Who was Eliza Riddick?
In honor of our continued WWI coverage, it’s time to shed light on a tiny mystery of NC State history.
From 1918 to 1919, the Spanish influenza made its presence known on the campus of the North Carolina State College of Agriculture and Engineering. A temporary hospital was set up on campus to accommodate the large number of students falling ill. Sixty-six women are listed in the 1919 Agromeck as being “on duty at State College during the influenza epidemic.” At the top of the page is a Memoriam to two nurses who “died while nursing State College boys during influenza epidemic.” These nurses are listed as Miss Eliza Riddick and Miss Lucy Page.
For many years, Eliza Riddick has frequently been identified as the daughter of Wallace C. Riddick. Wallace C. Riddick was the 4th President of the College and led the school through the first world war and the influenza epidemic.
Eliza Riddick shares Wallace C. Riddick’s last name, but she was not his daughter.
The university archives has several folders of material on Wallace C. Riddick, including newspaper articles, copies of speeches, and obituaries. None of these sources mentions the loss of a daughter. There are several sources which list his children by name: Wallace Whitfield, Lillian Ivy, Narcissa Daniel, Anna Ivy Jones and Eugenia Trovers (note there is no “Eliza” listed). And perhaps the most definitive piece of evidence, a letter written to the University Archivist in 1967 by Anna Ivy Jones Riddick (one of Riddick’s daughters) lists the children of Wallace Carl and Lillian Riddick and states quite plainly “children – all living.”
Now that we have established that Eliza Riddick was not, in fact, Riddick’s daughter – the question remains, who was she? An article in the November 1, 1918 Alumni News describes her as “only 24, gladsome, buoyant, joyful, radiant.” She was a “young soldier who enlisted against the scourge…She labored for her Government by day and by night, followed disease to its den, that those who fought it off might be reinforced by the presence of a woman.” Certainly, she made an impression on the writer – there doesn’t appear to be a similar article for Miss Lucy Page, the other young woman who died while nursing sick students.
This, of course, STILL doesn’t answer the question of who Eliza Riddick was. In the 1919 Agromeck Memoriam, there are 5 women listed with the last name of Riddick: Mrs. I.G. Riddick, Miss Eliza Riddick, Mrs. W.C. Riddick, Miss Lillian Riddick and Miss Anna Riddick. Knowing that Lillian and Anna were both daughters of Mrs. W.C. Riddick, and assuming that the names were listed in some sort of mother/daughter relationship (since its clearly not alphabetical), it stands to reason that Eliza was the daughter of Mrs. I.G. Riddick. Wallace C. Riddick was born and presumably raised in Wake County by an uncle or grandfather following the death of his parents. His mother was from Wake Forest and his parents chose to settle there after marrying. These familial bonds to the area indicate that Mrs. I.G. Riddick was a likely a family member, perhaps a sister-in-law. If Eliza was her daughter, this would make Eliza Riddick a niece of Wallace C. Riddick and a cousin to his children.
This last bit is speculation of course, but a mystery we invite someone to solve! So while we still aren’t sure who Eliza Riddick was, there is ample proof that she was not the daughter of Wallace C. Riddick!