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Soldiers of the Great War

West Virginia Veterans Memorial

Remember...

Lucinda Lovie Rose
1889-1918

"The [year] 1918 has gone: a year momentous as the termination of the most cruel war in the annals of the human race; a year which marked, the end at least for a time, of man’s destruction of man; unfortunately a year in which developed a most fatal infectious disease causing the death of hundreds of thousands of human beings. Medical science for four and one-half years devoted itself to putting men on the firing line and keeping them there. Now it must turn with its whole might to combating the greatest enemy of all—infectious disease . . . ."

Journal of the American Medical Association, December 28, 1918

Lovie Lucinda Rose was born August 15, 1889, in Doddridge County, West Virginia, to Mary Josephine Strother Rose and David Van Rose, a farmer. In June of 1900, the family is found in Braxton County. David Van Rose is listed as a merchant in the 1900 Federal Census. All of the children, except Jasper, age 5, and Clyta, 20, are said to be at school.

By 1910, Lovie Rose was known by her middle name, Lucinda, a name that belonged to her mother’s mother. The census lists only four of the seven children still at home in Orlando Village, Braxton County. David is listed as a teacher, employed in the school system. Community researcher David Parmer writes:

Clyta, the oldest of the Rose children, married Waitman Furbee, brother of Orlando’s Dr. Gilbert Furbee, in 1908. Clyta was a graduate registered nurse who earned her whites at City Hospital in Parkersburg. Delcie, the second oldest daughter of D. V. and Mary J. Rose, married William G. Meadows, the postmaster of Burnsville who served in that position from 1910 to 1914. Lucinda, the fifth daughter and the subject of this biographical sketch, served as a clerk in the Burnsville post office beginning in 1910 until she entered nursing school at St. Mary’s Hospital in Clarksburg. She graduated from that nursing school in 1914. Grace, the third daughter, also was a nurse, graduating from the Kessler Hospital in Clarksburg in 1910. Lulu, the fourth daughter, married Jim Conley, the son of Tom Conley of Posey Run. Lulu and her husband re-located to Oakland, California where Jim had employment as a railroad engineer. Mattie, the sixth girl of the Rose family, began nurses training at St. Mary’s but did not complete the course. She married Warren Elemuel Robinson of Clarksburg in 1914. (“Lucinda Rose: Angel of Mercy,” Family Search, accessed 1 December 2016, https://familysearch.org/photos/artifacts/8223809.)

Parmer also notes that Lucinda Rose won a silver medal for her oratory skills when she competed in a Women’s Christian Temperance Union contest in 1909. She would have been 16 years old. Prior to her nursing studies, Lucinda Rose was an assistant to the postmaster at Burnsville in 1910. Her brother-in-law was the postmaster there during 1910-1914. (“Lucinda Rose: Angel of Mercy,” Orlando, West Virginia, accessed 1 December 2016, http://orlandostonesoup.blogspot.com/2009_03_01_archive.html.)

By 1914, Lucinda Rose had graduated from her nursing studies at St. Mary’s Hospital in Clarksburg. She began her nursing career in Shinnston, as did her sister, Clyta. Parmer writes that Lucinda was well-liked throughout the Shinnston area. In April 1918, Lucinda Rose volunteered for overseas service as an American Red Cross nurse. She first served at Camp Wadsworth near Spartanburg, South Carolina. Nurses at Camp Wadsworth who were assigned to a European tour usually served in France. Lucinda Rose was at the camp for six months and then began her voyage in September 1918. (“Lucinda Rose: Angel of Mercy,” Orlando, West Virginia, accessed 1 December 2016, http://orlandostonesoup.blogspot.com/2009_03_01_archive.html.)

The America Red Cross was founded on May 21 1881, in Washington, D. C., by Clara Barton and acquaintances of hers when she returned home from travels in Europe. From those travels, she had learned of the Red Cross network. At home, she campaigned for an American version of that organization and for ratification of the Geneva Convention, which provided for protection of those injured in war. The U.S. ratified the Geneva Convention in 1882. During the next 23 years, the American Red Cross conducted domestic and overseas disaster relief efforts and aided the U.S. military during the Spanish-American War. In 1900 and in 1905, the Red Cross received Congressional charters. The Red Cross introduced first aid, water safety, and public health nursing programs. (American Red Cross, “A Brief History of the American Red Cross,” accessed 1 December 2016, http://www.redcross.org/about-us/who-we-are/history.)

Already established as an important branch of the Red Cross before the war, the Nursing Service greatly expanded when war began to break out in Europe. As the need rose sharply, the principal task of the American Red Cross became to provide trained nurses for the U.S. Army and Navy. The organization’s history page states: “The Service enrolled 23,822 Red Cross nurses during the war. Of these, 19,931 were assigned to active duty with the Army, Navy, U.S. Public Health Service, and the Red Cross overseas. The Red Cross also enrolled and trained nurses’ aides to help make up for the shortage of nurses on the home front due to the war effort.” (“World War I and the American Red Cross,” accessed 1 December 2016, http://www.redcross.org/about-us/history/red-cross-american-history/WWI.)

The Red Cross became a very visible and vital part of the war effort, as the following statistics demonstrate:

With the outbreak of war, the organization experienced phenomenal growth. The number of local chapters jumped from 107 in 1914 to 3,864 in 1918 and membership grew from 17,000 to over 20 million adult and 11 million Junior Red Cross members. The public contributed $400 million in funds and material to support Red Cross programs, including those for American and Allied forces and civilian refugees. The Red Cross staffed hospitals and ambulance companies and recruited 20,000 registered nurses to serve the military. Additional Red Cross nurses came forward to combat the worldwide influenza epidemic of 1918. (American Red Cross, “A Brief History of the American Red Cross,” accessed 1 December 2016, http://www.redcross.org/about-us/who-we-are/history.)

In May 1917, President Woodrow Wilson appointed a War Council to direct the Red Cross. He selected Henry P. Davison, a New York banker, as the council’s chairman. The organization’s history page continues:

Under Davison’s leadership, the Red Cross accomplished the growth necessary to meet the challenges of a world war. Prominent volunteers from the banking and business communities took up key leadership positions. The organization mobilized some 8 million volunteers who were assigned to service corps at Red Cross chapters. By the war’s end, nearly one-third of the U.S. population was either a donor to the Red Cross or serving as a volunteer. In all, 20 million adults and 11 million youth claimed membership in the American Red Cross and more than 8 million adults were volunteer workers. (“World War I and the American Red Cross,” accessed 1 December 2016, http://www.redcross.org/about-us/history/red-cross-american-history/WWI.)

In response to the need and new challenges, the American Red Cross created a complex organizational structure to fulfill its mission, which included service to the American Armed Forces; service to Allied military forces, particularly the French; limited service to American and Allied prisoners of war; and service to civilian victims of war, with an emphasis on the children of Europe. (American Red Cross, “A Brief History of the American Red Cross,” accessed 1 December 2016, http://www.redcross.org/about-us/who-we-are/history.)

Nursing’s collocation with the military didn’t happen first in World War I. In her thesis Called to Serve: American Nurses Go to War, 1914-1918, Katherine Burger Johnson describes the contribution of nursing during the Revolutionary War, the American Civil War, and the Spanish-American War. However, World War I advanced the relationship considerably. American Red Cross nurses embarked to Europe in 1914 on the SS Red Cross, known as the “Mercy Ship,” ahead of American Expeditionary Forces. Nurses were recruited heavily and were involved in many capacities, aiding orphans, working in hospitals, and serving near, and often behind, the front lines. The nurses of the Red Cross were dispatched not unlike the military. Volunteers had to agree to go where needed. By the end of the war, they served everywhere there was fighting. Johnson, through various sources, recounts the letters home and diaries written by World War I nurses, as they describe deplorable working conditions, extreme heat, and extreme cold, working well beyond their training, during shelling, and without basic living necessities. The hospitals were unclean, didn’t have clean water, and lacked basic cleanliness and hygiene measures due to the lack of resources. Linens were re-used, syringes were re-used, and diseases were passed one to another. Typhus could be passed through the most ordinary of contact and was epidemic. (Katherine Burger Johnson, Called to Serve: American Nurses Go to War, 1914-1918, [1993]), UofL Electronic Theses and Dissertations, Paper 701, accessed 1 December 2016, http://dx.doi.org/10.18297/etd/701.)

But that’s not all. While the Red Cross served as a nursing reserve for the U.S. Army and Navy during the First World War and maintained its own extensive presence in the war zone, it fulfilled other functions as well. According to the American Red Cross web page dealing with the history of its partnership with the military,

…during World War I, Red Cross employees and volunteers provided medical and recreational services for the military at home and abroad and established a Home Service Program to help military families. 18,000 Red Cross nurses provided much of the medical care for the American military during World War I, and 4,800 Red Cross ambulance drivers provided first aid on the front lines. The organization also pioneered the development of psychiatric nursing programs at veterans hospitals, made artificial limbs and helped rehabilitate amputees and blinded veterans. (American Red Cross, “Partnership with America’s Military Members,” accessed 1 December 2016, http://www.redcross.org/about-us/history/red-cross-american-history/military-partnership.)

American reserve hospital units had been established across the nation in 1916, affiliating civilian hospitals with the Army. Red Cross nurses, doctors, and medical corpsmen worked together at these hospitals and volunteered to work overseas in the event of war. By May 1917 the War Department called upon the American Red Cross to mobilize six of these base hospitals for immediate shipment to France to serve with the British Expeditionary Forces. Thus U.S. military and Red Cross nurses arrived in France before the American combat troops of the American Expeditionary Forces. (Elizabeth A. P. Vane and Sanders Marble, “Contributions of the U.S. Army Nurse Corps in World War I,” Army Nurse Corps Organization, accessed 1 December 2016, https://e-anca.org/History/Topics-in-ANC-History/Contributions-of-the-US-Army-Nurse-Corps-in-WWI.)

The military partnership web page of the American Red Cross states: “[While] no U.S. Army nurses died as a result of enemy action, three were wounded by shellfire and 272 died of disease (primarily tuberculosis, influenza, and pneumonia). Members of the ANC who died during their Army service were buried with military honors. During World War I, 296 American Red Cross nurses and 127 American Red Cross ambulance drivers died in service to humanity.” (American Red Cross, “Partnership with America’s Military Members,” accessed 1 December 2016, http://www.redcross.org/about-us/history/red-cross-american-history/military-partnership.)

Why did they choose to serve? Many were from well-to-do families. These women were well educated at a time when people didn’t expect to finish high school, let alone attain professional standing as nurses. Some of the women profiled in the Johnson thesis were traveling abroad or living in Europe when hostilities broke out and immediately volunteered for duty in the hospitals, as nurses, aides, ambulance drivers, and secretaries. At home, some women felt the call of adventure and perceived opportunity where little existed. Films helped promulgate war as a stylized and romantic notion, but once the realities were learned, few backed down.

The aspects of need and service were dramatized and emphasized in public events for enrollment, brochures, leaflets, films, banners, newspapers and magazines. (Advertising Educational Foundation, “Rallying a Nation: American Red Cross Advertising During World War I,” accessed 1 December 2016, http://www.aef.com/on_campus/classroom/case_histories/3002.) Upon entering service, the nurses were part of a team, supplying vital professional help where it was desperately needed. Johnson’s thesis, drawing on various sources, describes how the nurses seldom took earned leave, and, sometimes, if they did take it, they went to other communities to serve in some other capacity. They asked for service close to the front lines. They didn’t sleep much. They didn’t have beds or warm rooms, and supplies were hard to come by. And, throughout all of this, they spent their own money on gifts for local children, for parties and other diversions for the wounded, and they threw celebrations in the wards. They tended to soldiers as they died and broke new ground in battlefield medicine.

Nurses were needed, and the women who answered the call for service in the Army Nursing Corps, in the Navy, or in the Red Cross were able to help in ways no one else could. One can only imagine that Lucinda Rose must have felt the same way. She volunteered to be a nurse with the Red Cross overseas four years after the Mercy Ship sailed. The hardships that awaited those who dared volunteer would not have been a secret in the nursing community, yet she did volunteer. No record could be found indicating which ship carried her across the Atlantic or who else was on board. What is known is that the year was 1918, three years after typhus ran rampant in battlefields and hospitals in Europe. It was the year of the Pandemic, of the Spanish Flu, of La Grippe. (“Lucinda Rose: Angel of Mercy,” Orlando, West Virginia, accessed 1 December 2016, http://orlandostonesoup.blogspot.com/2009_03_01_archive.html.)

The ship that sailed with Lucinda Rose aboard was only shortly on its way before those aboard started becoming ill. Lucinda Rose began caring for the sick, day and night, throughout the voyage. She had little opportunity for rest, and became ill. She died upon reaching England. On November 21, 1918, the Shinnston News carried her obituary:

Miss Lucinda Rose, R. N., daughter of Mrs. M. J. Rose of Clarksburg and a sister of Mrs. Clyde [Clyta] Rose Furbee, former resident of Shinnston, died at Portsmouth, England, October 9th. Miss Rose was known to a number of East Shinnston people, having spent some time there with her sister a few years ago.

The Rev. King of the First M. E. church of Clarksburg visited her at Camp Wadsworth last summer and in a beautiful letter of comfort to her mother, spoke of her high standing in the Red Cross work there. One of the very best and most devoted they had, as stated by the department.

She was a graduate of the St. Mary’s Hospital and one of Clarksburg’s most popular nurses, widely loved for her sweet, sunny disposition. One more of West Virginia’s daughters has made the ultimate sacrifice.

Following the obituary was a military notice of her death from the American Red Cross in Winchester, England. Addressed to Mrs. M. J. Rose, it stated that Lucinda Rose had died at the W. S. Military Hospital in Portsmouth, and that the burial had taken place at Morn Hill, a military cemetery. Funeral services were performed by a military chaplain. Lt. A. W. McMillar wrote: “I can assure you that your daughter was cared for in her last hours by a competent staff of sympathetic surgeons and nurses who did every thing possible for her in a fully equipped hospital.” The letter contained details of the service, including the military honors, the volleys fired, and the playing of taps. Morn Hill was said to be a beautiful spot. Lucinda Rose was laid to rest next to her several of her comrades, overlooking “many miles of lovely English country.” The Clarksburg Telegram carried a similar notice.

The Harrison County, West Virginia, register of deaths for 1920 contains an insertion that notes Lucinda Rose’s death in 1918, listing her as a 25-year-old nurse who died in France. It should be noted that this information was provided by an undertaker and appears to be in error. Another source indicates that England issued a death certificate, noting that she died in Portsmouth District, England, at the age of 29, which is consistent with Lucinda’s birth date. (“England and Wales Death Registration Index 1837-2007,” database, FamilySearch [https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:2JCD-L45 : 31 December 2014], Lucinda Rose, 1918; from “England & Wales Deaths, 1837-2006,” database, findmypast [http://www.findmypast.com : 2012]; citing Death, Portsmouth, Hampshire, England, General Register Office, Southport, England.) Many nurses who started their journey at Camp Wadsworth were going to France at that time, and perhaps Lucinda Rose’s family or others in the community knew that France was her ultimate destination and assumed it was there she died. If so, she didn’t make it there. She died in Portsmouth, Hampshire, England. This source accessed December 2, 2016, indicates Lucinda was first buried in a military cemetery in Morn Hill near Winchester, England, in October 1918, which is consistent with the information that places her death in England. In 1920, her remains were returned to West Virginia, which accounts for the insertion in the Harrison County register of deaths. She was buried in Green Lawn Cemetery, near Clarksburg. (“Lucinda Rose: Angel of Mercy,” Orlando, West Virginia, accessed 1 December 2016, http://orlandostonesoup.blogspot.com/2009_03_01_archive.html.)

Harrison County Wills, 1788-1970, available from Ancestry.com, notes that Lucinda Rose’s will was probated on January 9, 1919. In April of 1918, Lucinda Rose had signed her will, in which she bequeathed her worldly possessions to her mother, Mary Rose.

Had she made it to France, Lucinda Rose would probably have performed emergency work in poor conditions, treating infections, wounds, and mustard gas burns. In those battlefield hospitals, she would have run the risk of being exposed to disease again, because soldiers also suffered during the pandemic. (J. D., “The American Red Cross,” Home Before the Leaves Fall: The Great War, accessed 1 December 2016, https://wwionline.org/articles/american-red-cross/.)

According to the U.S. Army Center of Military History, during World War I, the peak strength of the Army Nurse Corps reached 21,480 on November 11, 1918. Several nurses were wounded, but none died as a result of enemy action. There were, however, more than two hundred deaths largely caused by influenza and pneumonia. Armistice Day didn’t end the service of many nurses serving the military. Nurses served with the occupation forces in Germany until the American forces were returned in 1923. (Carolyn M. Feller and Debora R. Cox, “Highlights in the History of the Army Nurse Corps: Chronology,” 19 January 2001, accessed 6 December 2016, http://www.history.army.mil/books/anc-highlights/chrono.htm.)

On the same pages as the announcement of Lucinda Rose’s death in the November 21, 1918, Shinnston News was that of another, named James Knight, who also died of influenza after the onset of pneumonia. Elsewhere that year in West Virginia, in Barbour County, the Democrat announced the sorrowful news of the death of an eight-year-old girl, following the same fate as her mother, and the devastation left for her father, as both died of pneumonia. In the Republican, the death announcement of a 31-year-old woman followed that of Private Clayton Brandon. The woman died of “influenza pneumonia,” as had Private Brandon, who was buried at sea.

In cemeteries across West Virginia, and in cemeteries around the world, burials in 1918 for young people occurred at a much greater than expected rate. Influenza, pneumonia, influenza pneumonia, or “La Grippe” was frequently cited on death certificates as the cause.

Carol R. Byerly, writing in “The U.S. Military and the Influenza Pandemic of 1918-1919,” reports:

The American military experience in World War I and the influenza pandemic were closely intertwined. The war fostered influenza in the crowded conditions of military camps in the United States and in the trenches of the Western Front in Europe. The virus traveled with military personnel from camp to camp and across the Atlantic, and at the height of the American military involvement in the war, September through November 1918, influenza and pneumonia sickened 20% to 40% of U.S. Army and Navy personnel…. Influenza and pneumonia killed more American soldiers and sailors during the war than did enemy weapons….

The Army and Navy medical services may have tamed typhoid and typhus, but more American soldiers, sailors, and Marines would succumb to influenza and pneumonia than would die on the industrialized battlefields of the Great War. The story of the influenza epidemic in the military is often lost in the historical narrative of the Great War, included merely as a coda to that four-year horror, coinciding with the final battles and the Armistice….

Influenza sailed with American troops across the Atlantic and when it exploded in late August and September in Europe and the United States, medical officers found themselves on the front lines of an epidemic worse than any of them had ever seen or imagined. Many were among the most knowledgeable and skilled physicians in the country and had just recently entered military service. They did their best to save those stricken by influenza, but could do little more than provide palliative care of warmth, rest, and a gentle diet, and hope that their patients did not develop pneumonia.

One of the tragedies of the influenza epidemic is that by the 1910s, the medical profession held many of the scientific and epidemiological tools to understand the nature and extent of the damage influenza and pneumonia were wreaking on their patients, but lacked the tools to effectively fight them.

The deadly second wave of the epidemic lasted about four weeks in individual camps and ran its course in the Army in about eight weeks, roughly from September 15 to November 15, 1918. (Public Health Report 2010, 125[3]: 82-91.)

Although the death toll attributed to the 1918 influenza epidemic is often estimated at 20 million to 50 million victims worldwide, other estimates run as high as 100 million victims. The exact numbers are impossible to know due to a lack of medical record keeping in many places. What is known, however, is that few locations were immune to the 1918 flu—in the U.S. and its territories, victims ranged from residents of major cities to those of remote Alaskan communities.

West Virginia was not immune to the effects of the pandemic. When the Public Health Service finally began collecting data about influenza in September of 1918, the disease was already in the state. The government website dedicated to “The Great Pandemic” reports the impact in West Virginia:

West Virginia University was closed during the epidemic and a fraternity house on campus was turned into an emergency hospital…. At the West Virginia School for the Deaf and Blind in Romney, about two hundred pupils and employees were stricken….

The disease hit coal mining areas harder than other regions. By October, so many West Virginians were either ill themselves or caring for those suffering from influenza that a local committee estimated that only 20% of people were able to attend to their normal duties. Only two mail carriers, for example, were available in Martinsburg. Grave diggers there also found themselves overwhelmed. For several weeks, the diggers found themselves facing a backlog of at least two dozen graves which needed to be dug each day. (U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, “West Virginia,” The Great Pandemic: The United States in 1918-1919, accessed 2 November 2016, http://www.flu.gov/pandemic/history/1918/your_state/southeast/westvirginia/index.html.)

Though the number of flu (and consequently pneumonia) cases peaked in the fall of 1918, claiming among its numbers Private Clayton Bosworth Brandon; Lucinda Rose; and Joseph Bell, of Harrison County, the flu continued claiming victims into the winter of 1919, changing many families forever, if not destroying them entirely.

In 1930, West Virginia Governor William G. Conley traveled to Clarksburg to honor Lucinda Rose. A portrait of Lucinda Rose was dedicated to the Lucinda Rose Auxiliary of the Veterans of Foreign Wars. Governor Conley’s address is contained in the State Papers and Public Addresses of Wm. G. Conley, Governor of West Virginia, March 4, 1929 to March 4, 1933. (Jarrett Printing Company, 1933 [digitized University of Michigan 18 October 2007]: 97-99.) His remarks honored the whole family and the community that had so remembered her.

In 1944, Lucinda’s mother, Mary, died in Huntington. Her remains were buried in Green Lawn Cemetery near Clarksburg. A “D. V. Rose,” who was a minister, died in Clarksburg on October 8, 1912. If Lucinda’s father, he died just a day removed from six years before Lucinda. Governor Conley’s speech referenced Lucinda’s father as having survived her, but newspaper death notices refer only to her mother, and the Clarksburg city directory for 1917 lists Mary J. as the widow of David V. Rose.

The Lucinda Rose auxiliary of the Meuse-Argonne post of the VFW still exists. In 2013, Bob Stealey wrote for the Clarksburg Exponent: “The Meuse-Argonne Post of the Veterans of Foreign Wars was founded in Clarksburg on December 9, 1920. Seven of the charter members—Fred Burka, Nick Carter, Homer Rector, Fred McFarlin, Frank Underwood, Leslie Graves and M. McIntyre—were honored at a dinner on the 30th anniversary of the post on December 9, 1950.” The newspaper also reported that a few years before its 30th anniversary, the post—with more than 1,000 members—ranked first in memberships of all the posts of the organization in West Virginia. Said Stealey, “The auxiliary of the Meuse-Argonne Post of the VFW was named for Lucinda Rose, who graduated from the St. Mary’s Hospital School of Nursing in 1914 and worked in private practice until April 15, 1918, when she enlisted as an Army nurse.” (“Several Veterans Organizations Were Born in Clarksburg,” Clarksburg Exponent, 11 November 2013.)

Today, Lucinda Rose’s name appears in many obituaries of ladies of the area who belonged to the auxiliary, and in Veterans Day parade announcements. She bears the unique distinction of being the only female West Virginia casualty of World War I.
Rose marker

Lucinda Rose’s gravestone in Green Lawn Cemetery. Courtesy Cynthia Mullens

Article prepared by Cynthia Mullens, with editorial assistance from Patricia Richards McClure.
November 2016

Honor...

Lucinda Lovie Rose

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