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Author: WuhuW

Nursed Cholera Cases; Rode Out A Typhoon by Elisabeth Yager

December 24th, 1947; Jacksonville Journal Courier newspaper article

Nursed Cholera Cases; Rode Out A Typhoon by Elisabeth Yager

If there were a contest in Jacksonville to name the person who has lived the most adventurous life, my entry would be a small, serene, white haired woman who was 74 last week.  Because she seldom talks about herself- though always interested to talk about China – few people here know that Mrs. Caroline Hart of 651 S. Prairie Street, is mentioned in every standard textbook on the history of nursing.


Shocked Conservative Family

Born Caroline Maddock, in Guelph, Ontario Province, Canada, as a young woman she shocked her family by her determination to become a graduate nurse.  After completing her training at Presbyterian and Cook County Hospitals in Chicago, she further broke with her family’s conservative traditions by going out to China to become superintendent of nursing at Wuhu General Hospital in Wuhu, Anhui Province.

Wuhu is an industrial city, about 250 miles inland from Shanghai on the coast, on the Yangtze Jiang. By intensive study – five and a half hours a day during her first year – the young graduate nurse learned to understand the local dialect and to give her nurses and other staff members their training and directions in adequate Mandarin Chinese.

Married Noted Doctor

Three years after her arrival in Wuhu, she married Dr. Edgerton Hart, one of the distinguished American medical missionaries in China.  He was the eldest son of pioneer Methodist missionary Dr. Virgil C. Hart, who went out to China in 1865, who built hospitals and girl’s schools along the Yangtze and Min Rivers.  Dr. E.H. Hart’s first wife had died in 1905, leaving five young children.

For their honeymoon, they took a houseboat, manned by a crew of four, on a one-thousand mile trip, propelled by sail, along the Yangtze River, around Boyang Lake and up the Gan River to Nanchang.


Sailed Into Typhoon

On their return trip from Nanchang, where they had picked up a friend as passenger, the 50-foot sail launch was struck by one of the terrible typhoons for which Boyang Lake is famous.  For a day and two nights the bride was hurled from one side to the other of the blackened cabin as the houseboat pitched her husband, passenger and crew fought to free the dragging anchor and master the tiller.  Over and again through the 36 hours of tempest storm, rain and peril she heard their passenger cry out: “Hart, are you still aboard”?  And her husband’s answering hail.

Around four a.m. of the second night the fierce wind died away.  Dawn showed them the wrecks of many Junks much larger than their own boat which had been overturned with great loss of life.


A Life Of Emergencies

After her marriage, Mrs. Hart continued to superintend the 100-bed hospital with its staff of trained Chinese men nurses, practical women nurses and domestic employees, and to supervise her own home, with its staff of eight servants.  Her own three children, like four of her five step children, were all born in China.

The greatest dread of the hospital staff was the killer, cholera, which was likely to become epidemic each summer.  Mrs. Hart can remember days when on a morning trip from the hospital to the nearby city, as many as twenty bodies might be counted of Chinese stricken with cholera who had died where they fell during the preceding night.

At all times there were pirates on the river, who preyed on passengers.  Many nights Dr. Hart was summoned by messenger to come to the aid of parties who had been attacked and badly wounded by pirates – and would set out with revolver, rifle and medical kit.  For her own protection Mrs. Hart practiced with rifle and revolver and it was widely known that she was an excellent shot.


Revolution In China

In 1911 the Hart’s returned to the United States to put the older children in school at Oberlin College, and missed the great revolution, though they had already been through periods of civil disorder.

On their return in 1912 they found that there were 5,000 revolutionary soldiers in Wuhu who had not been mustered out – or paid.  These men broke out one night in mutiny and looting, and the gutters of the city ran with the blood they shed as they broke into stores and homes, slaughtering anyone who stood in their way.


Prepared For A Fight

Mrs. Hart recently came upon a memento of that night of terror – a note written hastily to her husband by the British consul at Wuhu to say that the soldiers might come to the hospital, a mile and a half from the city, to attack the “foreigners”, and if they saw his warning flares, they must flee overland as all transport on the river was in the hands of the mutinying troops.

Mrs. Hart dressed her two little girls, aged four and two, in their warmest clothing – she was then expecting her third child and the older Hart children were away at school at Lushan and Oberlin College.  She packed necessities for the family in two pillowcases which she and her husband could carry besides a child and a rifle apiece.  Then all night they watched for the signal flares.

When daylight came there arrived at the hospital a long procession of terribly injured residents from the city.  The munity had been quelled; doctor and nurse put down their rifles and went to work in the hospital surgery.


Returned To U.S.

Dr. E.H. Hart died of typhus in April, 1913.  Mrs. Hart then brought the children back to the U.S., expecting to return to China when their education was completed.  Due to WWII and the Chinese Civil War, she never returned, though continued to feel a deep affection for her adopted country and its people.

After three years as head of the junior house at Drew Seminary which Dr. C.P. Mc Clelland was president of Drew, Mrs. Hart moved to Jacksonville to live because he suggested it would be a good place for her children to grow up and attend college.  Mrs. Hart worked first as a senior house-mother, later at Jane Hall, while also in charge of the Mac Murray College infirmary until she retired; as her children attended and graduated from the local high school.  Carolyn Hart became Mrs. Lawrence Crawford of Jacksonville, Helen Hart, is now Mrs. Stanley Reynolds of Redlands, California; both graduated from Mac Murray College and Herbert Hart spent one year at Illinois College before transferring to finish at a California college.  His home is now in Chicago.  While Mrs. Hart was employed at Mac Murray College, she completed the required college credits and received her B.A. degree in 1931.


Old China Hand

Since her retirement in 1942 Mrs. Hart has rebuilt a small house on South Prairie Street in Jacksonville.  She is pictured above in her living room furnished with rugs, furniture and ornaments which she brought back from China.

Her friends know that she in one of a few in number who can rightly and proudly call themselves “old China hands”.  Only her most intimate of friends have known until-now that she has found an honored place in the professional history as one of the five organizers and the first president of the Nurses Association of China.