Allan, Fred E.

Place of Birth: Melton

Date of enlistment: 3 October 1873

Age given at enlistment: 25

Rank: Private

Company: C

Location on 25 June 1876: With Custer's Column



Real name Alfred Ernest Allen

A Watchmaker from Leicestershire

  • Alfred Ernest Allen, the third child1 of Silas Allen, a saddler, and Mary nee Chester, was born on 14 August 1847 in Chapel Street, Melton Mowbray, which is located 15 miles northeast of the county town of Leicester in the heart of the East Midlands of England. This ancient market town, world famous for its pork pies and Stilton cheese, dates back over 1,000 years.

An unsubstantiated image of Walter Brett Allen [left] and his father, Silas Allen, ca. 1860.

  • The Leicester Journal, 8 December 1854, covering the Melton Mowbray Petty Sessions held three days earlier, reported that “Leonard Posnett, of Melton, was fined 1s. and costs for assaulting a little lad named Alfred Ernest Allen.”  What, if anything, had a seven-year-old boy done to have provoked such a despicable action?”
  • On the death of his father, Richard Allen, in 1857, Silas took over the saddler and harness making business and moved to the nearby 23 King Street. The 1861 Census shows 43-year-old Silas, a master saddler, still living at the same address with his wife, Mary, aged 41, and 13-year-old Alfred, who was apprenticed to a watchmaker.  [William] Charles had died in Canton, China, on 29 December 1858, Walter was seeking his fortune in the Antipodes, and George had disappeared from the historical record. 
  • Sometime before the 2 April 18712 Alfred crossed the Atlantic and settled, at least temporarily, in Saint John, New Brunswick. A fellow occupant in the same house was Mary Fletcher, née Hamilton, the widow of George L. Fletcher, who had died three years earlier, and mother of at least four young children.2 Alfred and Mary were married in New Brunswick on the 29 July 1872 by the Rev. W.S. McKenzie, and the following year, if slightly prematurely, a son, Harry F. was born on the 20 March 1873, south of the border in Bangor, Maine.
  • A little over six months later, on 3 October, Alfred was enlisted in the U.S. Army by Lt. James Ropes, at Boston, Massachusetts, under the name of ‘Fred E. Allan.’ He was described as having brown eyes, black hair, and a dark complexion, standing 5′ 8 1/8″ tall, age 25, born ‘Melton, England,’ previous occupation ‘Watchmaker.’4 The fact that he did not disclose he was married strongly suggests that Alfred deserted his wife and six-month-old child. He was destined never to see them again.
  • From Boston Alfred Allen was sent to the St. Louis Depot, Missouri, and assigned to Company C, 7th U.S. Cavalry, which he joined at Fort Rice, Dakota Territory on the 21 October 1873. He participated in the Black Hills Expedition in 1874; was engaged on extra duty in the Subsistence Department from September 1874 to October 1875; and again from 5 January to 13 May 1876, just four days before the whole regiment marched west from Fort Abraham Lincoln on its way to confront the hostile Sioux who had ignored an ultimatum to report to a designated reservation on or before the 31 January that year.
  • Details of the Battle of the Little Big Horn on 25-26 June 1876 are far too well known to repeated here but it’s suffice to say that he served with his company as part of [Brevet Major General] Lieutenant Colonel George Armstrong Custer’s 5-company column on the first day of the battle when all 209 men under Custer’s direct command were killed by an overwhelming force of Sioux and Cheyenne Indians. A further 58 men were killed, or later died of their wounds, during the two-day battle that ensued.  

  • In common with the vast majority of enlisted men Alfred’s body was not identified but it is accepted that his mortal remains were finally laid to rest in a mass grave beneath the impressive Cavalry memorial that was erected on the summit of Last Stand Hill at the Custer [Little Bighorn since 1991] Battlefield National Monument in 1881 on which he is listed as F. E. ALLAN – 8th from the top of the left-hand column in the upper panel.


  • (Left) The Cavalry Monument, Little Bighorn Battlefield National Monument.
  • At the time of his death his was due from the United States: $8.36 in retained pay; $22.74 for uniform not drawn in kind; $6.50 which had been deposited with the Paymaster on 19 July the previous year; and around $24 in pay for the period 1 May-25 June 1876. On the debit side $1.14 was owed to the United States for tobacco drawn, and $2.00 to his company’s laundress, the splendidly named Mrs Missouri Ann Wycoff Bobo.
  • On 12 January 1877 the Stamford Mercury [Lincolnshire] printed the following notice – “[Deaths] – On the 25th June, killed by Sioux Indians at the fork of the Big Horn river, Dacotah Territory, Alfred Ernest youngest son of Mr. Silas Allen of Melton Mowbray, aged 29.” 
  • The sale his personal effects by public auction, on 15 July 1877, raised a further $10.20. This writer has found nothing to suggest that Allen’s net estate of c. $68.66 was ever paid to his widow or his parents back in England.
  • Another boarder who shared the house in Saint John, New Brunswick with Alfred and Mary in April 1871 was a 25-year-old Englishman, called Charles Allen, who wrote to the Adjutant General’s Office, Washington, D.C., on 24 January 1877 seeking information about the deceased soldier. A letter to Allen, dated 1 February 1877, reads: “In reply to your enquiry of Jany 24 1877, I have to furnish you the following information from the records of this office: Fred. E. Allan Pvt. Co. ‘C’ 7 Cav. was killed in action with the Sioux Indians June 25 1876. He was born in Melton, England aged 28 years and by occupation a Watchmaker. Orders of January [?] 31. 1877 Fort Totten D.T.5  The identity of the ‘mystery correspondent’ has not yet been established.

From the collection held in the Newarke Houses Museum, Leicester.

  • On 27 December 1991 the Leicester Mercury featured a story about Alfred Ernest Allen and published an image of a “mourning card” that was currently on display in the Market Harborough Museum. The mourning card, which was almost certainly sent to relatives and friends by the Allen family, contains precise information relating to his death at the Little Big Horn and the haunting Latin phrase “de mortuis nil nisi bonum,” meaning “Let nothing be said of the dead but what is good.” It prompts this writer to raise the following questions. 1. How did Silas and Mary Allen get to know the details of their son’s death? 2. Had Alfred fallen foul of the law or committed some other indiscretion before leaving England? 3. Were his parents aware that their son had deserted his wife and their infant grandson before enlisting in the U.S. Army? 4. What relationship, if any, did the Charles Allen in New Brunswick have with Alfred Allen’s branch of the family? Answers to all four questions are unlikely ever to be known.    
  • With at least two of his sons dead, another somewhere on the other side of world, and the fourth either dead or at least not in a position to carry on with the long-established saddler and harness making business, Silas Allen may well have suffered from depression and possible financial hardship as April 1881 finds both him and his wife listed among the inmates in the Leicester Union Workhouse, Sparkenhoe Street, Leicester.5
  • One might assume that the harsh conditions and social stigma were too much to bear for a previously proud and successful businessman like Silas Allen, who committed suicide “by cutting his throat when in a state temporary insanity” on 21 April 1881. He was 63 years of age. Ten days later an inquest was held into his death when Mary Allen stated that her husband “had been unwell since last May 1880, and frequently complained of his head.”  The fate of Mary Allen, Alfred Ernest’s mother is uncertain.
  • Nothing further transpired until 24 April 1889 when Mary Fletcher Allen, then living in 9 Drouet Terrace, Somerville, Boston, Massachusetts, signed a Declaration for Widow’s Pension before the Clerk of the Municipal Court of the City of Boston, who appointed J. B. Parsons, State Pension Agent. Mary stated that she married Alfred E. Allen on 29 July 1872 at Saint John, New Brunswick.6  Again, the fact that nearly 13 years had passed since Alfred Allen was killed at the Battle of the Little Big Horn adds credence to the speculation that he deserted Mary soon after the birth of their only child, if not before, and Mary had either not made the connection, or failed to prove, that ‘Fred E. Allan’ was indeed her late husband. 
  • However, that being said, on 20 May 1889 an application for a widow’s pension, No. 395708, was filed by Mr. Parsons and on 22 June in the Office of the Department of the Interior, a claim was filed and a request made that Mary Allen should produce evidence of her marriage to ‘Alfred or Fred E. Allan.’  An affidavit was duly signed by Mary in the Pension Department, Commonwealth of Massachusetts, 29 Pemberton Square, Boston, on 28 June 1889, and countersigned by George L. Fletcher and Don A. Starkweather7 as affiants. The affidavit stated “That the correct name of my husband was Alfred E. Allen. That the child Harry F. Allen who was born March 20th 1873 is still living and resides with me at my home in the City of Somerville County of Middlesex and State of Massachusetts.”  On 30 July 1889, Parsons, the State Pension Agent, wrote to the Commissioner of Pensions for Massachusetts that Mary Allen “has removed her residence to Moncton, N.B.”
  • The pension claim [now renumbered 258868], which was finally approved on 12 August 1889, granted Mary Allen a widow’s pension of $8 a month from 26 June 1876 and $12 a month from 19 March 1886. In addition, a sum of $2 per month be paid for Harry, from 26 June 1876 until 19 March 1889, i.e. when Harry reached his 16th birthday. All pensions to be back dated.8 
  • Sadly, Mary Allen did not live long to enjoy her new found wealth as on 23 December 1891 she died of dropsy and consumption, at a stated age of 54 years, 4 months and 20 days, at 28 Batavia Street, Boston.9  Her widow’s pension of  $12, under Certificate No, 258868, was last paid on 4 December 1891 and her name dropped from roll on 31 October 1893.

Approval of Mary Fletcher Allen's belated application for a widow and minor's pension dated 12 August 1889.

  • One unsubstantiated source claims that young Harry, who may have been a sickly child or more likely contracted tuberculosis from his mother, died unmarried in 1892, at the age of 19 years.
  • Mary Allen, formerly Fletcher, nee Hamilton – wife of Alfred Allen
  • Mary Hamilton, daughter of Cladius Hamilton and Elizabeth McConnell, both natives of Scotland, was born in Saint John, New Brunswick, mostly likely on 3 August 1838, and not 1837 as calculated from the information stated in the Register of Death for Boston. She married George L. Fletcher, originally from Maine, with consent of both parents on 25 June 1859.  The ceremony was conducted by the Rev. Samuel Robinson, Minister of the Brussels Street Church, Saint John and solemnized in the presence of Charlotte Hamilton and James Miller.10  George and Mary were to have at least four children; three daughters and a son. George died in 1868 but neither the exact date or place, nor the circumstances surrounding his death are known to this writer.
  • Alice Maud Fletcher – step-daughter of Alfred Allen


  • As stated above Mary Fletcher married Alfred Allen in 1872 and died in 1891 but the short life of her daughter, Alice Maud Fletcher, and her husband, Don (Downey) Arthur Starkweather, is well documented. Don will be remembered as one of the affiants that witnessed Mary Allen’s pension application affidavit in 1889.  Alice was born in Saint John, New Brunswick, on 24 January 1864, and married 23-year-old Don, at Somerville, Massachusetts, on 7 September 1887. At the time of the wedding Alice was employed as a telephone operator and her husband worked for a railroad company – most likely the Boston & Maine.

A dapper, young Don A. Starkweather (see note 11).

  • An only child, Harry Franklin, maybe named after Alice’s recently deceased step-brother and son of Alfred Allen, was born in Boston on 13 June 1893. The following year he would have gone with his parents to Roswell, New Mexico, soon after Don Starkweather was appointed the local agent for the Pecos Valley and Northeastern Railway, when the line was extended from the town of Eddy (renamed Carlsbad in 1899), some 70 miles away. Don’s younger brother, George, was a Train Master for the P.V.&.N.E. at the time and no doubt was instrumental in his sibling being offered a position with the company in the much warmer climes of New Mexico.  
  • There is no record of Alice bearing any more children and the sad news of her death was reported in the Eddy Current, 10 April 1897, which reads:
  • Death of Mrs. Starkweather – The following is from the Roswell Record and refers to the death of the wife of the P. V. Ry. agent of that place.
  • No more sincere and universal sorrow has pervaded our community than that caused by the death of Mrs. Alice M. Starkweather, wife of Mr. D. A. Starkweather, which occurred on March 29, 1897, at twelve o’clock. Mrs. Starkweather was born at St John, N.B., January 24, 1864, but had lived in Boston, Mass., for many years before coming to New Mexico. While she resided in Roswell for only about two and a half years, she had endeared herself to many, and a very large circle of friends feel her death a heavy affliction …..  …. Appropriate funeral services were held at the home Wednesday afternoon at two o’clock attended by a large number of friends and family, after which the remains were interred in the South Side cemetery. The sympathy of the whole community goes out to her husband, the dear little boy, the brother and sisters from whom she has gone.  A FRIEND.
  • The inscription on the memorial stone reads: “Alice Maud Wife of D. A. Starkweather, Born St. John, N.B. Died 29th Mar. 1897, Roswell, NM.”
  • Don A. Starkweather – step-son-in-law of Alfred Allen
  • We learn from an announcement in the Carlsbad Current, 16 December 1899, that Don Starkweather did not remain a widower long. Under the heading, Wedding Bells, the Current told its readers that: “Last Sunday, December 3, 1899, Mrs. Mary B. Sharp and D A. Starkweather were united in marriage at El Paso, and on Tuesday arrived here on the P. V. and N. E. train from the south. Mrs. Sharp was a resident of Carlsbad for a number of years and is well known to all as an accomplished lady of unusually ability, evidence by the satisfactory discharge of the important duties of a number of important positions which she has held … Mr. Starkweather is the gentlemanly travelling freight and passenger agent of the Pecos Valley and Northeastern railway company, a position he fulfils most admirably…Mr. and Mrs. Starkweather at once took possession of their pleasant house on Richardson Avenue. Mr. Starkweather was obliged to leave Wednesday for Amarillo on business connected with the railroad – Roswell Register.” 

The Starkweathers were living in Richardson Avenue, Roswell, at least as late as March 1901. Mary (born 16 January 1869), eldest daughter of Thomas John Brownrigg and Annie Troupe Carter, died of tuberculosis on 1 January 1904 and was buried beside her first husband, John Francis Sharp (died 22 August 1892), in Section 4B, Greenwood Cemetery, Marshall, Harrison County, Texas.

Mary Brownrigg Starkweather' s grave in Greenwood Cemetery, Section 4B, Marshall, Harrison County, Texas.

  • The Roswell Daily Record, New Mexico – 11 January 1904
  • MRS. MARY B. STARKWEATHER – The Sad News of Her Death Has Been Received in Roswell.
    Many Roswell people will be shocked to learn of the death of Mrs. Mary B. Starkweather, who formerly lived in this city, and has many
    friends here. The following is from – the Marshall, Texas, Messenger:

    “DIED Mrs. Mary Browning Starkweather, at the residence of her mother Mrs. Annie Brownrigg in this city, at eleven o’clock on the night of Jan. 1st. 1904.
    “Death ever seems a dread visitor, but when his dark presence enters the doorway of a new year and bears away in chill embrace the mortal form we loved so well, it is hard to look behind his dense shadow and perceive with eyes of faith the bright celestial soul of our dear departed. smiling with joy at the resurrection and the glorious freedom from Him.
    “Mrs. Starkweather had been a sufferer from consumption for eleven years prior to her death, having contracted the disease while nursing her husband, who died of it. Shewas a beautiful character, amiable, and yet with will to do what was best, in every move in. life, and with a marvelous courage to bear her up during the slow insidious inroads of her wasting disease When near to death in El Paso, she begged her devoted mother to return with her to the old home of her birth, the sweet scenes of her happy childhood and of her girlhood and young womanhood, where pleasure had served her with a bounteous hand, that the memories of young pleasures were never quite crowded out by the sorrows of maturer years.
    “Miss Mamie Sharp, the young daughter of Mrs. Starkweather, came on from school at Austin, and was with her mother during the last few days of fatal illness, and so with mother, daughter, sisters and brother and other loving relatives to minister to her every need she passed away with a gentle peace which was a blessed respite from the acute suffering of the past few weeks.
    “Unfortunately Mr. Don Starkweather could not make such railroad connections as to be with his beloved wife at the time of her death. Mary Brownrigg. eldest daughter of Mrs. Annie Brownrigg, was born in Marshall, Texas. January 16, 1869. Had she lived she would have been thirty-five years old on the sixteenth instant.
    “Miss Mary Browning married Mr. John F. Sharp in June 1886. Mr. Sharp died in August, 1892. Mrs. Mary Brownrigg Sharp married Mr. D. A. Starkweather in December 1900. Miss Mamie Sharp, the only child of the deceased, survives her.
    “When Mr. Starkweather recently found it necessary for business rea sons to remove to East Deerfield, Massachusetts, and Mrs. Stark weather was preparing to accompany him she suffered from a physical collapse and went to El Paso last April. Mr. Starkweather arrived here yesterday afternoon from East Deerfield, Mass.. and the funeral will be conducted this morning at half past nine o’clock, from the residence of Mrs. Annie Brownrigg. to Greenwood cemetery, with Rev. Dean Bowers, rector of Trinity Episcopal church, of which Mrs. Starkweather was a consistent member, to conduct the funeral service.
    “The Messenger extends heartfelt condolence to the bereaved husband daughter and mother, and to the other members of the family in this, their dark hour of grief.”

The 'White Oaks Eagle,' New Mexico, 6 June 1901.

  • The Albuquerque Daily Citizen, New Mexico, ran a story on 19 January 1899 that George L. Fletcher (step-son of Alfred Allen and the second affiant to the affidavit signed by his mother, Mary F. Allen)), assistant station agent to Don Starkweather at the Pecos Valley & Northeastern depot in Roswell, “is not at all superstitious because he leased room No. 13 in the Gaullieur block and expects to continue to have health and enjoy life for a long time to come.
  • We know he was promoted to the rank of agent, possibly to replace Don Starkweather who appears to have resigned from that position with the P.V.&.N.E. and returned to Massachusetts (see below).  In June 1900, he was in lodgings in appropriately-named Pecos Avenue, Roswell, but George soon disappears without trace, at least to this writer.
  • White Oaks, Lincoln County, New Mexico, often frequented by Billy the Kid, is now a ghost town. 
  • We know that Don Starkweather had already set plans in motion to resettle in East Deerfield, his hometown in Massachusetts, prior to his second wife’s death. In the event, it wasn’t long before the ‘the popular travelling passenger and freight agent’ found romance.
  • The Roswell Daily Record, 27 October 1905 informed its readers that:
  • FORMER CITIZEN WEDS – Don A. Starkweather, Once Railroad Agent in Roswell, Married in Massachusetts.
  • In Roswell people will be interested in the following announcement of the wedding of Don A. Starkweather, once a prominent citizen here In the capacity of agent for the Pecos Valley and Northeastern, which is taken from a Massachusetts paper: “A very pretty wedding took place Tuesday at Montague City, at 10:30, at the home of Mr. and Mrs. Edward Savage, when their daughter May was united in marriage to Don a (sic) Starkweather, of Greenfield. The ceremony was performed by Rev. P. N. Merriam, of Turners Falls, the double ring service being used. The bridesmaid was Grace E. Savage of Riverside, a cousin of the bride. The bride was gowned in pearl colored voile over pearl colored silk, with white trimmings. The bridesmaid wore white silk muslin. The bride received a large number of presents, including furniture and silverware, among them a silver service. The rooms were prettily decorated in autumn leaves, laurel and cut flowers. After a wedding breakfast Mr. and ‘Mrs. Starkweather left for New York. On their return they will make their home in Greenfield.
  • Don and May were to have three sons, Arthur, Charles and Robert. May died in 1940 and was buried in the Union Cemetery, Chatham, Massachusetts. The fate of Don Starkweather remains unknown.
  • Harry Franklin Starkweather – step-grandson of Alfred Allen.
  • Harry, only son of Don Starkweather and Alice Fletcher, was born in Boston, Massachusetts on 13 June 1893; worked as an assistant chemist for the Crucible Steel Company in Syracuse, New York; was registered for the World War 1 draft on 5 June 1917 and described as being of tall and slender build, with brown eyes, brown hair and “not bald!”; served as a corporal with Company A, 307 Field Signal Battalion, U.S. Army during the war; married Lovina Frost in Oneida, New York, on 6 June 1925; and had one child, Arthur Harry, who was born the following year.

  • Harry Franklin Starkweather died 9 January 1965 at Eaton, Madison County, New York, and was buried in the local cemetery where a military-style flagstone marks the spot, which neatly brings the story of Alfred Ernest Allen, his wife, Mary Hamilton Fletcher, and his known step-descendants to an end.
  • Notes:
    1. Alfred’s siblings were: William Charles), born 27th October 1844 (died Canton, China, 29 December 1857); Walter Brett, born 15th March 1846 (died Balmain, NSW, Australia, 22 February 1910); and George Frederick, born 1848 (fate unknown).
    2. Census for Saint John, New Brunswick, Canada, 3 April 1871.
    3. Namely, May, born 1861, Laurie E., born 1862, Alice M., born 1864, George L., born 1867.
    4. U.S. Army, Register of Enlistments.
    5. Census of England & Wales, 3 April 1881.
    6. Pension File Claim #395708.
    7. George L. Fletcher, born Canada 1867, only son of George L. Fletcher and Mary Hamilton and Donald A. Starkweather, born 1864, husband of Alice Maud Fletcher, youngest daughter of George L. Fletcher and Mary Hamilton Fletcher.
    8. Pension File Claim #258868.
    9. State of Massachusetts Register of Deaths.
    10. The details of this marriage were verified by William Frith, Clerk of the Peace, of Saint John, N.B. on 9 May 1889 in support of Mary’s claim for a widow’s pension.
    11. The school in District 4 (Greenfield) listed Don Starkweather as one of 15 pupils “not absent or tardy” by the teacher, Miss Emma O. Whitman (The Greenfield Gazette & Courier, 14 July 1873).


  • The author extends his sincere thanks to the late Gordon Green, of Queensland, Australia, for generously sharing several important documents taken from Alfred Allen’s U.S. Army pension file.  
  • Trivia
  • Albuquerque Morning Journal, 29 November 1905
  • Chased the Trainmaster – Arkansas City, Kansas, Nov. 28 1905 – Late last night Trainmaster [George C.] Starkweather, of the Atchison, Topeka & Santa Fe railway, who, with three associates, was superintending the clearing of a wreck a short distance from Arkansas City, were attacked by fifty Italian laborers helping with the work, and were compelled to escape on a locomotive. While clearing the track a car turned over and broke an Italian’s leg.  Under the leadership of an interpreter, the Italians started after the Americans, following them into Arkansas City. The Italians were armed with knives and clubs. They were driven out of town by the police.

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