The North Bend Eagle


In December 1918 the Nebraska Board of Health declared the Spanish flu a quarantinable disease. The North Bend Board of Health posted notices similar to this on infected homes.

Spanish flu returns for one more deadly go

by Nathan Arneal
Published 1/30/19

It is late October 1918.

World War I is in its final weeks, but another world war is raging in homes and hospitals around the globe.


• Read a sample from Part 1 of the Eagle's story on the Spanish flu.
Read more on the theory that the 1918-1919 flu pandemic began in January 1918 in a rual Kansas county.
More information on the Three Waves of the epidemic, and why the Spanish flu attacked healthy, young to middle aged people more than other flus.
See Nathan's research notes from contemporary coverage of the epidemic from the North Bend Eagle. (pdf)

In North Bend, 16 people have died of Spanish flu in less than three weeks. One day, Oct. 18, saw four people die. It is estimated that half of all the homes in the area are infected with influenza. Some family members are too sick to attend the funerals of their children, siblings or parents.

For two weeks now, since Oct. 5, public gatherings have been banned in North Bend. No school. No church. The streets are eerily quiet as interaction with friends and neighbors is all but abandoned.

By Oct. 24, more than 25,000 cases of the Spanish flu statewide have been reported to the state board of health in Lincoln.

Halloween comes and goes in North Bend with very little fanfare.

The most recent draft of 7,000 would-be Nebraskan soldiers is put on hold after Governor Keith Neville sends a telegram to the U.S. War Department informing it of the influenza situation. All future drafts are put on hold as well.
However, there is light at the end of the tunnel.

After a string of six deaths in six days from Oct. 18 to Oct. 23, no one dies of the flu for the next week.

The state board of health declares that it will lift the statewide ban on public gatherings as of Saturday, Nov. 2, though local boards of health may make their own decisions. North Bend mayor Alexander Thom, who was also the chairman of the local board of health, announces that North Bend will follow the lead of the state board and lift the ban on public gatherings that has been in place for 28 days.

Shot after refusing to wear flu mask
From the Oct. 2, 1918, Bellingham (Washington) Herald.
A man was shot after refusing to wear a mask, then charged for not wearing a mask.

Life begins to return to normal.

The North Bend Presbyterian Church says it will resume services Nov. 3: “Our churches ought to be crowded that day with a devout and worshipful people, thankful for spared lives and many other blessings.”

North Bend’s Lyric Theater resumes showing movies on Nov. 9. The Eagle is full of updates of people returning from the hospital having survived the fight against influenza.

Area schools reopen after a month of being closed. There was talk among state educators on how to make up the lost time, with the possibility of eliminating Christmas and spring vacations and even holding school on Saturdays “in order to complete the required amount of school work as early as possible to re­lease students for work on the farms.”

School boards around the state debate whether they should pay teachers for the time off during the flu outbreak.

Nebraska Attorney General Willis Reed ruled that school teachers were not legally entitled to draw salary for the time lost to the influenza outbreak.
Not every one agrees with that ruling. The Lincoln school board orders its teachers to be paid for the time lost to the flu because it planned to make up that time during Christmas and spring breaks. A few weeks later, in early December, state superintendent of schools William Clemmons ruled that teachers should be paid for the time schools were closed because of the flu. Fremont schools even hold classes on New Year’s Day.

“The Nebraska board of health esti­mates there are fewer influenza cases in the state at the present than at any time since the disease became prevalent,” writes the Nov. 7 North Bend Eagle.

Some areas of the state are still fighting the flu fight. As of Nov. 21, O’Neill and Holt County were still in rigid quarantine. School in Richardson County, closed now four weeks, would remain closed for another two.

The Dec. 5 Eagle reports that federal aid for combating Spanish influenza in Nebraska will be withdrawn at once. But elsewhere in the paper, an ominous note is included in the Webster Notes section: “The influenza seems to be increasing again in this vicinity.”

Read the full story in the print or e-edition.

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