With the arrival of the long-prayed-for Armistice of Nov.11, 1918, it was hoped that conscription into the armed forces, casualty lists in newspapers, rationing and separation from loved ones was at an end and "good times" might again prevail, but one enemy was not yet subdued: the so-called "Spanish Flu," also called "la grippe."
It is estimated that this medical malady killed from 20 to 100 million persons worldwide. About 675,000 Americans died during the Influenza Pandemic of 1918-1919. In comparison, one estimate is that World War I cost the United States 117,500 civilian and military dead.
A century ago, during the first months of 1919, the "flu" was claiming the lives of Iredell residents. It is peculiar that the pandemic began with influenza which developed into pneumonia, the real killer. Spain had no more to do with the disease than any other country, but the name stuck. Of interest also is the fact that it was usually middle-aged people, those 20 to 40, who became ill and died, rather than infants or the elderly.
The Jan. 28, 1919, Landmark carried a column titled, “Medical Fraternity Baffled by Influenza,” which showed how confounded the medical authorities were. The week that ended Jan. 18, 1919, had shown an increase in the number of cases of influenza reported in Alabama, Arkansas, Connecticut, Florida, Louisiana, North Carolina, Oregon, South Carolina, Vermont, Virginia and Washington. However, for some unknown reason, a decrease in new cases was observed in eight scattered states.
The article concluded, “We can’t tell, where to expect a spread of the disease, or whether it will be severe or mild, said an official today. The reports which have come in every week from all the States show rises and falls that may or may not be the result of atmospheric or weather conditions.”
Much of our local information came from rural correspondents to the Landmark newspaper. These invaluable people also collected news of marriages, births, deaths, visits to and from relatives, church and school doings, local construction and so forth. They also reported on storms, the condition of local crops, the conditions of the local livestock, fires and floods. Here follows the news from the New Hope community of northwestern Iredell, as reported by Mr. A. H. Shaver, under the headline, “Bury Eight in Nine Days.” Shaver’s entire column centered on the flu and was published on Feb. 4,1919:
"Since the last letter from this point, five more deaths have occurred. Mr. Bill Rupard has suffered most severely, having lost his entire family, except two married daughters. The first to die was his only son, already reported; next his baby girl, aged 9 years, then his 15-year-old daughter, and last his mother. Mr. Tewit Rupard, nephew of William and son of Perry Rupard, was buried about the same time his aunt was, he being the second of the family, his sister, already reported, being the first to succumb. His young wife survives.
"The year-old child of Mr. and Mrs. Wildy Welborn was also a victim of influenza. Eight corpses were interred in the cemetery within nine days at Taylor Springs [Baptist]Church. May He who doeth all things well, comfort all the bereaved and help us all to appreciate health and each other more.
"Mr. Munroe Williams made a circuit through the community every morning for several days to see if any needed help.
"Mr. Don Redman is home from Greensboro to take the needed rest after an attack of influenza.
"Mr. Cart Barker has moved from this section to the Harmony community and your scribe would have been gone to the same section had not the influenza interrupted.
"Miss Kistler, who was assistant teacher at Taylor Springs, writes to some of her pupils that she has had a tussle with the influenza. She will not return to resume her work. It is understood that Mr. Clyde Williams will take her place if the school is taken up again.”
Mr. Shavers’ New Hope column concluded with a little bit of good news: “A little girl arrived at Mr. R. C. Redman's in the midst of the influenza epidemic,” he reported, “but it and its mother are both getting on fine."