March 4: Adelaide Elizabeth Thompson Spurgeon (1907)

Just before the Civil War commenced, New York native Adelaide E. Thompson (later Spurgeon) heeded the call of New York Times co-founder Henry Raymond, who was organizing a band of ladies to travel to Washington in the capacity of nurses. As Adelaide took up her duties at a smallpox hospital in Washington on May 16, 1861, she became the first nurse in the District of Columbia. Over the next several months, Adelaide worked in deplorable conditions, serving as a nurse and a cook. When she couldn’t obtain sufficient supplies, she traveled back to New York City and with donations from friends, returned with trunks filled with food and clothes. Adelaide contracted blood poisoning from which she never fully recovered and had to resign. Her wartime service would later earn her a U.S. government pension of $12 a month.

During the war, Adelaide married Thaddeus Spurgeon, a member of a New York Cavalry unit. A daughter, Ella, was born in 1863. Fourteen years later, Ella was baptized at Epiphany by rector William Paret, who had come to the church a year earlier with the promise of increased ministry with the poor. Evidently this missionary outreach appealed to Adelaide Spurgeon. In 1878, she and her daughter were confirmed at Epiphany. From 1881-85, Adelaide served as the sponsor at close to 150 baptisms, mostly African-American infants at Freedman’s Hospital. After her death on March 4, 1907, Adelaide Spurgeon’s funeral took place at Epiphany, followed by her burial at Arlington National Cemetery.

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