submitted by Margaret Bobb, NB Area Historical Society
Five percent of the world’s population died in the 1918 Spanish influenza pandemic (H1N1 virus). Approximately one-third of the world’s population (500 million people) became infected with the virus, and at least 50 million died worldwide with about 675,000 deaths in the United States.
The deaths began in the fall of 1918 in North Baltimore. By December 5, Spanish influenza had taken the lives of twelve people.
The disease progressed very rapidly with some people feeling fine in the morning, sick at lunch and being dead by dinner. Death certificates for those who died in N. Baltimore show that nearly all of the patients were under a doctor’s care for only a day or two. Symptoms included high fever, difficulty breathing, and extreme aches and pains. Some patients developed severe pneumonia and dark spots on their cheeks and turned blue before they died.
On October 18, 1918, North Baltimore Mayor Michael Roach issued a proclamation ordering that all saloons be closed until further orders, all businesses except drug stores be closed at 6 P.M. every day, public funerals were prohibited, people were not allowed to gather in crowds on sidewalks or business places, and burning leaves on streets was not allowed.
At the time of Mayor Roach’s proclamation there were about 300 cases of influenza in the community and three residents had already died. All community schools were closed for an indefinite period of time to prevent the spread of the disease. Doctors from Bowling Green, Findlay, Toledo, Hoytville, and Cygnet were called in to assist the local doctors due to a shortage of local medical professionals. The only doctor who was able to treat patients at that time was Dr. Albert Henry. Drs. Charles Cavett and Elmer Powell were in the service; Drs. Daniel Reddin and John Archer had come down with the disease themselves; and Dr. George Foltz had fractured his jaw bone when he was struck on the face by the crank of his automobile. Even with assistance from doctors from surrounding communities there were still a large number of families who could not find a doctor to treat them.
Although most of the deaths worldwide from the influenza were people who were aged 20-40 and generally in good health, the average age of those who died in North Baltimore was 17 years. Local deaths included infants/toddlers, teens, and young mothers and fathers with the first death (October 11) being 17 year old Howard Monthaven. Monthaven passed away at the home of his parents on N. Tarr Street. He was the second of four children in the family and his older brother, Horace, had been drafted. Howard had operated the Hub Billiard Parlor in N. Baltimore for several years. The funeral was held in his parent’s home with saloons and business places being closed during the funeral.
Other teens who died were: Amos Ordway (age 19) who was a Hammansburg resident but died in the Columbia Hotel in North Baltimore, Tressa Swope (age 17), Frank Earlywine (age 19), and Mary Goodyear (age 15).
Three of the NB residents who died were infants or toddlers. The first young child to be taken by the Spanish influenza was two year old Howard Sines. Three days after Howard’s death, 16 month old Wilson Miller was taken, followed by 16 month old Gertrude Mundweiler. Gertrude had been taken to a hospital in Toledo where she died; her mother, Lena, died of tuberculosis in January 1919. Gertrude and her mother are buried together in Maplewood Cemetery.
Also included in those who died from the Spanish influenza were young fathers and mothers. On October 16, Grover Cleveland Sines (age 32) died in his home on Summit Street. He was the father of four children ages 10, 7, 4, and 2 and husband of Ethel who gave birth to their fifth child in eight months after Grover’s death. His obituary states that two of his children were recovering from the influenza and two others were seriously ill—eleven days later his two year old son Howard died. On October 22, Ada (Boyer) Simon died. Ada was 28 years old and was the mother of Norman (age 5), and Frieda (age 10) and wife of Floyd. On October 30 Georgia (Dick) McLaughlin (age 19) passed away. She was survived by her husband of two years, Joseph and her 15 month old daughter, Marcelle. The last death due to Spanish influenza was recorded on December 5, 1918 when 36 year old May (Williams) Sterling died. May was survived by her husband Dallas.
The flu came in three waves beginning in late 1918 and continuing until the spring of 1919. An article in the Weekly Beacon in late January 1919 stated: “the flu has again struck and over 100 people are down with the malady. About 50 pupils of the public schools are down. Schools and business places will likely be closed soon to prevent further spread.”
Although additional cases of Spanish influenza were reported in North Baltimore in early 1919, no additional deaths occurred. By the summer of 1919, the disease had disappeared worldwide and life in North Baltimore slowly returned to normal.