1918: Albert B. Charboneau succumbs to pandemic influenza

Sepia Saturday 545. Sixteenth in a series about Albert Barney Charboneau — my paternal grandfather’s brother who died in the Great Influenza Pandemic of 1918.

Albert Barney Charboneau circa 1910. Scan by Molly Charboneau

The second wave of the Great Influenza Pandemic of 1918 peaked in October and began to wind down in November — but not before claiming the life of my dad’s Uncle Albert Barney Charboneau at age 33.

“Nobody else in the family got it,” according to my father. However, Dad wasn’t born until 1924, well after Albert was gone, so what he knew was based on family oral history.

Still, no one else in the family died in the pandemic — not even Albert’s wife, Annie — so there may be some truth to what Dad told me.

Albert’s life in obituaries

Uncle Albert’s 23 Oct. 1918 passing in Dolgeville, N.Y., was memorialized in two obituaries. One, from the Utica Herald-Dispatch, appears below. The other, from the Little Falls Journal and Courier, adds some detail to the first.

These obituaries helped me learn what I know about Albert’s life, which I have chronicled in this series — from his birth in Hawkinsville, N.Y., his move to Dolgeville, N.Y., and his marriage to Annie Miller, to his career and fraternal affiliations.

Obituary of Albert B. Charbonneau, Utica Herald-Dispatch, 24 Oct. 1918. Source: fultonhistory.com [Utica NY Herald Dispatch 1918 – 3698.pdf]
The family in mourning

Albert’s untimely death left his widow Annie and the entire Charboneau family in mourning for a young and promising life lost.

Living in Dolgeville at the time were Albert’s parents Will and Eva Charboneau (my paternal great grandparents) and Albert’s brothers Ray (my paternal grandfather) and Dewey (the youngest, who lived with Will and Eva). Also Will’s sister, Harriet (Charbonneau) Croll, husband Fred and their children.

Albert’s brother Orville “Tom” Charboneau, of nearby Little Falls, had been inducted into the U.S. Army just one month before — so he was serving on coastal defense near New York City when Albert died.

Grave of Albert Barney Charboneau (1885-1918) in Dolgeville Cemetery, Dolgeville, N.Y. (2015). With only the years of Albert’s birth and death to work from, it took me a while to find family history records and obituaries to document his life and verify his death in the 1918 influenza pandemic. Photo by Molly Charboneau

A masonic funeral

How heartbreaking for the family to gather at the home of Albert and Annie for the funeral — the house at 42 State Street that they had moved into after their wedding just six years before.

At the time of his death Albert was Worshipful Master, or head, of Dolgeville Masonic Lodge No. 796 — and also a member of the Odd Fellows fraternal group. This would have left a wider community of associates to mourn him — and also entitled him to a Masonic funeral ceremony.

Uncle Albert’s Utica Herald-Dispatch obituary announced that, “The funeral will be held from the late home on Sunday afternoon and will be in charge of the local lodge of Masons.”

I am not sure if this means the Masons covered the costs — as some fraternal groups did for members and their families — or just organized and conducted the ceremony for Albert, who was their lodge leader.

Either way, Albert was dutifully sent off by his lodge with his family in attendance. He was buried at Dolgeville Cemetery not far from the main entrance, with a Masonic symbol engraved on his plot’s central stone.

Next in this series: How did Albert contract and succumb to the 1918 influenza? Meanwhile, please visit the blogs of this week’s other Sepia Saturday participants here.

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10 thoughts on “1918: Albert B. Charboneau succumbs to pandemic influenza”

  1. Thanks for another fascinating episode in your series on Albert. I wonder if his membership in the IOOF or the masons included a burial benefit. That was a often a good reason to keep memberships in several societies I think.

    The rate of infection within households would be an interesting statistic to see. The case levels in our current pandemic have not seemed as high in poor countries where one might expect the closeness of families in crowded communities would make the civic virus more virulent.

    1. I was also wondering about the Masons paying for Albert’s funeral and burial as one of its membership benefits. As for civilian rates of infection, I would need to look further on that. Data collection then was not what it is now, so the military stats serve as a surrogate since they had tracking capability.

  2. Indeed sad to have his life cut so short. Obituaries can be a wonderful source of information to lead us in our research. I’ll be interested to read what you found about how he contracted the flu.

    1. The search for Albert’s obituary was a challenge — and I am so glad I finally found it. A sad irony that Albert, who was not called to service in WWI, should be one Charboneau brother to die from the influenza — which led me to consider how he contracted it.

  3. How lucky, at least, Albert’s wife, Annie, escaped the illness. They must have been very careful to make sure she stayed as safe as possible from catching his illness. What a heartbreaker!

    1. I know. I was amazed to learn that she lived on for many decades after he was gone — and that somehow, even in the same household, she avoided getting/dying from the influenza.

    1. I wrote a previous blog post about Albert’s memberships. These fraternal groups appear to have played a major role in small upstate New York towns during that period.

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