Sunday, August 28, 2016

Alie Enger, RN, ANC, 1890-1925

Special thanks to Mary E. Burman, Alie's great niece, 
who contributed this entry.

In 1920, the year women finally got the vote in the United States, Alie Enger homesteaded on a hilly piece of land near Melrose, Oregon.  She had returned the year before from France where she served as a nurse with Army Base Hospital #50 (BH#50) along with her sister Jennie Enger, who at about the same time in 1920, bought a house in Wenatchee, Washington.  Alie (pronounced “Ollie” according to family members) smiles shyly in a photograph taken in front of a cabin presumably on her new property.

She married Ralph Petrequin in November later that year.   He had a land patent nearby where he raised potatoes, corn, and beans and had an orchard with loganberries and strawberries.  He had some success noting in the final proof for his homestead that in 1914 “The garden was good, but the corn and beans did no good, it was too dry”. He also worked at the Voorhies Prune Dryer in Lookingglass near Melrose  and was listed in 1920 as a laborer in the home of his mother and step-father.  Alie looks happy in pictures with her new husband and her mother-in-law and must have felt that life was good.

Sadly, she died 5 years later in 1925 at the age of 35 of chronic nephritis and anemia on August 7,  the night before her sister, Jennie, gave birth to a son.  Their younger brother Martin had recently died in December 1924 of “intestinal nephritis”.   Alie and her sister were a little over a year apart in age, grew up together on the farms in Bellingham and Everson, had gone to nursing school together at St. Joseph’s Hospital in Bellingham, Washington, and served together in the Army Nurse Corps in France. The mixture of joy and sadness must have been difficult for Jennie and the other Engers.

Few alive today remember Alie and there are few family stories. But here is what is known, pieced together from a variety of sources.  She was born in Seattle on November 14, 1890 the second child (out of 11 children) of Stengrim and Anne Enger, immigrants from Norway.  She was baptized on February 15, 1891 according to the records of the US Evangelical Lutheran Church of America.  She grew up in Bellingham and Everson where her father was a dairy farmer. She had the equivalent of 8 years of schooling and one year of normal school.

In 1910, she was a boarder in the home of a family in Bellingham  shortly before starting her 3 years of nursing training. St. Joseph’s hospital had 200 beds at that time and she had regular lessons and lectures on topics such as surgical, medical, gynecological, and contagion nursing.   She was also sent out to do private duty nursing while in training. She and Jennie graduated in September 1914 and she applied for registration as a nurse in Washington shortly before that.

She appears to have worked as a nurse prior to WWI.  She, Jennie, and several other nurses are pictured in their nursing uniforms in front of Benjamin Shurtleff Hospital in 1916 in Napa, California.  The hospital had just opened in 1910, named for a prominent attorney and justice of the California Supreme Court.

On March 20, 1918, she entered the Army Nurse Corps.  According to her sister Jennie’s diary, Alie went to Camp Lewis after she enlisted, joining the rest of the BH#50 nurses in New York City before embarking for France.  She served with the rest of BH#50 at Mesves Bulcy and also provided care at the Evacuation Hospital No. 31 at Nantes France before mustering out on June 6, 1919.

After the war, she lived with her family in Bellingham working as a trained nurse in a hospital. She had a busy family and social life based on Jennie’s photo album. Alie and her brother John’s wife Gertie are pictured climbing up a snow covered slope and camping at Skyline Camp in 1919.  In 1923, she’s pictured at an Enger family reunion at 626 High Street, the boarding house that her mother ran in Bellingham.

However, what stands out after the war is her move to Oregon.  What prompted her to move to Oregon?  Did she already know Ralph when she moved or did she meet him after she homesteaded?  What plans did she and Ralph have for their life together?  What adventures did she have in mind, given that she seems to have liked excitement and adventures?

Regrettably, the answers to these questions may never be known. Like all of the women who served in BH#50, Alie was a unique person with her own life with dreams and adventures in mind, a daughter, sister, soon to be a homesteader and wife.  Like all of the women, her service at AB#50 was a most likely a life-changing chapter in her story.  Her move to Oregon to homestead may have been an adventure inspired by her experience in France during World War I.  

Mary E. Burman