• Ann D. Watson

Cause of death: accidental gunshot wound


No one knows exactly what happened out in the barn that terrible day, except that it was an accident.

Ever since their mother had died in a horse and carriage accident a year ago, Margaret Ann Dingman, 24, had been trying to manage the family and care for four younger siblings. Her older sister Mary and two older brothers had already left home, leaving her in charge.

But Margaret wasn't there when sixteen-year-old Norman and fourteen-year-old Donald who were close in age and close buddies, were out in the barn that March day, playing with neighbor boys.

The (New York, N.Y.) Sun, 18 March 1907, p. 3, col. 2;

image, Newspapers.com (https://www.newspapers.com :

accessed 26 October 2018). Note: Donald was actually

the younger of the two boys. Norman was sixteen.

One version of the story went that Donald said to his elder brother, "Go ahead, pull the trigger. It's not loaded." In another version, the gun went off accidentally. Another account had it that Donald loaded the gun, cocked it, and laid it down, to be picked up by Norman.

What we do know is that Norman fired the gun, not knowing it would blast his beloved younger brother with birdshot. Donald died several hours later.

The story goes that as he lay dying, Donald said, 'It's not your fault, Norman. It's my fault." Little that must have done to assuage Norman's terrible guilt and devastation. He certainly never forgot it. Once, when a dog had been injured, he reported that all he could see as he looked toward the dog was Donald lying there dying.

Norman (left) and Donald in happier times, about 1900, seven years before the tragedy.

My mother, Norman's daughter, felt that the incident gave Norman "enormous understanding," a deep capacity for compassion. Eight years after the tragedy, he graduated from Columbia University medical school in June, 1915, and later served as a surgeon at the front in the first World War.

Norman named his own son Donald Dunlop Dingman.

I am participating in Amy Johnson Crow's 52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks. This week the theme is "Cause of Death."


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