Friday, December 22, 2017

100 Years Ago: War Relief Bazaar Closes

One hundred years ago today the doors closed on the Seattle Girls War Relief Bazaar. As previously described the purpose of the Bazaar was to raise the necessary funds to outfit Base Hospital 50. The long-awaited authorization from the Red Cross received in October 1917, included the stipulation that Seattle raise all the money for the necessary equipment for the unit.

The Bazaar was held in downtown Seattle in the Arena and the Hippodrome. The Arena was the home of the Seattle Metropolitans, a professional ice hockey team based which played in the Pacific Coast Hockey Association from 1915 to 1924. The Metropolitans won the Stanley Cup in 1917. The Hippodrome located across the street was a popular dance hall. Neither building is standing today. The streets in-between were closed while the Bazaar was open providing additional entertainment including No Man's Land, a replica of the wartime trenches in use in France, and a carnival game area known as the Sammies Sector.

Seattle Daily Times, Wednesday, December 12, 1917, pg. 21.
The Bazaar opened on Monday, December 17, following a parade led by organizers on horseback through downtown and ran through Saturday, December 22, 1917.

Each day had a theme to encourage Seattleites to attend including:
  • Monday: Girls Night 
  • Tuesday: Army & Navy Day 
  • Wednesday: Fraternal Night 
  • Thursday: University Night 
  • Friday: Art Students' Day 
  • Saturday: Children's Day1
In addition to the daily parade, the program included food conservation demonstrations, bayoneting, dramatic readings, dances, war movies and a wide variety of concerts from diverse groups such as the Victoria Pipe Band and the Whangdoodle Quartet. The Arena was described as a veritable fairyland as the result of the combined efforts of Seattle architect Carl Gould and local artist Irene Ewing.

The Arena was outfitted with many booths designed to inspire attendees to part with their money by purchasing donated knitted clothing, baked goods and more. The Daughters of the American Revolution devoted their booth to the re-creation of an 18th-century tableau. University of Washington instructor Mary F. Rausch developed a popular cookbook featuring recipes enabling families to comply with the wheatless, meatless rationing.

When all the proceeds had been tallied, the bazaar had raised over $120,000 dollars and was declared an unmitigated success. Fifty thousand dollars was turned over to the Seattle Chapter of the Red Cross to equip Base Hospital 50 and the remainder was designated to support dependents of soldiers and sailors from King and Kitsap counties. Just six months later many of the same women would join forces to organize the Seattle Girls Victory Carnival!


  1. "Program of Week's Events," Seattle Sunday Times, December 16, 1917, pg. 4.

Friday, December 15, 2017

100 Years Ago: Enlistment Closed

On December 15, 1917, enlistment for closed with 150 men enrolled; 81 were graduates or students from University of Washington. The group included college instructors, high school teachers, chemists, bacteriologists, bank cashiers, bookkeepers, stenographers, clerks, dentists, pharmacists, undertakers, engineers, mechanics, carpenters, plumbers, painters, auto drivers, automobile repairmen, cooks, tailors, and barbers.

In addition, the majority of the medical staff would come from Seattle and the greater Northwest, as well. The exceptions were the required military officers including the Commanding Officer, from the regular Army Medical Corps, and the Quartermaster, assigned from the Army Quartermaster Corps, in addition to a chaplain.

Friday, December 1, 2017

100 Years Ago: Base Hospital 50 Enlistments Begin

Dr. James Eagleson had traveled to Washington, D.C. in October of 1917 to meet with the Department of Military Relief of the Red Cross and the Surgeon General's office about the organization, enrollment of personnel, and equipment of the Base Hospital.

Dr. Eagleson returned to Seattle and immediately began to arrange for the enrollment of the personnel of the unit. Initially, the unit was to consist of twenty-six officers, selected by the Director except for the Commanding Officer, assigned from the regular Army Medical Corps when the unit was called into active service, and the Quartermaster, assigned from the regular Army Quartermaster Corps. All officers selected by the Director had to be commissioned in the Medical Reserve Corps, U.S. Army, and assigned to Base Hospital No. 50. A chaplain was also to be appointed for service with the unit.

The nursing personnel originally consisted of a chief nurse and sixty-four nurses. Before the unit was called into active service, this number increased to 100 in anticipation of increasing the number of beds in the hospital. All nurses were enrolled in the Red Cross nursing service and then were assigned to Base Hospital 50. Other positions authorized included a dietician, laboratory technicians, and stenographers, if there were not enlisted personnel who could take these roles.

Saturday, November 11, 2017

Pvt. William Bruce White (1893-1918)

White family photo. Used with permission.
Private William Bruce White was the fifth and final casualty for the staff of Base Hospital 50. His death, like most of his colleagues before him, was due to disease rather than injury. Private White succumbed to pneumonia, as a result of the raging influenza epidemic, just five days before Armistice on November 6, 1918.

William was one of eight children  four boys and four girls  – born to Lewis Pindle White and his wife Mary Ellen "Ella" Burke. He was the sixth child and fourth son and his older siblings included Clarence George Thornton, Jessie Pearl, Lewis Pinckney, Lily Darling and Harry Stanhope. William was followed by sisters Helen Frances Luella and Margaret Virginia. Born on January 1, 1893, in Terra Alta, Preston County, West Virginia, William and his family moved to Bellingham in 1897.

The large family lived for several years in a grand Victorian house at 1200 N. Garden St., in Bellingham.1 Its distinctive turret topped by a bell-shaped dome made it a local landmark, then and now. The house still stands although it has since been divided into apartments.

Built in 1890 for banker James W. Morgan, the house plan was from a pattern book designed by Robert Shoppel. Stock market collapses in the mid-1890's led Morgan to sell his home to Lewis White and his business partner William G. Brown, Jr. Together with Brown, also from West Virginia, Lewis White had started the Bank of Whatcom in November of 1897. The acquisition of 1200 N. Garden proved fortuitous since, with eight children, the White family needed a large house!

Snow-covered 1200 N. Garden, c. 1916. 
Photo by J.J. Donovan #1995.6.12, 
Whatcom Museum of History & Art
The family was at the center of many enjoyments in Bellingham."Darlings of the Society column, the Whites hosted elaborate dinners, parlor dances, and card parties that were always “most recherché and artistic” with “choice table decorations,” “tasteful hand-painted place cards” and “dainty favors.” Their guests included the business elite of New Whatcom and Fairhaven. The White’s teenage daughter, Jessie, had her own chaperoned social calendar and often entertained the “younger set” in a “most charming style” with music, dancing, and refreshments."2

Jessie White christened the 200-foot, four-masted lumber schooner Sehome on December 30, 1899. Youngest sister Margaret Virginia won a national photo contest for Resinol Soap in 1903 at the age of four. Sadly, the White family was rocked by the untimely death of Lewis White on July 9, 1903.3 Lewis White had traveled back to the West Virginia home of his mother in Terra Alta where it was hoped the mountain air would restore his health. Although he had been in poor health and suffering from diabetes, his death was unexpected. He left his widow, Ella, and children ranging in age from 4 to 20. Just one month later, Ella White sold the house on Garden and moved to a slightly smaller house at 2007 G Street which she purchased for $3,300.

On Christmas Eve, December 24, 1908, Ella White was married to Frederick Schuh and the family continued to reside on G Street. It is there the family is enumerated in the 1910 census, with 17-year-old William's occupation listed as bank clerk.4 By the time William registered for the draft in June of 1917, he was continuing to follow in his father's footsteps working as a bank clerk at First National Bank in Sedro-Woolley.5
Bellingham Herald, 10 August 1918, pg 6.

It isn't known if William specifically volunteered to serve with Base Hospital 50, but he was mustered into service in June of 1918 with Base Hospital 50, training first at Camp Lawton, in Seattle, then onto Camp Fremont in Palo Alto, California, before traveling to Camp Merritt in New Jersey in anticipation of overseas deployment. Together with the other members of Base Hospital 50, William sailed for Europe on July 14, 1918, aboard the S. S. Karmala.6

His death from complications from influenza came just as the Meuse-Argonne Offensive – the final push towards ending the war – was taking place and Base Hospital 50 was inundated with casualties. Initially buried at the cemetery at the Mesves-Bulcy Hospital Center, William's mother elected to have her son's remains brought home to Bellingham after the war ended. His death was remembered in Whatcom County's Honor Roll and commemorated with a Gold Star on the service flag of Whatcom High school, one of six out of 364 students who served.7,8 In January of 1921, William's journey was completed when he arrived home. He was buried in Bellingham's Bayview Cemetery on January 16, 1921, his loss deeply mourned by his friends and family.9

  1. Twelfth Census of the United States, 1900. New Whatcom, Whatcom, Washington; NARA T623-1742; Enumeration District: 245, Page: 4A, Line: 30; Louis P. White.
  2. Bellingham Business Journal. Victorian on Garden restored to 1890s style. November 30, 2007. (Accessed November 1, 2017.)
  3. Prosser, William Farrand. A History of the Puget Sound Country, Its Resources, Its Commerce and Its People. New York: Lewis Publishing Co., 1903. Biographical Sketch of Lewis P. White, pg. 338.
  4. Thirteenth Census of the United States, 1910. Bellingham, Ward 7, Whatcom, Washington; NARA T624-1688; Enumeration District: 320, Page: 5A, Line: 14; Fred Schuh.
  5. United States, Selective Service System. World War I Selective Service System Draft Registration Cards, 1917-1918. Precinct 1, Skagit County, Washington; William B. White, June 5, 1917.
  6. U.S., Army Transport Service, Passenger Lists, 1910-1939; Records of the Office of the Quartermaster General, National Archives Record Group 92, roll 457; digital image,, (Accessed 1 November 2017).
  7. William B. White Funeral Notice. Bellingham Herald (Bellingham, WA), Thursday, January 2, 1919, page 6.  
  8. Jacobin, Louis. With the colors, from Whatcom, Skagit and San Juan counties: an honor roll containing a pictorial record of the gallant and courageous men from northwestern Washington, U.S.A., who served in the world war, 1917-1918-1919. Seattle, Wash. : Peters Pub. Co., 1921.
  9. "High School is Given Service Flag with 364 Stars Flag Presented to School by Superintendent." Bellingham Herald (Bellingham, WA) Saturday, January 15, 1921, page 8.

Sunday, October 1, 2017

Comrades in Arms: Claire Russell and George Curran

Detail from WWI-era postcard.
NLM D05910

Amidst the long hours and grueling work in France, romance blossomed between at least one couple who served with Base Hospital 50 and became 'comrades in arms.'

After their service to Uncle Sam ended Claire Russell, RN, and George Curran, MD, were married in Chicago, the culmination of a friendship begun in France. They served several months together with Base Hospital 50 and continued corresponding after both were reassigned to other hospital units.

Claire Elizabeth Russell was the second child born to Charles Edward Russell and his wife Ella Mundhenke. Charles was a native of Centerville, Ohio, and Ella of Palmer, Illinois. Their paths crossed out west and they were married on August 23, 1888, in The Dalles, Oregon. Their oldest child, Florence, was born in Seattle, Washington, before the young family settled in Port Angeles where Claire was born on February 15, 1892.1 Sisters Elsie, Nigel, and Avonelle followed before a brother, Henry, rounded out the family in 1908.

Claire Russell Curran, RN (1892-1980)
Used with permission, Jane Curran-Meuli. 

The Russell family relocated across Puget Sound to Everett about 1908. At the time of the 1910 census, the Russell family is living there at 2026 Colby Avenue. Claire's entry in the 1915 Everett City Directory indicates she is working as a nurse, having graduated from Everett General Hospital, a program administered by the Sisters of Providence.2, 3

Claire answered the call for graduate nurses to serve with Base Hospital 50. Like Claire, most of the unit's nurses were from the Pacific Northwest. After taking the oath as an Army Nurse in Everett on May 23, 1918, Claire reported for duty at Fort Riley, Kansas, just a few days later, on May 28th. Two months later, on July 23th, she was transferred to the Nurses Mobilization Station in New York, where she received four weeks of military training.13

Together with another Everett girl, Hazel Gourley, she left New York on August 24, 1918, with the nurses of Base Hospital 50 aboard the La France, arriving at the French port of Brest on September 3. Claire served six months with Base Hospital 50 before being transferred to Evac Hospital No. 31, at Nantes, for four months.

Claire departed from France on the Cap Finisterre on April 25, 1919, arriving in New York on May 5th, where she was discharged. After a visit of several months with her family in Seattle, Claire was reunited with George in Chicago where they were married at St. Ambrose Catholic Church in the Hyde Park neighborhood on July 20, 1919.4 The young couple returned to George's hometown of North Adams, Massachusetts, to begin their life together, after a brief honeymoon.

George Lally Curran, MD (1887-1938)
Used with permission, Jane Curran-Meuli.
Across the country from Claire's home on the west coast, her future husband, George Lally Curran, was growing up in the colonial mill town of North Adams, Massachusetts, where he was born on Christmas Eve, December 24, 1887.8 The third of seven children, George had four brothers; Charles, Arthur, William and Edward, and two sisters, Mary and Mabel.5, 6 His parents Charles James Curran and Catherine Agnes Lally – both children of Irish immigrants – were married on May 28,1883, in nearby Williamstown. Charles Curran attended Holy Cross College and then studied medicine at New York University's Bellevue Hospital, before setting up his practice in North Adams.

George attended St. Joseph's School in North Adams, before moving onto Northside Preparatory School in Williamstown. George Curran attended Amherst College for a year, where he was a member of Phi Gamma Delta. Following in his father's footsteps, George then entered medical school at New York University, graduating in 1910.7 He joined his father's busy general practice at 63 Eagle Street in North Adams just months before his father's untimely death at the age of 49.

Despite his bustling practice, George quietly applied for admission in the Army Medical Corps when the U.S. entered the war. He was commissioned as a First Lieutenant on February 13, 1918, and five weeks later, on March 29, to the surprise of his many patients and the community, he was called to active duty. Initially, he was assigned to Walter Reed Hospital in Washington, DC, treating influenza cases and returning wounded. In early August he was dispatched to Base Hospital 50. After several months he was then transferred to Base Hospital 103 near Dijon. In the spring of 1919, he was awarded the French Medal of Honor for his service. After being promoted to Captain, George received his orders to return home in late June. He arrived at Camp Dix, New Jersey, on July 6, 1919, aboard the Great Northern.

Main Street, North Adams, Massachusetts, 1906 Postcard.
Having secured leave before his return to the U.S., George quickly made his way to Chicago where he was finally reunited with Claire. After George was officially mustered out of the service on July 28, the couple took up residence on Eagle Street and George immediately resumed the practice he had vacated 17 months prior. George's brothers Arthur and William also followed their father into medicine and the three brothers worked together for several years. George and Claire soon welcomed two sons, George Lally, Jr., in 1920, and Charles Edward in 1923.9, 10 Both sons served their country during wartime – World War II, in their case – as their parents had before them.

Separated during the war, Claire and George were destined to be separated in death, as well. Like his father before him, George died unexpectedly of a cerebral hemorrhage at the age of 50. An outpouring of grief in North Adams was extensively chronicled in the local newspaper, the North Adams Transcript.11 George was laid to rest at St. Joseph's Cemetery in North Adams. Claire raised their two sons to adulthood alone and eventually moved to Missouri, to be closer to her son, Charles.12 She died at the age of 87 and is buried at Forest Hill Cemetery in Kansas City, thus ending the romantic and patriotic story of a doctor and nurse who met in the wards of a wartime hospital in France.

The North Adams Transcript,
Monday, 21 Jul 1919, page 5.
  1. Twelfth Census of the United States, 1900. Port Angeles City, Ward 5, Clallam, Washington; NARA T623-1742; Enumeration District: 20, Page: 7B, Line: 58; Chas. Russell.
  2. Thirteenth Census of the United States, 1910. Everett City, Ward 7, Snohomish, Washington; NARA T624-1688; Enumeration District: 288, Page: 10B, Line: 83; Charles E. Russell.
  3. R.L. Polk and Company's Everett City Directory, 1915, p. 585. Digital image:, (Accessed 1 October 2017). Claire E. Russell. 1611 Grand Ave.
  4. "Illinois, Cook County Marriages, 1871-1920," database, FamilySearch, (Accessed 1 October 2017). George L. Curran and Claire E. Russell, 20 Jul 1919.
  5. Twelfth Census of the United States, 1900. North Adams, Ward 6, Berkshire, Massachusetts; NARA T623-632; Enumeration District: 56, Page: 8B, Line: 87; Charles Curran.
  6. Thirteenth Census of the United States, 1910. North Adams, Ward 6, Berkshire, Massachusetts; NARA T624-572; Enumeration District: 59, Page: 7A, Line: 12; Charles J. Curran.
  7. Amherst Graduates' Quarterly. 1920, Vol, 9, page 56.
  8. United States, Selective Service System. World War I Selective Service System Draft Registration Cards, 1917-1918. Draft Board 1, Berkshire County, Massachusetts; George Lally Curran, June 5, 1917.
  9. Fourteenth Census of the United States, 1920. North Adams Ward 6, Berkshire, Massachusetts; NARA T625-681; Enumeration District: 44, Page: 3B, Line: 69; George L. Curran.
  10. Fifteenth Census of the United States, 1930. North Adams, Berkshire, Massachusetts; NARA T626-884; Enumeration District: 38; Page: 5A; Line: 6. George L. Curran. 
  11. "Dr. Geo. L. Curran Dies Suddenly; Community Shocked and Saddened." The North Adams Transcript. [North Adams, Massachusetts] Thursday, June 30, 1938, pages 1 and 3.
  12. Sixteenth Census of the United States, 1940. North Adams, Berkshire, Massachusetts; 1940. T627-1568; Enumeration District: 2-65; Page: 11A; Line: 2. Claire R. Curran.
  13. Mason, William H. Snohomish County in the war; the part played in the Great War by the soldiers, sailors, marines and patriotic civilians of Snohomish County, Washington, U.S.A. Everett, Wash.: Mason Publishing Company, 1926. Claire E. Russell.

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

First Patients Arrive

Surgeon and staff operating on a wounded patient,
Base Hospital 50, Mesves, France, ca. 1918-1919

The officers and enlisted men of Base Hospital 50 reached Mesves, France, on Tuesday, August 6. Arriving by train too late to disembark, the men didn't get to the Hospital Center until the next morning when they marched from the station to the complex. The men of Base Hospital 50 were the second unit to arrive, having been preceded by Base Hospital 67.

The Hospital Center was located on the top of a small hill between the towns of Mesves and Bulcy, surrounded by low and rolling countryside. The unfinished buildings were built of hollow tile or concrete blocks, with wooden roofs, covered with tar paper. The men were put in temporary barracks until theirs were completed. Much of the complex was only half-built, building barely started on much of the facility. The center was scheduled to have been completed the following summer, "but the war had progressed so rapidly that it was necessary to have all the work rushed as fast as possible."1 Intended to have a capacity of 40,000 beds when completed, in the end, the greatest number of patients at the center at any time were 27,000 men at the time the Armistice was signed.

The first task Base Hospital 50 staff undertook was to clear away debris from inside and outside the wards. Time was of the essence to get the wards cleaned and outfitted, as their first patients were expected at any time.

We had only half finished our task when we received our first trainload of patients, at 7:30 p.m., August 15. There were 315, but most of these were only slightly wounded and were called "sitters." There were a few litter cases, who were in rather serious condition. There were no electric lights, water was received only through temporary pipes, and at first, no bathing facilities were available. The Unit itself was handicapped by the non-arrival of a large part of our overseas baggage, which had been selected for any emergency that might arise. The equipment not having arrived, the hospital was equipped by the Medical Supply Depot. It was necessary to crudely construct from rough lumber, beaverboard, tin cans and any material at hand, office equipment, stoves, cupboards, etc., all required but which were impossible to secure at the Center. When the first trainload of patients ar- rived there was not a nurse in camp, and the men were forced to assume these duties, along with their other work, and not knowing much about this, it was very difficult; but with the aid of the doctors they were able to handle the job temporarily.2 Just a week after the first patients arrived another train came in with 700 more, and this taxed us to the utmost. A few days later 300 more patients arrived, and this time we were able to get a few nurses from Mars Center, who helped us out a great deal.

Within days of arriving, Base Hospital 50 was a fully functioning part of the Mesves-Bulcy Hospital Center and the strains of overwork were already in evidence by early September when the unit's first casualty, Sam Parker, occurred.

  1. United States. Army. Base Hospital No. 50. The history of Base Hospital Fifty : a portrayal of the work done by this unit while serving in the United States and with the American Expeditionary Forces in France. Seattle, Wash. : The Committee, 1922.
  2. The nurses of Base Hospital 50 encountered delays and bad weather during their crossing and didn't arrive at the center until the end of August. 

Monday, July 31, 2017

PFC Charles Norman Fletcher (1896-1918)

“Working day and night to take care of a number of pneumonia patients that poured into Base Hospital 50,” Private First Class Charles Fletcher contracted the disease and died two days later on October 9, 1918.1

University of Washington TYEE, 19197
Charles Norman Fletcher was born on July 10, 1896, in Buckley, Washington. His father, Charles Fletcher, was a native of England and his mother, Anna Spence, of Scotland. Charles had two older sisters, Charlotte and Hazel Velma Fletcher. Just three weeks after Hazel was born on December 13, 1889, Charlotte died of membranous croup at the age of 3, on January 4, 1890. The family was living at 1609 Front Street in Seattle, at the time, and Charlotte was buried in Lake View Cemetery. Charles Fletcher, Sr. was a miner and later a saloon keeper and lumberman. The family moved back and forth from the Buckley area to Seattle, before settling at 5269 17th Ave NE about 1910.2, 3

"Chuck" as he was called in high school graduated from Seattle's Broadway High School in 1915. His senior class entry notes he entered from Lincoln High School in September 1913 and included the quote "A laugh is worth a hundred groans in any market."4

At the time he registered for the draft, Charles was working in a salmon cannery in Dundas Bay, Alaska.5 His draft card described him as a blue-eyed redhead of medium height and build. Charles was one of the first to enlist after the organization of Base Hospital 50 in Seattle, by Major James B. Eagleson. Charles interrupted his sophomore year at the University of Washington (UW), where he was majoring in business administration, to enlist in December 1917. When he previously attempted to enlist in the infantry and artillery he had been rejected.

"Charlie Fletcher and mates"17
While at the UW, Charles was affiliated with Kappa Sigma (KΣ) fraternity. At the time of his enlistment, the KΣ service flag for the UW's Beta Psi chapter had 93 stars and Charles' death was the first gold star for his chapter.6 Before his departure, Charles was elected to Tyes Tyon, the sophomore honor society.7

Along with other members of Base Hospital 50, Charles was first ordered to Fort Lawton in March 1918. In April, the unit headed south to Camp Fremont, in Palo Alto, for training and to await their overseas orders. Finally, in early July, the unit was given orders to travel to Camp Merritt, New Jersey, in preparation for their deployment to France. Base Hospital 50's staff sailed from Brooklyn on the Karmala on July 14, 1918.8

Base Hospital 50 records, UW Libraries10
At the time of his death, Charles was wardmaster of the hospital, responsible for the patients and the enlisted staff. Word of his death from pneumonia reached Seattle in letters home from his comrades before his parents received official notification.9 He was originally buried in the Base Hospital 50 Cemetery at Mesves, in the department of Nievre, his name recorded in a notebook of burials kept by chaplain Bergen Hansen.10

After World War I, the Army gave families the option to have the remains of their loved ones buried in permanent cemeteries in France or repatriated to the United States. The Fletcher family elected to have Charles brought home and his body arrived in Seattle on January 15, 1921.11 Funeral services were held for him at 3 o'clock the following day, Sunday, January 16, at the Bonney-Watson Chapel at 1702 Broadway. Coincidentally, Rev. Hansen, who had buried Charles in France, officiated at his funeral.12 Charles was buried at Seattle’s Lake View Cemetery with his sister, Charlotte.13

University of Washington TYEE, 191214

Unfortunately, Charles' was not the last untimely death for the Fletcher family. Charles was survived by his parents, Annie and Charles Fletcher, and his sister, Hazel, who had married William Whitlock Mattson.6 Hazel received her bachelor of arts degree in Latin from the University of Washington in 1912, where she was a member of Chi Omega sorority.14 Her marriage in 1915 was the result of a "campus romance" with William, who was a standout football player under legendary UW coach Gil Dobie.15 Her husband became a surgeon and they were married in Minnesota where William was working at the Mayo Clinic. William also served during World War I, as a Lieutenant with the 342nd Field Hospital, part of the 311th Sanitary Train.

Hazel and William were the parents of three children, William Whitlock, Jr., Muriel Ann, and Charles Fletcher Mattson, born in 1926 and named for his uncle. On December 27, 1936, young Charles was kidnapped from his parent's home at 4506 N. Verde St. in the affluent Point Defiance Park neighborhood of Tacoma. Despite responding to the kidnapper's ransom requests, the story ended tragically on January 11, 1937, when Charles’s body was found south of Everett by a teenager hunting rabbits. "The kidnapping and murder of Charles F. Mattson has never been solved and, because capital crimes have no statute of limitations, the case remains an open file at the Federal Bureau of Investigation."16

  1. "University Boy Dies Suddenly in France." Seattle Post-Intelligencer, November 28, 1918, page 9.
  2. 1900 U.S. census, population schedule, Buckley, Pierce, Washington. Enumeration District 148, sheet 5B, Charles Fletcher household; National Archives microfilm publication T623, roll 1748; digital image,, (Accessed 30 July 2017).
  3. 1910 U.S. census, population schedule, Seattle Ward 10, King, Washington. Enumeration district 181, sheet 8B, Charles Fletcher household; National Archives microfilm publication T624, roll 1661; digital image,, (Accessed 30 July 2017).
  4. Broadway High School, Seattle Washington. Seatlh, 1915, Charles Norman Fletcher "Chuck", page 45: digital image,, (Accessed 30 July 2017).
  5. "U.S. World War I Draft Registration Cards, 1917-1918," digital images, ( : accessed 30 July 2017); Seattle, King County, Draft Board 2. Charles Norman Fletcher, dated 5 August 1917, Dundas, Alaska.
  6. "Charles N. Fletcher, member of University Kappa Sigma fraternity, whose death in France has been reported." The Seattle Daily Times, December 3, 1918, page 9.
  7. University of Washington. Tyee, 1919, Charles Norman Fletcher, page 40.
  8. U.S., Army Transport Service, Passenger Lists, 1910-1939; Records of the Office of the Quartermaster General, National Archives Record Group 92, roll 457; digital image,, (Accessed 30 July 2017).
  9. "Comrades Tell of Death of Local Boy." The Seattle Star, November 28, 1918, page 12.
  10. United States Army Base Hospital No. 50 records, 1917-1971. Accession No. 3847-003. University of Washington Libraries.
  11. "Bodies of soldiers arrive." The Sunday Seattle Times, January 16, 1921, pg 3.
  12. "Charles N. Fletcher" funeral notice. The Seattle Daily Times, January 14, 1921, page 19.
  13. PFC Charles N. Fletcher. Find a Grave,, Memorial #153928281. (Accessed 30 July 2017.)
  14. University of Washington. Tyee, 1912, Hazel Velma Fletcher, page 35.
  15. "Here and Elsewhere" The Seattle Star, March 27, 1915, page 7.
  16. "Ten-year-old Charles F. Mattson is kidnapped in Tacoma and held for ransom on December 27, 1936." HistoryLink, (Accessed 30 July 2017).
  17. United States. Army. Base Hospital No. 50. The history of Base Hospital Fifty : a portrayal of the work done by this unit while serving in the United States and with the American Expeditionary Forces in France. Seattle, Wash. : The Committee, 1922.

Sunday, May 14, 2017

Collecting Moss for Uncle Sam

The Seattle Star, 3 April 1918, pg 4.
The Red Cross was a relatively small organization – just 107 chapters in 1914 – before the United States entered the Great War. With the outbreak of war, however, the organization experienced phenomenal growth. The number of local chapters grew to 3,864 by 1918 and membership increased from 17,000 to over 20 million adult and 11 million Junior Red Cross members.

A unique activity coordinated by the Red Cross during this period was the collection of sphagnum moss for wound packing. Sphagnum moss played an important part during World War I as a substitute for cotton gauze dressings. Dried moss can absorb up to twenty times its volume of liquid, including blood, and is superior to cotton dressing material for staunching wounds. Moss retains liquids better and distributes liquids more uniformly. It was cooler, softer, and less irritating than cotton, and could be produced more rapidly and more cheaply. Dried moss also has effective antibacterial properties due to its acidity. 

The Seattle Times, 16 June 1918, pg. 3.
Moss was certainly in great supply in the damp Pacific Northwest, which contributed 60% of the sphagnum moss collected for use during the war. University of Washington botany professor and Red Cross Northwest Division director John W. Hotson began identifying moss gathering locations in Washington in March 1918, when the American Red Cross authorized the use of the moss for bandages.

Red Cross volunteers around the Pacific Northwest organized work parties to bring in moss for making into bandages. Between October 1917 and November 1918, 595,540 moss bandages were made by Red Cross volunteers in Washington, Oregon, and Maine. Moss drives took place in South Bend, Long Beach, Ilwaco and Chinook gathering 90,000 pounds of moss which was spread out to dry before being sent to Seattle to be sewn into bandages.

The Sunday Seattle Times, 14 October 1917, pg 5.
In Seattle, and other cities around the Pacific Northwest, university students and women's clubs made bandages out of the dried moss. Women did most of the work of preparing the moss and putting together the bandages, often in addition to working at home or in a workplace all day. At the University of Washington women received course credit for making bandages. Some girls were tasked with picking over the moss while other more experienced girls made the bandages. As the war continued high school students were enlisted to help with picking over the moss so the university girls could devote their time entirely to the making of the bandages.

The doctors and the nurses
Look North with eager eyes,
And call on us to send them
The dressing that they prize
No other in its equal -
In modest bulk it goes,
Until it meets the gaping wound
Where the red life blood flows,
The spreading, swelling in its might
It checks the fatal loss,
And kills the germ, and heals the hurt
The kindly Sphagnum Moss.
Mrs A. M. Smith (1917). A member of the Edinburgh War Dressings Supply organisation.

Learn more about sphagnum moss:
  1. Hotson, John William. Sphagnum as Surgical Dressing. Seattle, WA : Northwest Division of the American Red Cross, 1918.
  2. The Home Guard. University of Washington Tyee, 1918, pp. 22-23.
  3. Sphagnum Moss - Voices of War and Peace.
  4. Sphagnum moss and the 1914–18 war - The Pharmaceutical Journal blog, 26 March 2009.
  5. Wound dressing in World War I - The kindly Sphagnum Moss - Field Bryology, No. 110, November 2013.
  6. How Humble Moss Healed the Wounds of Thousands in World War I 28 April 2017.

Monday, April 17, 2017

Army Transport Passenger Lists

Physicians of Base Hospital 50 sailing on the SS Karmala for France.

In honor of the 100th anniversary of the United States' entry in the World War I, Ancestry recently released an important new database, U.S., Army Transport Service, Passenger Lists, 1910-1939. A devastating fire in 1973 at the National Personnel Records Center  a branch of the National Archives located in St. Louis – destroyed an estimated 80% of Army personnel records. WWI draft registration cards do not provide proof of service and these troop passenger manifests help fill an important gap.

The collection includes 8.4 million records from the Army Transport Service (ATS). The ATS was established in 1899 as part of the Army Quartermaster Department. It was originally created to manage the transport of troops and cargo on Army ships that traveled between U.S. and overseas ports during the Spanish-American War. 

The ATS passenger lists document the movement of troops traveling to and from foreign ports. Civilian support personnel, such as nurses, and family members, war brides for example, may also be listed. The manifests also include deceased US soldiers whose remains were repatriated; invaluable information because this didn't happen until several years after the war ended.

Details recorded in these passenger lists typically include:
  • Ship name 
  • Arrival date and place 
  • Departure date and place 
  • Service member's name, rank, service number, age, residence, next of kin with relationship, and the regiment, company, detachment, or other organization that the service member was attached to.
For non-service members, entries also include their relation to a service member.

Friday, February 17, 2017

Pvt. Edward John Nesser (1895-1918)

The following day we had another shock, when Ed. Nesser died after a brief illness. This was the third death in less than two weeks, and everyone was beginning to get a little worried. It was the overwork that caused the weakened condition of the men and made them susceptible to the different diseases.1

Just a day after surgeon William Kantner died suddenly from a heart attack, Private Edward John Nesser became Base Hospital 50's third casualty when he died of pneumonia on September 19, 1918. Ed was the third of eight children born to Andrew Nesser and his wife, Ida Goodmanson (Gudmanson). Five of the Nesser children survived infancy, but, like Ed, the entire family were victims of untimely deaths.

Ed’s father, Andrew Nesser, was an immigrant from Norway, arriving in the United States circa 1888, according to census records.2 He married Ida Goodmanson, in Minneapolis, Minnesota, on December 4, 1890.3  Ida was a native of Wisconsin and herself of Norwegian heritage. By late 1891, when their first child – daughter Dora Hattie – was born, Ida and Andrew Nesser had moved to Seattle. Sons Ingwal Andrew and Edward John followed in 1893 and 1895. Norman and Hattie arrived in 1904 and 1907, respectively.

The family lived in Seattle’s Ballard neighborhood – a separate city until 1907 – at 5810 20th Avenue NW. Andrew was a successful halibut fisherman and Ballard was home to the region’s burgeoning Scandinavian community and commercial fishermen due to its ready access to Puget Sound. Although Ida and Andrew lost several children in early infancy, their first major brush with tragedy occurred in 1905 when their oldest child, Dora, died of typhoid fever at the age of 13. Dora was buried at nearby Crown Hill Cemetery, which opened just two years prior.4

The family was next rocked by Andrew Nesser’s accidental drowning in 1915. His body was found floating in Elliott Bay three weeks after his family had declared him missing. A witness reported seeing Nesser leaning over the seawall the night he disappeared. He might never have been discovered had there not been a dynamite blast in the area which caused the body to float free from under the pier. The coroner conjectured Andrew became suddenly ill and had fallen into the bay.5 As the body was being transferred to the morgue a bouquet was dropped squarely on the casket by aviator Herbert Munter as he flew over the waterfront. Brothers Ingwal and Edward took over captaining their father’s fishing boat, the Ida N. 

The brothers responded together on June 5, 1917, to the mandatory draft registration. Both brothers were described as tall, blue-eyed, brown-haired fisherman.6 Although Ingwal is also noted as being ‘stout’. Ingwal died in December later that year in Los Angeles, of tuberculosis. Less than a year later Edward was dead from pneumonia in France, where he was serving with Base Hospital 50. Edward was buried at St. Mihiel American Cemetery.

Ida eventually remarried Timothy Small in 1926, a decade after Andrew’s death.7 Her two surviving children both succumbed to tuberculosis; Norman in 1926 and Hattie in 1928. Ida’s second marriage likely wasn’t successful as her marital status is listed as 'separated' on her death certificate. Ida Goodmanson Nesser died alone in 1934 – an inmate at Western State Hospital in Steilacoom – having outlived her first husband and all her children, a sad end to a large Seattle family.8

  1. United States. Army. Base Hospital No. 50. The history of Base Hospital Fifty : a portrayal of the work done by this unit while serving in the United States and with the American Expeditionary Forces in France. Seattle, Wash. : The Committee, 1922. 
  2. 1900 U.S. census, population schedule, Ballard, King, WashingtonEnumeration District 58, sheet 23A, Andrew Nesser household; National Archives microfilm publication T623, roll 1743; digital image,, (Accessed 17 February 2017).
  3. Minnesota Marriages, 1849–1950. Index. FamilySearch, Salt Lake City, Utah, 2009, 2010. Index entries derived from digital copies of original and compiled records. Andrew Nesser and Ida Goodmanson. 4 December 1890, Minneapolis, Minnesota.
  4. Dora Hattie Nesser. Find a Grave,, Memorial #6219036. (Accessed 23 January 2017).
  5. Flowers Descend on Nesser's Body. The Seattle Daily Times. June 2, 1915, pg. 3.
  6. "U.S. World War I Draft Registration Cards, 1917-1918," digital images, (, : accessed 17 February 2017); King County, Washington, Seattle, Draft Board 1. Ed. John Nesser and Ingwal Andrew Nesser entries, dated 5 June 1917.
  7. Pierce County Auditor, Marriage Records, 1876-1947; 1984-2014, Washington State Archives, Digital Archives, accessed 17 February 2017. Timothy Small and Ida Nesser. 
  8. "Washington Death Certificates, 1907-1960," database, FamilySearch ( : 17 February 2017), Ida Small, 30 Apr 1934; citing Ft Steilacoom, Pierce, Washington, reference 258, Bureau of Vital Statistics, Olympia; FHL microfilm 2,023,101.

Saturday, January 28, 2017

Answering the Call: The Army Nurse Corps

Oh, they are fine! One need never tell me that women can’t do as much, stand as much, and be as brave as men. 

Four hundred nurses were already serving in Europe when the U.S. declared war on Germany in 1917. By war's end over 22,000 nurses had served in the Army and Navy Nurse Corps. Their service was indispensable and continued beyond Armistice as the world battled the influenza pandemic of 1918. Nurses in the American Expeditionary Forces served in France, Belgium, England, Siberia, Italy, Serbia, Hawaii, Puerto Rico and the Philippines. They worked in 58 field hospitals, mobile units, evacuation camps and convalescent hospitals; on troop trains and transport ships; and helped staff 47 ambulance companies which operated on the Western Front.

Of the nurses who served during World War I, nearly 300 died while in service. Many were themselves victims of influenza, as well as tuberculosis and pneumonia. Three Navy nurses were awarded the Navy Cross posthumously for their service during the epidemic. Three members of the Army Nurse Corps were awarded the Distinguished Service Cross and 23 received the Distinguished Service Medal. Numerous nurses also received meritorious awards from the allied nations where they served including the French Croix de Guerre  and the Military Medal from Great Britain.

The Progressive Era brought about a rise in professionalization for many occupations including nursing. Recruitment posters called for graduate nurses to fill the ranks, women who had received formal training at a nursing school with a curriculum that included theoretical and practical nursing. Initially nurses were required to be U.S. citizens, unmarried Caucasian women between 25 and 35 years of age.

"War service was hard, uncomfortable and heartbreaking. Overseas the nurses faced raw, cold weather and shortages of water for bathing and laundry, long hours at work and little privacy or time off. They treated shrapnel wounds, infections, mustard gas burns, exposure and medical and emotional trauma." (Military Nurses in World War I)

Even with the recruitment of thousands of nurses, the number of patients far exceeded the 10:1 ratio initially planned. Base hospitals built to house 800-1000 beds routinely had double the number of patients. Base Hospital 50 was initially expected to be 500 beds but was quickly expanded to 1,000, with a staff of 250 and 100 nurses. Shifts of 14-18 hours were common at Base Hospital 50 as nurses cared for surgical patients and mustard gas cases. Overwork and fatigue was a common theme in the unit's history.

It is important to remember "the women who served in the Army Nurse Corps "rendered service ‘beyond expectations' at a time when women were not even allowed to vote" in the U.S. (Vane)  Nurses could have no expectation of a military rank or commission and still they served tirelessly. (As did equally disenfranchised women physicians.) Many extended their service after the war to go to war-torn areas of Serbia, Montenegro and Albania to help rebuild communities. By World War II  because of 'Rosie's Mom' and the groundwork laid by thousands of women who served during World War I – women's wartime roles would be expanded even more.

Read more about nursing service during World War I:

  1. Brown, Carrie. Rosie's Mom: Forgotten Women Workers of the First World War. Northeastern University Press, 2002.
  2. Budreau, Lisa M. and Richard A Prior. Answering The Call: The U.S. Army Nurse Corps, 1917-1919: A Commemorative Tribute to Military Nursing in World War I. Washington, DC : Office of the Surgeon General, Borden Institute, Walter Reed Army Medical Center, 2008.
  3. Feller, Carolyn M., and Cox, Debora R. Highlights in the History of the Army Nurse Corps. Washington, D.C.: U.S. Army Center of Military History, 2000. 
  4. Gavin, Lettie. American Women In World War: They Also Served. University Press of Colorado, 2006. 
  5. Jensen, Kimberly. Mobilizing Minerva: American Women in the First World War. University of Illinois Press, 2008. 
  6. Sarnecky, Mary T. A History of the U.S. Army Nurse Corps. Philadelphia, PA: University of Pennsylvania Press, 1999. 
  7. Stimson, Julia C. The Medical Department of the United States Army in the World War. Volume XIII, Part Two, The Army Nurse Corps. Washington, D.C.: U.S. Government Printing Office, 1927.
  8. Vane, Colonel Elizabeth A. P. Contributions of the U.S. Army Nurse Corps in World War I. Soins: La revue de référence infirmière, June 2014.

Learn more about women and the Progressive Era:

Kimberly Jensen, PhD, recommended the following reading in her 2011 interview discussing her book Mobilizing Minerva:
  1. Kennedy, Kathleen. Disloyal Mothers and Scurrilous Citizens: Women and Subversion during World War I. Indiana University Press, 1999.
  2. Nielsen, Kim J. Un-American Womanhood: Antiradicalism, Antifeminism, and the First Red Scare. Ohio State University Press, 2001.
  3. Steinson, Barbara J. American Women's Activism. New York : Garland Publishing, 1981. 
  4. Zeiger, Susan. In Uncle Sam's Service: Women Workers with the American Expeditionary Force, 1917-1919. University of Pennsylvania Press, 2004.

Monday, January 23, 2017

Pvt. Samuel N. Parker (1897-1918)

Tyee, 1919, pg. 41.
By September, 1918, the overwork was beginning to show on the men, and this, along with bad drinking water, put a large number of our own men in the hospital. … It was at this time that the unit lost its first man, Sam Parker, who died the evening of September 7, just as taps was sounded. He was run down from overwork and contracted diphtheria.”1

Private Samuel N. Parker was just twenty-one when he succumbed to exhaustion and diphtheria while serving with Base Hospital 50 in France. 

The only child of John William Parker and his wife, Sarah Elizabeth Nichols, Sam's parents were married in Chicago on June 23, 1896.2 Sam's exact date and place of birth are unknown, but the 1900 census indicates he was born in August of 1896, although 1897 is more likely.3 At the time of the 1900 federal census, Sam, his parents and maternal grandmother Edna Johnson Nichols Mitchell were living in Hampton Township, located in Rock Island County, Illinois, just across the Mississippi River from Davenport, Iowa. By the 1910 census the family had relocated to West Seattle and were living on Alki Avenue.4 Their move had likely been a recent one as a biographical sketch of Sam's father was published in a Rock Island County history in 1908.5

News story written by Sam Parker.
Thursday, June 28, 1917, Morning Olympian
(Olympia, WA), pg 1. 
Sam graduated with honors from West Seattle School – later West Seattle High School – in 1915 and enrolled at the University of Washington with the class of 1919. While at the UW, Sam was a member of Pi Tau Upsilon Fraternity. He worked as a writer and editor for The Daily, the UW's student newspaper, and was a member of Sigma Delta Chi, a national honorary journalism fraternity.

A few months before he enlisted, Sam left college to take a position on the news staff of Seattle's Post-Intelligencer, where his work was highly esteemed. After having "tried in vain to enlist in a dozen different fighting units", Sam "did the next best thing and applied for a place in Base Hospital Unit No. 50."6

"He was not a man of robust health and for months he made futile efforts to enlist in the service of his country. Finally Dr. Eagleson, impressed with the young man's lofty patriotism and persistent attempts to serve, accepted him for the hospital corps, and on the day of his induction into service Parker bade his associates on the staff of the Post-Intelligencer goodbye."7

Original grave of Sam Parker.
The History of Base Hospital Fifty, 1922.
Sam enlisted early in the summer of 1918, traveling to Camp Merritt, New Jersey, for training and then deployed on July 14, 1918, for service overseas under the command of Major Eagleson. His death was a blow to the optimism and morale of the staff of Base Hospital 50 who lost two additional men not long after. Originally buried at the cemetery located outside the hospital complex, Sam was later reinterred at nearby St. Mihiel American Cemetery.8

His mother, Sarah, who lost her only child, participated in the Gold Star pilgrimages sponsored by the U.S. government and visited her son's final resting place in July of 1930.9

  1. United States. Army. Base Hospital No. 50. The history of Base Hospital Fifty : a portrayal of the work done by this unit while serving in the United States and with the American Expeditionary Forces in France. Seattle, Wash. : The Committee, 1922. Page 69.
  2. Illinois, Cook County Marriages, 1871-1920. John W. Parker and Sarah E. Nichols. 23 Jun 1896. Chicago, Cook, Illinois.
  3. 1900 U.S. census, population schedule, Hampton, Rock Island, Illinois. Enumeration District 93, sheet 16A, John Parker household; National Archives microfilm publication T623, roll 338; digital image,, (Accessed 20 January 2017).
  4. 1910 U.S. census, population schedule, Seattle Ward 14, King, Washington. Enumeration district 218, sheet 10A, J.W. Parker household; National Archives microfilm publication T624, roll 1661; digital image,, (Accessed 20 January 2017).
  5. Historic Rock Island County: History of the Settlement of Rock Island County from the Earliest Known Period to the Present Time... . Kramer & Company, 1908. Volume 2, pg. 153.
  6. University of Washington. Tyee, 1919, Sam Parker, War Memorial, page 41.
  7. Sam Parker Dies in Country's Service. The Washington Newspaper. 4(1) Oct 1918, pg 12.
  8. Pilgrimage for the mothers and widows of soldiers, sailors, and marines of the American forces now interred in the cemeteries of Europe as provided by the Act of Congress of March 2, 1929... Washington, U.S. G.P.O., 1930. Sarah Parker, Pacific Palisades, California, page 23.
  9. Pvt. Samuel N. Parker. Find a Grave,, Memorial #56341596. (Accessed 23 January 2017.)