VERDE HERITAGE 1918 INFLUENZA PANDEMIC, Verde Valley
The 1918 Influenza Pandemic began during January of 1918 and ended during December of 1920. It infected 500 million people (about a quarter of the world's population at that time). The death toll is estimated to have been anywhere from 17 million to 50 million, and possibly higher, making it one of the deadliest pandemics in human history. During the first wave of the pandemic, the illness resembled the typical influenza, except the illness was more severe and began during January. Newspapers reported that people were seriously ill, suffered with grippe, la grippe, or influenza, and many had pneumonia.
"Grippe" is an old term for influenza. "La Grippe" translates as "to seize suddenly," and was used to describe medical conditions such as influenza, respiratory infections, and pneumonia. Influenza, commonly known as "the flu," is an infectious disease caused by an influenza virus. The most common symptoms include: sore throat, high fever, headache, fever and chills, runny nose, coughing, hoarseness, muscle and joint pain, and feeling tired. Normal influenza outbreaks usually occur during the fall and winter months. Complications of influenza include viral pneumonia, secondary bacterial pneumonia, sinus infections, neural involvement resulting in mental disorders, and a worsening of previous health problems. (Wikipedia, etc.)
"Careful study of the mortality statistics of the United States shows that there were a number of extensive though mild forerunners of the 1918 Spanish Influenza in the previous 3 or 4 years. The epidemic was of the mild type, but there was a noticeable increase in deaths from pneumonia. ... In the spring of 1918, a number of definite local outbreaks of influenza were observed. The rise in mortality from pneumonia, this very similar type of disease, in the spring of 1918, is so sudden, so marked, and so general throughout the United States as to point very clearly to a definite relation. Everything indicates that the increased mortality from pneumonia in March and April of 1918 was the consequence of a beginning and largely unnoticed epidemic of influenza, the beginning in this country of the pandemic which developed in the autumn of the year. ... Concerning the important question of immunity conferred by an attack of influenza, the evidence is not conclusive, but there is reason to believe that an attack during the earlier stages of the epidemic confers a considerable, but not absolute immunity in the later outbreaks." (Arizona Republican; Phoenix; September 17, 1919; p. 10.)
Camp Funston has been identified as the source of what became known as the 1918 Spanish Influenza Pandemic. Camp Funston was a U. S. Army training camp located on the Fort Riley Reservation north of Junction City, in the north central part of Kansas. Construction of the camp began during the summer of 1917, and eventually encompassed about 1,400 buildings on 2,000 acres. During World War I, nearly 50,000 recruits were trained at this camp, including the 89th Division, which was deployed to France during the spring of 1918.
In Yavapai County, the first of the local drafted men were notified to report at Prescott, where they boarded the train to be transported for duty at Fort Riley, Kansas. A contingent of men left on September 20, and the third contingent left on October 3, 1917. Information about the men at Camp Funston was printed in the newspapers at Prescott and Jerome. Soldiers began traveling on the train to and from Camp Funston and Yavapai County.
In Haskell County, located in the southwest part of Kansas, Dr. Loring Miner noticed the influenza cases occurring in January. He observed the slightly different symptoms, and rapid deaths, with young men unexpectedly dying. Dr. Miner took the unusual step of warning health officials in the academic journal of the U. S. Public Health Service. The young men of Haskell County were sent to Camp Funston for training. The local newspaper reported in February, "Most everybody over the county is having lagrippe or pneumonia." Young men were arriving home on furlough and returning to Camp Funston with the highly contagious influenza. ("Haskell County, Kansas, Origin of the 1918 Influenza Outbreak;" by Dee Andrews; Wikipedia.)
Towns along the route of the train began to report cases of grippe, influenza, and pneumonia. In Flagstaff and Holbrook the illness seems to have been an epidemic. "The grippe seems to be the prevailing ailment with a majority of Flagstaff's populace these days, but no serious results from the contagion have so far been reported." (Coconino Sun; January 25, 1918.) "An epidemic of grip or colds prevails in Holbrook at the present time. Many persons are confined to their homes by the malady and many others follow their customary pursuits, although some of these should be in bed. If there is any one disease more than another that causes a person to hate himself and all mankind, it is this same grip or influenza thing. Yes, we have it." (Holbrook News; February 8, 1918.)
In Jerome and the Verde Valley, there was also evidence of the first wave of the 1918 Influenza Pandemic during January and February. The reports of grippe, influenza, and pneumonia seldom mention children, so schools remained open and health officers did not identify the illnesses as an epidemic or act to control it. The Jerome newspaper reports contain the names of people in the Verde Valley (and Jerome) who were well known, usually because of their employment at a post office, grocery or retail store, hotel, boarding house, or one of the mining companies. There were probably many more unreported cases.
COTTONWOOD: "Victims of Grippe: Charles C. Stemmer [businessman and postmaster until 1953] and Mrs. Stemmer, and J. Steinberg [owner of the Cottonwood Hotel] are suffering from an attack of grippe." (Verde Copper News [VCN]; January 5, 1918.) "Recovering from Grippe: Mrs. W. E. Freeman, who has been suffering with grippe for several days, is reported to be recovering." (VCN January 12, 1918.)
CLARKDALE: "Recovering Health: Miss Mattie Jacobs, who was reported a few days ago as being quite ill, is now reported to be improving and recovering her health." (VCN; January 10, 1918.) "Has Influenza: Billy Stephens is reported to be suffering a severe attack of influenza. ... Has Pneumonia: William Kilgore, Jr., is reported to be suffering a severe attack of bronchial pneumonia. ... Attack of Influenza: Miss Helen Finlayson, daughter of Dan Finlayson, superintendent of the Green Monster mine, has been suffering for the past 3 days with a severe attack of influenza. ... Recovering from Pneumonia: Charles W. Sult, Jr., son of Dr. C. W. Sult, is reported to be very much improved since his recent attack of pneumonia." (VCN; January 14, 1918.) Dr. Sult worked at the clinic and was the Clarkdale Health Officer. "Seriously Ill: Paul Nance, an employee at Miller's store, is on the sick list, threatened with pneumonia, so it is reported." (VCN; January 22, 1918.) "Recovers from Grippe: Mrs. E. Green, who has been confined to her home for several days suffering with a severe attack of grippe, has sufficiently recovered to be out again looking after her business." (VCN; February 4, 1918.)
PRESCOTT: "Sam Miller, of Clarkdale, who has been with his brother, Johnny Miller, the latter being quite ill at his home in Miller Valley, was called home on Sunday, by his eldest son being stricken with pneumonia." ... "Well Again: John Miller, a native youth of Prescott, who had been seriously ill with pneumonia for several weeks, appeared on the street yesterday, his health again being normal. He returned from Funston discharged from the army, and a short time afterward was taken ill. He is a member of the historically known Miller family." (Weekly Journal-Miner; February 6, and 27, 1918.)
VERDE (became Clemenceau in 1920): The United Verde Extension Mining Company was building their smelter south of Cottonwood and there was a small company town with a general merchandise store, club house, and hospital. Many of the employees were single men who lived in company boarding houses or in a tent town. "Attack of Pneumonia: Simon Talamante, an employee at the smelter, was taken ill suddenly yesterday, about noon, with an attack of pneumonia and brought to the hospital for medical treatment." (VCN; February 4, 1918.)
THE 1918 INFLUENZA PANDEMIC WAS OFFICIALLY RECOGNIZED at Camp Funston. Early on the morning of March 4, 1918, company cook, Private Albert Gitchell, a soldier from Haskell County, reported at the hospital, complaining of the cold-like symptoms of sore throat, fever, and headache. By noon, over 100 soldiers had reported similar symptoms. Within days, 522 men had reported sick. Within 2 weeks, 1,100 soldiers required hospitalization, with thousands more sick in the barracks. The failure to take preventative measures to confine the epidemic during March and April has been criticized. Infected soldiers carried influenza to other army camps and home to their families and friends. Similar large outbreaks of influenza soon occurred in other army camps and prisons in other regions of the United States. (Wikipedia, etc.)
PRESCOTT: "Visited Funston: Mrs. A. M. Wellman returned during the week from Camp Funston, where she was called by the illness of her son, Claude Wellman, who was stricken with pneumonia. He has recovered and is to be ordered to Camp Kearny, California. He voluntarily enlisted." (Weekly Journal-Miner; March 27, 1918.)
The War Department and United States Public Health Service directed the states to provide safeguards against disease to protect the troops. In Arizona the State Board of Health closed all red-light districts, houses of ill-fame, and outlawed prostitution within 5 miles of any military camp as of March 1, 1918. At Jerome, Dr. A. C. Carlson, city health officer, notified "owners of houses in the restricted district and gave police officers their instructions." Federal troops arrived at Jerome on September 26. The detachment of about 50 infantry men guarded the mines at Jerome and the smelters at Clarkdale and Verde until January of 1920. (Verde Independent; "1918 Jerome Redlight District Closed March 1;" March 16, 2014.)
The Jerome newspapers continued to report the names of people who were sick in the Verde Valley (and Jerome) during March and April. Only a few people were "on the sick list" during May, and none of them had grippe, influenza, or pneumonia.
COTTONWOOD: "Able to be Out; Mrs. Clifford Klock, who has been sick for several days, is able to be around again." (VCN; March 21, 1918.) Clifford Klock printed a newspaper at Cottonwood, then moved to Jerome to work for the Verde Copper News. "Officer Sick: Deputy Sheriff E. O. McDonald is reported to be suffering from a severe attack of grippe." (VCN; March 26, 1918.) "Recovering: Mrs. W. C. Morse, who has been quite sick for several days, is reported to be sufficiently recovered to be up and about again." (VCN; March 20, 1918.) "Getting Better: W. C. Morse, who has been confined to his home for several days suffering from a severe attack of influenza, is getting better and thinks he will be able to be out in a day or two." (VCN; March 29, 1918.) The Jose Acuna Building on Main Street now houses Crema. "Child Dies. The six-year-old daughter of Mr. and Mrs. Jose Acuna, after a short illness, died yesterday morning at the family residence in Cottonwood." (VCN; April 27, 1918.) Juana Acuna was born in Mexico on August 8, 1912, and died of pneumonia on April 25, 1918, at the age of 5 years, 8 months. She was taken to the United Verde Copper Company Clinic at Clarkdale and treated by Dr. Charles W. Sult. (Certificate of Death.)
CLARKDALE: "Has pneumonia: Mrs. Roy Black is reported to be suffering with a severe attack of pneumonia." (VCN; March 18, 1918.) "C. Y. Webb is reported to be suffering with a severe attack of pneumonia." (April 5, 1918.) "Here on Furlough: P. C. Williams, formerly employed at the smelter plant here, and among the first to be drafted from Yavapai County, is here on furlough visiting with his friends. He is stationed at Camp Funston, Kansas." (VCN; April 30, 1918.)
VERDE: "Seriously Sick: Homer Bennett, who has been suffering with an attack of pneumonia for several days, is reported to be in serious condition. ... Homer Bennett, who has been confined in the hospital here with a severe case of pneumonia, is reported to be convalescing. ... Homer Bennett, an employee of the Kansas City Structural Steel company, who has been ill for some time with pneumonia, is reported to be out of danger and convalescing." (VCN; March 1; March 4; and March 11, 1918.) "Out of Hospital: John Carey, who has been confined for some time in the hospital with pneumonia, is again able to be up and out." (VCN; March 15, 1918.) "Postmaster Dan R. Robinson is laid up in the hospital suffering with a severe attack of bronchitis. His daughter is looking after the post office during his indisposition. ... Postmaster Dan Robinson, who was laid up in the hospital for a few days with an attack of bronchitis, has sufficiently recovered to be back at his post of duty again." (VCN March 20; and March 23, 1918.) "J. McGuire [MacIntyre], of the Commissary store, is reported on the sick list. ... J. MacIntyre, of the Commissary store, who has been confined to his home on account of sickness for several days, is again able to be out and at work." (VCN; March 20; and March 25, 1918.) "R. Reed, employed in the grocery department at the Commissary store, is reported to be on the sick list." (VCN; March 23, 1918.) "Ed Clothier, manager of the grocery department at the Commissary is also on the sick list. ... Ed Clothier, of the grocery department at the Commissary store, is laid up in the hospital suffering with influenza." (VCN; March 23; and March 27, 1918.) "M. J. Penberthy, manager of the Club House, is laid up in the hospital suffering with influenza." (VCN; March 27, 1918.) "Francisco Flores, who lives near the brick plant, is suffering with an attack of pneumonia. ... Francisco Flores, aged 25, formerly employed at the smelter plant, and who has been suffering for several days with pneumonia, died yesterday morning at the home of his mother, near the brick plant." (VCN; March 27; and April 25.) "Dr. W. C. Judd, who for some time has been physician in charge of the company hospital at this place, will leave Sunday for Portland Oregon, where he will report for service in the national medical reserve corps, with a rank of first lieutenant. He has been expecting for some time to be called, but received his summons to duty yesterday. He will be succeeded by Dr. Thomas J. Cummins, of Jerome." (VCN; April 3, 1918.) "L. P. Smithers, bookkeeper at the Commissary store, is laid up in the hospital suffering with a severe attack of grippe. ... Out of Hospital: A. H. Smithers, employed in the accounting department at the Commissary store, who has been confined in the hospital on account of sickness for several days, is again able to be out and at her post of duty." (VCN; April 5; and April 10, 1918.) "Mike Dunn, engineer at the smelter plant, has been confined in the hospital with pneumonia for several days, is able to be up and out again." (VCN; April 12, 1918.) "Charles Champion, a bricklayer at the United Verde Extension smelter, who has been seriously ill for the past 4 weeks, has not yet recovered sufficiently to be removed to the hospital as was intended. ... Charles Champion, a resident of Smelter City, who has been confined to his room with sickness for the past 6 weeks, is convalescing." (VCN; April 27; and May 13, 1918.)
April 27, 1918: "15 Verde District men left Prescott Saturday night for Camp Funston." (VCN; Monday, April 29, 1918.)
Statement issued by the U. S. Public Health Service: A close relation between the influenza epidemic and the constantly increasing pneumonia mortality rate prior to the fall of 1918 is recognized. It is now believed that the disease was pretty widely disseminated throughout the country before it was recognized in its epidemic state. This failure to recognize the early cases appears to have largely been due to the fact that every interest was then centered on the war." (Coconino Sun; Flagstaff; September 19, 1919.)
Newspapers were pressed to be patriotic during the war, and the censored media downplayed the epidemic in Europe and the United States. Spain was a neutral country, so the uncensored media reported about the epidemic and high number of deaths during May. That epidemic was called the "Spanish Influenza," and soon the epidemic everywhere was called the "1918 Spanish Influenza," or "Spanish Flu."
"Validity of Quarantine Laws: Questions have arisen regarding the powers of the State Board of Health to establish quarantine and arbitrarily close halls, theaters, and places of public resort as a precautionary measure in the treatment of the epidemic. The following quotations are from the 'Public Health Laws of Arizona." ... "Chapter 1, Section 4. The Board shall have power and it shall be its duty: 3. To make and enforce all needed rules and regulations for the prevention and cure and to prevent the spread of any contagious, infectious, or malarial disease among persons and domestic animals. 4. To establish quarantine and isolate any person affected with any contagious or infectious or epidemic and endemic disease." ... "Control Of Communicable Diseases: Section 5, Paragraph 1. The term absolute quarantine as used in these regulations shall be construed to mean and include, First: Absolute prohibition of entrance to or exit from a building or conveyance except by officers or attendants authorized by the health authorities and the placing of guards, if necessary, to enforce this prohibition." ... "In order to safeguard the public, the State Board of Public Health will enforce this law whenever and wherever it may seem necessary upon good evidence secured."
Once the county and local health officers recognized a threat to public health, they usually acted quickly and decisively. "Clarkdale: The infant child of Mr. and Mrs. W. J. Deavers is reported to be critically ill with diphtheria this morning [Monday, January 7, 1918]. The child died. "House Burned: Under instructions from Dr. Sult, Clarkdale Health Officer, the house occupied by the W. J. Deavers family, where the case of diphtheria was developed, was burned yesterday, thus protecting the community from the spread of that infectious disease." (VCN; January 7; and January 10, 1918.)
The devastating and deadly second wave of the 1918 Influenza Pandemic began during the summer of 1918, as returning soldiers infected with disease spread it to the general population. Historians believe the fatal severity of the second wave was caused by a mutated virus spread by wartime troop movements.
In Yavapai County, the "1918 Spanish Influenza" epidemic arrived during September. Dr. J. W. Flinn, county health officer, closed all pool halls, with the assistance at Jerome of Chief of Police Bloom. The sheriff's office closed schools, churches, amusement places, etc. By October 16, there were 125 well-developed cases of the flu and the death toll at Jerome was 15. (Weekly Journal-Miner; Prescott; October 16, 1918; pages 3 and 5.)
For an account of the epidemic, see: The Verde Independent; "The Killer Flu of 1918;" by Helen Peterson; October 20, 2014.
In Arizona, 2005 deaths were related to the 1918 Influenza Pandemic, with 560 deaths during October, 759 deaths during November, and 686 deaths during December. In Yavapai County, influenza was the cause of 24 deaths during October, and 6 deaths during December. Pneumonia was the cause of 43 deaths during October, and 66 deaths during December (there were no related deaths during November). (Weekly Journal-Miner; April 23, 1919.)
"The report of the Board of Health for Arizona conveys some startling information. During the year ending December 3, 1918, there were 6607 deaths in the state. Of this number 1063 were from tuberculosis of the lungs. The big death rate from tuberculosis is due to the fact that the state is a mecca for consumptives and a constant stream of these unfortunates are coming in from the eastern states seeking relief from this malady. Generally, they come too late and simply arrive here to die. Influenza carried away 511, while pneumonia and bronchial pneumonia carried away 1987. This high death rate from pneumonia is no doubt due largely to influenza which developed into pneumonia. ... The next highest causes were 'diarrhoeral' disease in children under 2 years which were 557, and epidemic disease in young and old, 511. Automobile accidents claimed 120 victims. The infant mortality was very large. The number of deaths under 14 years was 1805, or over 27%. Much of this could be avoided by a better understanding of caring for the health and feeding and clothing of children." (Mohave County Miner; Kingman; September 6, 1919.)
Statistics for comparison: The population of Arizona was 334,162 on January 1, 1920 (2.9 persons per square mile) which increased by 101,411 (30.3%) to be 435,573 on April 1, 1930 (3.8 persons per square mile. Arizona population was 6,828,065 in 2015 (59.0 persons per square mile).
The third wave of the 1918 Influenza Pandemic began during the early part of 1919. Health officers identified this epidemic and acted to control it and schools were closed. News that "Cornville has Banished the Influenza," was announced in a Prescott newspaper on March 12, 1919.
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