Helen M. Noye Hoyt papers  1863-1925 (bulk 1863-1864)
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Biography

Helen or Nellie M. Noye was born around 1844 in Buffalo, New York. Her father John T. Noye was a wealthy manufacturer of mill machinery. Helen had two brothers Hadie and Richard K., and a sister Lizzie. In August of 1863 Helen journeyed to Annapolis, Maryland, to spend one year as a volunteer nurse in the U.S. General Hospital Division No. 1, also called the Naval Academy Hospital. The hospital had opened in 1857 and remained open through out the Civil War, even though the Naval Academy itself had been removed to Newport, Rhode Island.

Helen was the youngest of 15 nurses at the hospital, so young that when Dorothea Dix, chief of the army nurses, visited the camp, Helen was "spirited away" in fear that she would be ordered to leave because of her age. Helen worked under the supervision of nurse Sister Tyler, and the surgeon in charge Dr. B. A. Vanderkeift. She roomed and worked with Maria or Hallie Hall, who was 27 and, of all the nurses, closest in age to Helen. Helen and Miss Hall became "best and life long friends," both of them being very religious and more critical of the other nurses for their exaggerations and drama.

Helen's work was mainly to tend to the wounded soldiers. She distributed food to the soldiers, wrote letters they dictated, and she wrote letters to the soldiers' families after their deaths. Her deep religious sentiments lead her to read sermons to the soldiers, comfort them spiritually, and in some cases convert them. When she started working most of her patients were paroled prisoners from Richmond, Va. Later patients came from those wounded at the battles around Petersburg, and eventually only officers were assigned to the hospital. Helen showed kindness to all the soldiers who came through the hospital, including black soldiers who were housed in their own building, and a young Confederate soldier, who died at the hospital.

In early March of 1864, while Miss Hall was away, Helen was given extra duties and placed in charge of section five. In addition to tending more soldiers she was in charge of arranging their meals. Helen very much enjoyed preparing the soldiers' food, even if she did feel "how hard a lady's position as supervisor is."

In July 1864, due to the proximity of the Confederate Army, Helen and the other nurses were ordered to leave the hospital. After departing the hospital, the train on which Helen was riding was captured by the Confederate Army just north of Baltimore. Helen and the other passengers were helped off the train and left with their baggage and a handcar. The next day the abandoned passengers were picked up by a steamer and Helen returned to Buffalo to care for her ailing mother. Helen never returned to the hospital and the work to which she was "heart and soul devoted."

In 1867 Helen married Birney Hoyt, a lawyer from Michigan who became a circuit court judge from 1871--1881, and moved to Grand Rapids, Michigan.