The only daily newspaper from Bradford County that survived the test of time for the year 1918 is the Towanda Daily Review. The following is a chronology from that paper for the fall of 1918 when the Flu Pandemic hit this area:
September 23, 1918: The first mention of a flu epidemic in the paper was ‘Flu’ Reported in Army Camps. Extensive epidemics of influenza have been reported from Camp Devens, MA; Camp Upton, Long Island; Camp Dix, NJ and Camp Lee, VA. The disease was expected to appear in other camps soon.
September 30, 1918: Wyalusing Boy is Flu Victim. Robert C. Wade age 23, succumbs to Spanish Influenza at Camp Dix.
October 3, 1918: Health Board Closes all Public Places to Prevent Spanish Influenza Epidemic: In pursuance to the above communication from the Commissioner of Health, called a special meeting. The board passed a resolution as follows:
It is ordered that all public places of amusement, all churches, public and private schools and Sunday schools, be closed until further action and notice and that all public meetings and gatherings of any kind are prohibited. This included theaters, picture shows, saloons, pool rooms and dance halls.
October 7, 1918 Sayre: Bar Rooms in Sayre are closed, bar rooms and places of amusement, Sayre was leaving the closing of school and churches up to the clergymen and teachers. A physician present at Sayre’s Health Board meeting stated that he had treated sixteen cases of the influenza that day.
October 8, 1918: First Death in ‘Flu’ Epidemic. The first death from Spanish Influenza reported in Bradford County occurred last night at the Packer Hospital in Sayre, when Mrs. George Sinsabaugh age 22, succumbed to an attack of pneumonia contracted while recovering from the epidemic.
October 9, 1918: Thirty Influenza Cases reported in Towanda Borough. The epidemic is assuming alarming proportions in spite of all the efforts of the medical authorities to stem its tide.
October 10, 1918: With the State quarantine but three days old Bradford County is already feeling severe effects from the epidemic of Spanish Influenza. In the Borough of Towanda alone 30 cases of severe nature were reported. In the village of Masten the epidemic seems to be at its worst. The epidemic is assuming alarming proportions. Robert Fitzgerald of Sayre a yard conductor for the Lehigh dropped as though he was shot through the heart yesterday morning and at the Packer Hospital it was ascertained that he was suffering from Spanish Influenza. Sayre Schools closed because of the epidemic. When school opened on October 9, it was found that five teachers and 350 pupils were absent.
October 11, 1918: Lid closed on Sayre. The schools, ice cream parlors and all churches of Sayre must remain closed until permission to open. No indoor meeting of any kind will be permitted. Open air meetings were allowed. Waverly schools were closed at noon yesterday due to the Spanish Influenza which has gotten a strong hold on the village.
October 13, 1918: Call for supplies: those owning iron beds, cots, sheets, pillow cases, and muslin which they would like to contribute for emergency need are asked to communicate immediately with Miss Betts so that there will be no delay in case an emergency hospital is opened in Towanda. Athens and Sayre form organization to stamp out pestilence. Appeal made for nurses and nurses’ aides. Three hundred serious cases reported in County. The Sisters of Mercy from St. Agnes school in Towanda volunteered to work in the emergency hospitals and proved to be tireless angels to the sick.
October 14, 1918: Epidemic shows increase; to reach crest this week; Towanda yesterday experienced its second churchless Sunday as a result of the order of the Health Board in its fight against the influenza epidemic. The epidemic is increasing throughout Bradford County according to a statement yesterday of Dr. D. Leonard Pratt, county representative of the State Health Department. Two emergency tent hospitals will be erected for the patients in Sayre. One being designated for men and the second for women. Tents will be brought from Owego and work started on the erection today, cots will be furnished by the Lehigh Valley Railroad. Mrs. H. S. Fish has been placed in charge of the civilian relief work. The relief headquarters is located at the Sayre Canteen. Mrs. Anna Cash was appointed to take charge of relief work in Athens. Waverly closed all churches and places of amusement.
October 14, 1918: Drastic regulations for public eating places announced for County. Twelve orders to include no bread to be served, one portion of meat, one half ounce of cheese, no sugar bowl on tables and no bacon to be served.
October 15, 1918: Scores of new victims in Influenza Epidemic reported in Towanda yesterday and large totals for many other sections of this county, the present epidemic sweeping the county. Canton and Troy have large numbers of cases but few of a serious nature.
LeRaysville has a large number. Unofficial estimates for the entire county are that the disease has caused more than 30 deaths. Sayre and Athens had no encouraging reports as the disease is still rampant in all sections. The number of cases in the two towns yesterday was in excess of 800 with 50 new cases reported. The Lehigh Valley and Ingersoll Rand were both crippled due to staff illness.
October 16, 1918: In Towanda the situation is improving but in order to provide any possible emergency a temporary hospital has been fitted up in the Presbyterian Chapel, equipped with four beds and placed in the charge of Nellie Scanlon a graduate nurse and one of the best known nurses in Towanda. Beds will be added as the need arises. With the passing of the third day of sorrow for Sayre the epidemic in that town has reached alarming proportions and now desperate measures are being made to check the rapid progress. Yesterday eighty-five cases added making the number being treated 980. Athens reported more than 300 victims the same day.
October 17, 1918: Red Cross gives out flu masks. Masks made of several thicknesses of cheesecloth were given by the Red Cross to doctors and nurses to protect them from inhaling the germs in the sick room. Only one member of the Sayre Police Force was able to show up for work on October 16.
October 18, 1918: Another death in Sayre. The first death in the emergency hospital at Sayre was reported yesterday. John Palumbo died at the tent hospital in the rear of the People’s Hospital.
October 19, 1918: Seventy-Three new victims in Sayre. In Sayre and Athens, the situation is still critical, but improvement is expected early next week. Seventy-three new cases were reported in Sayre yesterday in contrast to 103 for the previous day. The number of deaths yesterday in Athens and Sayre was smaller than any other time.
October 21, 1918: The first death occurred at the emergency hospital in Towanda on Saturday morning when George Whyte, 33 years old of North Towanda, succumbed at the hospital after a brief illness of typhoid pneumonia. Athens and Sayre situation is serious. Sayre yesterday had little let up in the epidemic sweeping that town and valley 89 new cases being reported during the day., The total number of cases reported by the board of health now at 1074.
October 22, 1918: 84 new Sayre cases. There was a marked decrease in the increase of Spanish Influenza cases reported for Saturday and Sunday the total of the two days at 84. It appears the epidemic is beginning to wane.
October 25, 1918: In Towanda three new cases were admitted to the emergency hospital making a total of twenty receiving treatment.1415 cases in Sayre. Sixty-four cases reported to the Board of Health yesterday bringing the total cases reported to 1415.
October 28, 1918: Further abatement of the influenza epidemic was reported for Towanda over the weekend, the total number of new cases for Saturday and Sunday being lower than those of many single days total last week. The continued abatement of the disease is expected to bring about a lightening of the quarantine ruling here. Fewer cases in Sayre for the first time since the epidemic began the number of new cases dropped below 50; 45 cases brought the new total to 1,523.
October 29, 1918: LeRaysville is gaining in the fight against the disease according to last night’s reports and Canton also shows improvement. Nine new hospital cases in Towanda with the total being treated at 28. Among the new patients just admitted are Mrs. Cornelius Vanderpool and two sons all three of whom are in rather serious condition. Mrs. Vanderpool last night was reported in a critical condition, but it is believed she will recover. A baby of East Towanda is among the new patients. Thirty-three new Sayre cases bringing the total to 1605. No change in quarantine has been considered for the present week.
October 30, 1918: Fewer cases in Sayre thirty-nine new cases bringing the total to 1644. Sayre druggists report a growing scarcity of drugs.
October 31, 1918: Athens, Canton and LeRaysville, other places where the epidemic raged for several weeks, yesterday reported decided decreases for the first three days of the week.
The remainder of the county apparently is recovering from the ravages of the disease. The emergency hospital in Towanda reported a total of 29 patients last night, three new admissions being made during the day. None of the patients were discharges but it is expected that three will be discharged today as a result of their rapid recovery. With the exception of four children, three babies, the general condition of the patients are good. Two of the babies, however, are in critical condition.
November 4, 1918: Fewer influenza cases were reported in Towanda over the weekend than any time since the start of the epidemic. While the danger is not yet passed it is believed by local physicians that the continuance of the quarantine during the present week will see the danger entirely past and the local cases reduced to a minimum.
Meanwhile the situation at Lopez where several hundred cases have been reported is showing little signs of improvement. An epidemic of serious proportions is gripping the lumber town of Laquin. Emergency supplies and physicians from Towanda were sent to Lopez and Laquin.
The tents used as an emergency hospital in Sayre were taken down and sent to Laquin, Barclay Mountain for use by the scores of patients there.
The flu continued to be problematic for the Bradford County for the rest of 1918. In December it was reported that 100 employees of the Ingersoll Rand were off work due to the flu. The disease was prevalent throughout the winter of 1919.
Henry Farley is president of the Bradford County Historical Society.