Uncanny similarities between 1918 and 2020

Dear Editor:
In doing history for my father, I came across the attached in “Monticello Journal: A History until 1937,” by Harold and Fay Muhlestein.  

It was Deja Vu to me. The similarities between the 1918 flu and COVID-19 are uncanny, especially how hard the Navajo Nation was and is affected.

“The armistice was signed on 11 November 1918, ending the hostilities of World War One in Europe, but the world had been invaded by the flu epidemic and Monticello did not escape.

“The Times-Independent recorded the epidemic: Influenza epidemic hit this area. Two deaths occurred at Sego. Sixty cases at coal camp and six at Moab. Quarantines are urged to be adopted. Two people died at Monticello, Mrs. Thomas Durrant, a Mexican lady, and a young Mexican boy died from the dread mallady.

“Later in November, Vincente Jaramillo died from the flu, leaving a widow and five children ranging in ages from eight to an infant.

“‘The Monticello epidemic is still raging although the situation is reported as fair. Eight Monticello people have succumbed to the disease, although three of these died elsewhere. Contagion in Monticello is confined almost entirely to the Mexican colony, there being 40 cases in the town.

“‘The Navajo Indians are dying by the hundreds from the influenza. More than a hundred bodies are buried at Kayenta trading post. The Indians seem to be especially susceptible to the disease.

“‘One Navajo family near Bluff was almost completely obliterated by the disease. R. A. Powell, while riding the range south of Bluff, came upon an Indian camp where a family of Indians had been living. He found five of the Navajos dead. One eight-year-old boy was alive. From the appearance the Indians had been dead for some time and the boy had gone without anything to eat for probably four days (6 December 1918).’

“Illa Redd Robson recalls the epidemic: ‘The Flu Epidemic was in 1918 and 1919. I stayed in school in Moab. It was my senior year. I stayed with my aunt Nora. I had the flu in Moab but my folks never caught it here. My Mother used to bake loaves of bread and make kettles of soup to take to their doorstep but did not go in.

“‘I think the rest of the people in town were quite careful about what they did. Everything was closed down and no congregating. As treatment for the flu, all I can remember is the Cascara Aunt [Nora] used to give me. It was a laxative.

“‘Dr. Williams had some kind of pills he dispensed to all of us. In Aunt Nora’s family there was only her son and me that got it. They put us in a separate room and every time Aunt Nora came in she put a mask over her face. The rest of the family couldn’t come in. Uncle Russell went to the bank every day. The rest of the children never did get it. That would last so your legs were weak for a year. I was in bed or maybe two or three weeks. It was a serious disease.’

“Francis Hanson Hoops tells of the school students: ‘World War I was still being fiercely fought, and to make matters worse, the flu epidemic hit hard. Quarantines were made and students and teachers stayed at home.

“‘The County School Board decided that the teachers would be paid for the first month of the quarantine, and as much as possible after that for time lost. Teachers were given a statement of the policy and if they could not accept it, they were gently asked to resign.

“‘Mr. Hansen had just returned to Monticello as principal and participated in the reduced pay. This would not be the first time his salary was reduced. After he became superintendent, he voluntarily reduced his salary as the need arose and that seemed often.

“’The flu epidemic hit the Hansen family. Mrs. Hansen’s young sister died in Heber City, where she, too, was a school teacher. The Hansens travelled to Heber City for a sad farewell. She was only 28, and died in November 1918 (History of H. Lloyd Hansen).’”

Pamela Anderson
Spring City, UT

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