The Spanish Flu of 1918-1920

The coronavirus-19 pandemic has caused me to think back to the Spanish Flu, and wonder how it affected my family. Here is what I found.

Who were affected?

The Hopkins Families in Kansas

This is something my Father, Howard Hopkins, wrote me about our family's history:

"During the winter of 1918 the terrible epidemic of influenza swept the nation, and it didn't spare the inhabitants of the Eldorado oil field. Every member of our collective family was down with it except papa, and he had to take care of his lease, his family, uncle Charlie's family and aunt Alice's family, (We all lived in a cluster of houses called a "camp"). But everyone survived, thanks to papa, who miraculously escaped."

Dad's referring to El Dorado, Kansas, where the family lived and worked in about 1917-1919. According to a piece in The Wichita Eagle, the flu made its first appearance in Santa Fe, Haskell County, Kansas. It was also soon found in Camp Funston, Fort Riley, Kansas.1

1 How a killer flu spread from western Kansas to the world by Beccy Tanner, March 10, 2020.
This article contains a photo of WW I soldiers in hospitsl.

The Wolf Families in Ohio

My maternal Grandfather, Henry Wolf, died on May 5h, 1919 from pneumonia brought on by influenza. He was only 44 years old, and left a widow and 5 young children. He had operated a dairy just northwest of Cincinnati.

The next year, his mother, Franzisca BrĂ¼egge Wolf, also died of pneumonia and influenza on February 27th. She was 68, and left a husband and 4 grown children.

Cincinnati was hard hit by the epidemic. The Cincinnati Enquirer reported a case in Boston on September 11, 1918. By October 3, there were 13 cases in Cincinnati. On October 5th, the city issued a closure order for "all schools (public, private, and parochial), theaters, movie houses, churches and Sunday schools were ordered closed, and all public or private meetings either indoors or outdoors." 2

2 The American Influenza Epidemic of 1918-1919: Cincinnati, Ohio

By the end of 1918, about 1700 people had died of the flu in Cincinnati.3 A second wave of flu came in early 1920, causing more deaths, including the two above.

3 Cincinnati.com What were Cincinnati's tactics during the 1918 Spanish flu and did they work?

Here's a link to an excerpt from cincinnatimagazine.com, published in September 24, 2018, with more information about the flu there.

The Beckett Family in Ohio

Ernest P. Beckett, a farmer in Butler County, died of pneumonia and influenza on January 16, 1919 at the age of 28. He left behind a young widow and 3 young children. He was the Grandfather of my cousin Robert.

Summing Up

The Spanish flu, like our present virus, killed many people, and had a lasting impact of families everywhere. We see the numbers in the paper and on TV, but they don't become real until they affect us or someone close to us.

Measures to combat the flu were similar to ones we're using in 2020. Their success or failure, as now, depended a lot on when they were started, how vigorously they were pursued, and how long they were kept going.


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This file was last updated on 5/15/2020.

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