Genealogy Ramblings

Coronavirus Today – Spanish Influenza 100 Years Ago

In these times of uncertainty, I thought perhaps it would be interesting – and perhaps helpful – to look at what was happening in our world 100 years ago.  An epidemic of great magnitude, Spanish Influenza, began in Europe and circled the globe, bringing death to many families.  But that’s not what I want you take from this post.  I want you to see the similarities from that time in history to today.  And, remember that even though the world was hard hit, people rebounded and life went on.  I think that’s most important.  Life will go on.  Being an introvert, my daughter said she had been working towards this all her life!  She goes to the local co-op when we need groceries – insists that Ritchey and I should not get out.  She is quite content to pick up what we need, carrying on no conversation or having no contact with anyone.  However, not quite the introvert she as, I love staying home – cooking, reading, researching, writing blogs and working on crafts.  Not everyone is as happy with these interests, but with the internet we can take a trip through time or space – while sitting in our comfy chair – and with no contact with the outside world.  You can FaceTime friends and relatives, seeing their beautiful faces and keep safe.

I’ve pulled newspaper articles from Hopkinsville’s Twice a Week Messenger, Maysville’s Public Ledger, Owensboro’s Messenger Inquirer, Paducah’s News Democrat, The Adair County News, The Courier Journal of Louisville and The Russellville Messenger to give you an example of the dread, fear and distrust that ran through our country at that time – the same feelings we have today.

Our first announcement of the disease was found September 22, 1918, where it lists the new disease as hitting the eastern cities of our nation.  The rumor was started that ‘German agents have distributed germs of Spanish Influenza along with other Hun propaganda.’  We must realize that World War I had been raging for almost four years.  The United States began helping the Allies about eighteen months ago.  Of course, the country would blame the Germans, they were the enemy.

By October 7, it was announced that the draft would be suspended due to the outbreak.  142,000 men had been drafted by notice, a total of 89 from Adair County.

The next newspapers report that Indiana University, located in Bloomington, Indiana, was closed due to Spanish Flu.  One of the professors, Charles Ganstine, died that day of the disease.

On October 8 it was reported that Maysville seemed to have the epidemic well in hand.  Precautions by the Health Board, such as closing all public gathering places and forbidding public meetings, seems to help keep numbers down.  In fact, that day, no new cases were reported.  Strictly enforced was an ‘anti-spitting ordinance prohibiting expectorating on the sidewalks’ in addition to thoroughly flushing all the streets and sewers.

Paducah headlines of the same date announced ‘Paducah Schools, Theaters and Amusement Places Close to Stop Influenza Epidemic, with the order effective immediately.  ‘Crowds will not be allowed to congregate in any business house, and saloon habitués will be kept moving.  Supt. Yakel said that as soon as the pupils arrived at school this morning they would be assembled, instructed how to care for themselves during the present epidemic, and then dismissed.’

Jeffersonville, Indiana, decided the next day that due to influenza ‘an order was issued that all funerals, no matter what the cause of death, must be private.’  Other regulations concerning closings and rules were strictly adhered.

On the 12th, even though only mild forms of the flu had developed in Owensboro, public schools were closed, no church services were held and the moving picture shows were closed down.

October 16th brought an announcement from Washington, D.C., that Spanish Influenza has ‘reached epic proportions in practically every state in the country . . . in spite of all efforts by the federal, state and local authorities, the disease has spread rapidly and the death toll has been high in most parts of the nation.’

Even the little town of Springfield was hit hard by the epidemic.  On the 16th it was listed as ‘A situation unprecedented in its history existed here when six people lay dead in Springfield, all having died within the last thirty-six hours of influenza or pneumonia . . . Two hearses are kept busy practically all of the time.  Seventy-five per cent of the population of the town is now sick and with but two physicians to attend them.’

Influenza was spreading rapidly at Hopkinsville, although only three deaths were noted at this time.

Owensboro State Board of Health tightened bans in an effort to combat the Spanish Flu.  On the 20th twenty-nine saloons, four-quart houses and 16 soda water fountains ceased to do business by instruction of the Chief of Police Haynes.  Churches could leave their doors open during the day for meditation and prayer, as it was thought not many would gather at one time.

How many of you have heard of Vick’s Vaporub?  I was surprised to see how long it’s been around.  On the 26th of October it was said that the product had been oversold due to the present epidemic.

By December 3rd it was said that Spanish Influenza was more deadly than the war.  More lives were lost in little more than a month due to the epidemic than throughout the eighteen months participation in World War I.

In Murray, ‘every member of the Baptist church who attended services yesterday morning or last night in defiance of a court injunction closing the church because of the influenza epidemic will be arrested.’  151 warrants were issued.

This shows that in any age fears and worries over something unknown run rampant.  Please stay at home, if not for yourself than for those you love.  I am speaking to a group who love research – how much more can you accomplish if there is nothing else to do?  Know that I think and pray for each and every one of you daily.  Stay safe, my friends!

9 replies »

  1. ‘The World After WW1, 1918-1921’ is a book of letters (abt 700 pages) written by my 2 great aunts and grandmother. There is a lot of information for personal views of the Spanish Influenza in St. Louis, Chicago, USA and Europe. Rosalie O’Donnell was with the Red Cross stationed overseas – she filled her sisters in on everything going on over there at the time. Celeste O’D was in St Louis and basically put together a world newspaper for her sister, Rosalie; while my grandmother, Anna Mae (O’D) Malin was in the Chicago area – although writing mostly about family and friends she did describe what was happening in that area. Loved her description of the ending of the war in downtown Chicago.

    It is available on Amazon it both ebook and paperback. It gives a human rather than newspaper look at how people handled the SI flu. Julie Chitwood

  2. Very interesting; the parallels are remarkable!
    Pray you guys stay safe in the UP! Love from your Kentucky kinfolk.

  3. very interesting reading. How did you get all of those articles? Where you able to access the papers or at the library? Hope you are enjoying your new diggs. Lee Litherland

    On Tue, Apr 7, 2020 at 4:04 PM Kentucky Kindred Genealogy wrote:

    > Kentucky Kindred Genealogical Research posted: “In these times of > uncertainty, I thought perhaps it would be interesting – and perhaps > helpful – to look at what was happening in our world 100 years ago. An > epidemic of great magnitude, Spanish Influenza, began in Europe and circled > the globe, bringing ” >

    • I accessed newspapers on-line – It’s a wonderful resource! We love our new home. Had an Easter egg hunt with the grandchildren earlier. A very chilly day for an egg hunt! Percy, our almost two-year-old, soon learned what we were doing! Julian was very sweet leaving eggs on the ground for his sister for easy hunting. So happy they came with us the day we moved! Just missing my son today.

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