Laura G. Huckleberry

Graduation Picture of Laura Huckleberry, June, 1913 Laura Gertrude Huckleberry was born January 11 during the Great Blizzard of 1888. The place was the farm her grandfather, Capt. Silas D. Huckleberry, had established in Jennings County, Southern Indiana, in 1834, a few miles east of North Vernon, a town that was to become an important rail center in the latter part of the 19th century.

Her family name might seem to brand her as the quintessential American. But Huckleberry was actually an Anglicization of the German name Hagelberger. Silas's great-grandfather Benjamin Hagelberger had emigrated with his children to Pennsylvania in 1752 from the Palatine village of Rott on the west bank of the Rhine River near Strasbourg, now part of the French province of Alsace.

Laura's other forbears were Scots-Irish, Welsh and English Protestants who'd migrated from Pennsylvania, Maryland and Virginia to the middle Ohio valley either down the river or across the Appalachian mountains through Kentucky. Her father, a Union veteran like Laura's grandfather, had been a farmer, schoolteacher, deputy sheriff and county clerk, and was now a rural mail carrier. She was the youngest of five, her siblings being brothers Warren, Will and Silas, and sister Bertha.

Laura graduated from North Vernon High School in 1906 and spent the next two years teaching at a rural, one-room schoolhouse to save enough money to attend Indiana University for a year. Then she heard about nursing, the new profession for women. A professional nursing education was available through the three-year co-op program at the Illinois Training School for Nurses, associated with Cook County Hospital in Chicago. She had been raised as a Methodist. At the time of her enlistment in the Red Cross Reserve in early 1917, she was a nurse at Children's Isolation Hospital, also associated with Cook County Hospital.

May 18, 1917


Letter from Erle to Laura’s sister, Bertha Huckleberry, a schoolteacher in North Vernon, Indiana:

Editorial Rooms

Western Newspaper Union

Newspaper Service

210 So. Desplaines St.

Chicago, May 18, 1917

My dear Miss Huckleberry, --

May 17, 1917


Laura’s first of 155 letters saved by her sweetheart over the next 23 months was dispatched even before the troop train reached New York City. The envelope was marked in Laura’s handwriting Special Delivery, postmarked Buffalo, NY, May 17 11 PM, and addressed to:

Mr. Jerle Davis

210 S. Desplaines St.

Western Newspaper Union

Chicago, Ill.


Letter #1, Reserve Nurse Laura Huckleberry

to John Erle Davis:

June 13, 1917

6-13-17 Yesterday we were assigned our wards. I drew one that usually has minor cases. Miss Behler is my assistant. Our ward is practically empty tonight. I understand that we are to get no convoys till the hospital is almost empty. Then the English will depart and leave us in peace. War is a dreadful thing. I only hope that it will not last long. I can’t bear to think of our boys being mixed up in such frightfulness. The English nurses are not keen about us and we are equally not so about most of their methods.

June 11, 1917

June 11, 1917 11 P.M. We took the train at 3:15 pm and arrived at Folkstone at 5:15 went right onto the boat and crossed the Channel. We all had to wear life belts and we with a troop ship and a hospital ship were convoyed by a torpedoe boat and air ship, a “blimp.” We were put into big automobile busses and brot out to our happy home. We got here at 9 or 9:30 and were half starved. The nurses fed us bully beef, bread, butter and coffee and then showed us our “huts.” They are very nice but of course very bare. We have board beds with straw on top.

June 10, 1917

6-10-17 This morning we took a ride out to Richmond and back. This P.M. we went out to Sir Thos. Lipton’s in four busses. We surely had a good time. Red, white & blue bouquets, American flags, lemonade, ice cream, speeches, music, readings, moving pictures & a box of candy each for the girls & cigarettes for the men. He certainly knows how to entertain. Tomorrow we start to France.

June 9, 1917


June 6, 1917

6-6-17 We did not get into the House of Parliament as no one is admitted while they are in session except men, so we went across the way to West Minster Abbey & I surely did enjoy that. In the evening we went to Queen’s Theater to the Third Floor Back--admitted free on our uniforms. Didn’t care especially for it. This morning we saw the armed guard change at Whitehall — Knights of Pythias Parade -– had pay day at 12 and this afternoon went to St. Paul’s and to Kensington Gardens.

June 4, 1917

6-4-17 We came up to London by train yesterday. We left at 11:30 and were about 8 1/2 hours coming the 140 miles. The English country is beautiful but before we reached London I began to wish I could see something besides hedges and tiny fields and stone houses. We saw Windsor Castle at a distance. It was quite imposing. We were sent up to the Hotel York in big busses.

June 2, 1917


6-2 -17 My but everyone was excited and kept watching all afternoon & evening and no one went to bed till terribly late and many not at all. Miss C. and I sat on top deck after the Dr’s entertainment & watched the moonlight & talked. We got to bed about 1 and then had the watch call us at 3:30 to see the sun rise. It was very beautiful. And we could see the British boats coming out--counted eight against the horizon. We reached the harbor at Falmouth at 6:30. The hills are beautiful.

June 1, 1917


6-1-17 It was midday on the 1st of June On the deep blue ocean That the five blasts then the three Set us all in motion. Tis Ship Line No. 9 cried Howe In his quiet manner I’ll get my life belt Just in time to see her when they land her Port side watch sub ahoy Cried the Lookout Forward Man your guns Damn those Huns Starboard Lifeboat lower A belted fair one wrapped in cork Remarks “We’ve got a whale! But since it must be that He die I hope it is a male!” Then in his wrath the Captain bold Proclaimed aloud “Oh, Pish!

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