Tag Archives: Glens Falls

World War One Nurse Florence Bullard


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In Adirondack history, like in most other parts of America, war heroes abound. Traditionally, they are men who have lost limbs, men who risked their lives to save others, and men who fought valiantly against incredible odds. Some died, while others survived, but for the most part, they shared one common thread: they were all men. But in my own humble estimation, one of the North Country’s greatest of all war heroes was a woman.

Florence Church Bullard, the female in question, was “from” two places. Known for most of her life as a Glens Falls girl, she was born in January 1880 in New Sweden, a small settlement in the town of Ausable.

By the time she was 20, Florence had become a schoolteacher in Glens Falls, where she boarded with several other teachers. Seeking something more from life, she enrolled in St. Mary’s Hospital, a training facility of the Mayo Brothers in Rochester, Minnesota. After graduating, she worked as a private nurse for several years.

In December 1916, four months before the United States entered World War I, Florence left for the battlefields of Europe. As a Red Cross nurse, she served with the American Ambulance Corps at the hospital in Neuilly, France, caring for injured French soldiers. They often numbered in the thousands after major battles.

On April 6, 1917, the United States officially entered the war, but the first American troops didn’t arrive in Europe until the end of June. Florence had considered the possibility of returning home by fall of that year because of potential attacks on the home front by Germany or Mexico (yes, the threat was real).

But with the US joining the fray in Europe, Florence decided she could best serve the cause by tending to American foot soldiers, just as she had cared for French troops since her arrival.

Until the Americans landed, she continued serving in the French hospital and began writing a series of letters to family and friends in Glens Falls and Ausable. Those missives provide a first-hand look at the war that took place a century ago.

The US had strongly resisted involvement in the conflict, but when Congress voted to declare war, Florence described the immediate reaction in Europe. Her comments offer insight on America’s role as an emerging world power and how we were viewed by others back then.

“I have never known anything so inspiring as Paris has been since the news came that America had joined the Allies. Almost every building in Paris is flying the American flag. Never shall I forget last Saturday evening. I was invited to go to the opera … that great opera house had not an empty seat. It was filled with Russians, Belgians, British, and French, with a few Americans scattered here and there. Three-quarters of the huge audience was in uniform.

“Just before the curtain went up for the second act, the wonderful orchestra burst out into the ‘Star Spangled Banner.’ In a flash, those thousands were on their feet as if they were one person. One could have heard a pin drop except for the music. The music was played perfectly and with such feeling. Afterwards, the applause was so tremendous that our national anthem was repeated.

“The tears sprang to my eyes and my heart seemed to be right in my throat. It seemed as if I must call right out to everyone, ‘I’m an American and that was my national anthem!’ I have never witnessed such a demonstration of patriotism in my life. The officers of every allied nation clad in their brilliant uniforms stood in deference to our country.”

The work she had done thus far received strong support from the folks back home. In a letter to her sister in Ausable, Florence wrote, “Try to know how much gratitude and appreciation I feel to you and all the people of Glens Falls who have given so generously of their time and money. It was such fun to help the committee open the boxes and to realize that the contents had all been arranged and made by people that I know personally.

“The committee remarked upon the splendid boxes with hinged covers and the manner in which they were packed. When the covers were lifted, the things looked as if they might have been packed in the next room and the last article just fitted into the box. I was just a little proud to have them see how things are done in Glens Falls. Again, my gratitude, which is so hard to express.”

Florence’s credentials as a Mayo nurse, her outstanding work ethic, and connections to some important doctors helped ease her transition into the American war machine. The French, understandably, were loathe to see her go, so highly valued was her service.

In a letter to Maude, her older sister, Florence expressed excitement at establishing the first triage unit for American troops at the front. They were expected to treat 5,000 to 10,000 soldiers every 24 hours. Upon evaluation, some would be patched up and moved on; some would be operated on immediately; and others would be cared for until they were well enough to be moved to safer surroundings.

Florence’s sensitive, caring nature was evident when she told of the very first young American to die in her care. “He was such a boy, and he told me much about himself. He said that when the war broke out, he wanted to enlist. But he was young, and his mother begged him not to, so he ran away. And here he was, wounded and suffering, and he knew he must die.

“All the time, that boy was crying for his mother … he was grieving over her. And so I did what I could to take her place. And during the hours of his delirium, he sometimes thought I was his mother, and for the moment, he was content.

“Every morning, that lad had to be taken to the operating room to have the fluid drawn from off his lungs because of the hemorrhage. When finally that last day the doctor came, he knew the boy’s time was short and he could not live, so he said he would not operate. But the boy begged so hard, he said it relieved him so, that we took him in.

“And then those great, confident eyes looked into mine and he said, ‘You won’t leave me mother, will you?’ And I said, ‘No, my son.’ But before that simple operation could be completed, that young life had passed out. And I am not ashamed to tell you that as I cut a curl of hair to send to his mother, my tears fell on that young boy’s face-—not for him, but for his mother.”

Working tirelessly dressing wounds and assisting the surgeons, Bullard displayed great capability and leadership. She was offered the position of hospital superintendent if she chose to leave the front. It was a tremendous opportunity, but one that Florence Bullard turned down. Rather than supervise and oversee, she preferred to provide care directly to those in need.

Next week: Part 2—Nurse Bullard under hellish bombing attack.

Photos: Above, Florence Church Bullard, nurse, hero; Middle, World War One Red Cross poster; Below WWI wounded soldier in France.

Lawrence Gooley has authored ten books and dozens of articles on the North Country’s past. He and his partner, Jill McKee, founded Bloated Toe Enterprises in 2004. Expanding their services in 2008, they have produced 19 titles to date, and are now offering web design. For information on book publishing, visit Bloated Toe Publishing.

Chapman Museum Program on Sherman Island Dam


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On Thursday, September 15 at 7 pm at the Chapman Historical Museum, Director Tim Weidner will present an illustrated talk on construction of Sherman Island (Parklap) Dam in on the Hudson River in Moreau in the early 1920s. Members of the public are invited to bring and to share their clippings, photos or other research materials relating to Hudson River dams. Of particular interest is information about the “IP train track” that ran from the Finch, Pruyn & Co. mill along the north side of the river and the small settlement of kit houses built for workers at the dam site.

The program is presented in connection with the museum’s exhibition, Harnessing the Hudson, which will be on display through September 25th. The Chapman Historical Museum is located at 348 Glen Street, Glens Falls, NY. Public hours are: Tuesday – Saturday from 10 am to 4 pm, and Sunday from noon to 4 pm. For more information call (518) 793-2826 or go to www.chapmanmuseum.org.

Photo: Workers laying track to the Sherman Island Dam site, 1921.

Catalog Features Glens Falls Insurance Co. Sign


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The Glens Falls Insurance Company agent’s trade sign, which served as the model for the reproduction currently available from Pottery Barn, is now on display at the Chapman Historical Museum. Shaped in the form of a fireman’s helmet shield, the five foot tall sign, which dates from around 1877, proclaims the company’s solid assets under its logo, “Old and Tried.” The original sign, part of the museum’s Glens Falls Insurance Company Collection, has been reproduced through a licensing agreement between the museum and Williams Sonoma.

The Glens Falls Insurance Company was founded in 1849 by Russell M. Little, a former Methodist minister, to provide fire insurance for residents of his small upstate New York community. The company grew rapidly, and in a few years operated branch offices across the United States. “Old & Tried” became well known for sound business practices and the ability to pay claims after the disastrous fires that plagued American cities a century ago. The company’s motto proved well deserved. In response to the 1906 earthquake and fire that destroyed San Francisco, Glens Falls Insurance Company paid out $1.5 million from its surplus without suffering financial setback.

In spite of research, the exact identity of the agent, C.H. Barber, is not known. Leads from the public are welcome.

For more information call the Chapman Historical Museum at (518) 793-2826. The museum is located at 348 Glen Street, Glens Falls, NY. Public hours are Tuesday – Saturday, 10 am to 4 pm, and Sunday, Noon to 4 pm.

Environmental Historian Cumbler at Chapman Museum


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This Wednesday, May 25, at 7 pm, noted environmental historian John Cumbler will present a talk entitled Mills, Water Power Dams and the Transformation of the Environment at the Chapman Historical Museum in Glens Falls. The lecture is the first in a series of programs, funded in part by a grant from the New York Council for the Humanities, which expand on the themes of the Chapman’s current exhibit, Harnessing the Hudson: Waterwheels & Turbines, a history of waterpower on the upper Hudson River. The program is free and open to the public.

John T. Cumbler, who earned his Ph.D. at the University of Michigan, has taught at the Univ. of Louisville since 1975, specializing in United States Environmental History and Economic History. Professor Cumbler is the author of numerous books including: Northeast and Midwest United States: An Environmental History (2005) and Reasonable Use: The People, The Environment, And The State, New England 1790-1930 (2001). In his talk he will explore the impact of industrialization on rivers and the history of how people have responded to that degradation.

The Chapman Historical Museum is located at 348 Glen Street, Glens Falls. The exhibit Harnessing the Hudson will be on view through September 25th. Public hours are Tuesday – Saturday, 10 am to 4 pm, and Sunday, noon to 4 pm. For more information call (518) 793-2826 or visit www.chapmanmuseum.org.

Hyde’s Rembrandt on Loan to Louvre


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The Hyde Collection in Glens Falls has announced that its prized Christ with Folded Arms by Rembrandt van Rijn is now on display in the Louvre in Paris as part of a landmark exhibition titled “Rembrandt and the Face of Jesus.”

The Hyde masterwork plays a key role in shaping the thesis of the exhibition, which will be seen in three major museum venues. When the exhibition closes at the Louvre, it travels to the Philadelphia Museum of Art where it will be shown from August through October, 2011 and then to the Detroit Institute of Arts for exhibition beginning in February, 2012. Continue reading

Champlain Canalway Trail Plan Unveiled


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At the Historic Saratoga-Washington on the Hudson Partnership meeting yesterday, Hudson Crossing Park announced the release of the Champlain Canalway Trail Action Plan for the 62-mile corridor between Waterford and Whitehall in Saratoga and Washington
Counties.

The Action Plan is intended to help focus and coordinate locally-based efforts to complete the Champlain Canalway Trail. It uses narrative, maps and photographs to describe the existing conditions, issues and opportunities along the proposed trail route. Each segment of the Action Plan can be used as a stand-alone by an individual community, to help focus attention and prompt constructive dialog.

The 62-mile Champlain Canalway Trail, together with the 9-mile Glens Falls Feeder Canal Trail, comprise one leg of the planned statewide Canalway Trail system. The 348-mile Erie Canalway Trail between Albany and Buffalo is the longest trail in the system. Now more than three-fourths complete, it is actively used by people in local communities, and is rapidly becoming a world-class recreational trail, attracting visitors from across the country as well as from abroad.

In the Champlain Canal corridor, about 17 miles of trail are complete, and another 14 miles are either in planning stages or expected to be completed within the next few years. Similar to the Erie Canalway Trail, the Champlain Canalway Trail is envisioned as an off-road trail wherever possible, with some on-road linkages. Once completed, the trail will provide connectivity between residential areas, business districts,
schools, parks and communities while reducing emissions and fuel consumption.

The Champlain Canalway Trail will be used by bicyclists, walkers, historical tourists, cross-country skiers and others. Sections will also be used seasonally by snowmobilers.

The completed Action Plan was produced by the LA Group of Saratoga Springs. It was funded by a grant awarded to Schuylerville-based Hudson Crossing Park, Inc, (www.hudsoncrossingpark.org) from the Rails to Trails Conservancy, a national organization that supports trail development.
Planning assistance was provided by the Rivers, Trails and Conservation Assistance Program of the National Park Service.

For further information contact:

Southern Champlain Canalway Trail representative:
Nelson Ronsvalle – nronsvalle@townofhalfmoon.org

Central Champlain Canalway Trail representative:
Marlene Bissell – info@hudsoncrossingpark.org

Northern Champlain Canalway Trail representative:
Jeanne Williams – jpw.fca@gmail.com

The New York State Canal System is comprised of four historic waterways, the Erie, the Champlain, the Oswego and the Cayuga-Seneca Canals. Spanning 524 miles across New York State, the waterway links the Hudson River, Lake Champlain, Lake Ontario, the Finger Lakes and the Niagara River with communities rich in history and culture.

Hyde Collection to Present Still Life Talk


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The Hyde Collection in Glens Falls has announced that on Thursday, March 17, 2011, the Museum will hold a lecture on still life by David F. Setford, the Museum’s executive director.

Titled “Fish, Fowl, and Flowers: 20th Century Still Life from the Norton Museum,” the talk will be held in conjunction with the current exhibition at Hyde – Objects of Wonder: Four Centuries of Still Life from the Norton Museum of Art. Continue reading

Museum to Exhibit Stoddard Images of Glen’s Falls


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Many times in the late 19th century Adirondack photographer Seneca Ray Stoddard turned to the falls of the Hudson at Glens Falls for subject matter. He focused on the cascades, pools and rock formations that he found in the river bed as well as the bridges and factories above. Stoddard returned often to photograph the events that occurred there. Included in his work are images of floods, fires, and new mills along the river banks.

Until May 8th the Chapman Historical Museum will exhibit a selection of fifteen original Stoddard’s photos of “The Falls under the Bridge.” The show will be followed this summer by a second series featuring Stoddard’s photos of other falls in the Adirondacks.

The Chapman Historical Museum, located at 348 Glen Street, Glens Falls, is open Tuesday to Saturday, 10 am to 4 pm, and Sunday, noon to 4 pm. For info call (518) 793-2826.

Photo: Glens Falls, View from the South Side of the Bridge, ca. 1875. Courtesy Chapman Museum.