Pym, James

Place of Birth: Oxfordshire

Date of enlistment: 11 December 1874

Age given at enlistment: 22

Rank: Private

Company: B

Location on 25 June 1876: Pack train escort & hilltop fight


No Ordinary Trooper

St Mary's Church Garsington, with a Norman tower and 13th and 14th century side aisles, stands on a raised hilltop site with sweeping views across the Thames Valley. Author's collection.

  • Early Life
  • Garsington, an ancient, sprawling hill-top village lies some five miles southeast of the historic city of Oxford and is famous for its close association with H. Rider Haggard, author of the classic adventure novel King Solomon’s Mines, and his fictional hero Allan Quatermain.1
  • A branch of the Pym family has lived in this near-idyllic place since Elizabethan times,2 but our story really begins on November 7, 18473 when James, the second child of eight, was born in the South End district of the village to Joseph and Sabina (aka ‘Ann’) Pym. The infant was baptised in the 12th century parish church of St Mary on December 5, 1847 by William John Copeland (1804-85), curate of the neighbouring parish of Littlemore, the same day that George Armstrong Custer was celebrating his eighth  birthday. Nothing is known of James “Jim” Pym’s formative years beyond that he received little in the way of education4 and at the age of 13 was employed as a ploughboy by Joseph Gale on his 490-acre Manor House Farm.5
  • It was an act of gross indecency however that took place in a stable on Manor House Farm on the evening of April 14, 1865, which was to have a crucial effect on young Pym’s life. He duly appeared at the Court of Quarter Sessions in Oxford on June 26th and only narrowly escaped a long custodial sentence because, in his own words, “the stool weren’t hardly high enough,” which prevented him from completing such a seemingly depraved deed. In the event he was found guilty of a lesser charge “that he did unlawfully attempt to commit a felony, to wit, to have carnal knowledge of a mare,” for which he was sentenced to serve six months in the Oxford County Gaol.6 Even if there were extenuating circumstances that did not come out in court, Pym’s behaviour that April evening would have been deemed to be beyond the pale in mid-Victorian England and it is highly unlikely that he ever returned to live in his native village.

Extract taken from the Register of Baptisms, Garsington Parish, Oxfordshire, Dec. 5, 1847.

  • Enlists in the United States Army
  • Nothing more is heard of this wayward youth until December 11, 1874 when he presented himself at the recruiting office in Boston, Massachusetts,7 unless, that is, he was the unverified Englishman of the same name who arrived in the city two years before on the steamship Olympus8 and/or is the subject of the following truly tantalizing story that has been handed down through four generations of another branch of the Pym family. It tells of a James Pym, “dressed in funny clothes and high-heeled boots,” calling at the home of Emanuel and Elizabeth Pym in nearby Oakley, Buckinghamshire and leaving behind the reputation of being “a nasty, crude piece of work.” Admittedly, it is far from conclusive but the fact that this incident took place during the late 1860s and the caller confessed to “being a deserter from the British Army” who afterwards “went away to London never to be heard of again,” adds to the intriguing possibility that he was the same person who crossed the Atlantic and joined the United States Army.9
  • The record of James Pym’s “Oath of Enlistment and Allegiance” describes him as being 5’ 7” in height, having blue eyes, light hair, and a fair complexion; that he was aged 22, and had previously been employed as a labourer. Presumably a youthful appearance misled the recruiting officer, Lieutenant William Harper, 6th Cavalry, into accepting that the man from Oxfordshire, England, was, indeed, five years younger than his true age.10
  • From Boston Pym was sent to Jefferson Barracks, St. Louis, Missouri, where, on January 29, 1875 he was assigned to Company B, 7th Cavalry, then engaged on Reconstruction duty in Shreveport, Louisiana.11
  • In the absence of Captain William Thompson, who was on leave, and First Lieutenant Thomas W. Custer, who had been on detached service at Fort Abraham Lincoln (universally known as Fort Lincoln), in Dakota Territory, since September 29th the previous year, 26 year-old West Point graduate Second Lieutenant Benjamin “Benny” Hodgson was commanding the company.  Reconstruction duty chiefly involved rounding up members of the Ku Klux Klan and other white supremacist groups in the post-Civil War South and, not surprisingly, the Union troops were received by the disgruntled white community with thinly-disguised hostility.
  • On April 19, 1876 Company B, together with Company G, left Shreveport by rail for Fort Lincoln, via St. Louis, where they were to stop over for several days. Hodgson was still in command as 62 year-old Thompson had recently retired and his replacement, Captain Thomas M. McDougall, was yet to take up his new post.12
  • A story is told by Emma Schaffner, the 17 year-old wife of Private Ferdinand Klawitter, also in Company B, that while in St Louis, Pym, who was the long-time company cook, returned to his unit a little worse for drink. His sweetheart worked for one of the officers and, of course, an enlisted man wasn’t allowed in the officer’s coach without prior permission: but this meant nothing to an inebriated alcohol-fuelled Pym who tried to force his way past the civilian porter. Benny Hodgson came out and a brawl began. He shouted, “I’m going to draw some of your English blood if you don’t get back to your quarters.” This only made matters worse as Pym replied, “I’m going to make you shoot me,” and proceeded to take his shirt off. At this point the senior officer present, First Lieutenant Donald McIntosh, Company G, appeared on the scene and called the guards who forcibly restrained Pym, though he kept on swearing so profusely that a wooden gag was rammed into his mouth. Later he was heard to say that he was going to kill Hodgson if the Indians didn’t beat him to it!13 [Ironically, they did!14] If the story was true, amazingly, no charges were ever brought against Pym for this most serious breach of military discipline.
  • It was on May 1st that Companies B, G and K, under the command of First Lieutenant Edward Godfrey, crossed the Missouri River and went into camp two or three miles south of Fort Lincoln. There they would be joined by the rest of the regiment to prepare for field service against the Sioux who had failed to report to designated reservations by the end of the previous January.
  • The Dakota Column, under the command Brigadier General Alfred H. Terry, which included the staff, band and all 12 companies of the 7th Cavalry, marched west out of Fort Lincoln early in the morning of May 17, 1876 to locate the defiant Sioux who were regarded aus ‘hostiles’ by the United States Government. This isn’t the place to recount the column’s movements over the following five weeks15 but around noon on June 25th Custer’s 7th Cavalry reached the divide between the Rosebud and Little Big Horn valleys on their way to attack a large Lakota and Cheyenne village on the banks of the Little Big Horn River, Montana Territory.
  • On the first day of the battle, Company B, under the command of Captain McDougall, was assigned to escort the pack train and arrived at Major Marcus A. Reno’s defensive hill-top position after the fight in the valley had taken place.
  • By the morning of the second day the wounded, on what became known as Reno Hill, were in desperate need of water and Captain Frederick W. Benteen led a charge west of his position, which cleared a path down to the Little Big Horn River: since named Water Carriers’ Ravine. Many men volunteered to make the hazardous trip to the fast-running stream under heavy fire from the enemy, during which several were injured. One of those volunteers was James Pym, who sustained a gunshot wound to his right ankle. The water he brought back undoubtedly saved many lives and he was rightly regarded as a hero.
  • Later in the day the enemy fire began to subside and, by the early evening, the men on Reno Hill were much relieved to see the Indians break camp and slowly move southward up the valley – the Battle of the Little Big Horn was over.
  • At about 10:30 the following morning General Terry arrived at Reno Hill bringing the shocking news that Custer and all 209 men under his immediate command were dead. For the several days those of the regiment who had been fortunate to survive undertook the grisly duty of burying their fallen comrades where they lay, which was no easy task bearing in mind the rock-hard nature of the ground and lack of suitable trenching tools.
  • Pym’s claim that he was a trumpeter at the time of the battle is supported by the fact that neither of Company B’s two regular trumpeters was present.16
  • Awarded a Medal of Honor
  • James Pym was with his company in the Nez Perce campaign of 1877 and a member of the five-company escort for Chief Joseph and his 200-strong band from Fort Buford to Bismarck, where they arrived on 19 November. Company B, having successfully completed its mission, was assigned to the Standing Rock Agency and went into winter camp there.17
  • It was from Standing Rock on March 17, 1878 that Captain McDougall wrote to the recently-formed Seventh U.S. Cavalry Medal Board recommending nine men from Company B be considered for a Medal of Honor. With regard to Pym he said:
  • Private James Pym behaved with extraordinary coolness during two days of fighting – especially on the 26th June when he volunteered to go for water in order to relieve the men on the line, which was a hazardous undertaking. He succeeded, however, in obtaining water, although under brisk fire from the Indians all the time. In reward for his brave conduct under the trying circumstances of our situation I recommend him for a Medal of Honor.18
  • Pym was at Standing Rock on October 5, 1878 when he learned that he was one of six members of Company B to be awarded the Medal of Honor and it is reasonably safe to assume that he was ceremoniously presented with his medal by his company commander at the Agency soon after that date. Years later Pym would proudly confide to his friends in Miles City, Montana, the circumstances surrounding the incident for which Congress acknowledged his bravery.19
  • Company B remained at Standing Rock until December 7th when it was transferred to Fort Yates where, on December 10, 1879, James Pym was discharged as a “private of good character;” thus bringing an eventful five-year enlistment in the United States Army to an honourable end.20
  • Returns to Civilian Life
  • On leaving the army Pym resided in Bismarck, the terminus of the eastern network of the Northern Pacific Railroad until a bridge was built across the Missouri River in 1882. During this time he was the first person to request that his Medal of Honor be replaced. Writing on letterhead from the Bismarck law firm of George Flannery and J. E. Wetherly, dated July 20, 1881, Pym stated that his medal was defective and parts were lost. By the same letter he forwarded the broken medal, asking that it be repaired and returned to him at Bismarck. The pendant, or drop, had been lost due to a defect in the suspension rings. The War Department was aware of this malfunction and had authorised replacements for other medals where the drop was lost. In a letter of August 4, 1881, the Adjutant General advised that a new medal had been ordered and would be engraved as follows: “The Congress to Pvt. James Pym, Co. B. > “7Cav. < for bravery in action at the Little Big Horn River, Montana Territory June 25-26 1876.” It was sent to Pym a little over three weeks’ later.21
  • For a second time James Pym disappears into obscurity until he resurfaces in Lake City, Wabasha County, Minnesota, 65 miles southeast of St Paul, where it is reported he served as city marshal.22 It was in Lake City on March 30, 1887 that he married a 28 year-old widow, Sarah Kavanagh, née Underwood, a recently arrived immigrant from County Wexford, Ireland.23
  • We learn from local newspaper reports that around 3 o’clock on the morning of September 24, 1889 Pym and Sarah, accompanied by Daniel Cronin and Mary Underwood, a sister of Mrs Pym, left Lake City … “for parts unknown.” Pym left debts amounting to about $200 and Mary may have been pregnant! One of Pym’s creditors, Fred Schmaus, went off in hot pursuit for unpaid rent of $25 but returned empty-handed after a prolonged and fruitless search.24
  • Pym had often spoken of going west and in June 1890 he was found living on Second Street, Livingston, Montana, when he threw a birthday party for his 23 year-old brother-in-law, Mathew Underwood, who had been a godparent at the baptism of Daniel and Mary Cronin’s first child.25
  • Arrives in Miles City
  • The Pyms stay in Livingston was relatively short-lived and by the end of December 1890 they had opened a restaurant in the rear of a saloon in Miles City owned by William “Fred” Schmalsle,26 who had been a scout for Colonel Nelson Miles in the Texas Panhandle Expedition in 1874. Sadly, this venture ended in failure and Jim Pym was reduced to taking any job he could find. He rented a small log shack next door to Laton A. Huffman, the well-known frontier photographer who would later describe Pym “as unassertive, quiet and ordinary, though the former cavalryman quickly earned the reputation of being someone not to mess with, a product of his times, direct in action and tough as boot leather.”27
  • On October 21, 1891 a financially-struggling Pym filed an application for an army invalid pension28 and the following March was examined by Dr Andrew Duncan30 in Glendive, a small town lying 75 miles east of Miles City. Pym complained that the gunshot wound in his right ankle was still giving him pain; that he also suffered from cholera, catarrh and neuralgia, and from the scald of both arms. Dr Duncan gave Pym a disability rating of 6/18ths caused by the gunshot wound and 4/18ths caused by catarrh but nothing for any of the other conditions.29 Based on Dr Duncan’s report it would seem that Pym did qualify for an army pension but, if so, one was never paid.30
  • Gunned down by a Cowboy
  • Although, according to Huffman, “Jim Pym was mighty good to his wife,” it wasn’t long before they went their separate ways. To make matters worse a brooding Pym began to drink heavily and on at least one occasion was arrested and fined for carrying concealed weapons. On another he publicly declared he would not be responsible his wife’s debts and while partially intoxicated caused a disturbance in front of the store she was running in town, for which he was arrested and, having pleaded guilty, was fined $5 and costs.31 The situation deteriorated further when the behaviour of Sarah Pym and her sister, a laundress, whose husband spent long periods working away from home, became openly talked about on the streets of Miles City. Things came to head around 6 o’clock on a bitterly cold Wednesday evening, November 29, 1893, when Alvah Tilton, a 20 year-old cowboy on a ranch near Forsyth, went to Mary Cronin’s house to collect some washing she had done for him. They were in the middle room of the three in the building when a drunken Pym opened the front door and burst in. As soon as he saw Tilton he walked up to him, saying, “You son-of-bitch, I’ve been looking for you all day,” and hit him two or three times. Tilton staggered back against the wall and in an instant a shot was fired, though Mary Cronin would later testify in court that she did not see any weapon. Pym turned and walked out of the room, laughing as he went, but died where he fell. Tilton ran out of the back door, collected his horse from a livery stable in town and disappeared into the night. His tracks were easy to follow on the snow-covered ground so no effort was made to apprehend him until following morning, when he was found calmly eating breakfast at a ranch 14 miles up the Tongue River and brought back to town where he freely admitted killing Pym, but had acted in self-defence.32
  • The Inquest
  • After the coroner’s jury had been sworn in on the evening of the shooting an examination of Pym’s body was made by Dr. Robert G. Redd,33 a popular former army assistant surgeon at forts Lincoln and Totten, who found that a bullet had entered the left side, just below the ribs, but had not come out. Pym was clearly proud of his actions at the Little Bighorn, judging by the fact that he was wearing his Medal of Honor at the time of the shooting. It was “removed from his breast” by the coroner and subsequently handed to his widow. An adjournment was taken until the following morning to enable Dr Redd to hold a post mortem examination and after autopsy had been completed Pym’s remains were interred in a pauper’s grave the same day.34
  • The Trial
  • Tilton’s trial opened on February 16, 1894 but was delayed due to no less than 59 men being needed to be summoned before a jury could be formed, which was sworn in the next day. As expected Mary Cronin was the main witness for the prosecution but there was uproar in the court, after she had finished giving evidence, when County Attorney, Charles H. Loud, who represented the state, created quite a sensation by moving for her impeachment which, though denied, caused the speedy termination of the trial. The jury found the accused guilty, not of murder, but of manslaughter for which he was sentenced to six years in the Montana state prison at Deer Lodge. Tilton should have considered himself most fortunate that his killing of an unarmed man was so lightly punished.35
  • In spite of comprehensive reports of the trial in the Miles City newspapers we are left to wonder what this case was really  all about. What had driven a battle-hardened 46 year-old army veteran to spend a whole day tracking down with malice aforethought a fresh-faced cowboy less than half his age? Had Tilton been taking an unhealthy interest in the estranged Mrs Pym? Why was the cow puncher carrying a gun? And why did it prove so difficult to find a jury? Were the good folk of Miles City biased against Tilton because Jim Pym had been a popular member of the community? Or, perhaps, it was the other way round, Pym was the villain of the piece and no one wanted to convict his killer? No explanation for the county attorney’s decision to impeach Mary Cronin was ever given but it would be good to know if she was on the verge of being charged with perjury or she was suspected of a more active involvement in the killing, or what….? These are just a few of the many questions that are unlikely ever to be satisfactorily answered. We are therefore left to speculate on the circumstances that led to the killing of James Pym and the abrupt end of the trial that ensued.
  • The Aftermath
  • Sarah Pym purchased lot numbered E½ 55, Section B, in the Maple Tree Cemetery, known locally as the Protestant Cemetery, and on August 15, 1894 arranged for her late husband’s body to be moved there from the city’s Potter’s Field.36 It is interesting to note that she chose the words “Jas. Pym/Co. B/7th U.S. Cav.,” contained within the customary shield design for the inscription on his headstone, even though he had left the army more than 14 years before. Sarah hadn’t even known her husband during his days in the Seventh Cavalry, which makes it all the more remarkable.
  • Sarah wed James Welch in Miles City on October 25, 189437 but this marriage ended in divorce a few years later. On July 1, 1911, Sarah took Arthur Jellison, a carpenter and house painter 20 years her junior, for her fourth husband.38
  • The Jellisons ran a rooming house on Bridge and 7th Street, Miles City and according to Underwood family oral history they adopted a young child, named Martha, who it is alleged had been abandoned by lodgers.39
  • Sarah Pym Jellison died of angina in Miles City on November, 30, 192340 and three days later was buried in an unmarked grave in Mount Calvary (Catholic) Cemetery there.41
  • Medal of Honor donated to Battlefield Museum
  • Pym’s Medal of Honor eventually came into the possession of Casey Barthelmess, son of Christian Barthelmess, a former Chief Musician in the 22nd Infantry and photographer at Fort Keogh. At some unknown date, a young woman approached Casey and handed him the medal on condition that it was donated to the Custer Battlefield Museum, which he duly did.42 In a letter addressed to Casey Barthelmess, dated July 26, 1949, Superintendent Edward S. Luce wrote:
  • On behalf of the Secretary of the Interior and the Director of the National Park service, I desire to acknowledge your gift of the Congressional Medal of Honor which was presented to “Pvt. James Pym, Co. B. ……   This gift is greatly appreciated and will, I believe, prove to be a valued addition to the proposed Custer Battlefield Museum in which it is to be deposited and accorded the same care and protection given our other materials.43
  • Kenneth Hammer wrote: “The medal was donated to the monument in 1949 by Casey Barthelmess, who received it from a stepchild of Pym’s some years earlier.”44 There is however no record of Sarah Pym ever bearing a child to whom Jim Pym could be the stepfather. The prime suspect therefore must be Martha Agnes Jellison, the abandoned child adopted by Arthur and Sarah Jellison, who was born April 30, 1914.45 Martha married William S. Saltmarsh in Columbus, Montana, on July 2, 194146 and may well have handed the medal to Barthelmess before moving to San Diego the same year.47 It is equally reasonable to assume that she attended the funeral in Miles City of her adopted father, Arthur Jellison, who died January 29, 1949,48 and maybe it was around this time that the meeting with Barthelmess took place. We may never know.

Medals of Honor on display at the Little Bighorn Battlefield National Monument. Photograph courtesy of Scott Nelson.

  • Replacement headstones
  • The name of the Maple Tree Cemetery was changed to the Custer County Cemetery in 1922 when the county purchased the old burial ground from a privately-owned company. Through the good offices of the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs James Pym’s original headstone was replaced by a traditional military-style monument in the early 1980s.
  • Unfortunately, it was inscribed with a superfluous initial ‘J’ presumably taken from misleading newspaper reports, and an incorrect year of birth based on a spurious record in the Registers of Enlistments. On Memorial Day 2010, a wonderful opportunity was missed to make amends when a third, pristine headstone was unveiled which disappointingly perpetuates both errors that appeared on its predecessor, but would Jim Pym have cared?

The second headstone.

The new headstone.

  • Notes & Sources
    1. 1. At the age of ten, Henry Rider Haggard (1856-1925), was sent to Garsington Rectory to study under the Rev. H. J. Graham. It was there that he was befriended by a farmer called Quartermain(e), after whom his fictional hero Allan Quatermain was named (a slightly different spelling but same pronunciation).
    2. 2. Richard Peeme (Pym) & Anne Bartelme married Jan. 29, 1581/2. Transcript of Parish Registers for Garsington 1562-1855, Oxfordshire Studies, Central Library, Westgate, Oxford. Nineteenth century variants include Pim, Pimm and Pym, (as in ‘hymn’, which were interchangeable.
    3. 3. Register of Births December Quarter 1847, Headington, Oxfordshire, Vol. XVI, 68.
    4. 4. At his trial on June 26, 1865 it was noted that he “ … can neither read nor write.”
    5. 5. Census of England & Wales (April 7, 1861), Reference RG9/889, South End, Garsington. Pym’s age was incorrectly recorded as “16 years.”
    6. 6. A Calendar of Prisoners for Trial at the General Quarter Sessions held at Oxford on Monday, 26th day of June 1865.
    7. 7. United States Registers of Enlistments in the U.S. Army, 1798-1914.
    8. 8. James Pim, a 27 year-old laborer, arrived in Boston, from Liverpool, on the 2,415-ton steamship Olympus on May 20, 1872.
    9. 9. Information from Christopher Pym, Headington, Oxford, a great-grandson of Emanuel Pym. Oakley is roughly 10 miles from Garsington. While no other James Pym has been found that who more closely matches the description of the mysterious visitor, at the time of writing, a direct link between the Garsington and Oakley branches of the family had not been established.
    10. 10. United States Registers of Enlistments in the U.S. Army, 1798-1914. Pym arrived in Shreveport on February 10, 1875.
    11. 11. U.S. Returns from Regular Army Non-infantry Regiments, 1821-1916 – 7th Cavalry, January-February 1875
    12. 12. U.S. Returns from Regular Army Non-infantry Regiments, 1821-1916 – 7th Cavalry, April 1876.
    13. 13. Emma Schaffner Klawitter, widow of Private Ferdinand Klawitter, Company B, then in her seventies, told the story to Mark Lagerberg in 1935 about the journey from Shreveport, Louisiana to Fort Abraham Lincoln in April 1876. Mrs. Klawitter incorrectly remembered “Hodgson” as “Hutchison” and “Pym” as “Pim.” Private Klawitter was on detached duty at Fort Lincoln from May 6, 1876 as orderly for Mrs Custer and did not take part in the battle.
    14. 14. Hodgson, adjutant to Reno, was killed during the retreat from the valley fight while re-crossing the river.
    15. 15. Recommended reading: James Donovan, A Terrible Glory: Custer and the Little Bighorn – the Last Great Battle of the American West (New York, Little, Brown and Company, 2008).
    16. 16. The inscription on the handle of Pym’s Colt single action army .45 revolver reads “June 25 1876 – TRPTR James C. Pym Congressional Medal of Honor, Coy B. 7th U.S. Cavalry.” Note the additional initial “C”.  John Connell had accidentally shot himself through the heel on May 21, and was recovering from his injury at the Powder River Camp, while James Kelly was serving three months confinement with hard labour at Fort Lincoln for being absent without leave and selling or disposing of a coat shortly before Company B left Shreveport. Alternatively, TRPTR is simply a misrepresentation of ‘Trooper’.
    17. 17. Returns from Regular Army Non-infantry Regiments, 1821-1916 – 7th Cavalry, November 1877.
    18. 18. Douglas D. Scott, Custer’s Heroes: The Little Bighorn Medals of Honor, AST Press, Wake Forest, NC (2007), 21.
    19. 19. Source: “James Pym, Hero of Custer Fight, Was killed in Brawl at Sister-in-Law’s Home; Friend Fired Shot,” by Louis “Montana Lou” Grill, Montana Newspaper Association – Jan. 25, 1937. United States Registers of Enlistments in the U.S. Army, 1798-1914.
    20. 20. United States Registers of Enlistments in the U.S. Army, 1798-1914.
    21. 21. Scott, Custer’s Heroes, 33.
    22. 22. Helena Independent, Dec. 2, 1893.
    23. 23. Minnesota, County Marriages, 1860-1949. Sarah, born October 6, 1859 was daughter of William Underwood and Ellen Fleming. On his application to the Bureau of Pensions, dated May 21, 1892, Claim No. 1066405, Pym stated the marriage took place on March 31, 1888.
    24. 24. St. Paul Daily Globe, September 25, 1889 and Mower County Transcript, Lansing, MN, Oct. 16, 1889.
    25. 25. Red Lodge Picket, June 7, 1890.
    26. 26. German-born William Frederick “Fred” Schmalsle (1847-1912) a former buffalo hunter and army scout. In the Red River War he was noted for special bravery by helping rescue two of the German sisters, and bringing help to the Cavalry who were under an Indian attack.
    27. 27. ‘He Captured the Vanishing West before it Vanished,’ Neal Clark. The American Magazine, February 1927.
    28. 28. U.S. Department of the Interior, Bureau of Pensions Claim No. 1066405.
    29. 29. Dr Andrew Robert Duncan, a second generation Canadian of Scottish descent, born September 26, 1851 Prince Edward Island, came to Glendive in 1882. He resided in Kalispell in 1905 and died there before September 1910.
    30. 30. U.S. Department of the Interior, Bureau of Pensions Claim No. 1066405.
    31. 31. Yellowstone Journal, August 2, 1893.
    32. 32. Yellowstone Journal, Dec. 1, 1893.
    33. 33. Dr Robert G. Redd (b. 1842) features a great deal in Dr James DeWolf’s diary and letters as the 7th Cavalry’s surgeon at Fort Lincoln in the spring of 1876. A well-liked man, but thought to be too easy on malingerers, he was sent off to Fort Totten shortly before the departure of the Little Bighorn Big Horn expedition. He died Feb. 21, 1908 of “creeping paralysis” (multiple sclerosis) at Crab Orchard, Lincoln County, KY.
    34. 34. Yellowstone Journal, Dec. 1, 1893.
    35. 35. Yellowstone Journal, Feb. 21, 1894. Alvah Tilton entered the Montana State Prison on Feb. 21, 1894 and was discharged on May 15, 1898, having served a little over two-thirds of his sentence. Prison admission records show he was 20 years of age, 5’ 9” tall, weighed 175 pounds, born Des Moines, Iowa, previously employed as a farmer, son of Arthur and Emma Tilton, of Ankeny, Polk County, a north-eastern suburb of Des Moines. (Montana State Prison at Deer Lodge, Personal Description Book 1894, State Microfilm 36, Montana Historical Society.) His ultimate fate remains unknown to this writer.
    36. 36. Yellowstone Journal, Aug. 16, 1894.
    37. 37. Montana, County Marriages, 1865-1950. Sarah reduced her true age by 10 years.
    38. 38. Montana, County Marriages, 1865-1950. Sarah continued to conceal her true age by 10 years..
    39. 39. Email from a collateral descendant of Sarah Underwood (who wished to remain anonymous) to the author Oct. 18, 2009.
    40. 40. Montana Death Index, 1860-2007.
    41. 41. Obituary, Miles City Daily Star, Dec. 2, 1923.
    42. 42. Barthelmess family papers (MC 266: Box 2, folder 11) – Montana Historical Society.
    43. 43. United States Department of the Interior, National Park Service, Custer Battlefield National Monument, Crow Agency, MT.
    44. 44. Kenneth Hammer Collection, Accession 671, LBBNM.
    45. 45. United States Public Records, 1970-2009.
    46. 46. Montana, County Marriages1865-1950.
    47. 47. The San Diego Directory (1942) lists William and Martha living on 49th Street, with William working for the Consolidated Aircraft Corporation. Martha died in Covina, Los Angeles on September 10, 2007 (United States Social Security Death Index).
    48. 48. Billings Gazette, January 30, 1949.


  • Question: What is the connection between Private James Pym, Co. B, 7th U.S. Cavalry, and the legendary Western Lawman, Jeff Milton?
  • Answer: A Colt SAA Peacemaker.

Published by University of Oklahoma Press, Norman, Oklahoma, 1948.

Jefferson Davis "Jeff" Milton (1861 - 1947).

  • I have recently exchanged correspondence with firearms historian, Jim Fender, Madbury, New Hampshire, regarding this Colt .45 SAA Peacemaker, which is currently owned by David Trevallion, a British citizen living in the United States, who acquired the revolver over 50 years ago from a Jack Holliday whose family has a winter home near Tucson, Arizona. A neighbour of the Holliday family was Jeff Milton, a very important figure in law enforcement in the 1880s-1930s in the American Southwest. Apparently, Milton owned this Colt for many years and carried it in a holster strapped to the steering column of his Ford Model T. He gave the revolver to Holliday, who subsequently gifted the Colt to its present owner. That being said, it cannot be stated with any certainty that Pym actually possessed the Colt, or how it may have gone from a friend or heir of Pym’s to Jeff Milton.
  • I have recently exchanged correspondence with firearms historian, Jim Fender, Madbury, New Hampshire, regarding this Colt .45 SAA Peacemaker, which is currently owned by David Trevallion, a British citizen living in the United States, who acquired the revolver over 50 years ago from a Jack Holliday whose family has a winter home near Tucson, Arizona. A neighbour of the Holliday family was Jeff Milton, a very important figure in law enforcement in the 1880s-1930s in the American Southwest. Apparently, Milton owned this Colt for many years and carried it in a holster strapped to the steering column of his Ford Model T. He gave the revolver to Holliday, who subsequently gifted the Colt to its present owner. That being said, it cannot be stated with any certainty that Pym actually possessed the Colt, or how it may have gone from a friend or heir of Pym’s to Jeff Milton.

Colt .45 SAA engraved with the name of James Pym Coy B. 7th U.S. Cavalry - (Photograph courtesy of David Trevallion)

  • Pym does not seem like the type of person who would have purchased a Colt SAA and had the backstrap engraved with the commemorative language (nor does Jim believe he would have had the money to spend on such a commemorative revolver) – see illustration above.  Colt factory records show that the revolver was shipped from the factory to a dealer in New York City in 1879.  The inference is that during the period that Pym was a city marshal in Lake City, Minnesota, a group of civic-minded townspeople bought the revolver, had it engraved, and presented it to Pym, who is known to have worn his Medal of Honor with justifiable pride. Jim has been in contact with the Lake City Historical Association, and a person there has offered to search for references to Pym (there is the one reference in a newspaper that I have located about Pym departing Lake City hurriedly without paying outstanding debts).  However, at the time of writing, Jim has not heard from the person to whom he spoke with any additional information.
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