Category Archives: Charboneau

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.

http://fultonhistory.com/Fulton.html
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.

© 2020 Molly Charboneau. All rights reserved.

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1918: Albert B. Charboneau falls ill with influenza

Sepia Saturday 544Fifteenth 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

My dad’s Uncle Albert Barney Charboneau, fell ill in October 1918 when the second wave of the deadly pandemic influenza, which had spread around the globe, reached his hometown of Dolgeville, Herkimer Co., N.Y.

At 33, Albert was the woodworking foreman at the Julius Breckwoldt piano sounding board factory and the head of the Dolgeville Mason’s lodge.

He had been married for six years to Annie (Miller) Charboneau — and he was a tall, robust man one would not expect to get sick, let alone die. Yet Albert’s age and profile put him at risk in the 1918 pandemic.

Dolgeville, N.Y., looking north from the East Canada Creek Bridge (2015). Even bucolic Dolgeville was not immune to the influenza pandemic, which arrived there in the fall of 1918 and claimed the life of my dad’s Uncle Albert. Photo: Molly Charboneau

The influenza’s virulent impact

In her book Flu: The Story of the Great Influenza Pandemic of 1918 and the Search for the Virus That Caused It, author Gina Kolata sums up the sweep and toll of the influenza’s deadly second wave. [1]Kolata, Gina. Flu: The Story of the Great Influenza Pandemic of 1918 and the Search for the Virus That Caused It. (Farrar, Straus and Giroux:New York, 1999), 4-5.

The sickness preyed on the young and healthy.…The plague took off in September of that year, and when it was done over half a million Americans would lie dead. The illness spread to the most remote parts of the globe. Some Eskimo villages were decimated, and nearly eliminated from the face of the earth. Twenty percent of Western Samoans perished. No matter where it struck, the virus went after an unusual group — young adults who are generally spared the ravages of infections diseases. The death curves were W-shaped, with peaks for the babies and toddlers under age 5, the elderly who were aged 70-74, and people aged 20-40.[2]Kolata, Flu,4-5.

Demonstration at the Red Cross Emergency Ambulance Station in Washington, D.C., during the influenza pandemic of 1918. According to the CDC’s website, “In fall of 1918 the United States experienced severe shortages of professional nurses, because of the deployment of large numbers of nurses to military camps in the United States and abroad, and the failure to use trained African American nurses.” Photo: Library of Congress

Lethal curve of the 1918 influenza

Nor was Uncle Albert alone. As shown in the table below, he contracted the 1918 influenza during a peak fatality period in the U.S. armed forces. Like him, the soldiers and sailors who were mobilized/demobilized in huge numbers during WWI were in the vulnerable 20-40 age group.

U.S. Army in the U.S. – Deaths Due to Influenza and Pneumonia in 1918 – Source: Alfred W. Crosby America’s Forgotten Pandemic[3]Crosby, Alfred W. America’s Forgotten Pandemic: The Influenza of 1918 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2003), 59.
For the Week ending:
10 September 98
27 September 972
4 October 2,444
11 October 6,170
18 October 5,559
27 October 2,624
1 November 1,183
8 November 908
15 November 519
22 November 321

Civilian casualties climb

The curve of the 1918 influenza in the civilian population mirrored the military experience — although cities that took containment measures, and encouraged mask wearing and social distancing, fared better than those that did not.

All told, 195,000 people died of influenza in the U.S. during October, when the second wave peaked, according  to the 1918 Pandemic Influenza Historic Timeline on the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) website.

Sadly, my dad’s Uncle Albert was among those casualties, succumbing to the influenza on 23 October 1918 — 102 years ago this month.

He died before my dad was born. So the few details I know about his final days are contained in his obituaries — which will be reviewed in the next post.

Please stop back. Meanwhile, please visit the blogs of this week’s other Sepia Saturday participants .here

© 2020 Molly Charboneau. All rights reserved.

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References

1 Kolata, Gina. Flu: The Story of the Great Influenza Pandemic of 1918 and the Search for the Virus That Caused It. (Farrar, Straus and Giroux:New York, 1999), 4-5.
2 Kolata, Flu,4-5.
3 Crosby, Alfred W. America’s Forgotten Pandemic: The Influenza of 1918 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2003), 59.

The 1918 influenza strikes the Mohawk Valley

Sepia Saturday 543. Fourteenth 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 first time I called the Little Falls, N.Y., public library in April 2006 looking for the obituary of my dad’s Uncle Albert Barney Charboneau, I did not know his exact date of death.

I only knew the year, 1918 — when Uncle Albert died in Dolgeville, N.Y., in the Great Influenza Epidemic — most likely in the fall.

“That’s going to be a problem,” the librarian said. “Papers weren’t published during the flu pandemic for fear of spreading it by circulating the paper, so there may not be an obituary, but we’ll check.”

Some newspapers stopped publishing

Wow, no papers published? That’s when I first realized just how severely the 1918 influenza had hit in Herkimer County.

Later, the librarian called me back to say she was unable to find Uncle Albert’s obituary in 1918. “But I did find one article that said 15-25 people died per day between October and December 2018,” she said. “Do you want me to send it?”

https://farm8.staticflickr.com/7335/27219398272_f220b0ef28_o.jpg
Along the Mohawk River in Little Falls, NY. A call to the Little Falls Public Library yielded a chilling news article about the impact of the 1918 influenza pandemic in this Mohawk Valley town — not far from Uncle Albert’s home in Dolgeville. Photo: Worldwide Elevation Map Finder

Apparently some papers were published after all! So I said yes, hoping to learn more about the influenza’s impact in the Mohawk Valley —  which would help me put Albert’s death in perspective.

The article she sent, from the 15 Oct. 2018 issue of the Little Falls Journal and Courier, is a chilling summary of the influenza’s sweep through Little Falls — just south of Uncle Albert’s Dolgeville hometown and where his brother Uncle Dewey lived.

Health staff “worked almost to the limit of endurance”

The article (transcribed below) did not include a death toll. Yet it sounds sadly familiar as we continue to grapple with the coronavirus pandemic — closed schools and gathering places, no church services, numerous deaths and a terrific burden on frontline healthcare staff.

Little Falls, in common with nearly all other cities, is suffering greatly from the epidemic of Spanish [1918] influenza that so thoroughly covers the country. The schools are still closed, and so also are the theaters, churches and other places of public gatherings. No services were held in any of our churches last Sunday. Our obituary column carries report of numbers of deaths, and many people are still suffering, although it is believed that there has been a slight improvement during the past 48 hours.

https://www.loc.gov/item/2016648028/
1918: Influenza ward at Walter Reed Hospital in Washington, D.C. Photo: Library of Congress.

Physicians, nurses and all who have to do with the care of the sick and the homes where they are, are worked almost to the limit of endurance, and it is exceedingly difficult to get help of any kind. Even the undertakers are hardly able to take care of the cases they they have in hand and find it exceedingly difficult to secure such supplies as are demanded.

“The hearts of the people are in the right place”

The article goes on to describe the emergency house-to-house nursing care provided in Little Falls — back when health care professionals still made house calls.

The system of outside nursing outlined and directed by Miss Hunter, superintendent of the local hospital, has done much to relieve the situation. The city has been divided into districts and public spirited men and women have donated the use of automobiles to carry the nurses from house to house, so that much more territory could be covered than would otherwise be possible.

Miss Elizabeth Burrell has assisted at the hospital by serving as clerk for this service and trained nurses who now have homes of their own to look after have been doing work for others. The spirit of it all is most commendable and it’s being demonstrated that in times of stress the hearts of the people are in the right place.

The Influenza, Little Falls Journal and Courier, 15 Oct. 2018. Scan by Molly Charboneau

All around the article are columns of obituaries for those who died in the Little Falls, N.Y. area from the 1918 influenza and/or the pneumonia that followed in its wake.

Learning Uncle Albert’s story

But what about Uncle Albert’s experience?

Eventually, in the New York State Death Index, I was able to find his date of death  — 23 Oct. 1918, just after the influenza’s peak in the U.S. Army.[1]Crosby, Alfred W. America’s Forgotten Pandemic: The Influenza of 1918 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2003), 59.

So when I called the Little Falls library a second time, they were able to locate Uncle Albert’s obituary chronicling his final days.

Up next: The final days of Albert Barney Charboneau. Meanwhile, please visit the blogs of this week’s other Sepia Saturday participants here.

© 2020 Molly Charboneau. All rights reserved.

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References

1 Crosby, Alfred W. America’s Forgotten Pandemic: The Influenza of 1918 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2003), 59.