Monday, March 23, 2020

Evangeline Highsmith, Nurse WWI

Evangeline Highsmith, Nurse WWI  1895-1920

According to all who knew her, Evangeline Highsmith was a beautiful girl, quiet and gentle, yet cheerful and optimistic.  She was a nurse during WWI and looking forward to working in her vocation upon the war’s end, when she was struck down the day after Thanksgiving of 1919, with a disease that eventually cut her promising career short.  

Evangeline was born into the Flat Rock[1] home of George M. and Rebecca Calvert Highsmith on November 25, 1895. Her childhood days were spent there.  On reaching the age of 12, she and her parents moved to Lawrenceville. Her mother died in 1909; Evangeline, her father and younger sister, Hazel, lived on Main Street (renamed 11th Street in 1911), and the girls attended the city schools. 

Ruby Zehner was a classmate of Evangeline’s. During their third year of high school in Lawrenceville, the building was destroyed by fire.  Instead of completing her Junior and Senior years there, Evangeline entered McKendree College where she finished her courses. She then spent one year in the University of Illinois. Receiving her teacher’s certificate, she taught one year at Georgetown, Illinois.   

In September, 1918, Evangeline answered her country’s call for nurses and entered into her training.  She was stationed at Camp Shelby (Hattiesburg, Mississippi), Camp Custer (Battle Creek, Michigan), Camp McPherson (Atlanta, Georgia) and finally, Camp Fox Hill, New York where her training alternated between the army hospital and the civilian hospital in Brooklyn.

Upon Evangeline becoming sick, her father was notified and visited her.  The cause of her illness was unknown; she died Sunday, January 11, 1920, and her body was returned to Lawrence County for burial in the city cemetery.

A military escort of about forty ex-service men under the command of Lt. P. H. Lewis from the American Legion, attended the services at the Methodist church in Lawrenceville and accompanied the remains to the cemetery where taps were blown by J. A. Wood.  The services were said to have been very impressive; the casket simply draped in the folds of the flag; the casket surrounded by many floral pieces, a silent tribute to one whose will, was to serve.

[1] While the 1900 census indicates that the family was living in Bond Township, the obituary stated that she had been born in Flat Rock. This village, while technically in Crawford County, IL, lies very close to the Lawrence County line and it is conceivable that the family, living across the line in Lawrence County, provided the Flat Rock post address as the location of their home.