Wednesday, January 17, 2018

Alma Lighthall MacAdam, RN, ANC, 1889-1966

From Ontario to Omak and back again.

Alma Evelyn Lighthall had already traveled North America from coast to coast before being dispatched to France along with the other nurses of Base Hospital 50. The youngest of six children born to Giles Samuel Lighthall and his wife Isabella Vogan, Alma was born on April 2, 1889, in Vankleek Hill, Ontario, Canada. Her parents, both natives of Ontario, were of Irish and English descent.

On May 31, 1910, after successfully completing two-and-a-half years of study, Alma was one of fifteen nurses to graduate from the Jewish Hospital Training School, located in Brooklyn.1 The following September she received her nursing license from the State of New York.2

While Alma was pursuing her nursing studies, several of her siblings had made their way from Ontario to western Canada. Later her sister, Bertha, together with her husband, Fred Fitzpatrick, immigrated to the United States, originally residing in Seattle. The Fitzpatricks would soon settle on a fruit orchard in Omak, located in Washington's northeast corner.

Alma made her way west, as well, and eventually spent several years with her sister, Bertha, after she was suddenly widowed. At the time she enlisted with the Red Cross to serve as a nurse with Base Hospital 50, Alma was recorded as being from Omak. Alma's service was included in Okanogan County's honor roll. Along with the rest of the nursing contingent assigned to Base Hospital 50, Alma received her orders to travel to New York where the nurses were met with several delays before finally sailing on the La France on August 25, 1918.3

Okanogan High School. Junior Class. (1919).
  Service record of the community war work
After serving eight months, Alma returned to the United States, sailing from Brest to Hoboken, New Jersey, arriving on April 23, 1919, together with some of the nurses she'd served alongside in Mesves.4 Alma seems to have made her way to Ontario, and Vankleek Hill, to visit her family following her return as she was recorded returning to the U.S. in May with Omak, listed as her destination.5 The Army had other plans for her, however, as she was posted to Camp Grant, near Rockford, Illinois, during the summer of 1919, before she made her way to Washington.6

By the time the 1920 census is enumerated, Alma was living in Seattle, employed as a nurse at the  Mount Baker Park Sanitarium located at 3119 S. Day Street.7 This impressive home, built in 1897, is one of Seattle's finest examples of Queen Anne architecture. Built for attorney Will Thompson, Ernest McKay constructed the house with materials from a sawmill at 30th Avenue South and South Judkins Street. The Thompson house served as a sanitarium after World War I and later a rooming house until 1976.

Alma later returned to government service working as a public health nurse in Prescott, Arizona, before being transferred to U.S. Veterans' Hospital 98 in Beacon, New York in 1924. By 1930, she was working as a private duty nurse in Brooklyn.8

On June 23, 1933, Alma married florist, John Alexander Gilbert MacAdam in Windsor, Ontario. A widower, John, was from her hometown of Vankleek Hill. Frederica Fitzpatrick, daughter of her late sister Bertha, served as Alma's witness. At the time of her marriage, Alma was living at 565 St. Mark's Place in Brooklyn. Theirs was to be a short marriage, unfortunately, as John died just five years later, in 1938.

Alma Lighthall MacAdam survived her husband by nearly 30 years. She died in Brooklyn, on August 31, at the age of 77, and is buried alongside her husband, parents, and siblings at Greenwood Cemetery, in Vankleek Hill.

  1. "Nurses get Diplomas from Jewish Hospital" The Brooklyn Daily Eagle, 1 June 1910, page 4.
  2. Lighthall, Alma. Professional Nursing License 7278, dated 27 September 1910. ( Office of the Professions, Verification Searches).
  3. U.S., Army Transport Service, Passenger Lists, 1910-1939; Records of the Office of the Quartermaster General, National Archives Record Group 92, roll 441; digital image,, (Accessed 16 January 2018). Alma Lighthall, La France, sailed 25 August 1918, New York to Brest, France.
  4. U.S., Army Transport Service, Passenger Lists, 1910-1939; Records of the Office of the Quartermaster General, National Archives Record Group 92, roll 205; digital image,, (Accessed 16 January 2018). Alma E. Lighthall, S. S. Mobile, sailed 13 April 1919, Brest, France to Hoboken, New Jersey.
  5. Manifests of Passengers Arriving at St. Albans, VT, District through Canadian Pacific and Atlantic Ports, 1895-1954; National Archives Record Group 85; Roll 368. Alma Lighthall, May, 1919.
  6. The Silver Chev'. Camp Grant, Ill: U.S. Army Base Hospital, 1919. 
  7. Fourteenth Census of the United States, 1920. Seattle, King, Washington. NARA T625-1930; Enumeration District 296, Page: 6A; Line: 15; Alma Lighthall.
  8. Fifteenth Census of the United States, 1930. Brooklyn, Kings, New York. NARA T626-1528; Enumeration District 688, Page: 5A; Line: 8. Alma Lighthall.

Tuesday, January 2, 2018

100 Years Ago: Unit Holds First Training Meeting

Young Men's Christian Association
UW Libraries, Special Collections Curtis 13423.
As soon as the men were enlisted and funding for the unit's equipment secured, plans were made to ready the new recruits for active service. On January 2, 1918, the nascent Base Hospital 50 unit met for the first time in the auditorium of Seattle's central YMCA, located at 909 4th Avenue, which still stands today. A schedule of meetings was mapped out to be held in the State Armory. M.D. Sergeant gave the men setting-up exercises and litter drill.

Belle McKay Fraser, superintendent of the children's orthopedic hospital, and afterward chief nurse of the unit, gave lectures on nursing, care of the sick, bed making, and surgical dressings. At these meetings, the men were vaccinated and given their anti-typhoid inoculations. Major Eagleson spent the first three days of each week in January, February, and March studying base hospital organization at Camp Lewis under the direction of Lieutenant Colonel Northington.

Lieutenant Vanderboget gave lectures on first aid based on Mason's Handbook, copies of which were loaned for use of the unit by Major Betts, of Fort Lawton.1

Carlton Lakey Vanderboget was the only child of Richard and Adeline Lakey Vanderboget. Born in Palmyra, New York in 1883, Vanderboget graduated from the University of Buffalo in 1910. A physician, he completed his internship at Seattle General Hospital and later practiced at the Cobb Building alongside many of Seattle's medical practitioners until 1916. As a member of the Washington National Guard (later Army Reserve), Vanderboget first served with General John Pershing along the Mexican border from 1916-1917. He was later called to active service in the regular army and ordered to act as the recruiting officer for Base Hospital 50 on December 3, 1917.2

Vanderboget -- by then a Colonel -- later served in World War II, in the Pacific Theater, where he was captured by the Japanese after the Battle of Corregidor, in the Philippines. He held as a prisoner of war from May, 1942, until Bilibid, the prison where he was being held outside Manila, was liberated in March, 1945.3 At the time of his capture, Vanderboget was the chief medical officer of a laboratory facility for Army General Hospital #2 near Cabcaban, Bataan.

Two years later, in 1947, he would retire from the military to a small farm near Edmonds, Washington. He died in Edmonds on March 7, 1970. Among his honors, Vanderboget received the Legion of Merit, Purple Heart, and Mexican Service Award. He is buried at Arlington National Cemetery in Arlington, Virginia.

  1. Roster Organized by the Primary POW Camp in Bilibid Prison.
  2. "Army Orders." Seattle Daily Times. December 3, 1917, pg. 8.
  3. Mason, Charles Field. A Complete Handbook for the Hospital Corps of the U. S. Army and Navy and State Military Forces. New York : William Wood and Company, 1906.