New Hampshire WWI Military: Phillips Exeter Academy Infirmary Nurse Katherine Patterson Irwin (1870-1918)

Memorial photograph from The Pean, the 1919 graduate yearbook of Phillips Exeter Academy, Exeter New Hampshire.

She was born Katherine Patterson Irwin on 14 March 1870 in Dayton, Montgomery County Ohio, the daughter of Andrew Barr & Jane (Schenck) Irwin. Her family nickname was “Kitty,” as shown in the census, and she grew up in Dayton, attending the local schools.

What is known is that she served as a Red Cross Nurse for the A.E.F. in Europe from April 1918 to 24 June 1918  when she died of spinal meningitis,  in Evacuation Hospital, at Baccarat France.  The disease was probably contracted from one of her patients.  It is also known that prior to her enlistment she worked as a nurse in the infirmary (Hooper Building) at Phillips Exeter Academy in Exeter, New Hampshire.  Her photograph (as shown at right) was published in the 1919 graduate yearbook The Pean.

She is not acknowledged (though she should be ) on the WWI memorial plaque in the New Hampshire State House NOR at the memorial of the University of New Hampshire.   She is listed in W. M. Haulsee, F. G. Howe, A. C. Doyle, comp., Soldiers of the Great War, vol. 2 (Washington, D. C.: Soldiers Record Publishing Assoc., 1920), under those from New Hampshire who died from Disease, Rank Nurse. Continue reading

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The Many Faces of General John Stark of Manchester New Hampshire

Silhouette of John Stark, from A Life of General John Stark by Howard P. Moore, Internet Archive.

New Hampshire residents traditionally celebrate John Stark day on April 25th each year.  This celebratory date is set by New Hampshire Revised Statutes 4:13-l – General John Stark Day, that designates the fourth Monday in April as such.

“And the governor …. shall urge cities and towns throughout the state to observe this day in commemoration of General Stark’s gallant and illustrious service to New Hampshire and his country.” Memorial and commemorative events are held in Manchester (at Stark Park), Dunbarton, Derry, New Boston and Goffstown, New Hampshire. Other events may be held in the Bennington Vermont area.   You need to check local newspapers in these places for details. Continue reading

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Librarian and Innovator of the ‘Bookmobile’: Farmington New Hampshire’s Mary Lemist Titcomb (1857-1932)

Mary Lemist Titcomb. Photograph courtesy of the Washington County Free Library System, as cited on Western Maryland’s Historical Library online. Used with permission.

In 1905 it was an ground breaking idea, to bring books directly to people who had trouble getting to the library. Mary Lemist Titcomb was passionate about reading, and making books available to everyone in Washington County, Maryland.

She started off by creating book collections in local public spaces such as churches, schools and post offices until there were 66 of them. A delivery truck would refresh and exchange the books on a regular basis. Then feeling she could reach more people, she began using a book cart to deliver books to families.

At first using a horse-drawn “Library Wagon,” and later a motorized vehicle the program expanded its services beyond library buildings to stopping at schools, hospitals, nursing homes, prisons and anywhere people lived or met. “No better method has ever been devised for reaching the dweller in the country. The book goes to the man, not waiting for the man to come to the book,” Mary stated in her “Story of the Washington County Free Library.” Continue reading

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Godmother of New Hampshire’s War for Independence: Elizabeth “Molly” (Page) Stark (1737-1814)

Likeness of Elizabeth “Molly” Stark, attributed to Henry Benbridge. Original from book, “A Life of General John Stark of New Hampshire,” by Caleb Stark; colorized and her traditional dark blue eyes added by Janice Webster  Brown

Molly Stark deserves to be called ‘Godmother’ of New Hampshire, at least when it comes to her involvement in the American Revolution. Of course there were many women who supported their men and country during that crucial time in United States history. Molly Stark is mentioned in local history due to her active involvement in supporting her General husband, and nursing the  the illnesses and wounds of his troops. She was a frequent and visible reminder to the militiamen of what they had to lose besides their lives–their wives, mothers and daughters.

At the battle of Bennington, one of the turning points of the American Revolution, her husband John Stark, General and leader of the New Hampshire-based army, made his now famous quote, paraphrased here: “The enemy are ours or this night Molly Stark sleeps a widow.”  [Note: there were countless versions and revisions of the original quote, so many so that it is impossible to determine the original words spoken]. Continue reading

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New Hampshire’s First Woman Embalmer and Funeral Director: Minnie (Edwards) Atwood (1854-1904)

Before it became a profession, care of the dead often fell to women. Generally preparation was bathing the body, and readying the newly departed for a wake and burial. In America, that process changed during the Civil War when those who died far from home needed extra time and care to make the journey by train or wagon back to their families.

At the same time various discoveries had been made using arsenic and later formaldehyde for body preservation. Though many families still clung to their traditions and made their own preparations, others opted for the services of “undertakers” and “embalmers.” Most of these early services were performed by men. Continue reading

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