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Town of Wellsville Related Articles

MAJOR T. M. MCDOUGALL - Survivor of Little Big Horn

MAJOR THOMAS M. MCDOUGALL

1845 – 1909

 


  • June 25, 1876 - Co. A.M.& G.  Major Reno attacked by Sioux, and retreated across Little Bighorn River.  Captain Beteen and Captain MacDougall's troops held out for more than a day and night until relieved by Gen. Terry E. Gibons;
  • June 27, 1876:  Burial party for Custer and his troopers at Little Bighorn.

 

Capt T M McDougall


 

Story compiled by William A. Greene 2015

Info from notes of Wendell R. Vars

Wellsville Daily Reporter

Find A Grave

Thelma Rogers Historical Society

AlleganyCounty Historical Society.


 

     This all started from a letter I received from Wendell R. Vars, a good friend that had once ran a Drug Store in Andover, N.Y...  He had taken care of our families medical supplies for many years.  Upon retiring and selling his business, he and his wife Katherine packed up and moved to Loveland, Colorado.

     In July of 1999 I received a letter from Wendell, telling me that he had been studying General George Armstrong Custer for many years.  He had done a lot of research of Custer’s  activities during and after the Civil War and had recently bought a book, “With Custer on the Little Bighorn” which was written from the text of a diary which had been recently discovered and was written by a trooper, William O. Taylor.  It was well written and well documented the entire campaign of Custer on the Little Bighorn with daily entries. In the back of the book was a list of the men who survived the action in the various troops making up the 7th Cavalry.

     One of the survivors was a Captain Thomas M. McDougall of B Troop.  He was born in Wisconsin and an officer in the Civil War and was assigned to the 7th Cav. as a 1st Lt. December 31, 1870.  He was Capt. of B Troop – Dec. 15th, 1875 – Acting as Guard for the Pack train of the Battle of Little Bighorn.  He retired July 22, 1890 and died July 3rd, 1909 in Wellsville, N.Y.  (This turns out not to be true as we find out later.)

     The next letter that I received was dated July 4th, 2002.  I don’t remember if I had received any other letters between this date and the last, but these are the two that I kept.  This letter had pretty much the same info as the other, but a Major Reno was mentioned.  He had been with Custer at Little Bighorn.  During the action of June 25th 1876, Capt. McDougall was with Major Reno when they were attacked by the Sioux.

    All had been quiet for 17 years and I was talking to a lady about some old Wellsville history and I brought up about one of the survivors of the “Little Bighorn”  had lived in Wellsville for awhile.  She had never heard of such a thing.  I told her that I had some info on that somewhere and she told me she wanted to see it. I told her I would find it and let her look at it.

     The next morning I started going through all of my notebooks, folders and drawers.  I searched most of the day and came up empty handed.  Then I remembered Wendell. I sent him an e-mail and the next morning he sent me the man’s name I was looking for. I got on the computer and found all of his info on “Find A Grave.” He was buried in ArlingtonNationalCemetery.  It told of all of his good and bad out-comings. It listed his mother and father and his siblings and his wife.   His father was a Brigadier General in the Army Medical Corps. And it told more about Thomas’s career in the Army. But I still hadn’t found my notes. 

     Finally I went to my files again and there they were under “McDougall.” I had looked over them for two days.  There were my notes that I had written 13 yrs. ago. In the notes I had written that Thomas was staying with the Claude Cummings family.  So I went to the WoodlawnCemetery on the Allegany Co. Website and looked up the Cummings family.  I found that Claude Cummings would have only been 9 yrs. old when Major Thomas McDougall would have stayed in Wellsville in 1890.  That didn’t make sense at all.  So I had to play Sherlock Holmes for awhile.

     It seems that Major McDougall married an Alice Sheldon.  Alice was the daughter of a Victor M. Sheldon a professor at a private school in Illinois and died there in 1846. His wife was Isabella Hastings Sheldon, who was born in Mass on Aug. 29, 1816. After Victor died, Isabella married Rev. Anson Watson Cummings who lived in Wellsville. So after Thomas retired from the Army, he and his wife came to Wellsville and lived with her mother and family. 

     In July of 1909, Thomas and Alice got on a train to Vermont for some rest and relaxation.  They arrived at their destination in the afternoon and had a light dinner. The Major had been in poor health didn’t feel good and went to bed.  At 10 o’clock Thomas woke his wife and said he was having trouble breathing and she gave him his usual remedies and they didn’t seem to work and they summoned a doctor six miles away.  At 10:45 P.M. He passed away peacefully.


 

 

 

MAJOR T. M. MCDOUGALL

DIES SUDDENLY AT A SUMMER RESORT

IN VERMONT SATURDAY NIGHT JULY 3, 1909

 

WELLSVILLE DAILY REPORTER

JULY 6, 1909

      The announcement of the sudden death of Major T. M. McDougall, which was received in Wellsville Sunday morning, came as a great shock to the family and friends.  The Major accompanied by family and friends.  The Major accompanied by Mrs. McDougall had left Wellsville early Saturday morning on Erie train 4 for a summer resort near Brandon, Vermont, and although his health had been poorly, no one expected the sad news of his untimely death.  They had reached Echo Lake Farm, six miles from Brandon, Vermont, at half past five Saturday evening, and after a light supper the Major retired early, much fatigued from the long journey.  Mr. and Mrs. McDougall were occupying a cottage a short distance from the farm house, and shortly after 10 o’clock Mrs. McDougall was aroused by the Major, who was sitting up in bed and complaining of difficulty in breathing.  Mrs. McDougall gave the usual remedies, but the Major insisted that it was something more serious and asked her to go for help to the farm house nearby: here she aroused Mr. Mott, the proprietor, and they at once hurried to the cottage, and in the meantime sending for a resident doctor six miles away.

     Nothing could be done however, for the Major.  And at 10:45 o’clock P.M., he passed peacefully away.

     Fortunately for Mrs. McDougall, there were present, Mr. and Mrs. A.W. Spanhoofd, of Washington, friends of Dr. A. Clark, and who were to make up the party of campers.  They had arrived on the same train with the McDougall’s, and Dr. Clark was expected from Washington the next day.  Mr. and Mrs. Spanhoofd have been of inestimable help to Mrs. McDougall in her sudden bereavement, and Dr. Clark and Colonel Edwin Babbitt of the U.S.Army, the latter a nephew of the Major, arrived from Washington the next day, and this party will accompany Mrs. McDougall with the body to Washington today, with Mr. Claude Cummings is in Washington to meet the party upon their arrival there.

     The internment will be at Washington at Arlington, where the Major will be laid to rest with military honors.

     Major McDougall was a retired officer of the United States Army and was sixty-four years of age on the 21st of May this year.  Beside his wife, who was Miss Alice Sheldon, he is survived by two sisters, Mrs. Josephine, Mr. D. Buel and Mrs. Frances, Mr. D. Babbitt, both of Washington. For many years he has made his home in Wellsville with the Cummings family and his loss will be keenly felt not only by family, but the hosts of friends in town.  The Major was a genial companion and a member of the Eagles fraternity of this city and the Elks lodge of Hornell. 

 

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