The impact of a father’s death

Phyllis Maathius Hall’s grandfather Tammo Maathuis died in the 1918 flu epidemic in Ogden, Utah. He was a carpenter. Phyllis’s father, Cornelius Maathuis, was four years old when his father died. Cornelius’s mother, Dievertje was left a widow with 4 children — Mary (8), Henry (6), Cornelius (4) and Thomas (2). The entire family was very ill with the flu and were unable to attend Tammo’s funeral. Mary recalls she was so sick and her mother put a shawl around her and sent her out into the sun to talk. The sun was thought to be a “flu killer.” This photo of the Maathius family was probably taken in 1916.

Maathuis Family-1916

After Tammo’s death, Dievertje took in washing and cleaned a bank and people’s homes to support her family, but it was too much for her and she contracted tuberculosis. The children were placed in a nursery. Dievertje came every visiting day for a few months and then spent a few years in sanitariums in Salt Lake and Roy Utah, and Denver, Colorado. The only time the children saw her was when the nursery matron or another kind soul would drive the children to see her when she was in Utah. In 1923 she was sent home from Denver as they could do nothing more for her. She died in November 1924. Below are the death certificates for Tammo and Dievertje.

Cornelius stayed in the nursery until he reached 12 years old, when he was placed with a family in Uintah, Utah who wanted a small boy for company and to help with the farm chores. But he ran away a few weeks later to his grandparent’s home in Salt Lake because the family was abusive and would not let him attend school. He was in and out of the homes of relatives for the next few years. For a while he was staying with a non-relative but ran away because of an another abusive relationship.

As Cornelius’s daughter writes: “It was difficult to grow up as orphans in the 1920s.”

Story credit to Phyllis Maathuis Hall, based on her writings, her father’s life story, and Mary and Henry’s life stories. Photo credit to Phyllis Maathius Hall

See below for life histories of Mary and Henry

Mary   — https://www.familysearch.org/photos/artifacts/14546282?cid=mem_copy

Henry — https://www.familysearch.org/photos/artifacts/14546180?cid=mem_copy

Sister Wenceslaus, taken by the flu

This story is about a beloved nun who died at age 22 from the flu. Until I saw this story, I had not heard about a burning tongue as part of the torment of the flu.

“Among the victims of the fearful disease of the past year we lament our dear little
SISTER MARY WENCESLAUS PANKA. She was one of sixteen children, a twin given to her pious parents who lived on a extensive farm near Prairie du Chien.

Little Rose entered the Candidature of Notre Dame for our lady’s Nativity in 1913. With the exception of one year spent at St. Peter’s Chicago, her mission was St. Stephen’s among the little Slovak children whom she loved tenderly. These in turn loved little Sister Rose, as she was called while Candidate and still more Sister Wenceslaus, which name was given her at her reception.

Little Sister Wenceslaus was beloved by all who knew her. The simple childlike readiness with which she lent a helping hand wherever necessary endeared her to those who lived with her. No matter what the circumstances were, she never showed the least hesitation in granting any favor asked.

Sister was sent to St. John Neopomuc’s, November 16, 1918 and taught there from that time til December 4th, when the school had to be closed on account of two sisters being stricken with influenza, December 5th in the afternoon, Sister Wenceslaus became the third victim of the disease. She feared it greatly and said repeatedly that if she contracted it, she would die.

The Doctor did not think her seriously ill until Monday, when he found her having high fever. Tuesday morning, December 10th, he pronounced her case fatal, Pneumonia having set in; He ordered her to be taken to the hospital at once. On being told this, Sister at first remonstrated, but immediately added, “Oh  I don’t mind; possible I shall be well all the sooner if I am taken there.” As she was being carried out, she said, ” I’ll tell Saint Joseph to make me well, for I am going to him” [referring to the name of the hospital.]

Her mother and sister came Saturday December 14th, and found the dear patient conscious, but suffering an agony of pain, especially in the tongue. She cried aloud begging to have her tongue cut off, it was burning intensely. Then she called the priest to hear her confession once more before she would die. The Capuchin Father came and heard her confession, Soon after she became delirious and died shortly after midnight, Sunday December 15th.”

Contributed by Jennifer Buehler, written by her great-uncle, lightly edited by Lori Lyn Price

To learn more about the church visit https://onmilwaukee.com/history/articles/nepomuc.html. Neither Jennifer nor I could find pictures of Sister Wenceslaus or the church that were free of copyright.

Didn’t Get to See Their Children Grow

new-orleans-states-oct-25-1918-lawrence-and-annie-ledger-death-notice

After the deaths of their first 3 children immediately after birth, Annie and Lawrence Ledger welcomed a little boy who lived, and a few years later his little sister. Alas, as the family was just getting started, both Annie and Lawrence were taken by the flu in late October 1918, within 24 hours of each other, as reported in the New Orleans States on October 25, 1918. It’s heartbreaking that they weren’t around to see their children grow.

To read more about the 1918 flu outbreak in New Orleans, read here.

Story and photo credit to Judy Gutierrez. Read more at her blog.

Not all deaths were a direct result of the flu

45 year old Henry Wright Dunn, far left in the photo below (in his store), was a very successful businessman in Evergreen, Alabama in 1918. He was a hardware store owner, a Ford and Buick car dealer, incorporator of the local bank, and a landowner with significant holdings. According to his great-grandson, “if you needed anything in Conecuh County from a washer to a coffin, you did business with Henry Wright Dunn.”

Dunn Hardware ca 1918

He was able to provide a comfortable life for his family. When he saw that the flu was spreading westward, he had the means to be prepared before it hit and hire a nurse to care for his family if the flu hit. On the appointed day he crossed the railroad tracks and drove up the hill to fetch the nurse and bring her home to his family. Alas, as he was going up the hill his car stalled. He was unable to restart it and rolled back down the hill into the path of an oncoming train. He lingered for 2 days with terrible injuries before succumbing to death. Below is a photo of the wreck.

Dunn, Henry Wrights Wreck 1918

His great grandson writes, “Henry Wright Dunn, age 45, (1873-1918) fell victim of the great plague; not by becoming infected himself, but, out of concern for his family, drove out of town at the wrong time. ”

Credit for story and photos go to Dave Robison. See more at Dave’s blog.

 

Most Survived

Many of the stories I have focused on recently have dealt with death or complications. While many did die, the average death rate worldwide was <3%, meaning that most survived. This is one such story, as told in the life history of Cleo Anderson, my great-aunt.

cleo jones anderson

“During the winter of 1918 there was a terrible flu epidemic that swept the entire country and many people died from it. I was five months old when I got the flu and was very ill. Mama told me that for three days I lay in a stupor but through faith and administration I was spared.

My father had the flu that same winter and was very ill with it.”

I am very glad that both Cleo and her father (my great-grandfather) survived, since my grandfather was not born until a few years later.

A Sense of Humor

This is one of the few stories I have thus far of an American soldier who served overseas. Milan Piper was serving in France in February 1919 when he wrote a letter home. Based on other letters that his great-grandson Tim has read, Milan seems to be a real character.  Milan Piper fireman.

Milan (date unknown) in dress firefighter uniform.

Milan Piper 1908

Milan in 1908 when he was 22

In February, he wrote

“I had a touch of the flew, but I kept up all the time on sheer grit, and, I think by keeping up, and drilling with the boys…that I fooled ‘em all to the extent that the Hospital got cheated out of another patient…

by gee whiz they didn’t get me. I told the boys that the…germs can’t kill me on foreign soil for I’m going to croke in the good old U.S.A”

While he may have had the flu, he must have had a mild case to cheat the hospital out of another patient. He did survive the flu and the war and lived a long and happy life in the U.S. with his family.

Photo and story contributed by Tim Montgomery and Angie Rodday