A newspaper’s reflection on the death toll from Spanish Flu in Schuylkill County – 1918

In October 1918, death was everywhere in Pottsville, Pennsylvania. Influenza had struck the seat of Schuylkill County and brought grief and sorrow to nearly every household. One writer noted that scenes outside their home, writing that “ambulances and hearses formed an almost constant stream of sad journeyings” to nearby cemeteries.

The “Spanish Flu” pandemic that spanned the globe had come to Pennsylvania’s Coal Region in the first days of October and killed hundreds, then thousands.

It is hard to put into words just how awful that deadly month was in Pottsville. This short editorial from the staff of the Pottsville Republican sums it better than any blogger could.

Influenza 1918 Headline
October 17, 1918 edition of the Pottsville Republican.

This was published on October 17, 1918 as the pandemic’s toll on the community came into sharp view:

Blessed are the dead

We are sorry from the deepest depth of our heart, that the exigencies of these days of many deaths forbid us to make mention in detail of the facts of the individual numerous demise episodes of even our friends, many of them prominent in life in their respective sections of our region.

Why, just to print a complete list of all dying just now would make such a harrowing array of shining lights so unexpectedly extinguished that we would be appalled and dismayed.

There are some who will go to their long rest “unnoticed and unsung,” but in every cases there is someone mourning for their stricken dead, consoled with the thought of the meeting beyond the tomb in the bye and bye, when there shall be no more sorrow, suffering or woe, but when joy shall reign in the morning of the resurrection day.

The health authorities are urgent that the newspaper people say little or nothing about the deaths, except in special instances so as not to create a condition of panic, but now that the trouble is so generally under control locally we take advantage of the first opportunity to set ourselves before the people for the apparent suppression of particular mention of each and all the deaths that have so numerously occurred of late. We were willing, but condition prevented. Now that no further harm will be occasioned thereby we take this opportunity to say that if there are special matters that friends of deceased ones wish stated in this paper, we will make such mention of the information furnished us so that proper newspaper record may be printed.

We can but say in general, peace to the dead, easy rest their souls, may they sit on the right hand of their Redeemer, and sing praises to God forever.


Want to read more about the 1918 Spanish Flu pandemic in Pennsylvania’s Coal Region? Click here.

Featured Image: Featured Image: Red Cross stretcherbearers carrying an influenza victim in 1918 (LOC)



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