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Remembering The Killer Flu

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  • Remembering The Killer Flu

    Life at Camp Funston
    Reflections of Army Sergeant Charles L. Johnston

  • #2
    Re: Remembering The Killer Flu

    The Manhattan Mercury Sunday, March 1, 1998



    Lori Goodson
    Staff Writer

    Almost exactly 80 years ago today, a vicious strain of influenza--which would go on to kill millions as it roared around the world--quietly emerged at Fort Riley's Camp Funston.

    "It came in silently...," said 98-year-old Jessie Lee Brown Foveaux of Manhattan, who told of the epidemic in her recently published autobiography, Any Given Day: The Life and Times of Jessie Lee Brown Foveaux.

    An 18-year-old then, she was working in the quartermaster laundry at Fort Riley when the flu struck. "We lost lots of them," Foveaux said of the soldiers and workers at Fort Riley. "They came in so fast and furious. We'd be working with someone one day, and they'd go home because they didn't feel good, and by the next day they were gone. Every day we wondered who was going to be next."

    The flu began in March 1918 when a mess cook, Pvt. Albert Gitchell, complained of a sore throat and achiness as he reported to sick call at Camp Funston, a large cantonment constructed just months before and housing 60,000 soldiers.

    "The next day there were 40 more of them," said Gaylynn S. Childs, director of the Geary County Historical Society Museum at Junction City. A week later, 522, cases had been reported at Fort Riley in what would be the mildest of the flu's three waves. Forty-six died at Fort Riley that spring.

    Around the time the flu itself was dying out, the 89th Division--and the influenza--were deployed to France during World War 1, Childs said. And the American troops helped spread the disease to the English, Germans, French and Spanish. The flu gained its name because Spain was one of the hardest hit countries, with its king almost dying from it, she said.

    From there, the flu went on through the Middle East and on around the world, eventually returning to the United States as the troops also came home for its second wave through Kansas.

    At Fort Riley, the Kansas Building, pictured above, was used to house sick and dying soldiers. (Photo courtesy Fort Riley Museum) By fall 1918, Kansas and Fort Riley were heading into their deadliest confrontation with the flu. "The soldiers were going so fast," Foveaux recalled. "They were piling them up in a warehouse until they could get coffins for them." The dying continued at such a pace that morticians couldn't keep up. There were piles of wooden coffins, and the bodies were eventually wrapped and put outside, where they froze and were stacked "like cord wood," Childs said.

    Foveaux said she and others wore masks and tried everything that was suggested to keep from getting the flu. "We tried to be careful what we touched or what we ate," she said. "We were frightened to move, really." In September 1918, there were 133 cases of the flu in Kansas. Six days later, that number had climbed to 1,100. By mid-October, it had escalated to 12,000 cases, and communities across Kansas were reeling from its effects. At Camp Funston alone, there were 14,000 reported cases and 861 deaths during the first three weeks of October. The Kansas death toll had climbed to 12,000 by the end of the year.

    This photo, courtesy of the Otis Historical Archives of the National Museum of Health & Medicine, shows what is probably the interior of the old Kansas Building at Camp Funston during the height of the epidemic. Foveaux said the flu was devastating. She recalls one entire Manhattan family wiped out by the disease. Others, including her sister, had mild cases of it and soon recovered. The flu targeted young, healthy people. "It would strike down people in the prime of their lives," Childs said. Schools, churches and businesses were closed, and the sick were being cared for in makeshift facilities. A call was put out for women to assist with nursing the sick, who were being treated at homes and barracks that were turned into temporary hospitals.

    "Fall crops were ready to be harvested, but there were no field hands to get the crops in," Childs said. "It was an agricultural disaster." The medical community struggled to keep up with those infected. "The doctors and nurses in most communities were very thinly stretched," Childs said. She said two or three of the area's doctors were serving overseas, so those left in the area were forced to handle the workload. She tells of an Alta Vista country doctor who traveled for six weeks caring for the sick, without returning home during that time. A local physician, she said, would return home every 24 hours for a change of clothes before beginning his rounds again.

    But, as a new year was arriving, the Spanish flu was coming to an end. "By the end of December 1918, the worst was over," Childs said. A third wave of the Spanish flu, much less devastating than its predecessors, moved through the state in early 1919. Foveaux was one of those who contracted the flu at that time. She remembers working with the laundry when she first felt herself coming down with the flu. "I began to feel hot and cold--not too good," she said. After work, she stayed in bed with a high fever, and her doctor had told her father she probably wouldn't make it through the night. But eventually she regained her strength. "I was sick a month or so," she said. "I didn't get back to work until April."


    • #3
      Re: Remembering The Killer Flu

      Monessen and the Spanish Influenza of 1918
      I had a little bird
      Its name was Enza.
      I opened the window,
      And in-flu-enza*

      Monessen was lucky. It fared better than most communities during the terrible ordeal of the Spanish Influenza of 1918. The first officially reported death occurred in Monessen on September 27, and the quarantine was lifted in the community on November 26. During that time thousands of cases were reported, hundreds were admitted to the temporary hospitals, but officially only 226 people died. That is less by half of the 28% that was the national average.

      Despite the fact that it is called Spanish, this influenza, a type A disease, was a world-wide pandemic that probably originated in China. From there it hit Japan, then Europe, then America and Africa. It probably got its name in May of 1918, when a very large number of Spaniards died as a result of the disease. It was worse than the Bubonic plagues that hit the world during the Middle Ages. It is estimated that the Bubonic Plague killed about 137 million people in three eruptions during the sixth, fourteenth, and seventeenth centuries. The Spanish Influenza killed 25 million people in a single year.

      The Spanish Influenza hit the United States in two waves: spring of 1918, when it struck the military camps throughout the country, and fall of 1918, when it was re-introduced from Europe with troops returning to the United States from World War I. On March 11, 1918, the first case of this flu was reported at Camp Funston, Kansas. By noon, 107 cases were reported at the same camp and two days later 522 cases were reported. This fast moving, air borne disease was in every state of the union within seven days. By the time it was over 800,000 people, 28% of all Americans, died. That is ten times as many as all the causalities of World War I (It is also believed that 50% of the soldiers killed in World War I fell victim to the Spanish Influenza, not enemy soldiers). In one week in October, in Philadelphia, 4,600 people died.

      Monessen was affected during the second wave of the disease, the fall of 1918. On October 5, the Monessen Board of Health, upon the edict of the State Board of Health, closed all churches, Sunday schools, lodges, theaters, bar rooms, and clubs. No public meets of any kind were permitted within the community. By October 8, despite the fact that no known cases of influenza were reported in the community, (and only one death had been reported) violators of the quarantine were being arrested. Then on October 14,a large parade was held to celebrate the end of World War I. The Monessen Daily reported ten thousand people lined the parade route in Monessen. That parade probably did more to spread the disease in Monessen than any other event. By October 16, two deaths were reported, a father and son. The Monessen Elks Lodge on Seventh Street was taken over by the Red Cross as an Emergency Hospital and the influenza was well on its way in Monessen.

      The Red Cross, under the direction of H. Dallas McCabe, the East Side Land Company Manager, had been training and sending Red Cross Nurses around the country to help fight the influenza. This stopped. By October 21, the schools were closed and a second emergency hospital was opened at the Monessen High School on Sixth and Knox. Mrs. J. C. Motz of Motz Lumber Company was placed in charge of supplies and preparations. Pittsburgh Steel Company donated 30 cots. Mrs. G. F. Wright of Wright Furniture Company took charge of the linens.

      On October 22, confectionery stores, soda fountains, and soft drink and ice cream venders were forbidden to serve "in house." All sales had to be "take away." The death rate was rising and obituaries were posted on the front page of the Monessen Daily (if one was prominent), or listed on page four (if one was not). By the 23rd, Monessen was in the grips of the influenza. The headlines in the Monessen Daily read, : "City in Throes of Grip Epidemic --Emergency Hospitals Filling." Teachers were commandeered to work as volunteers going about the community looking for the sick and trying to improve health conditions. The hospitals were looking for cots. By the 24, a daily record was posted. On that day by 9am, 243 cases were known, while 70 were estimated as not reported. From October 1st through the 22nd the records claim nine deaths in Monessen and on October 24, four deaths occurred. The next day 200 more cases were reported. At this point the Elks Hospital was closed and the patients moved to the High School. Women from the community began reporting to the High School to help nurse the sick.

      The tenements and poorer sections of town were the hardest hit. Entire families lay prostrate with fever and fear. Neighbors were helping neighbors. Friends were visiting families to see if they were OK, or needed assistance. Some men stopped working at the mills and factories of the town to help in their neighborhoods. In one Monessen family, a father and seven children were in the hospital and the mother, unable to cope with fever and her stricken family, ended up at the County Home for the Insane. In another, six of the nine Bachovchins on Ontario Street were stricken with the influenza. If fell to Mary Bachovchin, age 10, to nurse the sick back to health. When the doctor visited he wanted to take some of the family to the hospital, but Mary "wept bitterly and begged to leave the family there, saying that she was getting along all right and could care for them." According to the Monessen News, she did, and they did.

      By October 26, 443 cases had been reported, with 15 deaths. On the 26th, there were 14 new cases and 5 deaths. Monessen was holding its own against the disease. The city council ordered the town to be cleaned and all garbage to be removed from city streets. (A garbage controversy had been raging all year in the community.) On October 29, The Pittsburgh Products Company (to merge with Pittsburgh Steel in 1920s) opened a hospital for its employees in the Turner Hall at Donner and Second Street. It was the third emergency hospital in the community. On that same day, State aid appeared in the presence of J. H. Maxwell, a doctor, and Miss Jennie Martin, a registered nurse. They took over the supervision of all health facilities in the community.

      Over a thousand cases had been reported in Monessen by October 31. The death toll began to rise. On November 5, no deaths had been reported for 30 hours, but by November 13, 55 total deaths had been recorded at the hospitals. By November 20, the death rate stood at 70. At the end of November, the ban on hotels and bars, theaters, churches was lifted. The hospitals closed shortly thereafter and for all intents and purposes, by December 1 the influenza was over in Monessen.

      In an assessment of the toll the Spanish Influenza in Monessen, the Monessen News reported on November 26, that people between the ages of 30 and 40 were mostly the victims, while many did not die of the influenza itself, but of Pneumonia. The Emergency Hospital at the High School treated 282 patients, 169 males, 113 females, 102 married people, 180 single people, 279 white and 3 colored (Which raises a number of question?) The official death toll for the entire community, posted in the Daily on December 10, stood at 226.

      For nearly a century the origin of the Spanish Flu was unknown. Now, with DNA, scientists have been looking into the matter again. The Armed Forced Institute of Pathology in Washington DC found the lungs of a "doughboy" killed by the influenza in 1918 sitting in a jar of formaldehyde. From their investigation there were able to determine that it began in birds, traveled through pigs, and on to humans. The jump rope ditty was more on the mark than anyone could imagine.

      Story by Cassandra Vivian


      See List of Monessen Dead and Oral Histories below. If you have any information, please share it with us.


      *A jump rope ditty of the 1920s.
      Sources (all statistics and quotes were taken from these sources).
      Collier, Richard. The Plague of the Spanish Lady: The Influenza Pandemic of 1918-1919. Allison and Busby. 1996.
      Crosby, Alfred W. America's Forgotten Pandemic: The Influenza of 1918. Cambridge University Press. 1990.
      The Influenza Pandemic of 1918.
      Monessen Daily Independent, October 5, 8, 14, 21, 22, 24, 26, 29, Nov 5, 20, Dec 1.
      Monessen News, October 18, 25, 29, November 22, 26, Dec. 3.


      List of Monessen Dead Published in the Monessen Daily on December 10, 1918
      This list contains the names of people who died in Monessen and were buried in Grandview Cemetery. It, like all the statistics in this article, is probably incomplete or flexible as all the statistics were taken from newspaper sources and not from official government records. If you know of deaths that are not recorded here or have corrections on the spellings, let us hear from you. The date accompanying each name is the date of internment at Grandview.
      If you have corrections or additions, send them to us, with documentation, and we will add them to this list. The Daily listed the deceased by date, we have alphabetized the list. Add a few lines to our Oral History about the Influenza. You can read the messages at the end of this list.
      Acetus, Anazalet, Oct 31
      Agerda, Frank, Nov 3
      Alesiana, Dominic, Nov 5
      Alimonos, Mike, Oct 30
      Allen, Mary J. Nov 8
      Amantos, Apostol, Nov 11
      Anseline, Joseph, Nov 1
      Babiak, Anna, Nov 12
      Beck, Robert, Oct 31
      Beck, Peter, Nov 15
      Beget, Joe, Nov 7
      Benckovich, L, Nov 21
      Billiak, Katrina, Nov 7 (maybe Oct)
      Bizilya, Andy, Nov 22
      Blama, Helen and baby, Oct 27
      Brzezesnisky, Antonio, Nov 1
      Bulonas, George, Nov 6 (maybe Oct)
      Bunekovich, Joe, Nov 15
      Butchks, George, Nov 22
      Cain, Anna, Nov 13
      Caladerse, Guisseppe, Nov 17
      Campavi, C. Nov 16
      Cane, Joseph, Nov 19
      Caruso, Orlando, Nov 1
      Caruso, John, Nov 8
      Catrino, Paul, Oct 26
      Catrino, Minnia, Oct 28
      Cecere, Antonio, Nov 7
      Cecere, Marintonia, Nov 9
      Cheroke, Domonic, Nov 3
      Chizmar, George, Nov 9
      Chludrenski, B, Nov 17
      Chrovaro, Lena, Nov 7 (maybe Oct)
      Cocchara, Mary, Nov 27
      Colaicovo, Vincenzo, Nov 14
      Columbus, Mary, Nov 4
      Cooker, William, Oct 29
      Cvercik, Annie, Oct 26
      Dacko, Susie, Nov 12
      Dahood, John, Oct 31
      Deeb, Mary, Nov 26
      Delfonse, Dominica, Nov 3
      Denega, Mary and baby, Nov 15
      Denega, Anna, Nov 12
      Denega, Tocia, Nov 23 (same casket as Anna)
      Denega, Dan, Nov 26
      Deseaari, Rosie, Nov 11
      Desesaria, Antonio, Nov 2
      Dominico, Carmen, Nov 7
      Donata, Rogli, Nov 6
      Drusick, Katie, Nov 4
      Drusick, George, Nov 5
      Drusick, Mike, Nov 5
      Drusick, Barbara, Nov 7 (4 Drusicks in same grave)
      Dudas, John, Nov 16
      Dulinay, Dennis, Oct 30
      Eluisio, George, Nov 2
      Fedik, Mike, Nov 12
      Ferencz, Helen, Nov 16
      Filipovich, Anton, Nov 15
      Folibota, Mike, Nov 27
      Gaglairdi, Inez, Oct 29
      Garifola, Edith, Oct 29
      Gaydosh, Ethel, Oct 28
      Gedraitis, Stanley, Nov 3
      George, Satenel or Satenel, George, Oct 27
      George, Annie, Nov 1
      Giffen, Grover, Oct 30
      Gladish, Andy, Nov 11
      Gory?, David, Oct 23
      Gouheh, Alex, Oct 25 or 26
      Gould, Willima H., Oct 30
      Griga, Charley, Nov 3
      Guydan, Anna, Oct 26
      Hawkins, Jack, Nov 26
      Heder, Joe, Oct 26
      Heikilla, Aino E. Nov 3
      Heikkila, Lempi, Nov 2
      Heikkila, Jacob, Nov 26
      Heikkinen, Ida, Oct 27
      Hiiva, Andrew, Nov 15
      Hilva, Tarino, Nov 17
      Hughes, Margaret, Nov 7
      Humenick, Anna and baby, Oct 4 (maybe Nov)
      Hunter, Evelyn, Nov 8
      Igereich, Mike, Nov 2
      Illianich, Mary, Nov 9
      Johnson, Leonard, Nov 12
      Kahiri, Marika, Nov 8
      Kalatas, Nick, Oct 22
      Kaltas, Cathryne, Nov 7
      Kobraik, Helen, Nov 12
      Kohut, Steve, Nov 5
      Kolar, Mike, Nov 8
      Kolesar, Anna, Oct 31
      Kolesar, John, Nov 11
      Komandor, George, Nov 21
      Kon, Steve, Nov 11
      Konik, Vasiul, Nov 7
      Konik, Vasil, Nov 18
      Kotulry, Charles, Nov 15
      Kouroupus, Sotorios, Oct 31
      Krasnicki, Robert, Oct 25
      Kujavsky, Apolena, Oct 23
      Kulenics, Rosal, Nov 3
      Labeyko, Joe, Nov 26 or 28
      Lada, Stefanic, Nov 1
      Lasavecky, Sayda, Nov 27
      Lasin? Ida, Nov 22
      Laskovsky, I?, Oct 16
      Laskovsky, Wilma, Oct 16
      Laskovsky, Alford, Oct 22
      Lazar, Andy, Nov 6
      Lazarecka, Rosalia, Nov 3
      Leino, Baby, Oct 29
      Lempio, Moria, Oct 26
      Lendel, Julia, Nov 15
      Lenhart, George, Oct 20
      Lopetsky, John, Oct 28
      Lori, Ellin, Oct 26
      Lucas, Spiro, Oct 25
      Lucas, George, Nov 4
      Lucas, Mary, Nov 8 (same casket as George)
      Luksich, Louis, Nov 6
      Makinen, Niilo, Nov 18
      Marcinko, Mary, Nov 7 (maybe Oct)
      Marino, Annie, Nov 2
      Matko, Mike, Oct 26
      Matko, Alean, Oct 28
      Matko, Barbara, Nov 1
      Mattie, Annie, Nov 8
      Mehaus, George, Oct 19
      Melenovick, Lazar, Oct 29
      Menzler, Andy, Nov 6
      Mikolajeik, Gena, Nov 3
      Mikolajeik, Helen, Nov 3
      Mood, Leonard, Nov 23
      Mudrick, Stefka, Nov 20
      Mudrick, Andy, Nov 26
      Mudrick, Mary, Nov 14
      Mullen, John, Oct 23 or 26
      Munziala, M. Nov 23
      Najda, Katrina, Nov 13
      Najda, Frank, Nov 15
      Nartovic, Vincety, Oct 30
      Nazaricki, Joe, Oct 31
      Neimi, Frank, Nov 7
      Novak, Steve, Nov 13
      Nuzari, M. Nov 18
      O?Rourke, Ed Jr, Nov 10 (same casket as Ed Sr.)
      O?Rourke, Ed, Nov 11
      Onda, Mike, Nov 17
      Pagan, Anna, Nov 11
      Pandoff, Naum, Jr. Nov 2
      Parke, Warren G. Nov 19
      Parnella, Mamie, Nov 12
      Parnentila, R. Nov 25
      Paterra, Flora, Nov 2
      Peltz, Olga, Nov 8 (maybe Oct)
      Pendres, Maggie, Nov 5
      Perry, Nick, Oct 31
      Petrock, George, Oct 11
      Piccarrillo, Antonia, Nov 5
      Politino, Edzalimo, Nov 13
      Polowski, Walter, Oct 27
      Pozehanich, John, Nov 11
      Proach, Charles. Oct 26
      Proach, Kate, Oct 27
      Puskar, Julia and baby, Nov 1
      Rafasilto, Lydia, Nov 3
      Rajola, Lydia, Nov 4
      Raten, Kate, Nov 4
      Rihtar, T. Nov 19
      Rinaldi, Mary, Nov 18
      Roman, Lizzie, Nov 2
      Romasko, Justin, Nov 11
      Rotolo, Joseph, Nov 5
      Sahnkovsky, C., Oct 26
      Sajko, Charles, Nov 16
      Scaorm?, Tony, Nov 20
      Semak, Vasil, Nov 15
      Senko, Kohn, Nov 7 (maybe Oct)
      Sinkarchik, Julia, Nov 13
      Sisik, Ignac, Oct 28
      Sivak, William, Nov 15
      Skatch, Mike, Nov 6
      Smith, Mary, Nov 1
      Sobran, Mike, Nov 11
      Spera, Viana, Nov 14
      Suhkas, George, Nov 19
      Sykes, Lillian, Nov 9
      Teger, John, Nov 15
      Temak, Mike, Oct 28
      Tkach, Andy, Nov 26
      Tokkar, Kaarina, Nov 9
      Tokker, Thomas, Nov 3
      Torkos, George, Nov 1
      Torkos, Julia, Nov 8
      Trendyluck, Mike, Oct 30
      Tucker, Althea, Oct 29
      Tuminella, E. Oct 26
      Tuomi, Ivar John, Nov 8
      Tureck, Paul, Oct 29
      Turek, Joe, Oct 26
      Twerdy, Henry, Nov 7 (maybe Oct)
      Vagli, Ida, Nov 2
      Varckious, John, Oct 28
      Verino, Filimini, Nov 8
      Vinck, Elvira, Nov 2
      Viska, Eda, Nov 11
      Warabel, Nick, Nov 4
      Warabel, Steve, Nov 4
      Wesaranta, Aauna, Nov 15
      Wilkes, Sarah, Nov 12
      Wilson, Elizabeth, Nov 15
      Withe, Zear, Sept 27
      Yarfaalovski, Ed , Nov 3
      Yarosh, Justina, Nov 11
      Yonkivsky, Juliana, Oct 30
      Yougis, Rigolitti, Nov 12
      Ywietwie, Helen, Nov 7 (maybe Oct)
      Zankos, Gust, Nov 16
      Zarka, Alex, Nov 4
      Zayac, Andy, Nov 8
      Zmczonski, Y, Nov 18
      Zobracek, Mike, Oct 31
      Zui, Polugi, Nov 4


      Oral Histories
      When the influenza of 1918 hit Monessen, my family was living on Short Street. My mom, Carolina Paggini Parigi, age 27, reported to Monessen High School on Knox and Sixth Street and was put to work nursing the sick. We were lucky, there was just the three of us: my father Nazzareno, my mother, and me. We fared well. So, my mother was free to help others, and she did. She had no education, but had taught herself to read and write. She was quite a woman, my mother. In those years, babies were born at home and she became a midwife to old Doctor Kreger. He always told his patients, "Do you know Mrs. Parigi? Well, when you are ready to deliver, call her to help me." The first embrace a lot of babies in Monessen felt was from my mother's warm arms. She helped birth my son, Alfred, and my daughter, Cassandra.
      Elizabeth Parigi Vivian, Monessen, September, 1998, age 85.

      Looking over your material, to my surprise, I found the name of my Aunt as one of the victims of the Spanish Influenza. You asked to give you notice if there is a need of corrections with the list. As you well know, at that time names were spelled incorrectly because of the English translation of the sound of letters in their pronunciation. So if you do not mind, I would like to correct the spelling of my Aunt's name. I checked the death date and it matches. Her name should be changed from: Eda Viska to Ida Visca. In Italian, it is pronounced the way it was spelled in English by the officials but
      spelled incorrect. She came to Monessen from Paganica, Italy. The Provence of Abruzzo. She was the sister of my father, Oscar, my Uncle Adam (The tailor on McMahon) and my Aunt Elisa DeCeasare (Confectionary store owner on Morgan).
      Norman Visca, California, August, 2000

      This is all the information I could find on my grandmother, who is not on the list above. My grandparents lived on Ontario Street in Monessen. My grandmother's name was Antonio Berger Oberleitner and she was born in Austria. They had five children and the youngest was one year old when my grandmother died of the influenza at the age of 32 on June 29, 1918. I really didn't know or realize the terrible ordeal our area and the country had furing this epidemic. I was glad to have been able to read the article in the Valley Independent. Thank you -- the Historical Society -- for bringing it to the attention of the families and the public (via the Internet). Janet Ritenoen, Belle Vernon PA, December 2000