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This is a follow-up to my post on Adams General Hospital. I think Margaret deserves her own post. The following is the result of my research.
Margaret Meseroll Hayes was the last living Civil War nurse
according to a notice in the Ingham
County News, Mason, Michigan, dated 21 June 1934. The notice reads, “Here is pictured Margaret
Hayes, the oldest living nurse who served in the Civil war, being presented
with a medal from the Los Angeles school children and from the people of Los
Angeles, by Mrs. J. A. Allred.”
Margaret tells her story as a Civil War nurse in the 1895
book, Our Army Nurses: Interesting
Sketches, Addresses, and Photographs of Nearly One Hundred of the Noble Women
Who Served in Hospitals and on Battlefields During Our Civil War, compiled
by Mary A. Gardner Holland (B. Wilkins & Co., Boston).
“On the 17th day of February, 1863, I left my
home in Mendota, Ill., for Chicago. Arriving
there we went to the Sanitary Commission rooms, and were cared for by Mrs.
Livermore, who gave us our commissions, put us up a lunch, gave us each a
pillow and a small comfortable, as there were no sleeping cars in those days,
procured transportations, and started us that same evening for Memphis, Tenn. Another lady went with me who was as anxious
as I to do something for the ‘boys in blue.’
We arrived safely, and I was immediately assigned to the Adams General
Hospital, No. 2 (which had just been opened to receive the sick and wounded
from Arkansas), in Ward 2 Room B, where there were seventy-two men. I think the ward master was one of the
kindest men I ever knew. Poor fellow! He went through the war, and returned to his
home with the regiment, but only to die soon after his arrival.”
Prior to enlisting in the army, Margaret lived in Manlius,
LaSalle County, Illinois. She appears in
the 1860 Federal Census as Margaret Mesarole, age 26, value of personal estate
$200, birthplace NB (probably New Brunswick, Canada). A daughter, Alice, age 3, born in Illinois,
is listed with her.
Margaret’s service as a nurse at Adams General Hospital is
documented in the Civil War correspondence of Thomas Hannah, Jr., a private in
the 95th Regiment, Illinois Infantry Volunteers, Company G, who
while suffering from rheumatism, was assigned to Adams General Hospital in late
January 1863 when his regiment went south to begin operations against
Vicksburg. Thomas Hannah is the ward
master in Ward 2, unnamed by Margaret.
Thomas first mentions Mrs. Meseroll in a letter dated 9
February 1863, “Dear wife for as soon as I finish writing I shall ask Mary or
Mrs Messeroll to kiss me a few score times for you …” On 16 April 1863, Thomas
writes to his wife, Elizabeth Marshall Hannah, in Belvidere, Illinois, “I have
felt the blues more than usual Mrs Messeroll was taken sick and went into the
country for to spend 4 days in order to enjoy the quiet and pure are of the
country and I missed her very much …” In a May 1863, Thomas exhibits concern
“…but dear Wife I must not forget to tell you that poor Mrs Messeroll is very
sick she has been going into the consumption for sometime and I fear she will
not be much longer for this wourld I went to her room this eavening and she
felt very low spirited indeed she is a widow and depends upon her own efforts
and earnings for a livelyhood for herself and little girl 7 years old = she
told me with tears in her eyes that if it was not for her little girl she would
be glad to leave this cold and cheerless wourld …”
Thomas continues to mention Mrs. Meseroll or Maggie
throughout his 1863 and 1864 letters to his wife. Their friendship must have been strong. On 11 December 1864, while at division
headquarters in line near Nashville, Tennessee, Thomas writes to his wife,
“…you did not seem to feel much sympathy for my poor friend Mrs Messeroll but
intimated she was to lazy to work now darling you are hastey in conclusions she
is a hard worker and stayed in the hospital as long as her health lasted when
she was forced to leave and seak other imployment now she has no home of her
own no one to advise her nor asist her but ondly her own hands to depend upon
for her own suport and one little girl and as high as everything is it is hard
to be be denied the privelage of work when she is willing …”
Thomas indicates that Margaret Meseroll had stopped working
at Adams General Hospital by the end of 1864.
Margaret, however, writes in Our
Army Nurses, “I remained at the Adams until January, 1865, when I was transferred
to the Gaysoso, and was discharged from there at the close of the war.” Forty years after the end of her service, an
article in the Suburbanite Economist,
Chicago, Illinois, 25 August 1905, says that Margaret’s commission dated from
17 February 1863 to 2 July 1865.
By 1868, Margaret had married Samuel Hayes and relocated to
Cannon City, Rice County, Minnesota, where a daughter Jennie was born to the
couple. The family is recorded in the
1870 Federal Census in Cannon City.
Samuel Hys, farmer, age 37, born in New York; Margaret, keeping house,
age 35, born in New York; Alice, at home, age 13, born in Illinois; and Jennia,
at home, age 2, born in Minnesota.
The family appears again in the 1 May 1875 Minnesota State
census. Margaret, age 39, born in New
York, lives with S E Hayes, male, age 42, born in New York; Alice M Searle, age
18, born in Illinois; Jennie Hayes, age 7, born in Minnesota; and Essu (?)
Hayes, male, age 4, born in Minnesota.
Within five years, Margaret and her daughters had moved to Santa
Barbara, California. In the 1880 Federal
Census, she is listed as a widow, housekeeper, age 44, born in New Brunswick, Canada,
with two daughters, Alice M Hayes, age 23, born in Illinois, and Jennie M Hayes,
age 12, born in Minnesota. Had Samuel
Hayes and Essau died? The use of the
middle initial “M” by both Alice and Jennie is clearly a reference to
Meseroll. While Jennie is reported “at
school,” Alice’s occupation is given as “work in Pres office.”
Margaret, born December 1933 in Canada (English), is found
in 1900 Federal Census records living in Los Angeles Ward 6, District 59. This record states that she had four
children, two of whom were then living.
The 1920 Federal Census lists Margaret, age 86, born New Brunswick,
Canada, living in Los Angeles Assembly District 73, District 393, Precinct 122. Margaret says that she immigrated to the
United States in 1834 and became a naturalized citizen in 1851.
Margaret filed for an invalid’s pension on the basis of her
Civil War Service in December of 1926. Civil
War Pension Index: General to Pension 1861-1834 Files [Ancestry].
In1930, Margaret, age 98, born in Maine (?), was living with
her granddaughter Margurite and her husband Raymond Baldwin in Los Angeles,
California, Assembly District 61,Ward 13, Block 1 [1930 Federal Census]. Raymond, age 40, a music teacher was born in
California. Margurite, age 37, gives her
occupation as choir singer. Margurite
reports her father and mother as having been born in Illinois. Thus, Margurite must be the daughter of Alice
Meseroll and an unknown father.
Margaret Meseroll Hayes probably died before 1940. She is buried in Angelus Rosedale Cemetery in
Los Angeles, California.
“I often think of my ‘boys’ and wonder where they all
are. The old ones are mustered out, the
young are now gray and old, and would not know me or I them if we should
meet. I have even changed my name. I was Mrs. Maggie Meseroll then; they called
me ‘Sister Maggie.’” [Our Army Nurses]