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 30, 1917

5-30-17 It began to rain at 11 o’clock so we all had to come down to the lounge or to the hurricane deck. I staid out almost all day and watched the waves and the rain. At noon we passed a British freighter. It was the first ship we had really seen since the day we left New York. We enter the danger zone some time tonight. I do hope it is warmer and not so rough if we have to take to the life boats. Miss Cleveland and I were nearly drowned by the spray from one big wave.

May 29, 1917

5-29-17 Another long, lazy, lazy day. We are to have our pictures taken the PM. We are to wear our Brassards with our uniforms. We passed two ships this morning but they looked like only a column of smoke on the horizon.

May 28, 1917

5-28-17 A nice lazy day--foggy but not so that the sun can not get thru. The only event I can remember is washing handkerchiefs & sewing buttons on my coat. Last night Elizabeth Cleveland & I went on the top deck to watch the moonlight on the water. The sailor lad Choice came up to talk to us. He is a funny boy and so perfectly good natured.

May 27, 1917

5-27-17 Sunday I’m certainly getting lazy. We’ve nothing to do but sleep, eat & walk. Some of the girls have quite a time flirting, but I had a set back and have reformed. Went out in the bow this morning and talked to the sailors. They are on watch all the time even tho we are not yet in the danger zone. We do not enter that till about Wednesday. We had very nice church services at 10:30 A.M. Some of the privates sing well and one plays the violin very well indeed. It is misty in the distance and the sun shines only occasionally. We are certainly having a fine voyage.

May 26, 1917

5-26-17 Today the sun shone on the white caps but the horizon was misty. I sat and read and dreamed as usual. The sailor lads told me we passed an ice berg last night and also that they found a small fire down in the lower regions of the ship and the fog was so thick they could not see their way about on deck. This evening we are again in fog and the waves are running the highest I’ve seen them. The spray reaches to the top deck and the ship rolls quite a lot.

May 25, 1917

5-25-17 Today has been beautifully clear and quiet. Nothing happened except a card party this P.M. This evening I watched the sunset and then the moonlight on the water. It is like a beautiful dream.

May 24, 1917

5-24-17 Today has been very quiet. I’ve walked & read a book & watched the water and listened to the waves swishing against the ship’s side. This afternoon the boys boxed & we watched them & then they all came up on the deck & had potato races.

May 23, 1917

5-23-17 Last night we had a party--singing, reading and dancing & flirting. Some were very gay. I drew a mushy one but then it couldn’t be helped. We started at 5 this morning but had to anchor just outside the harbor till the fog cleared. They have heard that a German raider is about & also that a submarine was sighted off the Maine coast. So the guns are trained upon every vessel they see. The raider is supposed to be a boat disguised as a tramp and to look much like the Mongolia.

May 22, 1917

5-22-17 Yesterday morning we anchored and a tug met us & took Emma, Dr. Besley and Pawly & Miss Powers ashore. Emma smiled and waved to us. Her wounds will not be serious unless something unexpected developes. Later we were towed up channel & anchored in the middle of the Hudson & no one is allowed shore leave--I suppose to guard against desertions. But I don’t believe there is a nurse or doctor or rookie who would turn back if they could. However, there was some trouble in securing a crew and I suppose the company doesn’t want to risk getting another.

Graduation picture


Laura's graduation picture from nursing school, June of 1913

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