FROM THE ARCHIVES – 1918 INFLUENZA PANDEMIC

A week or so ago Pastor Travis asked me if there were any records indicating what might have happened at First Lutheran during the 1918 Influenza Pandemic. So – I put on my mask, rang the bell by the “Round Desk” door and checked the archives.

Unfortunately, our weekly bulletins did not begin until 1925 and there are few records before that. However, we do have the minutes of the Ladies Aid Society from 1890 – 1949. During 1918 the ladies met twice a month.

The minutes for the September 24, 1918 meeting cover general routine matters. But then, turn the page in the Minute Book and read: “No meetings during October, November and December on account of the flu epidemic.” Meetings resumed the following January, 1919 – with the laconic statement “This is our first meeting since the flu epidemic. The meeting was called to order by the president and opened in the usual manner.” One further note mentioned, “Not being able to elect officers at the regular time [December], we proceeded to elect them.”

Additional information for the last months of 1918 is provided by the Colorado Springs Gazette. An article for October 5, 1918, headlined, “Drastic Closing Order Issued to Avert Influenza Epidemic,” noted the following:

“The most drastic and all-embracing closing order ever given in Colorado Springs was announced last night by Dr. George B. Gilmore city heath officer, after a conference with a committee of the El Paso County Medical Society. The order, which is intended to avert the outbreak of a general epidemic of influenza in the Pikes Peak Region, closes all schools, theaters, moving picture houses, the college, and every public meeting place of every character. There will be no church services tomorrow and pool rooms and other amusement places will be closed until further notice. Dr. Gilmore’s action was not intended as a final resort to meet a critical emergency but as a preventive measure which was better enforced now before the epidemic became general. . .. The health department, in effect, was said to be ‘locking the door before the horse thief arrived.’ Dr. Charles F. Gardiner, president of the Pikes Peak Chapter of the Red Cross stated: ‘My opinion is well known. I think everything should be closed before the trouble starts, not after it is too late.’”

-Mike Olsen

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