Orange County, North Carolina historic information cache - The Spanish Influenza Epidemic in Orange County
The Spanish Influenza Epidemic in Orange County
by Annie S. Cameron, 1919
Shortly after the opening of the University for the year 1918-19 cases of Spanish influenza began to appear. In a short while scores had been stricken with the disease. In the very first days of the epidemic the Red Cross volunteered its services and began helping the physicians. The co-eds of the University were called upon to make face masks for the doctors and nurses in the various emergency hospitals. Two hundred and eighty-six masks were made, as well as one hundred and seventy arm bands for the attendants in the hospital. For weeks Miss Helen Shell, Miss Katherine Bourne and Mrs. Kent Brown did volunteer nursing in the University hospital, while other women were aiding stricken families all over the village. As the epidemic spread to Carrboro the need for volunteer nurses became more imperative. A committee composed of Misses Josie Pritchard and Helen Shell and Mrs. Kent Brown and Mrs. William deB. MacNider, assisted by others, worked night and day relieving the distressing conditions of the stricken people. Mr. J. S. Carr gave the use of the club rooms for a diet kitchen, paying all expenses for the maintenance of the same. Mrs. R. B. Lawson and Mrs. Arthur Blackwood volunteered to take charge of the kitchen and for two weeks served nourishing meals of soup, bread and milk. At least seven gallons of soup were served daily. Each morning two orderlies visited the various homes of the village to obtain an accurate report of the needs of the people, so that these needs might be supplied. This record would be incomplete without mentioning Miss Roper, who left a remunerative position as nurse for Mrs. McDade and ministered to the University boys afflicted with influenza. Although ill herself, for days she stayed at her post until forced by the physicians to give up. In a few days pneumonia developed, and this brave woman died, having truly given her life for others.

On Monday, October 7, 1918, the County Commissioners closed all the schools and churches and forbade all public gatherings in order to escape an epidemic of Spanish influenza. Dr. D. H. Hill, State Chairman of the Council of Defense, sent letters to all County Chairmen warning them of the spread of Spanish influenza, which was threatening the whole country. In this letter he made suggestions as to what steps should be taken, etc.

In accordance with this, Mr. J. C. Webb called a meeting of the representative men to meet with the County Commissioners and plans were made for Relief Work. It was realized at this meeting that there was no County Board of Health, and so one was created, with Dr. Spoon of Hillsboro as County Health Officer, who with the following constitute the Board of Health: Dr. B. B. Lloyd; Ed N. Cates Chmn. Co. Board of Commissioners; Jeff Turner, Mayor of Hillsboro; R. H. Claytor, County Supt. of Schools.

Mr. T. N. Webb was appointed County Chairman of the Relief Work, with Dr. J. S. Spurgeon to represent the Hillsboro School District. The other districts were as follows:

Mr. Sterling Browning, representing the Eno District.
Mr. Carl Forrest, representing the Efland District.
Mr. John P. Hughes, representing the Cedar Grove District.
Mr. Eubanks, representing the Chapel Hill District.

Rev. Harvey Bradshaw was appointed to have charge of the town of Hillsboro and Mr. C. H. Robertson that of West End.

On October 7, the Board of Health ordered the closing of all churches, schools, theatres, etc., and forbade all meetings of every kind, in order to prevent, if possible, a spread of the disease which had already broken out in the community.

With the appearance of the first case, assistance was given in nursing and furnishing suitable nourishment and necessities by citizens of the town, and Dr. Spurgeon's family, Rev. Mr. Bradshaw, Miss Nellie Russell, and Mr. Chester Turner were among the first to render aid and continued to do all in their power.

When the epidemic spread to the Eno Mill district, the officials of the mill opened a diet kitchen at the West Hill school, and financed it for about seven weeks. Miss Elizabeth Cornelius, Home Demonstration Agent, was placed in charge of this undertaking and proved herself most efficient and faithful throughout the long siege. Without her it could not have been accomplished. Mr. C. H. Robertson supervised this work and rendered every assistance possible, and as chairman of West Hill was untiring in his efforts to do everything in his power. Misses Emma Robertson and Mildred Durham were Miss Cornelius' assistants during the entire time and Miss Rebecca Wall also rendered valuable aid for several weeks. As many as 150 people were fed daily for some time, and an average of 90 for most of the time. Not only the sick were furnished with nourishment, but the families with no one to cook or provide for them were furnished with the proper diet. Mrs. Emerson and Miss Allie Graham were secured by the Mill to do nursing, and Miss Duncan, the deaconess at the Mills, with these two, rendered most valuable service and gave unstintingly of their time and strength. After preparing the nourishment the ladies at the diet kitchen went with the nurses to deliver it where it was needed.

Eno Mill also secured another trained nurse, Miss Whitfield, and Bellevue Mill secured Miss Smith from Durham. Mr. Chester Turner and Ross Turner (colored) did noble service as volunteer nurses wherever the need arose.

As County Chairman, Mr. T. H. Webb was most active and efficient and untiring in his labors, and was especially helpful when the need was great in the Bellevue district. He and Mrs. Webb sent food and clothing to those in need.

Rev. Mr. Bradshaw worked long and faithfully when the epidemic extended into the town, collecting and delivering nourishment furnished and made by ladies throughout the town. He was assisted in this by Mrs. J. C. Webb driving him to the homes where he had to go, and when it was impossible for Mrs. Webb to continue, a car and driver were furnished by Mr. J. C. Webb for this purpose until the epidemic was past.

As soon as the need for nurses was felt, Miss Henrietta Collins volunteered to go wherever needed, and later Miss Virgie Cole volunteered, but they were not called upon to serve.

The Relief Work was organized and carried on by the County Board of Health, but most if not all workers were members of the Red Cross. Below are the minutes of a meeting held in connection with this work.

A special meeting of the Executive Committee of the Red Cross was held October 26th, at 10:00 o'clock in Major Graham's office. There were present Major Graham, Mr. Robertson, Mrs. J. C. Webb, Mrs. W. H. Webb, Mr. T. N. Webb, Mr. N. W. Brown, Miss H. P. Collins, Mr. Bradshaw and Dr. Spurgeon. This meeting was for the purpose of co-operating with the Committee for the Relief of the Influenza Epidemic, of which committee Mr. T. N. Webb is County Chairman. A motion was carried that there be appointed a chairman of a Nursing Committee of each of the two school districts to whom application may be made for nurses to serve anywhere in our jurisdiction, a record of volunteers to be reported to the Secretary, who was to keep it. Mr. T. N. Webb was appointed Chairman of this Committee for the West Hill School District and Miss Russell for the Hillsboro District.

A canvass of the town was made the day of this Red Cross meeting to tell the people of the need for nurses and to ask for volunteers who might be called upon if necessary. The Red Cross was asked to furnish gauze face masks and this work was done at the work room as long as a supply was needed.

The ladies of the Red Cross were asked to make garments for the sick in emergency cases, and this was gladly done at a moment's notice. People were very generous in furnishing butter-milk and soup not only those in town but a quantity of milk was furnished by people out of town, especially east of town. The Rev. Mr. Hester, Mr. and Mrs. C. H. Robertson, and Mrs. J. C. Webb alternatively collected this milk for use at West Hill and in town. Among those who helped by serving or furnishing nourishment are:

Miss Hattie Kirkland,
Mrs. Giles,
Mrs. Tom Jackson,
Mrs. Frank Weaver,
Mrs. James Scarlett,
Mrs. Jesse Martin,
Mrs. Cain Roberts,
Mrs. John Bacon,
Mrs. W. Y. Walker,
Mrs. J. W. Walker,
Mrs. P. S. Walker,
Mrs. John W. Jackson,
Mrs. John Sharp,
Mrs. W. D. Benton,
Mrs. W. H. Webb,
Mrs. E. M. Lockhart,
Mrs. Charles Andrews,
Mrs. W. A. Hayes,
Miss Sue Hayes,
Mrs. P. C. Collins,
Mrs. W. L. Wall,
Miss H. P. Collins,
Miss Mary A. Collins,
Mrs. Jos. C. Webb,
Mrs. James Newman,
Mrs. Mollie E. Latta,
Mrs. T. N. Webb,
Mrs. J. S. Spurgeon,
Miss Pattie Spurgeon,
Miss Mary Spurgeon,
Mrs. Shepperd Strudwick,
Mrs. Tom Arrowsmith,
Miss Annie Strudwick,
The Misses Cate,
Gen. J. S. Carr,
Miss Margaret Webb,
Miss Mary Webb,
Miss Sarah Webb,
Miss Helen Webb,
Miss Margaret Forrest,
Miss Josephine Forrest,
Miss Virgie Cole,
Miss Lillie Bivins,
Miss Reba Reeves,
Mrs. James Webb,
Mrs. Claud Sharp,
Mrs. W. A. Heartt,
Miss Rebecca Wall,
Miss E. R. Hamilton,
Miss Annie Cameron,
Mrs. George Lynch,
Mrs. S. W. Oldham.

Influenza deaths in and around Hillsboro:

Robt. Adams, Oct. 19, 1918.
Frank Riley, October 20, 1918.
James Jones (col.) Oct. 24, 1918.
Jim Jones (col.) Oct. 1918.
Mrs. Lacy Marlette, Nov. 1918

Influenza deaths in Chapel Hill:

W. McB. Bunting, non-resident,
Robt. L. Temple, non-resident,
K. McKoy Scott, non-resident,
Josephine T. Hannah, non-resident,
John N. Alston,
Bessie Corinna Roper,
Edward Kidder Graham,
Veron Herndon,
Mary Louise Strowd.

Influenza deaths in Carrboro:

Henry Joseph Burgess,
Rosa A. Clark,
Mrs. Ida Biggs Vaughan,
John A. Foushee,
Sidney Cates,
Martha Blackwood,
Nonie Burgess,
Donnie Williams King (infant)
James O. Hargraves (colored)
Melvina Jones, (colored)
Queen Victoria Brewer, (colored)

Cedar Grove:

There were about 375 cases of Spanish influenza in Cedar Grove Township and only four deaths. The epidemic lasted until the second week in December.

Influenza deaths at Little River Township:

Mrs. Ida Wagoner,
Dock Parrish,
Ed Hester (Colored)

After Christmas a second epidemic of Spanish influenza spread through the county and was very bad at Cedar Grove, Efland and Hillsboro. However the schools and churches did not close and the epidemic gradually died down.

Additional list of those helping during the epidemic:

Miss Cornelius,
Miss Emma Robertson,
Miss Mildred Durham,
Mr. C. H. Robertson,
Mr. Will Jordan,
Rev. H. S. Bradshaw,
Mrs. S. W. Oldham,
Mr. C. D. Turner,
Mr. Jas. H. Webb,
Mr. J. H. Knight,
Miss Duncan,
Mr. T. N. Webb,
Mr. Calvin Lassiter,
Mrs. C. H. Robertson,
Mr. W. H. Webb,
Mr. O. O. Mangum,
Ross Turner (colored)
Mrs. James Newman,
Mr. C. McD. Andrews,
Mrs. Jas. H. Webb,
Mrs. Emmerson.

Cameron, Annie S. A Record of the War Activities in Orange County, North Carolina, 1917-1919.

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