1918 Spanish Flu/Covid 19 Alfred and Ivy Burgess

So, today is the anniversary of the Covid-19 Pandemic. This year, for as slow as it has been, has gotten away from me. Last year at this time, my youngest had come home from college, worried that she was living in a dorm and that she would contract Covid. I agreed and we moved her home lock, stock and barrel. Her classes would continue but they had moved all classes to online study to finish out her freshman year. Covid-19 was everywhere. At one point in March, I’d decided I better get to the grocery store to fill up my cart with flour, eggs, meat, and anything I thought we’d be able to use. It was devastating to walk into a Walmart Grocery Store and see row after row of empty shelves. I ended up leaving with a box of cake mix and some canned peaches and that was it.  It was depressing. From there, I decided I’d better hit another grocery store, one that I knew was not as well shopped. I had better luck there but the prices of the food they had were exorbitant (which is why I only shopped there periodically, their prices were not raised because of the pandemic, they were just expensive). After that, I had my groceries delivered every week. No more choosing my own fruit and vegetables, no more making my dinner plans and instead basing my menu upon what the grocery store had delivered or what restaurant we had deliver food.

Almost all of our occasions were spent at home. On my birthday, we did go on a hike but we ate our takeout dinner in the car on the way home. Amazon became my friend. It was great to have a place to order anything I needed and get it to my house with relative ease. I got used to wearing a mask anytime I left my home but I really only felt comfortable at home.

This year has given me plenty of time to research and to think. I had been searching for a long time and I had spotted two ancestors, husband and wife, who had died within days of each other. I thought, oh dear, that is not a good sign.

Alfred Burgess and Iva (Ivy) Blossom Nichols Burgess

Ivy Burgess’ headstone
Alfred Burgess’ headstone

Alfred Burgess was born in Kansas on February 2, 1878, 6 years after his brother Henry Carter Burgess. Alfred is the youngest child of John and Rutha Burgess. Rutha was 42 years old when she had him. When Alfred was born, his oldest siblings were 20 and 22.

Alfred married Ivy B. Nichols Burgess on January 19, 1898 in Durant, Indian Territory. He was 20 years old and his bride was 16.

Alfred and Ivy’s marriage license

On the 1900 Census, they still lived in Durant, Indian Territory and Henry C. Burgess lived with them. Henry Carter Burgess was 28 years old and met his wife LuWilla while he lived there. Grandma Flora (Burgess, Hardin, True) was born in Durant as well.

By 1910, Alfred and Ivy had moved to Taylor, Texas.  Their oldest daughter Maybelle was born in 1903 (just one year younger than Flora), daughter Rosa was born in 1906 (one year younger than Aunt Ovola), and daughter Lora was born in March of 1910.

The next document that I found for Alfred was a WWI Selective Service System draft registration card.  

They were living in Taylor, Texas and his wife Ivy was listed as his next of kin.  He was working as a laborer and was 40 years old. His description was listed as medium build, medium height with blue eyes and starting to bald but brown hair.  This form was filled out in 1918. The next form was his death certificate.

At 44, On January 3, 1919, his physician began caring for Alfred. He died six days later. His cause of death was Pneumonia with a contributing factor of Influenza.

The Spanish Flu/Influenza Plague of 1918

When the 1918 Influenza pandemic began, it was not thought of something to be panicked about and symptoms were simple sore throat, fever and headache. People were advised to follow a healthy diet. As the soldiers who were stationed at forts began to exhibit more deadly symptoms, their cases were misdiagnosed as other diseases. At an army camp in Massachusetts, one soldier was sent to the hospital. The next day, it was 15 soldiers. At the pandemic’s worst point, 1,543 soldiers were diagnosed with the flu in one day. And so it goes.

That camp was 35 miles from Boston. From there, it spread to other cities until it had reached across the U.S.. By November, physicians said that death came fast upon the people suffering from influenza.

It was thought that the origins of the influenza pandemic began with a bird flu and that perhaps it had transmitted to a pig and from there to humans.

Alfred Burgess died on January 7, 1919 and his wife Ivy died on January 13, 1919, just a week apart.

When I first discovered that this couple had died so closely together, I was saddened. I had met my grandmother’s cousin Maybelle Carthen, as my grandmother stayed close to her. Here she is with my mother and Grandma Flora on a trip to Aunt Kay’s house in Fresno. Maybelle was 17 years old when her parents died, Rosa was 13 years old and Lora just 9 years old.

My mother Jubie, Maybelle, Flora in Fresno

Alfred’s brother Jimmie and his wife Maggie had one son, Ralph, who died at the age of 20 and one baby girl that had died early. Jimmie and Maggie took in all three of the girls and finished raising them.

Maggie Nichols Burgess and her sister. She took in and raised the three orphan girls.

Maybelle and OB Carthen celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary

Now, this pandemic has certainly brought home the anguish those who lived through the 1918 Pandemic must have gone through and the terrible devastation it would have left on their psyche.

I recently received my second shot of the Moderna vaccine. I decided to go grocery shopping last week. It had been a long time since I picked my own food off the shelves and I really missed buying what I saw in the store instead of what I had ordered. Walking down the aisles, I could only picture the empty shelves I’d seen the previous year. I still wear my mask at work (I’ve been tucked away in my office, by myself, for a year!) and anytime I go to a store or am near other people. Tomorrow, it will be two weeks since we received the second shot and after that, we can be with other people who have had both of their shots too. I can’t wait for that to happen. To gather with family and friends and not be panicked.  I feel so sad for all of the families who have had devastating losses and whose lives are forever transformed because of the pandemic. We can count our blessings that our family has arrived on March 12th intact, if not a little worse for the wear. I think I shall continue researching and will continue my work on my ancestry blog. It is time to get back to the business of living.

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