Freeda Wilhelmina Larson

Robert Ash Lewis was born October 23, 1891, in Ramona, Lake Co., Dakota Territory (SD), and died February 21, 1973, in Washington, DC, at age 81. Interred February 26, 1973, in Section 43, Lot No. 3344-1, Arlington National Cemetery, Arlington Co., VA. He is the son of William Griffith "Joe" Lewis of Freeman Mill, Lewis Co., NY, and Nellie Belle Ash of West Union, Fayette Co., IA.

Freeda Wilhemina Larson was born September 30, 1891, on the family farm in Farmington Twp., Waupaca Co., WI, and died December 4, 1991, at Wilson Health Care Center, Gaithersburg, Montgomery Co., MD, at age 100. Interred December 10, 1991, in Section 43, Lot No. 3344-1, Arlington National Cemetery, Arlington Co., VA. She is the daughter of Olaus Larsson of Fröbbestorp, Kalmar Co., Sweden, and Catarina Olivia Wilhelmina Larsdotter of Varna Parish, Östergőtland Län, Sweden.

Robert Ash Lewis (age 27) a bachelor, and Freeda Wilhemina Larson (age 27), a maiden, were married on June 25, 1919, in Chicago, Cook Co., IL.

Robert Ash Lewis and Freeda Wilhemina (Larson) Lewis had three children:

  1. Evan Larson Lewis: Born November 28, 1920, in Birmingham, Jefferson Co., AL; Died March 6, 2013, in Denver, Denver Co., CO (age 92). Buried in Fort Logan National Cemetery, Denver, Denver Co., CO. Married February 26, 1944, in Baltimore, Baltimore Co., MD, to Bernice Bernardine "Bernie" Buck: Born June 16, 1919, in Paces, an unincorporated community in Birch Creek Dist., Halifax Co., VA; Died August 25, 2019, in Sterling, Logan Co., CO (age 100). Buried in Fort Logan National Cemetery, Denver, Denver Co., CO.
  2. Gordon Hamilton Lewis: Born June 27, 1923, in Birmingham, Jefferson Co., AL; Died December 13, 2020, at Stonegates Retirement Community, Greenville, New Castle Co., DE (age 97). Buried in Lower Brandywine Presbyterian Church Cemetery, Owls Nest, New Castle Co., DE. Married August 23, 1947, in Atlanta, Fulton Co., GA, to Julia Elizabeth "Lee" McClure: Born June 20, 1925, in Atlanta, De Kalb Co., GA; Died February 24, 1996, at home, Woodbrook, west of Fairfax, Wilmington, New Castle Co., DE (age 70). Buried in Lower Brandywine Presbyterian Church Cemetery, Owls Nest, New Castle Co., DE.
  3. Robert Griffith Lewis: Born October 17, 1927, in Birmingham, Jefferson Co., AL; Died September 12, 2000, at Wilson Health Care Center of Asbury Methodist Village, Gaithersburg, Montgomery Co., MD (age 72). Buried in Arlington National Cemetery, Arlington Co., VA. Married February 5, 1955, in Washington, DC, to Mary Elizabeth "Mary Beth" Edwards: Born January 10, 1927, in Tampa, Hillsborough Co., FL; Died March 18, 2012, in Rockville, Montgomery Co., MD (age 85). Buried in Arlington National Cemetery, Arlington Co., VA. Divorced about 1976.



Robert Ash Lewis was interred February 26, 1973, in Section 43, Lot No. 3344-1, Arlington National Cemetery, Arlington Co., VA. Freeda Wilhemina (Larson) Lewis was interred December 10, 1991, in Section 43, Lot No. 3344-1, Arlington National Cemetery, Arlington Co., VA. This is the link to the Cemetery Web site:

Freeda Wilhemina Larson was born September 30, 1891, in Farmington Twp., Waupaca Co., WI.

Robert Ash Lewis was born October 23, 1891, in Ramona, Lake Co., Dakota Territory (SD).

The 1895 Wisconsin State Census taken on June 20, 1895, shows O. Larson is living in Farmington Twp., Waupaca Co., WI. There are 7 Males and 3 Females living in the household, with 8 having been born in the U. S. A., and 2 of Scandinavian birth.

The 1900 U. S. Census taken on June 13, 1900, shows Olias Larson (age 49) born April 1851 in Sweden to Swedish-born parents and having immigrated in 1872 is a Farmer who owns his farm free of a mortgage and is living in Farmington Twp., Waupaca Co., WI. Living with him is his wife of 26 years, Olivia Larson (age 52) born January 1848 in Sweden to Swedish-born parents and having immigrated in 1873, with six of the seven children born to her still alive. Also living at home are his four unmarried children, all born in Wisconsin to Swedish-born parents: Arthur Larson (age 19) born January 1881; Elmer Larson (age 14) born June 1885; Walter Larson (age 11) born June 1888; and Freedia Larson (age 8) born September 1891.

The 1900 U. S. Census taken on June 5, 1900, shows William G. Lewis (age 40) born November 1859 in New York to Wales-born parents is working in Dry Goods and rents his home in Wilson District No. 943, Walker Co., GA. Living with him is his wife of 16 years, Nellie B. Lewis (age 38) born September 1861 in Iowa to Maryland and Ohio-born parents. Also living there is their son Robert A. Lewis (age 8) born October 1891 in Dakota to New York and Iowa-born parents.

The 1905 Wisconsin State Census taken on June 1, 1905, shows Olaus Larson (age 54) born in Sweden to Swedish-born parents, is a married Farmer, and who owns his farm free of a mortgage, and is living in Farmington Twp., Waupaca Co., WI. Living with him are: his wife, Katharine O. Larson (age 57) born in Sweden to Swedish-born parents; his unmarried daughter, Edith C. Larson (age 22), born in Wisconsin to Swedish-born parents, who Does Housekeeping; his unmarried son, Elmer Larson (age 19) born in Wisconsin to Swedish-born parents, a Farm Laborer; his unmarried son, Walter E. Larson (age 17) born in Wisconsin to Swedish-born parents, a Farm Laborer; his daughter, Freeda M. Larson (age 13) born in Wisconsin to Swedish-born parents; his granddaughter, Myrtle Larson (age 3) born in Illinois to Illinois and Wisconsin-born parents; his granddaughter, Hazel Larson (age 2) born in Illinois to Illinois and Wisconsin-born parents; and his grandson, Paul E. Larson (age 4/12) born in Illinois to Illinois and Wisconsin-born parents.

The 1910 U. S. Census taken on April 25, 1910, shows Olaus Larson (age 58) born in Sweden to Swedish-born parents, and having immigrated in 1872, and a Naturalized Citizen, is a widowed Farmer, and who owns his farm free of a mortgage, and is living in Farmington Twp., Waupaca Co., WI. Living with him is his unmarried daughter, Freeda W. Larson (age 18) born in Wisconsin to Swedish-born parents.  

The 1910 U. S. Census taken on April 22, 1910, shows W. G. Lewis (age 50) born in New York to Wales-born parents is a Butcher in a Shop who owns his own home at 6213 So. ???, City of Birmingham, Jefferson Co., AL. Living with him is his wife of 26 years, Nellie B. Lewis (age 48) born in Iowa to Maryland and Ohio-born parents. Also living there is their unmarried son Robert A. Lewis (age 18) born in South Dakota to New York and Iowa-born parents, who is a Machinist at an Engine Works.

 Nurse Freeda Larson in her nurse uniform, at the Olaus Larson farm, Farmington Twp., Waupaca Co., WI, about 1912.


From Left to Right: Emma (Abbey) Larson; Wilbur Larson; Almo Larson; Norma (Nelson) Larson; Freeda (Larson) Lewis; Arthur Larson; Olaus Larson; and Carl Larson, at the Larson farm, Farmington Twp., Waupaca Co., WI, about 1916.

Freeda Wilhemina Larson enlisted in the U. S. Army on May 16, 1917. SSN: 416-20-2377. She left the United States on May, 23, 1917.


 Freeda Wilhemina Larson's Passport Application, June 14, 1917, London, England.

The WWI Draft Registration Report dated January or June 1917 shows Robert A. Lewis (age 25) born October 23, 1891, in Ramona, SD, is an unmarried Inspecting Engineer living at 207 S. ____ Street, Pittsburg, PA. He works for Floyd Ross & Co. He served 1 year as a Private in Co. A, 3rd Regiment, Alabama National Guard. He claims an exemption because he is physically defective.


The Olaus Larson remaining family, except for Christine (Larson) Nelson, Farmington Twp., Waupaca Co., WI, about 1918.

Robert Ash Lewis (age 27), a bachelor, and Freeda Wilhemina Larson (age 27), a maiden, were married on June 25, 1919, in Chicago, Cook Co., IL.

Freeda Wilhemina (Larson) Lewis was discharged from the U. S. Army on July 8, 1919.

The 1920 U. S. Census taken on January 6, 1920, shows Robert A. Lewis (age 28) born in South Dakota to New York and Iowa-born parents is a Manufacturer Draftsman owning his own home at 6213 First Avenue South, Birmingham, Jefferson Co., AL. Living with him is his wife Freeda W. Lewis (age 26) born in Wisconsin to Swedish-born parents, who is an Army Nurse. The second household at this address is renting from Robert Lewis, and are Robert's parents: William Lewis (age 60) born in New York to Wales and New York-born parents, who is a Grocery Merchant; and Nellie Lewis (age 58) born in Iowa to Maryland and Ohio-born parents.

Emma Larson, Wilbur Larson, and Freeda (Larson) Lewis, Larson farm, Farmington Twp., Waupaca Co., WI, June, 1920.


The Larson/Lewis Family Reunion was held Sunday, August 2, 1925, at the Almo Larson Residence, Farmington Twp., Waupaca Co., WI. According to Freeda (Larson) Lewis, "All were related to either Gustav Larsson Lewis on my father's side of the family, or to Aunt Sophia Larsdotter Lundgren on my mother's side of family. Uncle Gust. was my father's brother. Aunt Sophia was my mother's sister."

All were related (related only through marriage shown in italics): Lars Pehrsson: Magnus Larsson, Lars Pehrsson: Gustaf Larsson Lewis, Lars Pehrsson/Lars Nilsson: Olaus Larsson, Lars Nilsson: Sophia (Larsdotter) Lundgren, Lars Nilsson: Fredrika (Larsdotter) Larson, Lars Pehrsson: Andreas Larsson, Lars Nilsson: Anders Larsson Dahlquist, Lars Nilsson: Amanda Albertina Larsdotter, Lars Nilsson: Carl Johan Alfred Larsson Dahlberg.

Shown below is the people list according to Emma Jane (Abbey) Larson (edited):

Back row left to right: Esther (Schlicting) Lewis - wife of Irving Lewis, Irving Lewis - son of Gustaf Lewis, Clarence Peterson - husband of Clara Lewis, Margaret "Peggy" Peterson - daughter of Clarence and Clara Peterson, Clara (Lewis) Peterson - daughter of Gustaf Larsson Lewis, Philip Lewis - son of Gustaf Larsson Lewis, Frank Lear - husband of Edith Lewis, Edith (Lewis) Lear - daughter of Gustaf Larsson Lewis, Ed Lewis - son of Gustaf Larsson Lewis, Carrie (Lye) Lewis - wife of Ed Lewis, Herbert Lear - son of Edith and Frank Lear.

Second Row from top: Clarence Norlin - son of August and Christine Norlin), Andrew Andersen (Julianne Andersen Lewis' brother), Olga M. (Larson) Swenson - daughter of Fredrika Larsdotter Larson and Lewis Larson, Karl Ludwig Swenson - Husband of Olga M. Larson, Verona Swenson - daughter of Karl Ludwig and Olga Swenson, Lucille Anderson - daughter of Lewis and Amanda Anderson, Olga (Dahlberg) Larson - daughter of Carl Johan Alfred Larsson Dahlberg and wife of Charles Oscar Anderson Larson - son of Lewis Anderson and Amanda Albertina Larsdotter, Cora (Johnson) Johnson - daughter of Alfred and Emily (Larson) Johnson, Helen (Fraser) Larson - wife of Walter Larson, Walter Larson - son of Olaus Larsson, Edith (Larson) Nelson - daughter of Olaus Larsson, Freeda (Larson) Lewis - daughter of Olaus Larsson, Almo Larson - son of Olaus Larsson, Emma (Abbey) Larson - wife of Almo Larson, Wilbur Larson - son of Almo Larson.

Third row from top: Cora (Wagner) Lewis - wife of Albert Lewis, Albert Lewis - son of Gustaf Larsson Lewis, Per August Magnusson Larson, son of Magnus Larsson, Christine (Andersdotter) Norlin - wife of August Norlin, August Norlin - husband of Christine Andersdotter, Gustaf Larsson Lewis, Charles Oscar Anderson Larson - son of Amanda Albertina Larsdotter and husband of Olga A. (Dahlberg) Larson - daughter of Carl Johan Alfred Larsson Dahlberg, Amanda Dahlberg - wife of Carl Johan Larsson Dahlberg, Sophia (Larsdotter) Lundgren - sister of Catarina Larson, Fred Johnson - husband of Emily Larson, Arthur Larson - son of Olaus Larsson, Norma (Nelson) Larson - wife of Arthur Larson, Evan Lewis - son of Robert and Freeda (Larson) Lewis.

Front row: Lorraine (Lewis) Arndt - daughter of Irving Lewis, Carol (Peterson) Callahan - daughter of Clarence and Clara Peterson, Juliann (Peterson) Harris - daughter of Clarence and Clara Peterson, Laurence Lewis - son of Albert and Cora Lewis, Edith Anderson - sister of Esther Anderson Larson, Esther Anderson (Larson) Pletenik - adopted daughter of Arthur and Norma Larson, Olive (Larson) Worthing - daughter of Walter and Helen Larson, Kenneth Lewis - son of Irving and Esther Lewis, Naomi (Lear) Harmacek - daughter of Frank and Edith Lear, Marian (Lewis) Neuman - daughter of Ed Lewis, Betty (Larson) Steele - daughter of Walter and Helen Larson, Gordon Lewis - son of Robert and Freeda Lewis, Clifford Lewis - son of Irwin and Esther Lewis, Jean Anderson - daughter of Signe (Dahlquist) Anderson, John (Bud) Anderson - son of Signe (Dahlquist) Anderson, Signe (Dahlquist) Anderson - daughter of Anders and Emma (Larsson) Dahlquist.

The Appleton Post-Crescent, Appleton, Outagamie Co., WI, Monday, August 3, 1925

A family reunion of the Larson and Lewis families was held at the home of Almo Larson in Farmington, Sunday.

The 1930 U. S. Census taken on April 5, 1930, shows Robert A. Lewis (age 38) born in South Dakota to New York and Iowa-born parents, and first married at age 27 is a Sales Manager for a Pipe Manufacturer, and who owns his house worth $10,000 and is living at 306 90th Street North, Roebuck, Jefferson Co., AL. Living with him are: his wife Freeda L. Lewis (age 36) born in Wisconsin to Sweden-born parents, and first married at age 27; his son, Evan L. Lewis (age 9) born in Alabama to South Dakota and Wisconsin-born parents; his son, Gordon H. Lewis (age 6) born in Alabama to South Dakota and Wisconsin-born parents; and his son, Robert G. Lewis (age 2-6/12) born in Alabama to South Dakota and Wisconsin-born parents.

The 1940 U. S. Census taken on April 3, 1940, shows R. A. Lewis (age 48) born in South Dakota, and 5 years ago was living in the Same Place, and with 4 years of College, is a married Camp Commander for the C. C. C., and who owns his home worth $3,000 and is living at 6105 1st Avenue North, 34th Ward, City of Birmingham, Jefferson Co., AL. Living with him are: his wife, Freeda Lewis (age 48) born in Wisconsin, and 5 years ago was living in the Same Place, and with 4 years of College; his unmarried son, Evan Lewis (age 19) born in Alabama, and 5 years ago was living in the Same Place, and with 1 year of College, an Instructor in a College Lab; his unmarried son, Gordon Lewis (age 16) born in Alabama, and 5 years ago was living in the Same Place, and with 4 years of High School, a Machinist Helper in a Machine Shop; and his unmarried son, Robert G. Lewis (age 12) born in Alabama, and 5 years ago was living in the Same Place, and with 5 years of School.

Gordon Hamilton Lewis related to Leigh Rex Larson this anecdote from March 7, 2000: On December 7, 1941 - Pearl Harbor Day - your father Wilbur was visiting with my family in Atlanta, Georgia, and we had just finished Sunday dinner when we heard the news of the bombing at Pearl Harbor by the Japanese. At that time, Wilbur was training at Fort Benning, Georgia, having been called up with the Wisconsin National Guard. My father was also on active duty with the Army Corps of Engineers, having been called up from the Army Reserve. He was located in Atlanta in connection with the building of a large Quartermaster Depot there.

Robert Ash Lewis and Freeda Wilhemina (Larson) Lewis, Washington, DC.

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Robert Ash Lewis and Freeda Wilhemina (Larson) Lewis' 50th Wedding Anniversary, June, 1969.

Robert Ash Lewis died February 21, 1973, in Washington, DC, at age 81. Buried in Lot No. 3344-1, Arlington National Cemetery, Arlington Co., VA.

The Washington Post, Washington, DC, Sunday, February 25, 1973


On Wednesday, February 21, 1973, COL. ROBERT A. LEWIS of 3531 S. Leisure World Blvd., Silver Spring, Md.; husband of Freeda L. Lewis; father of Col. Evan L. Lewis of Denver, Colo.; Gordon H. Lewis of Rochester, N. Y.; and Robert G. Lewis. Nine grandchildren also survive. Friends may call at Joseph Gawlers Sons, 5130 Wisconsin Ave. at Harrison St., N. W. (parking on premises), Sunday 2 to 4 and 7 to 9 p. m., where services will be held on Monday, February 26 at 9 a. m. Interment Arlington National Cemetery with full military honors. In lieu of flowers, contributions may be made to the Inter-Faith Memorial fund and Kiwanis Leisure World Foundation.

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Freeda's Garden at Leisure World Retirement Community, Silver Spring, Montgomery Co., MD, about 1975.

Cousins, Norman Norris Nelson and Freeda Wilhemina (Larson) Lewis, on her 90th birthday, September 30, 1981.

Freeda Wilhemina (Larson) Lewis died December 4, 1991, at Wilson Health Care Center, Gaithersburg, Montgomery Co., MD, at age 100. Buried in Lot No. 3344-1, Arlington National Cemetery, Arlington Co., VA.

The Washington Post, Washington, DC, Friday, December 6, 1991


Red Cross Nurse

Freeda Larson Lewis, 100, who served as a Red Cross nurse in France during World War II, died Dec. 4 at Wilson Health Care Center in Gaithersburg of complications after a stroke. Mrs. Lewis was born and raised in Waupaca, Wis. She graduated from Illinois Training School for Nurses in Chicago. She moved to the Washington area from Birmingham in 1942. Her husband of 54 years, retired Army Col. Robert A. Lewis, died in 1973. Mrs. Lewis was a charter member of the Interfaith Chapel at Leisure World in Silver Spring and a member of Metropolitan Memorial United Methodist Church in Washington and of women's, garden and knitting clubs at Leisure World from 1966 to 1989, when she moved to Wilson Health Care Center. Survivors include three sons, Dr. Evan L. Lewis of Denver, Gordon H. Lewis of Wilmington, Del., and Robert G. Lewis of Bethesda; nine grandchildren; and 12 great-grandchildren.

The Washington Post, Washington, DC, Saturday, December 7, 1991


On December 4, 1991, FREEDA LARSON LEWIS of Silver Spring, MD, beloved wife of the late Col. Robert A. Lewis; mother of Dr. Evan L. Lewis of Denver, CO, Gordon H. Lewis of Wilmington, DE, and Robert G. Lewis of Bethesda, MD. Also survived by nine grandchildren and 12 great-grandchildren. Memorial services will be held at the Interfaith Chapel, at Leisure World on Tuesday, December 10 at 10:30 a.m. Interment at Arlington National Cemetery will be private. Memorial contributions may be made to the Interfaith Memorial Fund at Leisure World, 3680 S. Leisure World Blvd., Silver Spring, MD 20906. Arrangements by JOSEPH GAWLER'S SONS in Silver Spring and a member of Metropolitan Memorial United Methodist Church in Washington and of women's, garden and knitting clubs at Leisure World from 1966 to 1989, when she moved to Wilson Health Care Center.



(Written in 1973)

(Edited in 2002 by her son, Gordon Lewis)

There is a legend that goes back many years, to the early 19th century.  The story began in Sweden, with my great-grandmother.  In those days, it was not uncommon for a farmer’s daughter to be a milk-maid at one the nearby castles of royalty.  So, Gustava was hired as a milk-maid by the resident of a castle near her home.  She was a beautiful, flaxen-haired young lady, and was greatly admired by a young son of the royal family.

This admiration soon developed into affection, and they began having clandestine meetings.  Now, no person of royal blood should ever marry a farmer’s daughter. However, these two young folks, like many today, decided they wanted to get married anyway, so they went to a clergy in a neighboring village and were secretly wed.

When this marriage was announced to the royal family, the son was banished to America, and Gustava, now pregnant, returned to her family to await the birth of her little babe.  Lars sailed for America, promising to send for her as soon as he was established.  It was never learned whether he reached the promised land.  No trace was ever found, and Gustava and her baby remained in Sweden.

A little girl was born, and she was named for mother, Gustava Wilhelmina.  As was customary in those days, the female child’s last name took the first name of her father and added “dotter,” so she was christened Gustava Wilhelmina Larsdotter.

Years passed, and the next we learn is that Gustava married a Lars Fredrick Nilsson, and this union was blessed with six children – four daughters and two sons. My mother – Catherine Olivia Wilhelmina, the eldest, was born January 25, 1848. Then followed Mathilda, September 17, 1851;  Andrew Frederick, November 30, 1853; Carl, August 16, 1856; and the twins Sophia and Amanda, April 1, 1862. Actually, Sophia was born just before midnight on March 31st, and Amanda after midnight on April 1st.

The Nilsson family grew up in Sweden but, as the years went by, they one by one emigrated to the New World.  The girls then changed their last names to Larson, but it was a different story for the boys.  It was permissible for a young man to change his name as he came of age.  Since the family had lived on the Dahla estate [see Olivia Larson’s Biography], Andrew took on the name of Andrew Dahlquist, and Carl (or Charles, as he later preferred) became Charles Dahlberg.

My mother Olivia, as she preferred being called, came to the U. S. A. in 1873 as a governess for two young boys in a family that settled in Marquette, Michigan.  It was there that she met my father, Olaus Larson, who had come from Sweden in 1872.  On May 13, 1874, they were married in Marquette.

In 1875, there was a money shortage in Michigan. Father said the laborers were paid off with purchase orders good at the company store.  Not happy with that arrangement, he corresponded with his brother Erik, who was working in California and said that times were good out there.  So, Father left Mother, who was expecting a child, and went to California.  He hired out to a company of loggers operating on a ranch in the foothills some distance north of Sacramento.  Mother then followed him to California.  It took thirteen days to make the trip.  There were no dining nor sleeping cars, so hammocks were hung for sleeping, and stops were made at stations along the way to purchase food.  Because of fear of Indians and robbers attacking the train, Olivia had a money belt around her waist under her clothes in which she had $500 in gold.

Olaus – hereafter referred to as Dad - was the foreman of the ranch, and Mother was in charge of the ranch household.  The owners lived in the town of Marysville which, at that time, was a very small place.  Language proved a major hardship, since most of the men and women they had to deal with spoke only Spanish, and neither Dad nor Mother could speak English very well. 

Emily Sophia was born December 22, 1875 – with a mid-wife in attendance - and two years later Carl Emil blessed their lives.  Soon after Emil’s arrival, Mother was taken ill.  The doctor said she would have to go to a higher climate, so she went up in the mountains for a while, but it became apparent that life in California was unsatisfactory in many ways.

In the meantime, Dad’s brother Gustav had come to America, and had settled in Waupaca, Wisconsin, and Mother now had a brother who had settled in St. Paul, Minnesota. Since Mother and Dad had been advised to seek a colder climate, they decided to leave California and visit these two relatives before settling on a place to live. In 1880, with their two children, they started the long trip east, the first stop being Waupaca. 

Their plans were to spend a short time in Waupaca, then go on to St. Paul, where there was a large Swedish settlement. But they never made it to St. Paul. They ended up purchasing an eighty-acre farm three miles west of Waupaca. The farm had only fifteen acres under cultivation, a small frame two-story house about 14 feet by 20 feet, and a 12-foot by 12-foot shack. Mother and Dad occupied this shack through the winter of 1880-1881, because the purchase agreement permitted the current residents to occupy the house until April 1st. The next child, Arthur David, was born in this shack in January 1881. 

The Larson family continued to grow in numbers as the years went by. Edith Christina was born February 8, 1883; Almo Joshua, June 28, 1885; Walter Emmanuel, June 6, 1888; and Freeda Wilhelmina, September 30, 1891. We were a very close, Christian family.  Each of us, as we grew up, was assigned certain duties to helping the farming and household activities. Farming was very difficult, as more and more of the land had to be cleared of trees and stones before it could be tilled for crops. Potatoes were the cash crop, but corn, wheat, and oats had to be planted to feed the livestock through the long winter seasons. Wheat was also taken to the mill and ground into flour for home use.

The farm buildings were not adequate for the growing family, so in 1890 a major addition to the house was built.  Dad’s brother Gus Lewis (he had changed his name from Larson to Lewis because there were too many Larsons around) was a carpenter, so he assisted in the planning and building.  The addition provided large living and dining rooms, a large kitchen, and a bedroom downstairs; a large dormitory bedroom upstairs; and a cellar under all for storage of fruits, vegetables, and the potato crop.  The original part of the house provided a parlor-bedroom downstairs, and two bedrooms on the second floor.  This gave more privacy as to bedrooms, but they were still mighty cold in winter, as there was no central heat.

I was born in the “new” bedroom.  A good neighbor, Mrs. Johnson, came in to help with my arrival, as Emily was only 16, and Edith 8. When Dr. Sanders arrived, he expressed concern to Mother and Dad that I might not live, since I went through a series of convulsions. But I fooled them all, and here I am – 82 years old – to tell the tale.

All was not easy going for the Larson family. In the Fall of 1892, Mother was stricken with rheumatic fever, and was bed-ridden for several months. Dad had a niece, Christina Larson, in New York, who was a practical nurse. She came and cared for Mother until she was able to be up and about. However, this illness left Mother with a heart condition from which she never fully recovered.

Other troubles beset the home. Emil was stricken ill early in the summer of 1893. The first death in the family came in July when Emil – age 15 – was laid to rest in a little cemetery adjoining Salem Lutheran Church. The loss of this son, who had been the delight of the family, was devastating. He had aspirations of going into the ministry, as he was deeply religious and felt that was his calling.

Time marched on, and now Emily had a suitor. She was a beautiful, auburn-haired, brown-eyed girl, with a complexion like peaches and cream. She was greatly admired in the community, not only for her beauty, but also for her talent in voice and organ music. (We had a foot-pedal-pumped organ in the house on which Mother played, and she taught her girls to play, including me.). On October 24, 1894, Emily was married to G. Alfred Johnson – hereafter referred to as Fred – in a very lovely service in the Salem Lutheran church. The Reverend Dr. Lindholm performed the ceremony, with a reception following in the family home.

Each of the children started schooling in the little Farmington one-room schoolhouse. As Arthur and then Almo became ready for high school, they had to go into Waupaca each day. During the summer months, we were all busy with our chores. Edith and I had our assignments helping Mother; the boys were busy in the fields with Dad. In fact, in April, 1899, Dad added to the farm with a homestead claim on a nearby forty acres that were still “public land.”

Toward the end of the decade, Edith took a course in dressmaking with a Mrs. Hanson in Waupaca, and stayed with her while learning. Walter and I were now the only ones attending the Farmington school.

While Edith was in town, she met a young man who had just returned from the Spanish-American War – Clarence C. Nelson, from Rockford, Illinois. Clarence was working on the farm of Mr. and Mrs. John Erickson. He became very attentive, and they soon avowed to get married, although Edith was only 16 years old. Mother and Dad were very opposed to an early marriage, but a proposition by Clarence’s uncle, Reverend Rosander, our minister, provided a resolution. He had a farm in Prentice, Wisconsin – about 75 miles from Waupaca – needed a couple to run the farm, and offered this opportunity to Clarence and Edith. On Easter Sunday, April 15, 1900, they were married in Salem Lutheran Church, with a reception at the house. I can well remember the day – great excitement - but some of the family still felt disturbed about the marriage. Fred chose not to attend the wedding, but Emily did.

Arthur was now ready for more advanced education, and wanted to take a course in agriculture. The University of Wisconsin offered a short, two-year course; in 1902, Arthur went to Madison for his first year. It was also that same year that Mother and Dad felt they could afford to move the original section of the house to another part of the place, and to have a new ell built on the dining room part. 

Again, Dad’s brother Gus was called on to help design and build the new addition – a parlor, living room, and bedroom downstairs; and three bedrooms upstairs – all with central heating. What a joy that was in the long, cold, winter days! I now had my own room, and Mother had braided the prettiest green and white rug for the floor, and dainty white ruffled curtains for the window. And how happy Mother was to have a pretty, larger bedroom, with double doors into the living room, and also a door to the dining room. The old bedroom off the dining room was made into a large pantry and storeroom. Over the winter, Mother had woven large rag rugs for both the living room and bedroom, and commercial carpet was laid on the parlor floor.

For several years, times had been quite good so, from the sale of potatoes and dairy products, the family finances had prospered. Not only was the new section of the house built, but also a large barn. In those days, one did mortgage one’s house, but only built as one could pay for the labor and materials.

When Edith and Clarence were married, Clarence’s sister Norma came from Rockford to be one of Edith’s bridesmaids. We all fell in love with Norma, and Arthur was really smitten. Norma was a school teacher in Rockford, and Arthur would go to Rockford from Madison whenever he could. At first, Norma did not encourage him, as she didn’t want to be a farmer’s wife. But Arthur persisted, and on April 6, 1904, they were married in Rockford. (By this time, Clarence and Edith had moved to Rockford.). Arthur finished his two-year course at Madison, and was now ready to “go to farming.”. He rented a small farm about 1 1/2 miles from the home place, and it was there that he and Norma settled for a time.

In the meantime, Almo was completing his high school work, and graduated in June 1904, and Walter and I were now attending school in Waupaca. During the first half of the year, Mother had not been feeling well, such that she was not able to go to Rockford for the wedding. She did go to Walter’s graduation, but soon thereafter, she had a severe heart attack. Walter also was not well so, in January 1905, he had to be taken out of school with pleurisy and threatened tuberculosis. That same month, Mother – who was feeling much better – was summoned to Rockford, where Edith and Clarence were now living. Edith was expecting her third child, and Clarence was leaving for South Dakota to claim a homestead on the Rosebud Indian Reservation. When the baby was only a few weeks old, Mother came home, bringing Edith and three little children with her – Myrtle, Hazel, and Paul. It seemed the bottom fell out for a while.

Almo had entered the University of Wisconsin, and I was now the only one going to the Waupaca school. At times, when the snow was deep and the temperature below zero, I would drive with horse and cutter, or Dad would take me in. Somehow I made it till Spring when I could ride my bicycle. Mother stayed busy nursing Walter back to health, as well as tending to Edith and her family.

It never rains but what it pours. It seemed that troubles never ceased. Emily was pregnant with her second child, and doctors had cautioned that she could have serious complications with a kidney infection. On Sunday, August 6, 1905, Emily and the unborn baby passed away. Nothing the doctor and nurse could do to control eclampsia. This was a terrible blow to Mother, whose health was very precarious at the time. She made the remark, “I will be gone within the year; it is just too much to bear.”. Mother and Dad brought Emily’s little five-year old daughter, Cora, to live with us for a while.

In September, Clarence sent for Edith and the children, saying he had a home for them. This home turned out to be a sod-house, but it was warm and did afford shelter for the family during that winter, and until a one-room house could be built.

All this was too much for Mother. She became bed-ridden a great deal of the time for the next several months. But the family carried on as best it could. Walter returned to high school, and I was finishing the elementary grades. Early Spring and Summer looked more promising, and we had great hopes that Mother would benefit from complete rest. The household was running smoothly, we had excellent help, and every one was well and happy. I should mention again that the family was very closely tied to the church, and was strong in its faith. In the Spring of 1906, I was confirmed at the Salem Lutheran Church, taking my vows in the Swedish language – which had continued to be used often around the house.

But then disaster struck. Two of Mother’s nieces from Chicago came for a visit to the farm in the summer of 1906. On a Saturday afternoon, Mother said she would take a walk in the garden. The raspberries and blackberries were hanging ripe on the bushes, and all of the vegetables looked so good to her. But this proved to be her last walk. The night of August 3rd, she had a massive stroke, and passed to her final reward on Tuesday, August 6th. This was a terrible blow to the Larson family. It seemed that the whole world had dropped away – and where would we go from there? But the Master of us all walked into our lives, and we all knew and felt that Mother was at rest – and that she had joined my sister Emily and brother Emil. She was laid to rest in the family plot on the grounds of the Salem Lutheran church.

A strange incident happened in connection with the funeral. A few years previously, Mother was given a baby Mastiff dog. Its mother had died when the puppy was only a few days old, so the owner – a neighbor – had two little motherless puppies. At the time, Walter and I were about 13 and 9 years old, respectively. Mother thought a little puppy would be a great playmate for us. Because the little fellow was so young, he had to be bottle fed and cared for very carefully – it was in the dead of winter, cold and snowy. We named him Sport. He was such a roly-poly, fluffy white with a few brown spots. In time he grew up to be a large, beautiful dog – but a “one-person dog.”. Because Mother had fed him and cuddled him when he was a baby, he felt that he owed his life to her, and he became her constant companion. Of course, Cora was living with us at this time, and for a while, Sport was terribly jealous when Mother showed too much love and affection for Cora. However, as time went on, Sport realized that Cora was a permanent part of the household, so he accepted her and even looked out for her.

During the final summer that Mother lived, Sport felt more and more that he should protect Mother from anyone outside the family. He slept on the porch outside her bedroom every night, and was a real watch-dog for her. When Mother passed away, Sport knew something had happened – he would not eat and stayed outside her door day and night until the day of the funeral. He would let no one up on the porch outside her room.

As the funeral procession left the house for the cemetery at the Salem Lutheran Church, Sport walked beside the horse-drawn hearse all the way. When we entered the church, he remained on the steps outside until the service was over. Then he followed the casket to the grave-site. When all was over, Almo and Walter put Sport in the family carriage and took him home with us. About an hour later, someone asked, “Where is Sport?”. He was gone.  he boys drove back to the cemetery – about a mile and a half – and there was Sport lying beside Mother’s grave. He was brought home again, but to no avail – he would not stay. In the meantime, Cora had gone to live with her father and an aunt, about seven miles from our home.

Early one morning, about a week later, I received a phone call from my brother-in-law Fred, Cora’s father. He asked, “Freeda, do you know where Sport is?” “No.” “Well, I heard a whine on the porch early this morning, and there stood Sport, all wet and cold, and wanting to come in. Cora heard us and came running from her room, and what a reunion of a little five-year old girl and a dripping wet dog.”

The strange thing of it all was that Sport had never been to Cora’s home. He had to swim a river and cross many fields, but he found his new mistress, and that was what he wanted. Sport lived to be 22 years old, and he stayed close to Cora and remained faithful to her all those years.

September came, and it was time to start school again. Almo went back to the University of Wisconsin, and Walter was a senior at Waupaca High School. I should have started high school, but there was no help available, and no one to take over running the household. So it was up to me. I had my 15th birthday that year, and I had no choice but to stay out of school. It was a terrific undertaking for me – no one knows  what is involved in running a farm home unless she has had to do it herself. We had a large garden, with lots of fruits and vegetables, plus all the dairy implements and milk and cream to care for.

The silo fillers came for two days, and the neighbor men came to cut and haul the corn to the cutting machine. In all, there were 15 men to be fed noon-day dinner and afternoon coffee. Those dinners were no small matter, as the men worked hard and were hungry. Bread had to be baked, pies and cookies made, huge quantities of meat roasted, and lots of vegetables cooked. Fortunately, I did get lots of help from my sister-in-law Norma. And a boy who worked for George Madsen in the summer and in a bakery in Waupaca during the winter months came in and did all the bread and pastry cooking. Those two were a big help to me.

Then came potato-digging time. Dad went to town and got several men – “tramps,” we called them – to come out and help. They had to be fed and given a place to sleep. Fortunately, we had the large room over the dining room, with a back stairway leading up to it, that served as their dormitory. Luckily, we had no bad incidents with these complete strangers.

But we did have one unusual occurrence. One of the men Dad had hired was a very fine looking young man, well-bred and mannerly. It was quite unusual to get someone like that off the street. One rainy day, he stayed on the porch reading, so my curiosity got the best of me, and I asked Dou where he was from. He said, “Rockford, Illinois.” That whetted my curiosity even more, since I knew Norma was from Rockford and had taught in the schools there. I did not tell Dou that I knew anything about Rockford, but when I had the opportunity I called Norma and told her about him. I don’t recall his last name now, but Norma knew his family well, and he had been one of her students.

A few days later, we had a lot of rain, and the men wanted to go into town. Dad took them in, and all came back to the house early in the afternoon except Dou. Late that evening, he came sauntering in and, to our disgust, he had been drinking quite heavily. The next day it was still raining quite heavily, and when Dou came down for breakfast I noticed that something was radically wrong. As I was quite alarmed about him, I called the other men to come to the kitchen. He had developed delirium tremors, and needed help. One of the men knew just what to do – he gave Dou several cups of hot milk, got him quiet, and put him to bed.

Late that afternoon, Dou came downstairs, and said he wanted to leave. Then Dad took over, telling him that we knew who he was and that we had contacted his parents in Rockford. They wanted him to come home, and he was willing to go. Dad and one of the other helpers took him to Waupaca, and saw that he boarded a train for Rockford and home. I have often wondered whatever became of him.

Leigh Larson note: Dou is Douwe de Haan (1885 - 1962). Last residence was California. Born September 25, 1885, in Berlikum, Friesland, Netherlands; Died December 7, 1979, in Los Angeles Co., CA (age 94). Buried in Mountain View Cemetery and Mausoleum, Altadena, Los Angeles Co., CA. Married June 22, 1920, in Los Angeles Co., CA, to Alberdina Buma: Born December 1, 1889, in Amsterdam, Netherlands; Died February 4, 1979, in Los Angeles Co., CA (age 90). Buried in Mountain View Cemetery and Mausoleum, Altadena, Los Angeles Co., CA.

Winter, 1906 – the fall crops are all in, apples picked and packed in barrels, vegetables and fruit canned – and now for the long, winter days. There were only Dad, Walter, a cousin August Larson, and I at home that winter. But I stayed busy – after doing all the household and cooking chores, I did a lot of reading. And I looked forward to the day when I could go back to school – but when? At that point in time, it looked hopeless.

The 1905 U. S. Census taken on June 1, 1905, shows Hans Soderlund (age 42) born in Wisconsin to Sweden-born parents, is an unmarried Farmer, and who owns his farm free of a mortgage, and is living in Farmington Twp., Waupaca Co., WI. Living with him are: an unmarried Servant, Mary Olson (age 42) born in Sweden to Sweden-born parents, a Housekeeper; and an unmarried Servant, Albert Olson (age 20) born in Wisconsin to Sweden and Wisconsin-born parents, a Farm Laborer.

Leigh Larson note: Mary Olson was born April 1, 1861, in Sweden, and died September 4, 1950, in Wisconsin, at age 89. Buried in Salem Cemetery, Farmington Twp., Waupaca Co., WI. Never married.

Walter – age 19 - graduated from high school in June 1907, but then had a recurrence of the lung involvement that he had in his first year of high school. The doctor advised going west, so he and Almo – age 22 – decided to go out to the state of Washington. That left me alone with Dad and August Larson. That summer was a very difficult one for me, but what could I do? And so another year went by. As the end of the summer of 1908 approached, there appeared little hope of returning to school.

But strange things can happen to open the door, if one is patient and has faith. In July, Dad had gone with Fred to see about some farm land near Boyceville, Wisconsin; and August and I were left to take care of the farm. Dad didn’t want me to stay alone in the house with August, so he asked Mary Olson, a near neighbor and spinster, to come and stay nights with me. Have you ever lived in the country during a terrible electric storm? Well, we had one the first night Mary was with me. At about nine o’clock, there was a loud rap on the front door and Oliver Anderson called to me, “Is Mary there?” Lightning had struck her home, and it burned completely to the ground. Mary was left homeless, and had lost everything she had.

This tragic circumstance provided an opportunity I had hoped for. Mary was offered a home with us, and that made it possible for me to go back to school. So to Waupaca High School I went in the Fall of 1908. I secured permission from the Board of Education to go through in three years. Thus I would graduate only one year behind the class that I had been with since the fifth grade.

In the Spring of 1910, everything was going well for me until one day, when Dad came to me and said he wanted me to take a trip immediately to South Dakota. My sister Edith was pregnant again, and he was worried that there was no one to help her. So, at 18 years of age, I went there by train by myself. When I got to the station nearest her home, there was no one there to meet me, so I took a room at the hotel next to the station. As I was eating breakfast the next morning, trying to figure out how to get to Edith’s house, a gentleman engaged me in conversation and told me that he was a traveling salesman and that he was going by the place where Edith lived. He offered me a ride in the horse-drawn wagon that he used for traveling from town to town. And that is how I ended up at Edith’s, where I stayed a short time to help after the birth of her fifth child on March 8th.

The 1910 U. S. Census taken on April 25, 1910, shows Olaus Larson (age 58) born in Sweden to Sweden-born parents, and having immigrated in 1872, and a Naturalized Citizen, is a widowed Farmer, and who owns his farm free of a mortgage, and is living in Farmington Twp., Waupaca Co., WI. Living with him are: his unmarried daughter, Freeda W. Larson (age 18) born in Wisconsin to Sweden-born parents; and an unmarried renter, Marie Olsen (age 48) born in Sweden to Sweden-born parents, and having immigrated in 1882.

June 1911 meant a great deal to me – not only that I finished high school, but also that three very trying years were past. It was not easy to travel three miles to school and back every day – rain or shine or snow. Spring and Fall, weather permitting, I rode my bicycle. Sometimes, I drove with horse and buggy, but often in Winter, it was with horse and cutter, or Dad would take me with a team of horses and big sleigh if the roads were drifted with deep snow. But when I look back on those three years, they were very meaningful to me. They were stepping stones for a very eventful life later on.

Also, in 1911, Dad – at age 60 – became very restless. The work on the farm was becoming too much for him, and help was hard to get. I, too, was getting restless – I could see no future for me, staying there on the farm. So Dad decided to sell the “home place,” as it was often called. But, of course, he had a deep feeling for the home and farm, because of the many years he and the family had labored there to build it up to a lovely place. What should he do? There was no son at home to take over. Arthur was then the owner of two farms. Edith was in South Dakota with her large family of nine children, and Dad did not want Edith and Clarence to come here. Almo and Walter were settled in Spokane, Washington, and I definitely could not and would not take over. After much consultation with Arthur and me, Dad decided to offer the home to one of the boys. Walter announced that he was entering the University of Pittsburgh that September, so it was either Arthur or Almo. After much consideration and dickering, Almo decided that he and his wife Emma – whom he had married in Spokane – would come in the Spring of 1912. They purchased the farm complete, and Dad was to have his home there as long as he lived.

I was supposed to enter the University of Wisconsin in the Fall of 1912, but it didn’t quite work out that way. So many things happened over the summer. Dad went to South Dakota to visit Edith, and then on to Miles City, Montana to visit his half-brother – Sven Larson Freeburg – whom he had not seen in years. I accompanied Dad as far as St. Paul, and spent several weeks in St. Paul and Minneapolis, visiting relatives there. When I came home in July, I was stricken with a severe case of mumps and, at the same time, Emma was in bed following the still-birth of their first child. We had two nurses in the house at the same time – one downstairs and one upstairs. 

It was then that I made up my mind not to go to Madison to the University of Wisconsin, but would put in my application for entrance to the Illinois Training School for Nurses in Chicago. I was accepted for entrance September 3rd. In the meantime, I had to tell Dad of my change in plans, so I wrote to him in Montana and explained what I planned to do. A telegram came back, post-haste, saying, “Don’t leave until I come home.” Well, you can guess the outcome when he came home. On September 3rd, I got on the train for Chicago, and said goodbye to the home place and all that it had meant to me for so long a time. There were deep misgivings on the part of the whole family to see me enter training at Cook County Hospital. Then, there were many things lacking for a young lady to train in a public hospital.

Upon arrival in Chicago, I hired a horse-drawn cab to take me to the Nurses’ Home on Hanover Street. I was met at the door by one of the nurses, and ushered into a lovely “sitting room” to await further instructions. A Miss Van Alstine was sitting at the piano playing Dvorak’s “Humoresque.” When she finished, she came over and introduced herself to me and welcomed me. Then Mrs. Zangmaster came and ushered me into the office where I received my first instructions and assignments. There was a class of 50 probationers entering at this time. We were assigned rooms - sometimes three to a room. A Miss Bertha James from Utah and a girl from Kentucky - whose name I can’t remember – shared a room with me to begin with. (I want to say here that Bertha was my roommate for 2 1/2 years at County Hospital and then for 2 years in France.)

On September 5th, we were all indoctrinated, and assigned to classes for the first three weeks – before we could go into the hospital. Our instructions consisted of learning how to make beds, care for patients in bed, how to set up trays, etc. We also had to purchase several books for regular class work that continued all during the three years’ training. We were then taken in small groups on tours of many sections of the hospital, to familiarize us with what lay in store once we were given hospital duty. Our probation period was for three months. Then we were examined to determine if we could go on, or be dismissed as not suitable to go on. None of the 50 who entered that September were sent home.

I was assigned to help in Children’s Hospital, which pleased me very much. The regular nurses were all especially nice to us “rookies.” However, my stay there was short-lived – after only two days, I was stricken with diphtheria and taken to an isolation ward. (Several other nurses were in there with the same, as there was a mild epidemic at that time.) I must have had a severe case, because I was given several doses of anti-toxin. Only after six weeks was I told I could leave the isolation ward and return to the nurses’ home – Margaret Lawrence – to continue recuperation. After another 10 days, I was permitted to go home for a week. Dad and the family urged me to stay home, and later go to the University of Wisconsin, but I said no. I wanted to go back to I.T.S., so back I went.

Feeling fine, I went back on duty at the hospital, but only for a short time as again illness struck. This time, it was a virulent ear infection, resulting in a mastoid operation on Christmas Eve, 1912.

This is the end of the hand-written autobiography that Freeda Larson wrote in 1973. She never got around to finishing the story of her days at the Illinois Training School for Nurses. Suffice to say, she completed her training. The story of how her future husband – Robert Ash Lewis – traveled to Chicago in 1913 and met her while she was in training is covered in detail in his autobiography.

Some information included in the above was not present in her write-up. The additions have come from two main sources – verbal stories related by Freeda in later years, and excerpts from letters written to her by her brother Arthur.

The next chapter in Freeda Larson’s life – her service as an Army nurse in World War I – has been prepared from the notes she made for a talk she gave to the Rossmoor Woman’s Club at Leisure World, Silver Spring, Maryland, in 1975. 



(A talk given to the Rossmoor Woman's Club at Leisure World in 1975)

(Edited in 2002 by her son, Gordon Lewis)

I had graduated from the Illinois Training School for Nurses in Chicago, and was taking post-graduate at the University of Chicago during the winter of 1916-1917. It was at this time that the United States was having some troubles on the Mexican border and, because of this, might need some hospital units. In anticipation of this need, a few noted doctors had been called to Washington by the Surgeon General to organize them. One of these doctors was Dr. Fred Beasley, a well-known surgeon from Chicago - on the staff of Northwestern Medical School, Rush Medical School of the University of Chicago, and on the surgical staff of Cook County hospital. I knew Dr. Beasley personally from my I.T.S. days. 

One day in February 1917, he casually asked me if I would join a hospital unit to go to the Mexican border, if needed. I volunteered I would. With that, I promptly forgot all about it. 

April 6, 1917, was a dark day for the United States. President Wilson and Congress declared war against Germany on that date. Patriotism ran high among the students at the university, with many wondering when, how, and where they could and would enlist. It was in the morning of April 27th that I received an urgent call from Miss Urch at I.T.S., asking me if I would be ready to leave for France in a week’s time. Imagine my complete surprise, but I said "Yes.” Now what do I do? I reported to Miss Urch that afternoon for instructions. Dr. Beasley had again been called to Washington to immediately set in motion this hospital organization, which was to have gone to the Mexican border, but was now to go to France. 

Great Britain had requested six hospital units to come at the very earliest date to relieve doctors, nurses, and corpsmen who had been on duty in France since 1914. In less than a week's time, Dr. Beasley and Miss Urch had a complete hospital organization of 25 doctors, 65 nurses, and 150 enlisted personnel, plus a dietician, interpreter, and two secretaries. Dr. Milton Mandel from Michael Reese Hospital - a noted internist – was appointed to head up the Medical Department, and Dr. Beasley the Surgical Department.  The doctors and enlisted personnel were outfitted by the Army, and we nurses by the Red Cross. Marshall Fields made our uniforms in a hurry.

Thus it was that on May 12th, we all assembled at Union Station in Chicago to board a special train for New York as our port of embarkation. I might add here that the doctors were mostly from Northwestern and Rush Medical Schools, 45 nurses were from I.T.S., 15 from Evanston’s hospital, and 5 from Wesley. The enlisted personnel were students from. Northwestern and Chicago University - some pre-meds, some medical students, and other regular students. So it was like a large family, with each knowing many of the others.

We were met in New York where the male contingent was assigned to the Army for instructions, and we nurses were met by Miss Jane Delano for our instructions. At this time, nurses were enlisted for foreign service for a period of six months. On May 15th, we again assembled, this time all in readiness to board the S.S. Mongolia - a freighter carrying supplies to Great Britain, but having accommodations for our complete unit which was now known as Base Hospital 12. Also, going with us were some doctors who were going to France as volunteers.

We left New York harbor about 4 PM on Saturday, but with no fanfare. To all of us, it was then a rather solemn occasion. Sunday, our first day out, started out as a beautiful day - calm ocean - with all settling down for a pleasant voyage. At 11 AM, the entire unit was called to the main salon to meet our new commanding officer - Colonel Collins, a regular army officer - and to receive further instructions. Imagine our surprise when, in the course of instructions, Col. Collins announced that, since we were at war, we were no longer under the Red Cross but regular Army doctors and nurses, and in for the duration. That was just the first shock of the day.

After lunch, we were invited to come out on deck and watch target practice by the ship’s gunners. At this time, there were no convoys, each ship was on its own, and had to protect itself from German submarines. Two guns were successfully fired, but the third firing was tragic. The shell exploded as it was fired and shrapnel ricocheted back on deck, instantly killing two nurses and injuring a third. You can imagine the shock and confusion for a few moments.

(A subsequent investigation determined that the metal cover for the powder canister, which was separate from the bullet, had taken an erratic trajectory when it blew out the muzzle of the gun, and hit the nurses who were actually in front of the gun at a lower level.)

The ship’s Captain immediately ordered the ship to return to New York, arriving there Monday AM. We anchored in the Hudson River, but we were not permitted shore leave. However, the Red Cross stated they would wire all our families that we were O.K. We had a short service for the two nurses whose remains were then shipped to their homes, and Miss Matson, who had been wounded, was sent to Presbyterian Hospital in New York. (She later rejoined our unit in France.)

Monday and Tuesday were trying days as we sat in port. We had started out enthused, but now we already had a taste of what war might be. Finally, on Wednesday AM , after taking on fresh ammunition, we again left port for the open sea. From then on, it was a pleasant voyage - smooth waters, good food, and pleasant company – until –

Two days before we were to land in England, we were in the 600-mile war zone. Life boat drills became the order of the day - preparedness in case we had to abandon ship. We had to keep our life preservers with us at all times, plus our top coats, canteens full of water, and chocolate bars. Our ship was kept in a constant zig-zag pattern, and a constant lookout was maintained for German submarines. A British destroyer was supposed to meet us and convoy us in to port, but it did not appear until after we had been attacked by a submarine when we were just one day out from landing. Two torpedoes were fired us, one crossing the bow as we zigged and the other crossing the bow as we zagged. Our gunners were firing at the submarine all this time, and soon it disappeared. It wasn’t known whether we had sunk it, or whether it just took off.

At the same time that we were being attacked, the British destroyer appeared to convoy us to port at Falmouth, England. There in port, we learned that a large Japanese liner had been sunk by a submarine, and that the destroyer that came to meet us had been delayed because it had picked up many of its passengers and crew.

We arrived at Falmouth on Saturday. Sunday morning, June 1st, we went by special train across England to London, where we were met by the American ambassador and a group of American representatives who were in charge of hospitals. We were billeted in London for a week, and while we were there, we had a wonderful time. The people there were marvelous to us. One of the nicest things that happened to us was being entertained for a day by Sir Thomas Lipton at his estate about 30 miles outside of London. He sent three big, open buses in to take the doctors and nurses out there and bring us back. (I have a large picture of all the unit that was there that day, with Sir Thomas Lipton sitting right in the middle.)

On June 9th, we boarded lorries to take us to Folkestone where we were loaded on a boat that was part of a convoy of five boats loaded with British troops, plus our unit. Crossing the English Channel was a harrowing experience. Although the sea was calm, there were destroyers flanking us in every direction to protect us from German submarines that were known to be active in the area. We landed at Boulogne-Sur-Mer, a small seaport on the northern coast of France, where we were met by British lorries - which carried about 20 people each. They took us to our destination near Camiers, about 15 miles south of Boulogne-Sur-Mer. It was about 9 PM when we arrived there, and we hadn’t had any food since breakfast in England. The nurses were taken to the nurses’ dining area where we were served cold boiled potatoes, some boiled beef, marinated fruit, and hard bread with jam and black cheese. Then we were shown to our quarters. They were wooden barracks with 10 rooms in each, and two nurses were assigned to each room. I had the same roommate I had had at I.T.S. - Bertha James. Our beds were three planks raised off the floor, with two army blankets and a hard pillow. (Some time later, we were given cots with springs, sheets, and pillowcases.)

The next morning, we were given a tour of the hospital area, known as the 18th General Hospital, British Expeditionary Forces. It was a compound of five hospital units - an American hospital unit from Boston, a Canadian hospital unit, two British hospital units, and ours from Chicago. In the area we occupied, there were initially only three wooden buildings in addition to the nurses’ barracks - an administration building, the operating room, and the meetinghouse with an office for the chaplain.  And there were three metal Text Box:  
huts with semi-circular roofs for hospital beds. All the officers and corpsmen initially lived in tents, and most of the hospital beds were in tents. (All the other hospital units in tie area were in wooden barracks. Subsequently, huts were provided for our male staff members, and wooden barracks were built for all of our hospital beds.)

The first real shock came when we were told that our hospital was in a bombing zone. We were located on the main railroad line from Boulogne to Paris. There was a large British machine-gun training area very close, a huge ammunition dump in the sand dunes a few miles to the east, and about four miles south was a very large British troop center for soldiers just arriving in France. A short distance further south - at Etaples - was the largest British hospital center. The hospitals were built along the railroad to facilitate transportation of convoys of wounded from the front lines, and all the buildings were plainly marked with large red crosses on the roofs. Actually, our hospital was only about 65 miles from the front lines at the time, so we could hear the shelling and bombing. And we were told that, since the Germans would be trying to bomb the railroads and nearby military facilities, we could expect wayward bombs to fall on or around us.

Our unit was staffed for a 500-bed hospital, but we ended up with 1500 beds - more than we could possibly take care of Fortunately, 30 British Volunteer Aides – VAD’s – were assigned to us, plus a British quartermaster officer since all of our supplies were from British supply depots. (In October, we received reinforcements from the United States that relieved our situation.)

We were really an evacuation hospital. First-aid treatment was initially given the wounded at field stations, then they were moved by convoys to evacuation hospitals such as ours. We had to do whatever was possible for them in short order, so they could be sent on to make room for subsequent convoys of wounded. The wounded came by both trains and ambulances. When they were arrived, they were sent to different wards, depending on the types of injuries - chest cases to a chest ward, leg injuries to a leg ward, etc. I was initially assigned to one of the hospital huts containing 30 beds, along with Julie Wilson, also from Chicago. Our hut was a chest ward.

In July 1917, I got my first leave. Another nurse and I - a Miss Rose - obtained 10-day passes. We went first to Paris for a few days, then went by train to Bordeaux in the American sector, and on to Biarritz. From there, we went to Lourdes, where we visited the Tomb of St. Bernadette. After a brief side excursion into the foothills of the Pyrenees, we went on to Marseille and the Mediterranean coast. That was the last stop on our trip, and we then headed back to camp.

In August, a severe storm blew in off the English Channel. All of our tents were blown away, and we had a mad scramble to get our patients out of the rain. Many were moved into what few barracks we had - including the nurses’ quarters, recreation building, etc. - and others were moved to other hospitals in the area that were in wooden barracks. It was not long after the storm that the engineers came in and replaced our tent encampment with metal huts and wooden barracks.

On September 4, 1917, at about 9 PM, we were subjected to our first air raid. Although there was no damage to our hospital, there was severe damage and many casualties in the hospital across the road from us. I found out that one of the injured was a Dr. Smith from Neenah, Wisconsin, whom I had known from the time I was a little girl. I went to see him, and later he was sent home. It was through him that Dad found out where I really was.

Bombing became more frequent and severe in the area in early 1918. The German raids were meant to concentrate on the British training camp south of us, but ended up heavily bombing both the town of Etaples and the large hospital there, with many casualties of hospital patients and staff.

We began getting Americans at our hospital in the Spring of 1918 - soldiers from the U.S. 27th and 30th Divisions. In early June, the hospital was completely loaded down with more wounded than we could possibly take care of, so we evacuated them as fast as we could to base hospitals further behind the lines, or over to England. Toward the end of the month, things had quieted down a lot, and my ward was less than half full. One day a I was sitting at my desk, I got a funny feeling that someone had come through the door and was just standing there looking at me. I looked up and there was Bob Lewis. You can imagine the excitement of the moment. We had been seeing each other off and or for four years - with me in Chicago and him in Pittsburgh - and had exchanged letters over the past year, but I had no idea he was close by.

It turned out that his camp was not far away - close to Wiedham - that be had passed by a hospital complex when he was on the train from Brest to Calais, and had speculated that it might be the one where I was from a description of the area I had included in one of my letters. The day he showed up, he was on a gas-mask hike with several others in a nearby area, encountered a British service man with a red cross on his sleeve, and inquired if there was a general hospital anywhere around. Hearing that there was, and sure from my descriptions that I was present, he and the others walked to the camp gate, and he got permission from the Chief Nurse to go to my ward.

Bob’s unit remained in the area for about two  weeks, during which time we saw each other four or five times - two or three times he came over to see me, and a couple of times one or two nurses and I went over to Wiedharn to have dinner with him. (No nurses were allowed to leave camp singly.) After his unit departed, I didn't see him again until we were both back in the U.S.

Since we were under the British, we depended on them for our food Supplies. Although we had a good dietician that made the most of everything, the food wasn’t very good, neither in the mess hall nor in the hospital. Early in the Fall of 1918, we were terribly rushed. The ward I was on with a Miss Holder was filled with 42 patients - all leg cases, either amputees or critically ill and couldn’t be moved. Wanting to do something special for these boys, Miss Holder and I pooled our money and would go down to Camiers to buy food and other things we could give the boys. We didn’t say anything to anyone about it, and kept what we bought and hadn’t used behind a  curtain back of the little kitchen in the ward. Early one morning, I arrived at the ward and found Major Long, the British Adjutant of the hospital, examining the things. He asked what we were doing with those things, and how we were getting them. When I told him that we had used our own money, he stated that we had no right to go out and buy supplies, that it was up to the British. I retorted that I had 42 sick and desperate boys here and I was going to see to it that they got food that was good and proper for them to eat. He then informed me that he was going to report me to Col. Nussbaum, who was our commanding officer at the time, and he walked out.

I immediately went to the Chief Nurse - Miss Spencer - and told her what had happened and that I had insulted Major Long, and that I needed to talk with Col Nussbaum right away. Just as I was relating the event to Col. Nussbaum, in walked Major Long. Well, everyone cooled down and, later in the day, Major Long came to me and said that, if  there is anything I needed that I couldn’t get through the quartermaster, I was to let him know and he would see that I got what I needed for the boys.

Early in the Fall of 1918, there was terrible fighting at the front, and we were terribly busy, with casualties coming in night and day. We began to hear rumors that an Armistice was to be signed before long. Our first report that an Armistice had been signed came on November 9th - that was a false alarm. Then we got a formal report on November 11th that there had been an Armistice at 11 AM that morning. As you can imagine, there was great excitement, and everyone started celebrating. Unfortunately, Miss Cohan and I were on duty. Even though we were scheduled to go off duty at 5 PM, no one showed up, so we stayed in the ward until 9 AM the next morning - over 24 hours on duty. Finally, we were relieved.

The task of disbursing our patients then began in earnest, and the workload steadily decreased. At long last, in February 1919, we were told that the hospital was to be evacuated completely and, on February 17th, the American flag was lowered and the British flag raised as they took over what was left. When we were standing on the station platform at Camiers, waiting to depart, there were many tears shed - tears of joy that we were going home, but also tears of remembrance for those who had suffered and died, and for the good and bad times that we had shared.

First to depart were the enlisted men. Then the orders came for Base Hospital 12 to prepare for embarkation to the U.S. The orders didn’t specify for officers or all personnel. Well, we girls weren’t officers - we had no commissions - so the officers left and we girls were left sitting. Finally, Miss Spencer got orders for us, too, to leave, and we here told to leave for Le Havre. We went by way of Paris, where we stayed one day, then on to the billeting area for nurses near Le Havre. Well, nurses came and went, and we still sat. Miss Spencer, really upset, finally got a message through to General Pershing, asking why the nurses of Base Hospital 12 couldn’t embark. The answer came back that we should already have left for America in February. In effect, we were lost.

Finally, after six weeks, we got orders to go to Brest. There, lo and behold, I ran into a boy from my hometown, and a doctor with whom I had nursed in Chicago - a small world, indeed. Finally, we loaded aboard the Prince Frederick Wilhelm, a German liner that was still manned by Germans, but we did have American engineers and officers on board. We nurses envisioned having first-class quarters on board, but it didn’t turn out that way. We were assigned quarters below deck - the first-class staterooms were given to German and French war-brides. On the way home, there were nine babies born at sea to these war-brides.

The trip home was otherwise uneventful. When we arrived in New York in May 1919, we had to endure a victory parade in 100-degree heat, but we were safely back on home soil. While I was there in New York, I was contacted by the Commercial Club of Waupaca, Wisconsin, and requested to officially welcome back to the U.S. a contingent Waupaca boys who were returning to New York shortly after I arrived.

I went home to Waupaca to spend time with Dad, but then returned to Chicago, with the intent to resume my nursing career. Then, in June, Bob Lewis came up from Birmingham, having been released from the Army earlier that month. He proposed marriage, I accepted, and we got married immediately in Chicago. So endeth my single days, and beginneth our wonderful married life together.

Descendants of Robert Ash Lewis

Generation No. 1

1.  COL. ARMY RESERVE ROBERT ASH4 LEWIS  (WILLIAM GRIFFITH3, GRIFFITH A.2, RICHARD PRICE1 "LEWIS") was born October 23, 1891 in Ramona, South Dakota, and died February 21, 1973 in Washington, D. C.  He married FREEDA WILHELMINA LARSON June 25, 1919 in Chicago, Illinois, daughter of OLAUS LARSON and CATHERINE LARSDOTTER.  She was born September 30, 1891 in Waupaca, Wisconsin, and died December 05, 1991 in Bethesda, Maryland.


Facts for Robert A. Lewis:

In 1893 moved to Tallapoosa, GA. Next to Chattanooga, TN, then to Birmingham, AL.
Went to Phillips High School but did not graduate. Was accepted to University of Pittsburgh. Graduated in 1916. Was editor of The Owl. 1915. Entered to army and went to Europe as a Master Sergent. Was engaged to Freeda at this time. Saw her at least once in France. Came back to the states early 1919. Married Freeda in Chicago in 1919. Came with her to Birmingham. Lived at 6105 1st Ave N. until 1929. Then moved to Roebuck. 305 N. 90th St. In 1933, went back on active duty as captain in the CCCs. In 1935 we moved to Anniston, one year, then to Gadsden one year then back to Birmingham. Lived one year at 7101 3rd ave S. Then moved back to 6105 1st Ave N. In 1941 family moved to Atlanta where he was a Lt. Col in charge of building Atlanta General Depot. In 1942 he was transferred to Washington D.C. where he was chief of war plans division of Corps of Engineers. Became a Colonel. Was awarded the Legion of Merit. After retirement, stayed on in the Engineer's division as civil service. Finally retired and moved to Leisure World, MD.

Facts about this person:

Served in World war 1 and 2; Buried in Arlington National Cemetery.


Fact 1: See Note Page


Freeda's mother died when she was a young girl.  She kept house for her brothers and father since her older sister had gotten married and moved to South Dakota.

After returning from France in May 1919, she was asked by the governor of Wisconsin to go to New York to welcome home the returning Wisconsin Troops. When she returned home she went to Chicago to marry Robert. See notes for Robert to follow rest of life.  After Robert's death she stayed on at Leisure World. At age 96 she entered a nursing home in Maryland. 

Her 90th birthday party was a gala affair. The entire family was present, including Freeda’s first great-grandchild, Rebecca Anne Renken, age 6 months.

Facts about this person:

Fact 1  

Served in world war 1.  Is represented in WIMSA

Fact 2  

Buried in Arlington National Cemetery

Fact 3  

Graduated Illinois Training School for Nursing

Fact 4   Bet. 1917 - 1918

Served in Base Hospital 12 WW1 (France) 


Becky Wright Sat, 2 Jan 1999
My name is Becky J. Wright. My great great grandfather was James Lewis born in Wales but lived and raised his family in Winfred, South Dakota. His mother was Elizabeth Lewis and she married Thomas Charles. They are both buried in the Union Cemetery; she died l893 he died 1906. James Lewis was born 12 Dec. 1840 died 30 Oct. 1920. He married Maria Ellis 1867. She died Sept. 1897. They had 8 children and my grandmother is one. Her name is Sarah Jane Lewis (Kennedy). I am seeking anyone with any information on them. I came to Winfred several years ago and just stumbled on their graves. I think it was the Union cemetery but I think it was in Canova I just can't be sure. I do correspond with Desmond Lewis in Madison, SD. He has been very nice but doesn't know too much about my grandmother or too many in the family. I thank you.