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MY LIFE STORY

By Inez Bergan

I was born near Colfax, Washington March 1894 and was the fifth daughter of John E. and Emma Cochran.

We moved to Cottonwood, Idaho in the spring of 1899. I don't remember much about that trip. See Ethel's account for more details. I started school in Cottonwood and remember feeling low because I'd have to miss school because we had the mumps. School was closed because of a small pox problem. We didn't get small-pox.

The family moved to Whitebird about 1900. We went to school there for a few years. Father would be on the Doumecq homestead during the week and come down to Whitebird on Sunday. It was about 12 miles from Whitebird to Doumecq but the roads were rough and steep. The round trip took all day.

By 1903 or 1904 the Doumecq was getting pretty well settled so a school was needed. It started with three or four months in the summer. Mother taught us at home winters and we usually made our grade. One year Edna (oldest sister) taught in Whitebird. Four of us batched with her and went to school. That year Mary (third sister) had typhoid fever.

For high school we went to the Lewiston Normal. The first three years were high school and the last two were for a teaching certificate. I took only the high school.

I was home for two winters when the "new house" was built. In 1915, with a little pushing, I entered Spokane Deaconess Hospital for nurse training. It was really my first time on my own. There had been four of us in Lewiston. We had worked for our board and room, but we would see each other at school or when it was necessary.

When nurse training classes were over World War I was in progress. In October 1918 I went to Camp Lewis as an Army Nurse. Four of my class went in the service through the Red Cross to serve for "the duration." Enlisted nurses had to serve three years. The armistice was signed in November 1919 so my stay was one year. It was the time of the flu epidemic. I did not get the flu but many soldiers and citizens died. It was a real experience for one fresh out of training. Other opportunities soon called.

Miss Saville, a nurse I met at Camp, wanted someone to go with her to Nome, Alaska as she returned to a little mission hospital. Not too eagerly, I consented to go if I could have a month's vacation. I went on vacation late one week. The following Monday I received a call from her saying "The last boat sails for Nome Saturday." I thought "I won't go!" When I told Mother about the call she said "Your father and I will go with you to Seattle and see you off." I never mentioned my thought. How could I deprive them of such a needed vacation.

We went to Camp Lewis and got my belongings. From there we went to Seattle. The S.S. Victoria, the ship to Nome hadn't arrived. The fleet was in port. President Wilson was also to be in Seattle to speak. Father stood in line for hours to get in to hear the President. They did not get to see me off for we didn't sail until Monday and they had to go home on Sunday.

The usual eight day trip to Nome took us twenty days. September with its "Ecconomical Storms," as one old timer called the equinoctial storms gave us a longer and rougher trip.

We dropped anchor several miles off Nome October 3, 1919. There is no harbor at Nome so the next morning a tug boat came alongside to take us ashore. One wave would separate the two vessels and the next would put us too close. At the time the vessels were close together the passenger was tossed to waiting hands on the tug. It was an exciting experience.

On shore, Mr. Baldwin, the Mission Superintendent, met us. We walked up the middle of the snow covered street. I did not know until the next June that there were sidewalks.

The hospital was a residence remodeled a little for hospital use. There were two wards of three beds each. One ward was upstairs and the other downstairs. A single room, a two-bed room and the operating room were also on the second floor. The first floor had an office-drug-waiting room, a dining room-kitchen and the usual "cache" which is the added storeroom. Each house had a cache and sometimes two or three. Until it froze too hard the water barrel was out there. Water was delivered to us by buckets at the rate of sixteen buckets for a dollar. The toilet was also out there. The "scavenger man" came regularly to empty those. I was used to primitive life, but this was even more primitive than I knew.

We had no central heating. Six coal burning stoves heated the hospital. Another stove heated the nurses cottage in a separate building. I knew nothing about coal as we had burned wood at home. To keep warm one soon learned how to keep the fire going.

Another boat did arrive two weeks later. There was something about insurance after October 15 which was when the ice was supposed to come in. In November we were frozen in for the winter.

The boat brought our years supply of food, drugs, and coal. People could not store food in the cache, where it would freeze., so the kitchen, dining room and office were lined with cases of canned milk, vegetables, fruit, and whatever. Nome is built on perma-frost. When cold weather comes the land surface freezes harder and the center of the house would lift a bit making the wall paper wrinkle and the doors would not close.

The flu epidemic took most of the adult Eskimo population in Nome. The following year we had many children who developed tuberculosis. Our death rate was extremely high and the hospital was overcrowded. In an eight bed institution we normally had 12 to 16 patients with as many as 4 deaths a week.

A gymnasium owned by the Mission was turned into a children's home. The Eskimo usually took care of their own, but with the adults gone many Eskimo children were left to be cared for by others. At times the number of children needing care was nearly a hundred. Mr. and Mrs. Baldwin closed their home and moved in to the converted gymnasium to take care of the children. They had two helpers who were already at the mission.

My sister, Mary, came in 1920 to help in the hospital. I spent three years in Nome and came out in the fall of 1922. That Christmas Father, Mother, and I went to Doumecq. It wasn't any colder than Nome, and not much warmer. It was certainly different, though. For one thing, we had a Christmas tree on Doumecq. Nome is treeless.

Before I went forth, or was pushed to another job, our oldest sister, Edna, died. Her four children came to their grandparents home. Mother was not well enough to take on the whole load, so I was home until Mary came out from her work at Nome.

In the spring of 1925 a call came to work in the Pioneer Hospital in Sitka, Alaska. It was certainly a different part of Alaska and a different type of work. It was a territorial institution established as a nursery for old men. Many of these old men were participants of the gold rush to Alaska and some were pretty funny characters. It was not challenging work because most of the patients were not expected to recover. It was a very beautiful part of Alaska. There were trees, mountains, and much open water. I was there two and one half years. Mother was ill and Mary was getting married, so I returned to the family at Hover.

The next four years were growing experiences for all of us. Mother was sick a lot and when she was down Father was too. I think the Mccoy children wondered what life was all about. I fear I was not always a good mother figure. The children were well and survived and I'm proud of all of them today. They call even remember one or two good things about me and are wonderful to me.

There was a lot of family activity in 1931. John McCoy graduated from high school in May 1931. I married Erling Bergan on June 3, 1931, Mother died December 23, 1931. Louise McCoy graduated from high school in 1932 and the Bergan family went back to Hover for the event.

Erling was pastor in the Methodist Church in Waitsburg, Washington for four years. Our daughter, Marcia, was born in December 1933. She was the first parsonage baby in many years and the church welcomed her with many gifts. Parsonage life was different but interesting. We served churches in every part of Washington and Northern Idaho for thirty-three years until Erling retired. I think that part of our lives will have to be another chapter.

Sarah Inez Bergan, March 19, 1894 - March 18, 1989
Reprinted from Cochran Chronicles. Volume 5, Number 2, October 25, 1982

JECFA 1982

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