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

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.