MACARTHY, Huldah Ernestine

Cliff McCarthy, 2017

Huldah Ernestine Macarthy was the daughter of Charles Hannibal and Julia (Johnson) Macarthy, and older sister to Osceola Marie (Macarthy) Adams. She born in Albany, Georgia on 7 October 1888.

Later in life, it is written in documents that Huldah attended grammar school at the Albany Normal School, from 1895 through 1903. However, that school was not established until 1903. In all likelihood, she and her sister attended the same “Colored Academy in Albany” that her cousin Walter McCarthy attended. In fact, in 1892, their father was a trustee of this school.

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Albany Normal School for the Education of Negroes

She did attend Albany Normal School for high school, from 1903 through 1907. The story of Albany Normal School is an interesting one and may partially explain how some very accomplished family members arose from the soil of Dougherty County, Georgia. Joseph Winthrop Holley, son of formerly enslaved parents in South Carolina, founded the institution in 1903 as the Albany Bible and Manual Training Institute. He had been sponsored in his own education by a New England couple, Rev. & Mrs. Samuel Loomis, who brought Holley to Massachusetts. There, he met New England businessman Rowland Hazard. Taking a liking to Holley, Hazard arranged for him to continue his education at Phillips Academy in Andover, Massachusetts. Holley aspired to become a minister and prepared by completing his education at Lincoln University in Pennsylvania. However, after reading The Souls of Black Folks by W. E. B. Du Bois, Holley was inspired to return to the South, relocating to Albany, Georgia to start a school. With the help of a $2,600 gift from the Hazard family, Holley organized a board of trustees and purchased 50 acres of land for the campus, all within a year. The aim of the institution at the time was to provide elementary education and teacher training for the local black population. In this mission, Holley was successful and in 1917, the school was turned over to the state of Georgia as Georgia Normal and Agricultural College, a two-year agricultural and teacher-training institution. It eventually became what is today Albany State University.

Huldah was an accomplished piano player and teacher. Inspired by the Fisk Jubilee Singers, Huldah wanted to pursue a career in music and so, after graduating high school in 1907, she applied to, and was accepted at, Fisk University in Nashville, Tennessee. She majored in Music and graduated from Fisk in 1910. She also studied piano at Oberlin College and taught piano at the St. Athanasius School. She never made the Fisk Jubilee Singers.

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Appreciation Banquet, 1962, with Osceola, far left, and Huldah, far right

So, Huldah shifted gears and began a second career in Nursing. From 1923 — 1927, she was in training at St. Louis City Hospital #2 and she graduated as a registered nurse in 1927. City Hospital #2 became the Homer G. Phillips Hospital and Huldah immediately went to work there, rising through the ranks from Nurse, Head Nurse, Instructor of Nursing Arts, to eventually the Assistant Superintendent of Nurses. In all, she spent more than 35 years living and working at Homer G. Phillips Hospital. Huldah’s Appreciation Banquet, on 17 March 1962, was a notable affair. Her sister Osceola attended.

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Huldah and Osceola, 1962

Unfortunately, the woman who gave so much of her life to helping others developed her own set of health problems, requiring assistance. In spite of cataract surgery, Huldah’s eyesight continued to fail until she was nearly blind. She also had hearing loss and probably a form of senility or dementia that required her sister to take care of her affairs.

She went to live with Osceola in New York City until 1975 when she entered the McCutchen Home in North Plainfield, New Jersey. The McCutchen was a Friends’ Residence and Nursing Home, owned and managed by the New York Yearly Meeting of the Religious Society of Friends. Due to increasing costs the facility is no longer in operation, however there is an extensive history on the McCutchen website.

Huldah passed away at Muhlenberg Hospital in Plainfield, New Jersey in 1976, never having married and without children. She was cremated and her cremains buried in Oakview Cemetery in Albany, Georgia. On a trip there, I discovered that her burial record was almost a year later than the date of her death. When I asked about this, I was referred to the Elliott Funeral Home, where the elderly Mrs. Elliott recalled that Huldah’s body had been cremated in New Jersey, and the remains brought to Albany for burial. However, the burial could not take place because they did not have a death certificate, so the cremains were in storage for nearly a year before being interment.  Mrs. Elliott also remembered Huldah, having taken piano lessons from her as a child.

Upon her death, the Director of the School of Nursing at Homer G. Phillips, Geraldine Phelps, wrote a heartfelt letter of condolence to Osceola (Macarthy) Adams, in which she wrote:

“Miss McCarthy touched thousands of lives, students, nurses, and patients as well as auxiliary help during her nursing career at Homer G. Phillips and its predecessor, City #2. That touch continues to influence our lives today, fifteen years after she retired.

No one could take her place, no one would try, as she was a very unique person, warm, always a lady, kind and sensitive to the needs of the individuals she taught or supervised, but also sensitive to the demands of her duty in those roles. We are all better people for that keen sensitivity. She taught by example in her personal and professional life.”

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SOURCES:

  • 1900 U.S. Census for Charlie H. MaCarthy,  (District #45, Albany, Dougherty Co., GA).
  • 1912-13 Albany GA City Directory,  (as reproduced at http://www.Ancestry.com), “Electronic.”
  • 1920 U.S. Census for Charles H. Macarthy,  (Albany, Dougherty Co., GA).
  • Application for Admission to Morningside House for Huldah E. Macarthy, found in family materials of Charles Macarthy Adams, in possession of the author.
  • Certificate of Death for Huldah E. Macarthy,  (City of Plainfield (N.J.), Division of Health, filed 6 February 1984).
  • Gravestone of Huldah E. Macarthy, Oakview Cemetery, Albany, GA.

 

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