History seems to be repeating itself.
Around this time about a hundred years ago, an infectious respiratory disease was spreading across the land. Similar to today’s COVID-19 response, people were confined to their homes as events and gatherings were canceled as a preventative measure.
From fall 1918, to the early winter 1919, America was fighting abroad against Germany in World War I and at home against the deadly germ known as Spanish Influenza.
On Oct. 3, 1918, The Cobb County Times reported that because of the epidemic in the Army camps, the training of 142,000 draft registrants was canceled. The Surgeon General’s office reported 6,139 new cases of the flu were reported with 170 deaths resulting, chiefly from pneumonia, and 723 new cases of pneumonia. Only 13 camps were free of the disease at that time.
The Marietta public schools, theaters, churches and other gathering places were ordered closed by the Marietta and Cobb County Boards of Health as a preventative measure, the Oct. 11, 1918, edition of the Marietta Journal and Courier paper reported.
A large revival at the First Baptist Church, being conducted by Rev. J.W. Ham of Atlanta, was closed early.
Also that day, workers in the Smyrna and Marietta Red Cross chapters were said to have filled an allotment of “partition sheets” made into 1,000 contagion ward masks. A second batch of 1,000, made by Marietta, Smyrna, Roswell and Acworth’s chapters, were delivered by car down to the Depot in Atlanta.
Work on a stretch of road between the Butlers and Fair Oaks districts was reported in the Oct. 17, 1918, Times as halting because 28 out of 32 county prisoners on the road gang had come down with the flu.
By Oct. 24, 1918, the Times reported that city health officer Dr. J.D. Malone was recommending the lifting of the closure of schools and public places. Dr. Malone and other city physicians said the disease had not spread as expected and there were not many new cases. Also that day, draft calls were reported as going out again as three members of the First National Bank staff and four out of the 12 telephone operators in the local office of Southern Bell Telephone Company were reported as being out with the flu.
The Times also reported that day that Marietta merchant T.W. Read had tried a unique flu prevention method recommended by a friend. Read sprinkled a little bit of sulfur into his shoes each morning for a few days and had yet to contract the flu.
In the Oct. 25, 1918, Journal, it was reported that the 51 men initially ordered to report to Fort Screven were all dismissed since half a dozen of them had the disease.
On Oct. 31, 1918, the Times said that the influenza situation in Marietta had improved, but in other towns throughout the state it was getting worse and that many of them had called on the city of Atlanta for medical assistance.
The Dec. 5, 1918, Times reported on the statistics released by the Bureau of Public Health in Washington, D.C. The article said 350,000 people had died in the U.S. as a result of the flu from Sept. 15 to Dec. 1, 1918, and that 20,000 deaths happened in the Army camps. Insurance companies were said to have paid out over $170 million in claims as a result of the deaths.
A full-page Red Cross advertisement in the Dec. 12, 1918, Times included a list of things for people to remember. The list consisted of “the Halifax explosion, the San Francisco earthquake, the Titanic disaster, the Dayton flood, the Triangle Waist Co. fire, the Perth Amboy explosion, the Galveston flood, the Eastland wreck, the Messina earthquake and the recent terrible Influenza epidemic.”
On Dec. 19, 1918, the Times reported the flu had returned throughout Marietta and Cobb County’s districts. The article said “several prominent citizens were confined to their rooms during the past week” and “there does not seem to be any indications of a decline in the number of cases.”
In the Jan. 17, 1919, Journal, the number of flu cases reported to the state Board of Health for 1918 was listed as 30,768, but “a great many cases of flu were never reported at all, so that the actual number will never be known.”
One of Marietta’s worst tragedies involving the flu was reported in the Jan. 30, 1919, Times where Charles Hendrix, 53; his wife, Roxie Hendrix, 49, and their 7-year-old daughter, Annie, all died at their home on Nelson Street.