A Toy Hospital

This story resonated with me because one of my childhood memories is spending several hours (or perhaps even days or weeks) developing a school curriculum (list of classes) for my imaginary school, developing student lists, assigning students their schedules, and developing blueprints for my toy school. Apparently I couldn’t get enough of school.

kathleen-and-rosemary anne young


Anne’s story about her grandmother Kathleen illustrates the impact of the 1918 flu pandemic in Australia on an 11 year old girl who heard bits and pieces from her parents and incorporated these into her creation of a 50-bed imaginary hospital, complete with newsletters. Kathleen’s father was a surgeon and her mother was involved with charity work. Due to some good prevention measures, Australia didn’t feel the impact of the flu until 1919, which is when Kathleen wrote her newsletters.


Kathleen’s newsletter, Stuffed Notes, told about daily life at a hospital where Kathleen was the Matron. It is an intriguing look into how a child absorbed the impact of the 1918 flu. Through its pages you can see when the number of flu cases started increasing dramatically. At first only 1 or 2 flu cases is mentioned, but then a much larger number of flu cases, including some very dangerous, are mentioned. Patients are also in the hospital for diphtheria, typhoid fever, and injuries from traffic accidents.

One undated entry reads (Ann retained Kathleen’s original spelling in her blog post):
Cases = 12
Deaths = 4
Dangious = 3
Mild = 5
Nurse Wagga is quite well now and has gone away for a Holiday a Henly Beach.
We are not removing the Influenza cases to the Isolation Hospital at the Exhibition. As we heard the conditions are not very good.
All the Hospital sends thier love.
K.C. Cudmore
To read the entire set of entries and see several pictures related to the flu outbreak in Adelaide, please read Anne’s blog.
Story credit goes to Anne Young, as do the photo credits.
The first photo is of Kathleen and her sister Rosemary.
The second photo is the first page in the Stuffed Notes notebook.

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


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

A ship sinks due to the flu

USS America.PNG

I was reading the introduction to A Fever of War and the following sentences caught my attention. “Influenza hospitalized 25 to 40 percent of the men in the U.S. Army training camps and killed almost thirty thousand of them before they could even go to France. Men carried the flu virus on board the troop ships and many soon fell ill, toxifying the ships as they crossed the Atlantic.” (1)

Clyde Pendleton was a gunner on the troop transport USS America. In mid-September 1918 they picked up soldiers in Boston, who brought the flu onboard with them. Over 1,000 of the men on board became sick with the flu during the Atlantic crossing. Fifty-five died. This is a picture of Clyde who at some point while on land caught the flu and was in the hospital.

clyde pendelton

Upon the ship’s return to Hoboken, it was decided to fumigate the ship in an attempt to prevent another outbreak. The ship was loaded with coal and supplies. The fumigation was done by 2:30 a.m. The coaling ports were left open, probably in an attempt to air out the ship from the smell of the caustic materials used for the fumigation. Two hours later, the ship began listing and sunk. Most sailors on board were able to escape, but 6 men died. The unofficial explanation for the sinking was that the ship was resting on mud at low tide, and as the tide came back in, mud suction caused one side of the ship to rise more slowly than the other side, allowing water to come in through the open coal ports.  The photo at the top of this post shows the raising of the USS America on November 21, 1918.

Credit for story and photo go to Deborah Stewart, Clyde’s granddaughter.

1. A Fever of War: The Influenza Epidemic in the U.S. Army during World War I by Carol R. Byerly, page 8.


Frances Poole: A brave soldier

Nurses were desperately needed around the U.S. when the epidemic struck. Trained nurses were preferred, but it was quickly realized that there were not nearly enough professional nurses. Many were serving overseas in Army camps. The demand was so critical that restrictions were quickly loosened so that most women in good standing and  willing to provide nursing services were accepted.

Frances poole

Frances Poole, of Evanston, Illinois, was one such nurse. She was a wealthy woman and did not seek to serve as a nurse in the army for the money. Rather, she volunteered to help the soldiers.  She was sent to Camp Ontario in New York. Unfortunately, all too soon she contracted the flu and died from the resulting pneumonia.

One of her colleagues wrote: “During the terrible epidemic which was very severe in Camp Ontario, Miss Poole did not spare herself and, though she had a severe cold and was urged not to go on duty, she saw the extreme need of the boys, and, like a brave soldier, fought the fight until she fell—a victim of pneumonia. Her mother reached her two hours before her death.”

Read more about Frances and the search for her story here

Photo and story courtesy of Barbara Poole