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1918 flu epidemic revisited

This is a continuation of a previous column concerning the flu epidemic of 1918 in Pulaski County:
In a proclamation Pulaski’s Mayor Calfee wrote, “All of the people are hereby called upon to implicitly obey the injunctions of this proclamation in letter and in spirit, and to offer themselves freely and gladly to the work of cooperation and service to the end that the suffering and disaster which have taken so many lives may speedily give way before our united efforts.”
This is a continuation of a previous column concerning the flu epidemic of 1918 in Pulaski County:
In a proclamation Pulaski’s Mayor Calfee wrote, “All of the people are hereby called upon to implicitly obey the injunctions of this proclamation in letter and in spirit, and to offer themselves freely and gladly to the work of cooperation and service to the end that the suffering and disaster which have taken so many lives may speedily give way before our united efforts.”
The central relief committee then set out to appointing zone committees to be responsible for relief work. Fourteen such three member committees went to work, beginning Oct. 5, checking each home. In some homes they found that the entire family was afflicted with the dreaded malady. A report of their findings showed that on that date 1,714 people were suffering from flu, and by Sunday, Oct. 2, 2,000 of the town’s 6,000 citizens were sick. All church services were canceled, and worn-out doctors, pharmacists and undertakers were carrying on with no rest. It was decided by the mayor’s office to set up an emergency hospital in the Elk’s Club Building, under the supervision of several local ladies who had nursing experience. These ladies were Mrs. J.W. Miller, Mrs. E.V. Jameson, Mrs. H.W. Steger and Mrs. D.G Robinson.
Beds, cots and supplies were moved in, and people from other places were calling in to volunteer as Roanoke druggists were helping to fill prescriptions in the local drug stores.
Rev. Thomas Opie of Christ Episcopal Church, finding so many people without proper food, established a soup kitchen, and with the help of Ed Calfee, T.J. Whitaker, J. F. McNew and E.C. Harden, along with volunteer cooks, started sending hot soup to the sick wherever needed.
On “Blue Monday,” Oct. 7, 1918, the local paper reported 27 deaths in Pulaski over the weekend. All the medical people and the undertakers were behind on their work. Conway Smith later wrote that on that day, Pulaski was a ghost town. But he wrote, “Under the leadership of Mayor Ernest Calfee, the town is fast girding for the battle.” From the town relief center in the mayor’s office, operations were being directed around the clock. The reeling town was fighting back.
On Tuesday, Oct. 8, the epidemic was still raging on. Three more doctors and several nurses came in, and more pharmacists were promised. On Wednesday, Oct. 9, The Southwest Times reported that the town was still in the disease’s grip, but the united effort of all who were working indicated the beginning of improvement conditions. Six more people had died on the previous day, and the emergency hospital held over 70 patients. At the same time, the Public Health Service was pulling doctors out of the town of Pulaski and sending them to Dublin where conditions had worsened.
Fatigue hit the nurses, and at the mayor’s insistence, more Pulaski ladies were volunteering as nurses aides. Tom Seagle was the only licensed embalmer able to work. An embalmer was sent from Bluefield, and before the emergency was over, he had taken the flu and died. Burials went on day and night. John Crouse, the gravedigger, escaped having the flu, and worked 12- to 14-hour days digging graves.
Mayor Calfee put out a plea for relief funds, and the response was overwhelming. In response to Mayor’s Calfee’s plea for relief funds, people were sending money from all over the country. The rest of the nation had not suffered to the extent that Pulaski County did, as far as death was concerned, but there was still enough influenza to do a lot of damage. After mid-October, the epidemic began to wane, with fewer deaths reported each day. Doctors and nurses from other places were leaving to go back home, and the Elks Club members were soon back in their building that had brought relief to so many critically ill people. The epidemic took the lives of 125 Pulaski County citizens, 92 of them being from the Town of Pulaski. Everyone had shown just what Pulaskians were made of, as has proved to be the case in future bad times the town experienced.
On the first Sunday in November of 1918, citizens of the town were greeted with the sound of bells as services were resumed in local churches.
Lloyd Mathews is a retired land surveyor and a historian who lives in Pulaski.

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1918 flu epidemic revisited

This is a continuation of a previous column concerning the flu epidemic of 1918 in Pulaski County:
In a proclamation Pulaski’s Mayor Calfee wrote, “All of the people are hereby called upon to implicitly obey the injunctions of this proclamation in letter and in spirit, and to offer themselves freely and gladly to the work of cooperation and service to the end that the suffering and disaster which have taken so many lives may speedily give way before our united efforts.”
This is a continuation of a previous column concerning the flu epidemic of 1918 in Pulaski County:
In a proclamation Pulaski’s Mayor Calfee wrote, “All of the people are hereby called upon to implicitly obey the injunctions of this proclamation in letter and in spirit, and to offer themselves freely and gladly to the work of cooperation and service to the end that the suffering and disaster which have taken so many lives may speedily give way before our united efforts.”
The central relief committee then set out to appointing zone committees to be responsible for relief work. Fourteen such three member committees went to work, beginning Oct. 5, checking each home. In some homes they found that the entire family was afflicted with the dreaded malady. A report of their findings showed that on that date 1,714 people were suffering from flu, and by Sunday, Oct. 2, 2,000 of the town’s 6,000 citizens were sick. All church services were canceled, and worn-out doctors, pharmacists and undertakers were carrying on with no rest. It was decided by the mayor’s office to set up an emergency hospital in the Elk’s Club Building, under the supervision of several local ladies who had nursing experience. These ladies were Mrs. J.W. Miller, Mrs. E.V. Jameson, Mrs. H.W. Steger and Mrs. D.G Robinson.
Beds, cots and supplies were moved in, and people from other places were calling in to volunteer as Roanoke druggists were helping to fill prescriptions in the local drug stores.
Rev. Thomas Opie of Christ Episcopal Church, finding so many people without proper food, established a soup kitchen, and with the help of Ed Calfee, T.J. Whitaker, J. F. McNew and E.C. Harden, along with volunteer cooks, started sending hot soup to the sick wherever needed.
On “Blue Monday,” Oct. 7, 1918, the local paper reported 27 deaths in Pulaski over the weekend. All the medical people and the undertakers were behind on their work. Conway Smith later wrote that on that day, Pulaski was a ghost town. But he wrote, “Under the leadership of Mayor Ernest Calfee, the town is fast girding for the battle.” From the town relief center in the mayor’s office, operations were being directed around the clock. The reeling town was fighting back.
On Tuesday, Oct. 8, the epidemic was still raging on. Three more doctors and several nurses came in, and more pharmacists were promised. On Wednesday, Oct. 9, The Southwest Times reported that the town was still in the disease’s grip, but the united effort of all who were working indicated the beginning of improvement conditions. Six more people had died on the previous day, and the emergency hospital held over 70 patients. At the same time, the Public Health Service was pulling doctors out of the town of Pulaski and sending them to Dublin where conditions had worsened.
Fatigue hit the nurses, and at the mayor’s insistence, more Pulaski ladies were volunteering as nurses aides. Tom Seagle was the only licensed embalmer able to work. An embalmer was sent from Bluefield, and before the emergency was over, he had taken the flu and died. Burials went on day and night. John Crouse, the gravedigger, escaped having the flu, and worked 12- to 14-hour days digging graves.
Mayor Calfee put out a plea for relief funds, and the response was overwhelming. In response to Mayor’s Calfee’s plea for relief funds, people were sending money from all over the country. The rest of the nation had not suffered to the extent that Pulaski County did, as far as death was concerned, but there was still enough influenza to do a lot of damage. After mid-October, the epidemic began to wane, with fewer deaths reported each day. Doctors and nurses from other places were leaving to go back home, and the Elks Club members were soon back in their building that had brought relief to so many critically ill people. The epidemic took the lives of 125 Pulaski County citizens, 92 of them being from the Town of Pulaski. Everyone had shown just what Pulaskians were made of, as has proved to be the case in future bad times the town experienced.
On the first Sunday in November of 1918, citizens of the town were greeted with the sound of bells as services were resumed in local churches.
Lloyd Mathews is a retired land surveyor and a historian who lives in Pulaski.

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