Local Lifestyle

She was one of 325: Morgan County nurse cared for WWI wounded near the front

by Terry Golden

The Morgan County Historical and Genealogical Society (MCHGS) members research local history and enjoy sharing their findings with others.  So, what’s in a name? That is a good question, especially when it pertains to the genealogical research of individuals. First names of individuals at times were not used, but rather a nickname or more often a middle name as exemplified in the following research.

There are 325 names on the World War Memorial on Fairfax Street in Berkeley Springs. This is about one of those who served during World War I.

When one looks at the World War Memorial on Fairfax Street in Berkeley Springs and sees all those names, one should look carefully. One name stands out – Alberta Reed. Why? Because of all the 325 names on that memorial, Alberta Reed is the lone woman.

The daughter of Frederick Richard and Minerva Katherine (Dull) Reed, Laura Alberta Reed’s life begins in Pennsylvania on May 19, 1891.

Before continuing, just a note regarding Alberta’s name. Including the World War Memorial, most documents refer to her as Alberta Reed. However, on the U.S. Veterans Administration Master Index, 1917-1940 she was Laura Alberta Reed or, on the ship’s passenger list, as part of Base Hospital #45, returning from France in 1919, L. Alberta Reed.

She was the fourth of six children born to Frederick and Minerva. It was noted in the January 7, 1897, edition of The Morgan Messenger that Mr. F. R. Reed and his family had arrived in Berkeley Springs and would be living in Mr. Walling’s cottage on Laurel Avenue.

Alberta Reed

In the 1900 census, Alberta was 10 years old, living with her parents, older sister Martha and brothers Roy, Ralph, Paul, and Hobart.  Alberta attended school in the Bath School District and graduated from Mount Wesley in 1909. In the 1910 census, she and her family continued to live in the Town of Bath with her occupation listed as that of teacher. The Morgan County School History (published by the MCHGS) lists her as one of the North Berkeley school teachers for 1912.

Reed wasn’t long for teaching, as she had applied to the St. Luke’s Hospital Nurse Training program in Richmond, Va., was accepted in 1913, and graduated in December of 1915.

An article in The Morgan Messenger, dated April 5, 1918, quoting The Roanoke Times, had: “Alberta Reed working at the Lewis-Gale Hospital in Roanoke for the past two years as a surgical nurse. She was leaving Roanoke for Camp Logan near Houston, Texas. She was now a member of United States Army Base Hospital Unit No. 45 and needed some camp experience.”

Nurses who were part of the Army Nursing Corps (ANC) during World War I were not given a traditional rank that one normally associates with the Army, such as private, lieutenant, etc. They were referred to as Nurse.

According to U.S. Army Transport Service records, Base Hospital No. 45, including Nurse Laura Alberta Reed, departed New York, N.Y. on August 24, 1918, onboard the transport ship Adriatic for England. From there, they departed South Hampton for France onboard the transport ship Gloucester Castle.

The home of Base Hospital No. 45 was the converted infantry barracks in Toul, France.

Located eight miles from the front, it had the distinction of being the first base hospital located in the zone of advance. There was rarely an empty bed in the hospital, and while 17,438 casualties were admitted during the war, only 350 lives were lost.

Relieved of duty on January 29, 1919, the last personnel of Base Hospital No. 45 arrived in Richmond on April 26, 1919. Cited by the Army Surgeon General for their “Readiness for service, devotion to duty, and professional excellence, Base Hospital No. 45 reflected the valor and resolution of those medical professionals to whom lives were entrusted.” (Virginia Commonwealth University, VCU Libraries, Health Science Library Special collections).

Photo identified as Base Hospital No. 45 Nurses, which would have included Laura Alberta Reed.
photo from VCU Libraries Gallery

Alberta Reed and the medical staff of Base Hospital No. 45 remained in France the duration of the war and departed Brest, France on March 3, 1919, onboard the transport ship Agamemnon. During their stay in France, treating the wounded was only part of their burden. During that time the worldwide influenza epidemic effects were devastating.

“The influenza or ‘flu’ cases were the worst of all. Men in apparently splendid health and perfect physical condition were suddenly desperately ill, and many of them dead in less than forty-eight hours. One week in October 1918, there was a series of nearly one hundred ‘flu’ and pneumonia cases of whom over eighty per cent died. Of course, some of these were nearly dead when we took them out of the ambulances, and never rallied, dying in a few hours after they reached the wards.” (Dr. John Garnett Nelson, Base Hospital No. 45. From U. S. Army Base Hospital No. 45 in the Great War).

The transport ship Agamemnon arrived in Hoboken, N.J. on March 11, 1919 and the unit returned to Richmond, Va. where it was deactivated.

Although The Morgan Messenger of March 20, 1919, notes that Alberta Reed had returned to Berkeley Springs to visit family, the U. S. Veteran’s Administration has her military service dates through April 22, 1919.

The Morgan Messenger notes that during her time at home, there were visits to family in Somerset City, Pa. and her family’s relocation into the T. B. Bechtol house they had recently purchased.

However, Nurse Reed wasn’t long in Berkeley Springs, for in the May 22, 1919, edition of The Morgan Messenger it was reported: “Miss Alberta Reed, Morgan County’s only Red Cross nurse who saw service at the front in France, left Tuesday for Richmond where she will again take up her profession in Dr. McGuire’s hospital.”

Dr. McGuire’s hospital refers to St.  Luke’s hospital where Alberta had received her nurse training.

On May 1, 1923, Alberta’s father, Frederick R. Reed, at the age of 68, passed away at his home in Berkeley Springs. At the time of his death, he was the superintendent of the Speer White Sand Company located just north of the town. It was a position that his son, Hobart, would be hired to occupy in August 1923.

The Morgan Messenger reports in the November 19, 1925, edition that Mrs. F. R. Reed “closed up” the house to go visit her son Roy and go on to California for the summer. It appears she made that move permanent, for she was there for the 1930 census and in 1937 passed away as a resident of Los Angeles, Calif., only returning to Berkeley Springs to be buried in Greenway Cemetery beside her husband.

On September 12, 1928, in Monroe, N.Y., Alberta Reed married Edward Connell Quick, the son of John Herbert Quick, noted editor, author and conservationist.

John Herbert Quick was the builder of the John Herbert Quick House near Berkeley Springs, also known as the “Coolfont Manor House.”

By the 1930 census, Alberta and Edward Quick were living in Los Angeles, where she was employed as a private family nurse.

Morgan County’s World War I Memorial on the Fairfax Green.

On April 13, 1931, Alberta Quick gave birth to her only child, daughter Margaret. In the 1940 and 1950 census, they were living in Pasadena, Los Angeles County, Calif., where Alberta continued to work as a private nurse.

On December 22, 1966, at the age of 75, Alberta Reed Quick passed away. She is buried at Live Oak Memorial Park cemetery in Los Angeles.

For more information on WW1 nursing, listed are a few books on that subject:

First World War Nursing: New Perspectives (Routledge Studies in Modern History),

Veiled Warriors: Allied Nurses of the First World War, Christine E. Hallett (2014)

Containing Trauma: Nursing Work in the First World War, Christine E. Hallet (2009)