Letters Home - Katherine Rachel Geddes

THE POPULATION OF Sheridan County increases every summer with the arrival of hundreds - probably thousands - of guests at local dude and guest ranches. This was very true in the 1900s as well.

One woman who spent her summers in Sheridan was Toledo, Ohio, resident Katherine Rachel Geddes, a frequent guest at Dome Lake in the Bighorn Mountains. ​During the war, she worked as a volunteer relief worker for the American Red Cross in France. At the age of thirty, she traveled to Paris in August 1917 on behalf of the ARC's Surgical Dressings Committee; she didn't return until January 1919. 

In early 1918, Geddes wrote an indignant letter from the Hotel Belmont in Paris, in which she addressed rumors that the dressings made by volunteers in local Red Cross chapters - such as those in Sheridan County - were substandard. A copy of the letter - originally addressed to an unidentified individual - was received by Mrs. Edward Gillette (nee Hallie Coffeen) of Sheridan.

 (From Emergency Passport Application, Paris, 1919)

Your letter of the 16th of January reached me in due time. You said in it that it had been reported ... that the surgical dressings made in America and sent to France for redistribution to both United States and French hospitals were so badly made that our organization spent most of its time in remaking them.

Though I was sure that was not so, I made an investigation personally, and from the head of this Faisanderie Branch of Surgical Dressings, I have the statement that the dressings received from America are practically perfect, and from the head of the receiving department, who not only receives the cases from America, but under whose supervision the dressings are repacked for shipment - that the American dressings are 100 percent good. 

Please, therefore, continue to deny the false statement. If possible, trace it and go directly to the person with the facts.

Cases sometimes arrive which have been smashed and the dressings become dirty, or the cases have in some way become wet and the dressings in them, in consequence, mildewed, but that happens in transportation and is in no way the fault of the American workers.

We have on our lists 1,900 and some French hospitals which may call on us once a month. At Faisanderie we make only about one-third of the dressings for them, and the other two-thirds come from America. So you see, it looks to me as if the person who is making such ill-advised remarks is trying to cause trouble or else is swallowing German propaganda.

One thing certain, no intelligent person would make such a serious charge without investigation and without endeavoring to get some facts. I have given you the result of an investigation right here, and also the facts, so it is very evident that the author of the remarks is hardly fit to be at large. 

Trail End

 State Historic Site