Patty Jex and her husband Grant are dear neighborhood friends. I asked her if I could share this entry from her great-grandmother’s written memories of Star Valley, Wyoming, and their 1918 battle with the Spanish Flu. I then went looking for written memories of those living here in Syracuse during the 1918 pandemic. Since I have found none to this date, please share with me, from your family histories’ written records, what it was like in Syracuse in 1918. When sharing this excerpt from her ancestor’s journal, Patty reported, “This gave me some helpful perspective to what we are going through with COVID”:
Helen was six weeks old when Esse came home one day and told me Dr. West had asked him to go into the home of Ernst and Hulda Hoopes to help them. Hulda had lost a premature baby, they had milk cows and stock to care for, and Ern himself was in bed too. Dr. promised him if he would do as he told him to, he would not take the flu.
I’ll never forget my fear as I took our two little children and Esse drove the team down to the Hoopes home, 1 1/2 miles north of Fairview. I drove back alone and unhooked the horses and turned them into the field.
Esse was to wear a formaldehyde mask each time he went into the sick rooms and wash his hands in water with formaldehyde when he came out.
Up the road nearer Fairview, another niece of Esse (Hulda was a niece) Rileys Hoopes and his family were all down too. His wife was Luella Harmon Hoopes, and she was very seriously ill. Luella’s Aunt Luella Wilkes of Afton, mentioned earlier in my story, had come to care for this family as did a neighbor lady, Lettie D. Campbell.
Luella, the mother of this little family, a husband and three children, died. Esse came to help these two ladies. They prepared her body for burial, and Esse helped them place her in the casket.
There could be no funeral service. Men from Fairview brought clothes and a casket in back of a white-topped buggy. They drove to the canal just inside Rileys gate, then fastened a piece of wire to the bridle bit of one horse; Esse was not to drive them or touch the harness.
He led the team to the house, wading the canal, and backed them up to the bedroom window. With the two women helping Esse, they managed to get the casket out the window and into the back of the buggy, and Esse led the team out to the gate, again, wading the canal. That’s how frightened some people were.1
I ask of you another favor: There will be a written record of how the City of Syracuse managed the COVID-19 pandemic. That will be a municipal record. May I ask each family in Syracuse, if you choose, to send me a written record (500-words or less), containing your experiences as a family with the pandemic? I intend to preserve these stories by submitting them to the museum. I will respond to each record received.
Thank you: firstname.lastname@example.org
Mayor Mike Gailey
– – –
1 Excerpt pp 47-49 of Mother’s Memories by Estella B. Harmon, provided by Syracuse resident, Patty Jex. Please note: all misspellings and grammatical errors, as written in the journal, have been corrected for ease of reading.