Up until the posting of this story, very little has been written about Teresa Margaret Murphy, a hero(ine) of World War I. Every few years she is briefly mentioned in Concord New Hampshire newspapers. Those articles always say that information about her is scarce, that she is practically unknown. Today, 98 years after she died, her biography is long overdue.
Teresa Margaret Murphy was born in Markethill, County Armagh, Ireland on 31 October 1891 to Thomas and Ellen (Heaney) Murphy of the same place. The village of Markethill today is still a rural town in Northern Ireland, close to Gosford Forest Park, situated 41 miles south west of Belfast, and 7 miles south east of Armagh.
Teresa was one of six children born to the Murphy Family. In 1901 and 1911 she and her family lived on Keady Street. Teresa’s siblings were Mary M., Matthew, and Gertrude H. (who were older), along with Nicholas and Kathleen G. Murphy (who were younger).
She was listed as Teresa Marguarite Murphy on a ship’s passenger list, showing she left Londonderry, Ireland and arrived in Boston, Massachusetts aboard the ship Parisian on 28 August 1910, aged 19 years. Her original destination was Everett, Massachusetts, and when she graduated in May of 1914 from the New Hampshire State Hospital Training School at Concord, she was “of Quincy, Massachusetts.” By May of 1915 the Portsmouth Herald announced that she, along with other women, had been granted a license to practice as a registered nurse in New Hampshire.
The Portsmouth Herald, Saturday, May 2, 1914 Portsmouth NH: Twelve Nurses Graduate, Not One From This State Among the List. Twelve young women, graduated as nurses from the State Hospital Training School at Concord and it is noted that not one of the number were from the state of New Hampshire. The list of graduates is as follows: Flora Donald Dickson, Lowell, Mass; Mary Ellen Flynn, Delmont, Quebec; Nettie Ruth Kiber, Houston, Mass; Katherine Clara Leahy, Huntington, Quebec; Katherine McLean, Pictou, N.S.; Teresa Murphy, Quincy, Mass; Minnie Symington Moreland Brookline, Mass; Mary O’Malley, Worcester, Mass; Helen Rowe Patten, Medford, Mass; Elen Frances Roberts, Auburn, Mass; Edith Ramsdell, Worcester, Mass; Dorothy Tegg, Hyde Park, Mass.
The Portsmouth Herald, May 11, 1915 Tuesday– REGISTERED NURSES. Twenty-Four Added to the List in This State. As a result of a recent examination at Concord the following women have been granted a license to practice as registered nurses:
Helen Southerland, Sister M.G. Gilard, Edna Smith, Agnes U. Joyce, Teresa M. Murphy, Otilda A. Weller, Julia McDonnell, Effie M. Van Buskirk, Sylvia J. Ellis, Kathryn E. Floyd, Flora A. Cady, Sarah E. Eastman, Beryl L. DuBoyce, Ina F. Bachelder, Mary A Winn, Gabriella Gauthier, Mary E. McDonald, Dora M. Cady, Jeanette Nixon, Gertrude E. Kerr, Eva J. Burke, Katherine M. Larmontat, Ethyl J. parks, and Sara Lane. A few others passed the examination but licenses will be withheld for the present because training is not quite completed or because they are not 21 years of age.
On April 22, 1916, Teresa M. Murphy prepared and signed a Declaration of Intention to become a citizen of the United States. At that time she declared her date and place of birth, and that she was then living at 49 Summer street in Penacook, New Hampshire. She gave a personal description of 5 feet 3 inches tall, a weight of 105 pounds, brown hair, and blue eyes. The 1916 City of Concord Directory shows that she was working as a district nurse.
By February 1918 Teresa Margaret Murphy was already in service in Europe, as demonstrated by a Portsmouth Herald article of 5 February 1918. The Friendly Club of Concord NH had unfurled a service flag to recognize the Red Cross nurses from the club, that included Miss Teresa Murphy, “now in France.”
The Portsmouth Herald, Portsmouth NH, 5 Feb 1918 page 4. Headline: FIRST SERVICE FLAG FLOWN FOR NEW HAMPSHIRE WOMEN. Concord, N.H., Feb 5–The first service flag in New Hampshire, entirely in recognition of women, was unfurled last night at the clubhouse of the Friendly Club, its four stars representing these Red Cross nurses from the club; Miss Teresa Murphy, now in France; Miss Mary Flood, Camp Meade, Wash.; Miss Nora McCarthy, Camp Upton, L.?; Miss Margaret O’Hara, Camp Devens, Ayer, Mass. Rev. Dr. S.S. Drury, rector of St. Paul’s school, gave a patriotic address. Miss Alice Rainie sang patriotic songs and Mrs. Nelson M. Knowlton gave patriotic readings
It appears that Teresa M. Murphy was originally stationed in Base No. 3 Hospital at Vauclaire, France until October 2, 1917 when the hospital was moved to London. The American Red Cross offers a web site that contains a great deal of information on World War One Nurses. Rather than trying to repeat their excellent presentation I will simply link to it here. What I will say is that the bravery of these nurses matched that of the men who were in battle, for they faced similar dangers from poison gas, bombs dropped from the air, and in many cases, contagion from their patients who were ill with disease. The particular hospital where Teresa M. Murphy worked as ear-marked to receive men who had pulmonary tuberculosis, and the care she gave ended her own life.
The “History of Red Cross Nursing,” states that Teresa M. Murphy died on 9 November 1918 at Headquarters Base Section No. 3, S.O.S., A.E.F., (near London, England) at the age of 27. Her cause of death was pulmonary tuberculosis. This happened 2 days before the end of the war was declared (Armistice Day of 11 November 1918). The location given for her next of kin or contact person was Manville, Rhode Island.
There was some confusion, and General Headquarters memos show that a different woman was, at first, reported as having died, with the correction made. [Note that her name is still incorrect on the memo, as it was Teresa Margaret Murphy, not Mary Teresa Murphy]: MILITARY CABLE. Dated December 17, 1918, from General Headquarters, A.E.F. Dec 22, 1918. No. 2326-R page 6. Subparagraph G: Reference casualty 358, Mary Teresa Murphy, U.S. Army Nurse, Army Nurse Corps Base Hospital 22, Medical Department, died of pulmonary tuberculosis November 9; family received letter from nurse dated November 11.
The American Battle Monuments Commission web site (and also Find-A-Grave) shows that Teresa Murphy is buried at Brookwood American Cemetery, in Surrey, England, in Plot B, Row 5, Grave 6. This cemetery lies about 28 miles southwest of London, and forms a section of a much older British cemetery. Following World War I, 437 graves were in the American section (more have since been added). Remains of American heroes were brought here from various parts of the British Isles and consist of members of the A.E.F. who lost their lives in Great Britain and its surrounding waters during the World War. There is a chapel built in the Doric style surrounded by a semi-circular path and hedge. The Brookwood Cemetery pamphlet highlights her grave site.
—Recognition of Teresa M. Murphy—
–Following World War I, the New Hampshire Hospital School of Nursing engraved a brass plate as a memorial to alumnae who served in the World War. This plaque is now located at the New Hampshire Historical Society.
[From the NH Historical Society Database] Description: Wooden plaque engraved with names of 26 alumni of NH Hospital School of Nursing who served in World War I. Brass plate at bottom reads: “PRESENTED BY N.H.S.H. ALUMNAE AS A MEMORIAL TO OUR NURSES WHO SERVED IN THE WORLD WAR”. Names as follows: Amanda Anderson; Elsie C. Armstrong; Helen L. Blanchard; Ida A. Champagne; Olive G. Eaton; Mary E. Fish; Mary E. Flood; Emma M. Griep; Anna M. Healy; Gertrude I. Jennings; Kathlene W. Johnston; Nettie Kiber; Hilda O. Lawson; Clara B. Locklin; Anna Liberty; Julia M. MacDonell; Nora F. McCarthy; Theresa Murphy; [sic] Margaret O’Hara; Daphine W. Perkins; Margaret M. Pierce; Anna A. Skerry; Helen Sutherland; Antoinette Truchon; Catherine F. Wheeler; Ellen Whelton.
—The WWI Memorial Tablet in Doric Hall, Hall of Flags, New Hampshire State House includes the name of Teresa M. Murphy (middle panel, right side).
—Fletcher-Murphy Park, now called Fletcher-Murphy Play Lot, located at 28 Fayette St
Concord, New Hampshire, includes a small monument to Teresa Murphy and Lucy N. Fletcher.
–American Legion Post #31, Penacook NH’s World War I memorial lists her name under those whose lives were lost.
—About Base Section No. 3 Hospital–
The National Archives states: “Le Havre designated as headquarters for Base Section 3, including SOS elements in England, August 13, 1917. Separate headquarters established in London, October 2, 1917. Base Section 3 divided, November 27, 1917, with Le Havre designated headquarters of Base Section 4, and a new Base Section 3 (London) established.” The U.S. Army Medical Department indicates that Base Section 3 was specifically “one of the hospitals to receive cases of suspected pulmonary tuberculosis, 222 such cases being admitted during its period of activity. The largest number of patients in hospital was November 5, 1918, when 2,765 sick and wounded were being treated.” [SEE OTHER PHOTOGRAPHS]
—More About Teresa M. Murphy’s Family—
Teresa M. Murphy’s brother Nicholas Murphy served in the British army just before World War I began, in the Princess Victoria’s Royal Irish Fusiliers. He was in service from 16 July 1912 to February 3, 1914, 1 year + 230 days. He had enlisted at the age of 17.
A month after I first published this story, I came across more information about Teresa’s family in the United States. A newspaper notice appeared in the Boston Globe newspaper in 1919. “Woonsocket–August 12–The official casualty list out by the War Department yesterday contains the name of Miss Teresa Murphy of Arnold’s Mills, Cumberland, as having died of disease in France. Miss Murphy was a graduate of a Concord, N.H. hospital and a year ago last January, with a unit of New Hampshire nurses, left New York for overseas. She was for a time with the American forces, but when taken sick was doing duty at the British Army Base Hospital 22. Miss Murphy was about 27 years of age. She had been a resident of Concord for a number of years and several years ago entered the Concord Institute to study nursing. When war broke out she volunteered for duty oversease. Her nearest relative in this county is Owen Murphy of Arnolds Mills. She gave Mr. Murphy’s home as her official residence.”
Owen Murphy was an uncle, her father’s brother, born April 1860 Ireland, son of Thomas & Mary (Fagan) Murphy. He died 9 August 1939 in Pawtucket RI. He lived in Cumberland, Providence Co., RI, on Diamond Hill Road. He immigrated in 1884. [arrived in Boston 21 June 1884] His wife was Margaret Lawless. She was b Apr 1860 Ireland, died 8 Jan 1936 in Cumberland RI. They are both buried St Joseph Cemetery, Cumberland RI. [him] [her] In 1940 he was naturalized, [naturalized Dec 26, 1893] farmer.
Children of Owen & Margaret (Lawless) Murphy:
1. Thomas Murphy, b 7 May 1889 in Cranston Rhode Island.
2. John E. Murphy, b 4 November 1890 Cumberland, Providence Co., RI., d. 1 July 1950 Cumberland RI.
3. Rebecca Louise Murphy, b 30 March 1893 Cumberland, Providence Co., RI.
4. James Henry (aka Henry J.) Murphy, born 5 June 1894 Cumberland, Providence Co., RI.
1. FamilySearch, general records, immigration.
2. Ancestry.com, general records, ship passenger lists, naturalization
3. Newspapers: Portsmouth Herald, online, 1912-1922
4. The National Archives of Ireland, census records 1901, 1911
5. Directory of Concord, New Hampshire, personal collection
6. The New Hampshire State Library, (in particular Charles Shipman) who greatly assisted me with this project.
7. The New Hampshire Historical Society (Malia Ebel) for helping me locate a source of information.
[Editor’s Note: this story is part of an on-going series about heroic New Hampshire men and women of World War I. Look here for the entire listing].