the Great Plague gets more press, the 1918 influenza pandemic was much more
deadly. It it one reason that both sides in World War I came to the peace table
as it killed hundreds of thousands of young men in barracks and camps and made
a growing manpower crisis critical. The epidemic spread slowly, but I've
seen few signs that people recognized it in its early stages.
certainly affected my family in western Pennsylvania in the year before anyone
called it a pandemic..
The picture on the left shows my mother's oldest sister, Eleanor (called Ella) holding baby Electa in 1900.
The picture on the right shows the whole Smith family in 1908 -- There's Ella (who seems to have aged in the intervening 8 years), her husband, Harry Smith, and their two children, Clair and Electa.
the notes I am assembling for my book on my mother's family, I find that my
first cousin, Electa Smith, died at the age of 17 from influenza. The year was 1917, according to her tombstone. Her mother
(the oldest of the eight McCaskey girls)
died in 1920 of
"a broken heart," people said, and Electa's brother, Clair, was left with a
permanent stutter from the grief that engulfed his family.
And then there is this picture, which has a
bit of mystery behind it. That's Electa on the left at the age of 16. The other girl, referred to only as
"Carrie," seems to have been
an orphan that the Smiths took in to help around the
house. After both Electa and Ella died, Harry quickly married
a story there, somewhere, but I doubt I'll find