Agnes May Carleton was born on April 12, 1888 in South Berwick, Maine to Harvey and Annie Carleton. She and her three siblings attended school in East Bridgewater, Massachusetts. In 1911, Agnes graduated from Faulkner Hospital in Jamaica Plains, Massachusetts after studying a public nursing course. She then completed a post graduate course in the Infants Hospital becoming experienced in the care of sick infants and children. In the year 1915, she was one of 500 nurses that registered, joining the first 6,000 to ever qualify in the United States.
During 1917 and 1918, all United States nurses were urged to show their patriotism and enroll in the Red Cross drives. The Surgeon General issued an urgent appeal to serve “your country.” Agnes enrolled, becoming a member of the Red Cross, joining 25,000 other nurses in the Reserve of the Army Nurses Corps and consenting to active duty during WW I.
Agnes was sent to Base Hospital #55 in Boston, Mass. and took the oath of office on March 8, 1918. There she awaited her orders from the War Department – Office of the Surgeon General – Washington, D.C. They came on April 27th. She was to proceed to Camp Sevier, Greenville, South Carolina for temporary duty before deploying overseas. On July 24th, Agnes was ordered to proceed to New York, NY to await transport to Europe. She sailed on the “S.S. Agamemnon” on August 26, 1918 arriving in Brest, France on September 4th. She was on duty the day of arrival as there were many patients and very few nurses. From there, Agnes was sent to Base Hospital #15 at Chaumont, France. By September 28th, her unit arrived in Toul, France reporting to the Justice Hospital Group for duty. They occupied the Caserne Thouvenat Annex, which consisted of several one-story concrete barracks and a number of tents bringing the capacity of the hospital to 1,600 beds. By March 31, 1919 her hospital unit had treated 4,459 patients. Agnes was then assigned to a team of four medical personnel, administering first aid to the troops on the frontlines. There she was wounded. With her deployment completed, Agnes sailed with her Base Hospital #55 troops on the “S.S. The Canada” from Marseille, France on May 15, 1919 and arrived on June 2nd back in New York. Agnes’ service in France earned her the Meuse-Argonne Victory Medal with the Defensive Sector Battle Clasp.
WW I nurses were offered Red Cross scholarships and public health jobs. Agnes chose a scholarship and returned to Boston, Mass. taking classes at Simmons College, School of Public Health Nursing. She earned a degree of Bachelor of Science in 1921 and was certified by the National Organization for Public Health Nursing.
The Boundary County Red Cross Chapter appealed to the Red Cross for a public health nurse. It was considered a community service to be placed in rural areas for a period of three months. Agnes May Carleton stepped off the train onto the depot platform in Bonners Ferry, Idaho in October 1921 for her three months. As the first public health nurse of Boundary County, Agnes initiated and organized programs such as the well-baby clinic, physical examinations, and programs conducted in the public schools. She also traveled to the Kootenai Indian Mission to administer their health care. The local Red Cross Chapter recognized her value and dedication to wellness, and voted to retain her permanently. Although the Chapter said no one would be denied, whenever possible, the Chapter charged 60 cents an hour for her employ, to help pay for her costs and transportation. She drove a black Model A Ford to rural schools and on home visits. When the Model A wore out, she drove her faithful Volkswagen Bug.
In June 1927, at the age of 39, Agnes May Carleton married Robert Chadwick, a local rancher and the superintendent at the Continental Mine. Agnes resigned as the public health nurse to become a rancher’s wife. By 1930, the County was in need of her help again. She resumed her work as Boundary County Public Health Nurse, having an office in the courthouse. During her years in nursing, Agnes worked with Dr. Fry, Dr. Bowell, Dr. Durose, Dr. Severns, Dr. Hopkins and Optometrist Howe. Agnes retired from nursing on June 1, 1958 at the age of 70.
Agnes and Robert moved to a home on the Northside, in 1942; he passed away in 1954. Agnes was a member of Boundary Post No. 55 of the American Legion, Veterans of Foreign War, United Methodist Church, Order of Eastern Star, Loyal Rebekah Lodge, Hi-V Hikers, GGG and the Boundary County Historical Society.
Agnes May Chadwick died at Boundary Community Hospital in Bonners Ferry, Idaho on March 16, 1980 at the age of 91 years 11 months. She was laid to rest in Grandview Cemetery.