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ISBN 978-0-692-97837-5

51495>

9 780692 978375


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Angel of the Yukon — A Kansas Woman’s Call To Alaska Copyright © 2017 Eckzahn Enterprises LLC All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, distributed, or transmitted in any form or by any means, including photocopying, recording, or other electronic or mechanical methods, without the prior written permission of the copyright holder. Cover design, book design and layout by Jim L. Friesen Library of Congress Control Number: 2017962389 International Standard Book Number: 978-0-692-97837-5 Printed in the United States of America by Mennonite Press, Inc., Newton, Kansas. www.MennonitePress.com

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To nurses everywhere, for their caring and compassionate spirits.

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Foreword.................................................................................................vii Preface......................................................................................................ix Introduction..............................................................................................xi Chapter 1: My Call to Alaska................................................................... 1 Chapter 2: My Trip to Unalaska.............................................................. 3 Chapter 3: Getting to Work..................................................................... 7 Chapter 4: The Jesse Lee Home.............................................................. 9 Chapter 5: Friendly Donations.............................................................. 15 Chapter 6: A Wedding........................................................................... 17 Chapter 7: Outside Patients................................................................... 19 Chapter 8: Back to Nursing................................................................... 23 Chapter 9: The Diphtheria Epidemic................................................... 29 Chapter 10: A Dog Team Trip............................................................... 47 Chapter 11: Kansas Day......................................................................... 53 Chapter 12: My Call to Point Barrow................................................... 55 Chapter 13: A Fire in Point Barrow....................................................... 61 Chapter 14: Christmas Along the Arctic............................................... 65 Chapter 15: Church Services................................................................. 67 Chapter 16: My First Plane Trip............................................................ 69 Chapter 17: Benton Pameok and Burton Toorak.................................. 77

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Chapter 18: Back to Nome.................................................................... 83 Chapter 19: My Experience with the Gold Miners............................... 85 Chapter 20: Christmas in Nome............................................................ 89 Chapter 21: Winter Visits...................................................................... 93 Chapter 22: My Last Year...................................................................... 95 Afterword..............................................................................................101

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mily Mary Morgan was born March 7, 1878 on a farm near Leon, Kansas, eight miles south of El Dorado, Kansas. She attended the Cave Spring Country School through the eighth grade. She then attended Leon High School for two years, graduating in 1897. She always wanted to be a nurse, but the family was large and the upland farm did not produce any extra money. It was necessary for her to make the money needed to take training, so she taught school for six years. In 1905, Emily entered the Ensworth Hospital at St. Joseph, Missouri. She graduated in 1908 after three years of training. Emily Morgan was my great-aunt. I have had the stories you are about to read in my possession since 1990. Grace Morgan Eckel, who was Emily’s sister and my grandmother, must have spent countless hours in approximately 1965 typing them on her Remington Rand typewriter. She used as her sources letters, newspaper clippings and her recollection of the things Emily told her. Just as it was my grandmother’s wish to write Emily’s stories, it was mine to have them published. I have done my best to fact check and verify dates, spellings of names and accuracy of events. I hope you enjoy reading about Miss Emily Morgan, Angel of the Yukon. Kristine Eckel Rauenzahn

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e often urged my sister Emily to write the story of her life in Alaska, and she planned to do so but passed away in 1960 at the age of 82 and no book was written. After her death I wanted so much to write her story for her, but I had a sick husband and had no time to think about it. He passed away about a year ago, and like other widows, I was heartbroken. Then I thought of Emily’s stories, and day after day and night after night when I could not sleep, I tried to remember the things she told us. I have put together all the information I had, and I have tried to let her tell her story in her own words as she told it to us by letter and by word. Grace Morgan Eckel 1965

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n the year 1923, Emily Morgan, a Red Cross nurse from Wichita, Kansas, made a decision that was to have a tremendous impact upon many, many people who lived in the far distant land of Alaska. Her decision was to accept a call to go to the Jesse Lee Orphanage at Unalaska, Alaska. Little did she dream that one day soon the name “Emily Morgan” would make headlines around the world for her role in a diphtheria epidemic in Nome, Alaska. For her compassion, energy, nursing skills and courage above and beyond the call of duty she was named “Angel of the Yukon.”

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19  t was a beautiful, quiet Sunday afternoon. For a little exercise, I had skied out to Chicken Hill and back. Now I was settling myself in a comfortable chair in my office, preparing to write letters, when the private telephone rang. You might ask why a private telephone. The city telephone closed down at 12 midnight and did not open until seven in the morning, so the City of Nome installed a private line from the doctor’s residence to the hospital for night use. It was used only at night or

Emily and friend on skis

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Angel of the Yukon when the doctor did not want any eavesdropping or he wanted to use some swear words that he did not want the public to know about. In an agitated voice, Dr. O’Hara said, “There has been a fight at Council 80 miles down the coast and they have telephoned for two airplanes — one with the doctor to bring the patient to the hospital and the other with the marshal to bring the offender to the jail. I’ll be by in a few minutes. Have a small package of gauze, bandages, and sutures ready for me.” Later as he reached for the package he said, “We’ll be back in two hours. Have the surgery ready for an emergency.” I instructed Miss Berne to prepare the surgery and busied myself about the office for two hours when I heard the roar of two planes. They circled the town several times and landed on the ice on Bering Sea, which was the landing field for Nome in winter. In about 15 minutes I heard the chug-chug of a tractor. Looking out the window I saw a flat trailer behind the tractor, with every man in town that could find room standing around the patient. They carried him in on a stretcher and set him down in the front hall of the hospital. He looked at me and blurted out in a shrill, ringing voice, “I know you, Miss Morgan. I am Alec Gricy. I’ve visited this hospital many times.” “Keep still,” I demanded. “You’re using up all your strength.” Miss Berne carefully turned the blanket back and gasped, “What a mess!” His clothes were saturated with blood from his neck to his toes, and this was smeared with white sticky powder. “Cut the clothes off him,” ordered Dr. O’Hara as he entered the hall. “The Eskimos filled the cut in his throat with flour to stop the hemorrhage, and it did wonders.” Miss Berne and I cut the clothes off and shoved them in an old gunny sack and threw them in the laundry. The patient was taken to surgery, and the blood and flour were soon cleared away. A few sutures in the wound and he was put to bed, weak from the loss of blood and his mind still wandering from the sourdough booze. I was just finishing tucking him in a warm bed when he said, “There was six hundred dollars in those clothes you cut off me.” “Six hundred dollars!” I exclaimed. “How did you get six hundred dollars?”

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My Experience with the Gold Miners “Joe, my partner, and I made a pot of sourdough booze, and when it was ripe we asked in some Eskimos. We played poker and it was my lucky day. I got all the stakes, and when I took Joe’s last dollar, he picked up a broken bottle and threw it at me. I was so woozy I did not dodge, and the sharp edge hit me at the throat.” I went back to the laundry, hauled out the sack of dirty clothes, went through the pockets and found the six hundred dollars, and then deposited it in the safety lock box in my office. The next morning Alec was much better, quiet but still pale from the loss of blood. When I touched my finger to his pulse, he aroused and said, “There is fifty dollars more you did not find in those clothes.” “I looked through all your pockets, and I know there is no more money in them,” I said. “It’s wrapped in an old blue handkerchief,” he said. I went back to the laundry, hauled out the clothes again and found the fifty dollars in the blue handkerchief. I put it with the other six hundred in my desk. By the end of three weeks, Alec had made great progress in regaining his health. When I made rounds one morning I said to Alec, “Joe, your partner, is appearing in court tomorrow. What charges are you bringing against him?” “I’m not bringing any charges. He’s my partner,” said Alec. “You mean you are not bringing charges when he nearly killed you,” I said. “No, he’s my partner. We’ll have to mine together this summer,” he said. I thought a minute and asked, “How much will this episode cost you?” “Let me think,” said Alec. “They will probably fine Joe three hundred dollars. My plane will cost one hundred fifty dollars, fifty more for clothes, and the other one hundred fifty will pay hospital and other bills. We will go back to Council broke. We have a good gold mine though and will make a good stake next summer.” “And spend it gambling and drinking,” I remarked. He was silent for a moment and said, “I have learned my lesson.” In a few days Alec went to the Pioneer Rooming House about three blocks from the hospital. Nearly every day while he was waiting for the

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Angel of the Yukon ice to clear out of Bering Sea so he could go back to Council, he would make his way to the hospital with the excuse he wanted to visit a newly made friend at the hospital, but he would invariably find his way to the kitchen for a cup of coffee and a chat with the nurses. In the first part of May, we had several warm days that made the ice along the shore of Bering Sea rotten and slushy. Then a heavy off-shore wind blew this great ice field out to sea. Alec came to the hospital rather excited saying, “The sea is open; our little boat is going to Council this evening. I wanted to tell you goodbye and thank you for the care you gave me and the good advice. I am going back to Council a different man. Joe and I are going to work hard this summer. We have a good gold mine and should mine a lot of gold, and if we do,” a broad grin spread over his face, “I’m coming back for one of your nurses.” Although I had smelt a mouse, I was somewhat surprised and said, “Do you think I am running a hospital or a matrimonial bureau?” He smiled. “I think both are wonderful occupations. What would old miners do for wives if it were not for nurses and schoolteachers? The mining seasons are very short, and the boats come in too late, and the last boat goes out too early for us. So we just have to stay the year round. Do you not think a good Christian woman is a great asset to the moral condition of a village and to her husband?” I was floored and asked, “Will you let me know in time to get a relief nurse on the October boat so we will not be shorthanded next winter?” He nodded yes and was gone. In August I got a short letter: Dear Miss Morgan: Very busy. Mining good. Plenty gold. Advise you to send for a relief nurse. Alec

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ISBN 978-0-692-97837-5

51495>

9 780692 978375

Profile for Mennonite Press Inc

Angel of the Yukon  

Emily Morgan was born on a farm near Leon, Kansas (Butler County) in 1878. She became a Methodist missionary nurse who followed her callin...

Angel of the Yukon  

Emily Morgan was born on a farm near Leon, Kansas (Butler County) in 1878. She became a Methodist missionary nurse who followed her callin...

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