According to the Catholic church records, in early February of 1852 Catherine (Kitty) McIntosh gave birth to a daughter; on May 6 Julia Catherine Noble was baptized and Kitty McIntosh was buried. Her daughter followed her to the grave in August of 1852. (Warner and Munnick, Vancouver, H, passim.)  John Noble was a military commissary clerk at Columbia Barracks (Fort Vancouver) under Brevet Captain Ulysses S. Grant and later Captain Rufus Ingalls. Noble served in the First Oregon Cavalry during the Civil War. Archives West: John F. Noble papers, 1849-1950
  • John F. Noble was an Indian agent, stock rancher, and U.S. Army officer who lived in Oregon and Washington State. He came overland in 1849 from Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, as a civilian traveling with the U.S. Mounted Rifle Regiment. He was married to Catherine McIntosh at Fort Vancouver in 1851, and engaged in a stock raising enterprise near The Dalles, Oregon, with Louis Scholl.
  • 10 August 1857, Charlotte Robertson McIntosh (Donald’s mother) dies at Fort Vancouver.
  • For a resume of Donald McIntosh’s army career, see ‘Nichols above.

First Lieutenant Donald McIntosh. Inscription on the headstone of Donald McIntosh and his wife, Mary "Mollie" Garrett, in Arlington National Cemetery, Section 1, Grave 107D (right).

3. Private Garrett H. Van Allen (real name Gerrit Houghtaling Niver), Company C

'Men With Custer - Biographies of the 7th Cavalry', Edited by Ronald H. Nichols with Daniel I. Bird, CBHMA Inc., 2010, p. 400.

The Niver-Eddy mausoleum, Elmwood Cemetery, Bethlehem, New York. The mortal remains of Gerrit's parents, David M Niver and Phoebe C. Houghtaling Niver, are deposited here.

Elmwood Cemetery, Bethlehem, Albany County, New York. The inscription reads: GERRIT H. NIVER - Killed in the Custer massacre on the Little Big Horn Dakota June 25 1876 Aged 30 years 4 mo. 25 days.

  • Place & Date of Birth: Born 1 February 1846 (the indexes says 1843!), in Bethlehem, Albany County, New York and baptised Gerrit Houghtaling Niver on 1 May 1846 in the First Reformed Church, Bethlehem. Several censuses support 1846 as the year of his birth.
  • Heritage: Gerrit’s parents were David M. Niver (1819-1906), a farmer, and Phoebe C. Houghtaling Niver (1819-1903).  His mother was never was a “Van Allen”!
  • Enlistment: He was enlisted in the U.S. Army in New York City on 2 October 1873, by Lt. Edward Hunter, 12th Infantry, in the name of Garrett H. Van Allen, when he gave New Brunswick, New Jersey, as his place of birth. His occupation is given as ‘Farmer’, most likely simply meaning he only “worked on a farm.”  Interestingly, he is recorded as a “Clerk on Steam Boat,” in the Federal Census, 1870. No explanation has been found to why Gerrit Niver said his surname was ‘Van Allen’, which he ‘borrowed’ from his brother-in-law, Richard Van Allen, who had married his sister, Anna, in December 1869.
  • Army Records: Williams was incorrect to list him as Private Garrett H. Niver as no-one of that name ever enlisted in the U.S. Army, whereas others placed too much faith in Hammer’s erroneous assumption that ‘Niver’ was the surname of his mother’s second husband – the good lady only had one husband, David Niver, Gerrit’s father. They were married on 26 October 1843 at the First Reformed Church, Bethlehem.
  • Army Pension: His mother’s application for an army pension, dated 18 April 1892 (No. 548,585), was rejected on the grounds that her husband owned property which provided comfortable support and she was not dependent as contemplated by law.  See below.

4. Private James Thomas (real name Thomas James Stowers), Company B

'Men With Custer - Biographies of the 7th Cavalry', Edited by Ronald H. Nichols with Daniel I. Bird, CBHMA Inc., 2010, p. 392.

  • Place of Birth: Thomas James Stowers, who enlisted under the name of James Thomas, was born in Nashville, Tennessee, not ‘Bucks’ County, Pennsylvania, which most likely is a miss-reading of ‘Burk’ [Berks?] County, PA,  as appears in the U.S. Army, Registers of Enlistments.
  • Heritage: His parents, William Stowers, a nightwatchman/labourer, from Tennessee, and Emily Parrish from Virginia, were married in Sumner County, TN, on 31 January 1838. Thomas, their third child, had at least three brothers and two sisters. Emily Parrish Stowers died 11 July 1886.
  • Civil War Regiment: He was mustered into Company D, 199th Pennsylvania Volunteer Infantry (not the 119th) on 3 September 1864 under his real name and mustered out on 28 June 1865.
  • Army Records: Only Nichols correctly shows him enlisting as Private James Thomas on 1 December 1874.
  • Death: Thomas Stowers died on 25 July 1933 in Baxter, Tennessee (Williams says it was the 26th – the date of his funeral) and buried in the Odd Fellows Cemetery there. It is true that he did survive the Battle of Little Big Horn, being firstly with the pack train and later in the siege on Reno Hill, but was neither the sole nor the last survivor.

Headstone of Thomas James Stowers, Odd Fellows Cemetery, Baxter, Tennessee.

Thomas Stowers in later life. Photograph courtesy of the late Michael Nunnally.

5. Private Ernest Wasmus, Company K

'Men With Custer - Biographies of the 7th Cavalry', Edited by Ronald H. Nichols with Daniel I. Bird, CBHMA Inc., 2010, p. 414.

  • Jemima “Jennie” Beulah Cornell, the future Mrs Ernest Wasmus, was born in May 1854, in Ontario, Canada, daughter of David Cornell (Canada) and Margaret Jane Harvey Cornell (Ireland).
  • Federal Census 4 June 1880 – Port Huron, St. Clair County, Michigan
  • Mary Cornell, 46, Keeping House, with five boarders.
  • Children: Jemima, 26, School Teacher; Meta, 22, Dressmaker; Allen, 19. Machinist’s Apprentice; Maud, 13, and niece, Kate McGraw, Dressmaker – all born Ontario, Canada.
  • Marriage: Ernest Wasmus and Beulah Cornell, 13 November 1886 at St. Paul, Ramsey County, Minnesota.
  • St. Paul Daily Globe, 14 November 1886
  • Mr. Ernest Wasmus, chief clerk of the adjutant general’s office at Fort Snelling, and Miss Cornell, were married Friday. An elegant silver tea service was presented to the happy couple by Mr. Wasmus’ brother clerks.
  • St. Paul Daily Globe, 12 April 1890
    Unaccountable Disappearance of  Ernest Wasmus of 299 Pleasant Avenue
    In a cosy little home at 299 Pleasant avenue, a young mother, tearful and tremulous, and a prattling babe, are awaiting the return of the husband and father, Ernest Wasmus, who has mysteriously disappeared. The mother, with intervals of tears, hopes he may yet return all right, and the child is scarce old enough to do aught than
    vaguely wonder why it does not daily receive the caresses of its father. Wasmus is chief clerk of the adjutant general’s office, at the war building. On the first day of the month he left his home as usual, and so far as can be ascertained, no one has since set eyes upon him. A Globe reporter called upon Maj. Barber, acting adjutant general, yesterday afternoon, but that official could give us insight into
    the cause of the disappearance. “Wasmus is a capable, efficient clerk,” he said, “and his place will be held open for him a reasonable time. I hope he may return and resume his duties as usual.” Last evening Mrs. Wasmus answered the ring of the Globe envoy at her front door. She was very much agitated and evidences the suffering she has undergone. Her knowledge includes nothing that would account for the absence of her husband, other than that he had complained of pains in his head, nervous headaches, and other evidences of mental trouble. It is possible, then, that in a temporary aberration of mind he wandered away and may return. Maj. Barber thought possibly a slight mental derangement was at the bottom of the case.*
    About this city it was learned that Wasmus had a few debts, most of them being of the nature of outstanding paper upon which he had secured indorsements (sic). Lieut. Budy, of the mounted patrol, had indorsed for him, and Lieut. Cole, of the subsistence department, had also accommodated him in the same way. The amounts in these cases were very small, and would not, of themselves, account for the flight of Wasmus. It is possible that there are other accounts of a larger sum, and that his indebtedness preyed upon the mind of the missing man, in connection
    with nervousness growing out of over work. But whatever may be the cause, his friends are a unit in expressing the hope that Wasmus may return at once.
    Ernest Wasmus was a sergeant of K troop, Seventh cavalry, until 1883. In that year he came to St. Paul to a rifle contest, and through the influence of Capt. Davis was exchanged into the general service here. Upon receiving his present position he married Miss Cornell, of St. Paul, and has since resided here.
  • Note (*): In addition to insanity, other possible PTSD symptoms emerge from the Seventh Cavalry medical records. They include Little Bighorn survivor, Private Ernest Wasmus, who experienced insomnia when he was about to engage the Nez Perces a year after the battle. Among the more than 20,000 medical records, only one other case of insomnia occurred. Source: Health of the Seventh Cavalry: A Medical History, edited by P. Willey and Douglas D. Scott, 2015.
  • St. Paul Daily Globe, 12 November 1890
  • Mrs. K. Wasmus, teacher of Fourth grade, Madison school, to date from Oct.13, at schedule salary.

Historic Fort Snelling entrance.

  • St. Paul Daily Globe, 9 November 1899
  • Mrs J. Beulah Wasmus files an application with Gen. Lambert
  • Nearly Ten Years ago Her Husband, then a Member of the Seventh Cavalry, but Serving In Department Headquarters Left His Office and has Never Been Seen Since— An Old Story
  • An application was filed with Adjt. Gen. Lambert for a widow’s pension by Mrs.J. Beulah Waumus yesterday afternoon.* The application calls to mind the mysterious disappearance of Ernest Wasmus, who was for a number of years a clerk In the adjutant general’s office of the department of Dakota. One day he complained of a violent headache, put on his coat and hat, left the office and has never been seen since. Many different surmises were made as to the manner of his death, If he were dead, but his disappearance is a as much shrouded in mystery today as it was on the day he was missed by his family. Wasmus disappeared March 30, 1890, leaving his wife with three small children to support.** Mrs. Wasmus went bravely to work, securing a position as teacher in the Madison school and educating her children to the best of her means.  Max Ernest Wasmus, her husband, was originally sergeant In Company K, of the Seventh cavalry, and resigned as sergeant to take a detached position In the adjutant general’s office. Accompanying Mrs. Wasmus’ application are affidavits from the colonel of the Seventh cavalry and others as to Wasmus’ record and as to the disability that he had incurred at the time of his disappearance.
  • It was stated at the time that the domestic relations of the Wasmus family were all that could be desired, and that, in the absence of any cause for suicide, the affair was a most unaccountable one to the friends -of the family. Wasmus had, however; incurred some disability since his enlistment In the army in 1874, and was subject to violent headaches. Mrs. Wasmus is still teaching at the Madison school and lives in the Argyle apartment house.
  • Notes:
  • (*) This application for a pension was not successful but a second application filed on 7 March 1923 was approved.
  • (**) At the time of his disappearance there was only one child to support, Margaret Alwaine, born 18 August 1887.  However, his wife was five months pregnant with a son whom she named Ernest Louis, born 6 August 1890. Beulah Wasmus never remarried and lived for a further fifty-six years.
  • St. Paul Daily Globe, 25 February 1900
  • He Started in 1890 and Has Not Yet Returned
  • Judge Bazille yesterday in probate court appointed Mrs. Jennie Wasmus, the widow, as administratrix of the estate of Ernest Wasmus. The appointment recalls, an interesting story. Wasmus was for a considerable time chief clerk at the army building. March 31, 1890, he went out for lunch and has never been heard from since, although every agency was employed. He left two minor children, besides the widow, and an estate, consisting principally of $2,000 in life insurance.

Judge of Probate Edmund W. Bazille (c.1855-1922) in his office in the courthouse, St. Paul, Minnesota, 1900.

  • Federal Census 13 June 1900 – St. Peter Street, St. Paul, Minnesota
  • Beulah J. Wasmus, 40, a Widow, Teacher, born Canada East. Children: Margaret A., 12 and  Ernest L., 9 – both born in Minnesota and both at school.
  • Minnesota State Census 3 June 1905 – 561 Laurel Avenue, St. Paul.
  • Beulah Wasmus, 50, Housewife. Children: Margaret, 17 and Louis, 14. Frank Bussell, 26, School Teacher, born Illinois.

561 Laurel Avenue, St. Paul, Minnesota. Beulah Wasmus and family lived here.

  • Death: Beulah J. Cornell Wasmus, 25 July 1946, St. Paul, Minnesota. Her place of burial is not known to this writer

6. Corporal Daniel Nealon, Company H.

'Men With Custer - Biographies of the 7th Cavalry', Edited by Ronald H. Nichols with Daniel I. Bird, CBHMA Inc., 2010, p. 294.

Guest register for the Gilt Edge Hotel, Gilt Edge, Montana, 16 January 1898 - note Dan Nealon's signature.

  • Daily Enterprise, 20 October 1884 – Livingston, Montana.
  • The List of Letters Advertised at Livingston waiting for collection included the name of Daniel Nealon.
  • Federal Census (1900) – Gilt Edge, Maiden, Fergus County, Montana.
  • Daniel Nealon, a Quartz Miner, lodging with Thomas L. Burke, b. Rhode Island, October 1850, parents born in Rhode Island and New York.
  • Fergus County Democrat, 22 August 1900.
  • Daniel Nealon was the delegate for Maiden, Fergus County, at the Republican Convention.

Looking southeast on Main Street, Gilt Edge, circa 1905.

  • Federal Census (1910) – School District 23, Fergus County, Montana.
  • Daniel Nealon, a Farmer, single, age 60, both parents born in Ireland.
  • Fergus County Democrat, 20 April 1916
    While sitting in a chair at the Midway saloon yesterday morning, Daniel Nealon, generally known as “Cracker Box Dan,* fell over to the floor dead. Heart failure was the cause of death. Mr. Nealon was a widely known old timer and for many years was located at Maiden. He was a native of Rhode Island and came to Montana first forty-three years ago. He served with distinction in the  army during several Indian campaigns, having fought under General Miles and Custer. He was a man whose word was always respected and was known far and wide as a brave, upright, industrious citizen. He went to Maiden soon after leaving the army and worked in the Spotted Horse for Mr. McAdoo for several years and also worked in the Maginnis mine. He was 69 (sic) years of age. While little is known as to his family he had many friends among the old timers and they are interesting themselves in seeing that his is given a proper burial
    The arrangements for the funeral  have not yet been completed.
  • Fergus County Democrat, 27 April 1916
    The funeral of  the late Daniel Nealon, the widely known pioneer and ex-solider (sic), was held from the Cotholic (sic) church at 2 Saturday afternoon. A number of old timers, friends and associates of the  decedent, had charge of the arrangements.
    An  effort has been made to find Mr. Nealon’s discharge papers and other paper but they have not as yet been located. Any person having knowledge  as to where Mr. Neulon kept his papers is requested to communicate the information to the Democrat.
  • Fergus County Democrat, 29 June 1916
  • George R Creel, Undertaker, paid $100 for Daniel Nealon’s burial.
  • (*) According to Private John Burkman, Company L, papers, Nealon was known as “Cracker Box Dan” because he kept hid behind a cracker-box on Reno Hill. Source: Military Register (Williams), p.23
  • Participants (Wagner), p.72 reads: “Possibly illiterate, though this is hard to believe for a corporal [sergeant effective from 1 September 1876]”. Wagner is right to query this as two Federal censuses (1900 and 1910) show that Nealon could both read and write (also, see signature above).
  • Daniel Nealon never married. He was buried in Calvary Cemetery, Lewistown, Fergus County (no headstone). His date of birth and heritage remain uncertain.

7. Wagoner Albert Whytefield (real name Albert Schenke) Company K

'Men With Custer - Biographies of the 7th Cavalry', Edited by Ronald H. Nichols with Daniel I. Bird, CBHMA Inc., 2010, p. 425.

  1. Albert Schenke, alias Whytefield and Whitefield – A Timeline
  3. c.1845 – Born Prussia (Germany), not Sandusky, Ohio, son of Henry and Elmira Schenke.
  4. c.1856 – Arrives in the United States with both parents and a sister, Johanna (born c.1854).
  5. 1860 – 8 June Federal Census for Sandusky, Erie County, Ohio – Henry Schenke, 39, Painter, born Bavaria; Elmira, 48, wife, born Russia. Children: Albert, 15, born Prussia; Johanna, 6, born Prussia.
  6. 1863 – 19 October enlists  under the name ‘Schenck’ in 12th Ohio Volunteer Cavalry and assigned to Company I.
  7. 1865 – 19 July mustered out of 12th Ohio Volunteer Cavalry, Sweet Water, Tennessee.
  8. 1866 – 11 September enlists in U.S. Army, using the alias “Whytefield” (said to be illiterate, which he may have been in English) in Detroit, Michigan, for five years. Age given as 20, a painter, with blue eyes, light hair, a fair complexion, 5’ 4 1/2” in height. Assigned to 7th Cavalry, Company K, which he joined at Fort Riley, Kansas, in October. On extra duty as a teamster in December.
  9. 1867 – 20 May deserted from a camp near Fort Hays, Kansas.
  10. 1873 – 7 July arrested at Sandusky. In confinement in Newport Barracks, Kentucky to 11 August when transferred under guard to Fort Lincoln, Dakota Territory.
  11. 1874 – 4 February transferred to Company K at Fort Rice, Dakota Territory, in confinement.  1 May sentenced by a general court martial to three years confinement, then dishonourable discharge. 20 June restored to duty (authorised by ‘General’ Custer) to accompany the Black Hills Expedition. 14 October unexpired portion of sentence remitted. November and December extra duty with QMD and on 1 December appointed company wagoner.
  12.  1876 – 15 June detached service at Powder River Depot thereby did not take part in the Battle of the Little Bighorn.  11 August detached service at mouth of Rosebud Creek. 12 – 28 September detached duty with QMD with 281 cavalry horses at Fort Lincoln. October dismounted teamster with QMD.
  13. 1877 – 23 June discharged at camp on Sunday Creek, “a wagoner of excellent character.”
  14. 1880 – Federal Census for 1515 Madison Street, Sandusky, Erie County, Ohio – Rochus Link, 33, a grocer, born Baden (Germany); Anna, wife, 29, born Maryland [the future Mrs Albert Whitefield], and cyhildren: Anthony, 9; Mary, 8; Oliver, 5; George, 1 – all born Ohio.
  15. c.1882 – Rochus Link dies – no details.  Albert marries his widow, Anna Zellers.
  16. 1884 – Son, Albert Whitefield, born 20 June 1884 in Sandusky.
  17. 1885 – Daughter, Nora Whitefield, born 11 December in Sandusky.
  18. 1886 – 12 April U.S. Army Invalid Pension granted.g556                  
  19. 1894 – Michigan State Census Kalamazoo, Michigan – Albert Whitefield, age 46,  Teamster; Anna, 44, wife. Children: Albert, 10; Nora, 8 (and three stepchildren but excl. Anthony).
  20. 1895 – Albert, Snr, a teamster, and family living at 1125 North Park, Kalamazoo. 

Main Street, Kalamazoo, Michigan, ca.1899.

  • 1899 – 20 July one-year-old son,Willie, dies.
  • 1899 – Albert, Snr, dies in early November and buried in Mount Olivet Cemetery, Kalamazoo on 9 November. A Civil War style headstone shows his adopted surname incorrectly spelled as “Whitfield.” 

(Above) Memorial stone of Anna Zellers Whitefield. (Left) Military-style headstone to her husband, Albert Whitfield (sic) - real surname Schenke, Mount Olivet Cemetery, Kalamazoo, Michigan.

  • 1899 – 17 November Anna Whitefield applies for a U.S. Army widow’s pension, which was granted.
  • 1900 – 13 June Anna Whitefield and her six children living at 1010 South Church Street, Kalamazoo. It is likely that Albert died there.
  • 1905 – Anna Zellers Whitefield living with her son, George, at 508 West Willard, Kalamazoo. 
  • 1909 – Leona (Nora) Whitefield marries Nelson Gerow, age 22, in Kalamazoo, on 27 February.
  • 1918 – 21 June Anna Zellers Whitefield dies of ‘General Debility’, aged 69 years and 23 days. Buried in Mount Olivet Cemetery, Kalamazoo.

& The Small Print

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