The flu pandemic of 1918 touches home

(From the AuSable Record, Jan. 10, 1919)

Mountain Ride of Colonel Recalled: “The death of Colonel Theodore Roosevelt recalls the fact he became president of the United States in the Adirondacks. He was at Tahawus at the time President McKinley was assassinated (September 1901), and upon learning of the tragedy, he started for the railroad station at North Creek, being driven there in a buckboard stage by Michael Cronin of Aiden Lair, who, until his death, was one of the best known characters in the eastern Adirondacks. A tablet on the Newcomb/Minerva road marks the spot where Vice-President Roosevelt was enroute to the station when McKinley died and where he actually became president. Cronin became more famous than ever as the result of the ride and for many years after, he gave away horseshoes ‘worn’ by the horses on the memorable trip.”

The AuSable Record was a pretty influential newspaper in its day, covering most of the communities in the North Country.

It was a weekly, and as the masthead reads: “Published every Friday — Subscription Price $1.25 per Year in Advance. Single Copies Five Cents Each. Advertising rates on Application. R. P. McKee, Secretary and Business Manager.”

It is interesting that no publisher or editor is mentioned.

I am working from a tattered, brittle copy of the Record. Talk about cut and paste — scissors and Scotch tape have pieced together bits and pieces of local stories about the flu.

The flu had killed 50 million worldwide, and 675,000 had died from the flu in the United States.

“Severe Epidemic of Influenza at Ray Brook”

“An epidemic at Ray Brook sanatorium (the New York state tuberculosis hospital) has caused the place to be put under strict quarantine. It was said Sunday there were sixty cases there. There were three deaths during the weekend.

“Raymond B. Altier, aged 22, a fireman from Utica, died Saturday night. The body was sent to Utica for burial. Edwin T. Howe, 33, died Saturday. His body was shipped to Jordan. Allie Kaplin, aged 15, died Sunday and the body was sent to Hudson.”


“In Lake Placid quite a number are ill with the grip of influenza, among them are C. B. Pierce, Earl and Mildred Pierce. Dr. F. J. D’Avignon is caring for them. Mrs. Phineas Taylor died on Saturday. Private Gordon H. Burrows of Lake Placid was among those recently listed as having died from the flu overseas.”


“While it is thought that the epidemic of influenza was so general in Crown Point that is now under control but more cases have developed during the past week.”


“In Bloomingdale the doctors have their hands full on account of the epidemic of grip that prevails.

“Mrs. Henry Churchill who was taken ill with pneumonia on Thursday died last Saturday. Fitch Brown is very low with Bright’s disease and his death is looked for daily. It was said he had a successful treatment in the hospital but he returned home only to be taken ill at once. Mrs. Orrin Otis is on the sick list.


“The schools and churches at Lake Placid are still closed owing to the epidemic of influenza from which that section has suffered severely. At present, while there are a considerable number of cases, the majority are reported mild.”


“After being closed for ten weeks on account of the influenza, the schools of New Russia are again in session.”

Lake Placid builds triumphal arch

“Lake Placid village is building between the rink and Grand View lawn a number of great ice pillars which will be connected by ropes of evergreen and forming in the center an Arch of Triumph.

“The hollow ice columns will be lighted after the fashion of the Lake Placid Club pillars which have caused so much admiration in previous years and promises to be even better this year. This original structure is in honor of the boys returning from ‘Over There.’ P. J. Hennessey and E. B. McConnell are in charge of the work.”

Scarlet fever through the mail

“Richmond, Va. — Floyd, the 13-year-old son of John L. Mooring, became critically in his home in this city from scarlet fever, received in a letter, it is declared.

“The boy received, from William T. Mooring, an older brother in Philadelphia, a letter, stating that he was ill from scarlet fever. William died a few days later, and the younger brother, who up until the receipt of the letter was in the best of health, was attacked. Physicians in attendance declare that the germs were undoubtedly carried through the United States mail.”

I and four of my siblings — Rita, Ray, Marguerite and Charles (“Chic”) — had scarlet fever when we lived at Split Rock farm in 1936. My sister Theresa, better known as “Tiger Tess,” was a baby and apparently dodged the bullet, as she has done many times since. There was a big quarantine sign on the front porch of our house. No one was allowed to visit.

When we recovered, everyone had to leave the house for most of a day while the windows and doors of the house were sealed up with tape and the house was fumigated. I believe that process involved burning sulfur candles throughout the house.


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