The Flu Epidemic of 1918

Melrose Beacon Newspaper References Extracted by Jeanne Wilber of the Melrose Historical Society


I started reading October 1918 issues of the Melrose Beacon and I was drawn to the many many accounts of local people becoming sick and dying from the “Spanish Flu”, kept reading and documented some of the items from the 1918 issue of the Melrose Beacon for you.  I additionally researched this pandemic (a pandemic is different from an epidemic as it covers a much wider geographical area – it is worldwide) in my research I discovered this pandemic claimed more lives than WWI.  WWI claimed an estimated 16 million lives; the influenza pandemic of 1918 killed an estimated 50 million people. Within months it reportedly killed more people than any other illness in recorded history and estimated 675,000 Americans died during this pandemic. Most flu viruses affect the elderly and young, this flu was most deadly for people ages 20 to 40.  Doctors & healthcare workers were in great demand: besides the lack of health care workers and medical supplies, there was a shortage of coffins; morticians and gravediggers, funeral were limited to 15 minutes. There was some speculation early on that it was some type of a biological warfare tool since more soldiers died from the flu than were killed in battle during this war however they treated as a flu virus and worked on a vaccination. Here is some information I found in the Melrose Beacon about the Influenza Outbreak (Spanish Flu) of 1918.

October 3, 1918 –

1st Mention of the Influenza was when the draft call was cancelled.

1st Death report of a death due to Influenza was Franklyn Lyons.  He was at a training camp at Great Lakes Illinois when he became sick and died.  There was also a report of Leo Kolb who died at Philadelphia of pneumonia I am not sure if this was related? 

October 10, 1918 –

Spring Hill’s Joseph Laubach who was at a training camp at Wadsworth SC. 

Richmond school closed and reported 7 cases.

Reports also of the influenza spreading at an alarming rate throughout the country and in soldier camps in US but it made its way to Melrose with 10 cases reported of people sick. 

October 17, 1918 was filled with articles about the flu one of which came from the local board of health who advised to NOT close school even though they had reported cases in the city they stated none have been reported serious.  At the same time the influenza was running throughout our area and state the great fires of 1918 to the north were in the headlines, the headline read “At Least 1,000 Persons Perish in Forest Fires, Many Villages Gone”, the path was 80 X 100 miles in the Northeastern parts of Minnesota, centering in Pine and Carlton counties.

October 24, 1918 –

Reported 15 deaths in St. Cloud and 1,229 cases in the county. 

November 7, 1918 –

The headlines were big “Many Homes in City and Country Lose Loved One in Week”.  My count showed in the issue 18 deaths in one week: George Wampach, Mrs. Anna Barrutt, Mrs. Andrew Spaeth, Mrs. Walter Winter, Lawrence Winter, Velma Howe, Mrs. Pat Graham, George Hoffman, Mrs. Louis Sauer, Henry Hallermann, Johnny Hinnenkamp, Frank Stallo,  one year old baby of Mr & Mrs Joseph Bertram of Spring Hill, Mike Braun of Spring Hill, Claude Schoener of Freeport, and Henry Tschida north of Freeport.

November 14, 1918

Headlines read” “influenza adds more to its list of victims”.  Mrs. Peter Spengler, Aloys Helsper, Robert Mikel, Fred Voeller, Alfred Rothstein, Mrs. Joseph Moening, Gerald Lent, Mrs. Levi Nevel, Mrs. August Wiechman, and Carl Finken are the names I found in this issue.  Reports also indicated that the war was over and the outbreak has subsided and they were not seeing any new cases, schools were still closed.

November 21, 1918

Headlines read “Influenza Subsiding in the City”, local schools will re-open on the following Monday. Death of Mary Klassen reported. Math Worms, Dina Stroeing, Mrs. George Frevel, John Stroeing, A. Kraker, Steve Roelicke, Susan Huff, H. B. Otte & Mrs. Otte have all been reported as ill with the influenza or recovering from the effects.

November 28, 1918

Schools are again open and it appears life is returning to normal, gatherings that had been cancelled are now rescheduled and back on track. Mrs. Katherine Osendorf of Meier Grove passed away after being sick with the flu and they reported she passed due to complications after suffering from the flu.  Ted Zieske recovered, Anton Nietfeld family who were all very ill with influenza have recovered, Henry Schneider recovered and is back to bartending at Laubach’s in Spring Hill, the Seitz family are rapidly recovering, John Boyer & family who had been confined to their home are all recovering, Joseph Niehaus was ill for 3 weeks and he and his family have all recovered.  Alma Hockert a teacher at the Kuefler school district reportedly died as a result of influenza in St. Cloud.

December 5, 1918

A few reports of sick in the surrounding areas but nothing in the City of Melrose.  Cecelia Burns, John Spies and son Joseph, Rose Pung, Mrs. John Altmann & Florence Altmann, Margaret Trossen, Tony Schaefer, Mrs. Joseph Rohling, and Miss Bernadine Benolken all reported to be ill but recovering or recovered.

December 12, 1819

Paul Trisko passes away, a patient suffering with asthma and that together with influenza caused his death.

The pandemic for the most part is over, the deaths reported after November articles were related to other factors after suffering with the flu.



Posted with permission.  Thank you Jeanne for this valuable article!


Page last update: 23 Nov 2014