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 Sayres’ 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: 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 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 tent hospitals and proved to be tireless angels to the sick.
October 14, 1918: Epidemic shows increase; to reach crest this week; Plan Hospitals in Sayre. 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 ouncer of cheese, no sugar bowl on tables no and bacon to be served.
October 15, 1918: Scores of new victims in Influenza Epidemic. 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: 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 bring 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: 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: 1415 cases in Sayre. Sixty-four cases reported to the Board of Health yesterday bringing the total cases reported to 1415.
October 28, 1918: 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 1523.
October 29, 1918: Thirty-three new Sayre cases bringing the total to 1605.
October 30, 1918: Fewer cases in Sayre thirty-nine new cases bringing the total to 1644. Sayre druggists report a growing scarcity of drugs.
November 4, 1918: 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 Valley 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 a founding member and a current board member of the Sayre Historical Society. He is also president of the Bradford County Historical Society.