Tag Archives: Albert Barney Charboneau

1918: A severe influenza emerges in Kansas

Sepia Saturday 541. Twelfth in a series about Albert Barney Charboneau — my paternal grandfather’s brother who died in the Great Influenza Pandemic of 1918.

In early 1918 — around the time my dad’s Uncle Albert Barney Charboneau registered for the WWI draft in Dolgeville, Herkimer Co., N.Y. — a severe influenza took hold in Haskell County, Kansas, just west of Dodge City.

Albert Barney Charboneau circa 1910. Scan by Molly Charboneau

I doubt that Uncle Albert or any of the Charboneau family were aware of this development. Yet the Haskell County cases appear to mark the emergence of the Great Influenza Pandemic of 1918.

In his book The Great Influenza: The Epic Story of the Deadliest Plague in History, author John M. Barry sums up the influenza’s spread.[1]Barry, John M. The Great Influenza: The Epic Story of the Deadliest Plague in History (New York: Penguin Group USA, 2004).

Epidemiological evidence suggests that that a new influenza virus originated in Haskell County, Kansas, early in early 1918. Evidence further suggests that this virus traveled east across the state to a huge army base, and from there to Europe. Later it began its sweep through North America, through Europe, through South America, through Asia and Africa, through isolated islands in the Pacific, through all the wide world. In its wake followed a keening sound that rose from the throats of mourners like the wind. The evidence comes from Dr. Loring Miner.[2]Barry, The Great Influenza, 92.

U.S. Army/Wikipedia/Public Domain
Sick ward at Camp Funston, Ft. Riley, Kansas (1918). According to John M. Barry in The Great Influenza, recruits from Haskell County,  where a severe influenza emerged in 1918, routinely trained at Camp Funston — 300 miles to the east — and a particularly hard winter meant the soldiers were often huddled together for warmth. Within weeks of the first March 4 case more than 1,100 soldiers were ill in hospital and thousands more required infirmary treatment. Photo: U.S. Army/Wikipedia/Public Domain

A Kansas doctor warns the world

According to Barry, Haskell County physician Dr. Loring Miner became alarmed when patients began showing up in early 1918 with a particularly severe influenza that was “violent, rapid in its progress through the body, and sometimes lethal” — and in such numbers that they soon overwhelmed his small practice.

By mid-March when civilian cases subsided, Dr. Miner remained concerned and alerted national public health officials. His warning appeared in the weekly journal Public Health Reports, which circulated in the U.S. and abroad — the first mention of the deadly influenza that would sweep the globe.[3]Barry, The Great Influenza, 94.

The influenza spreads to Camp Funston

https://nara.getarchive.net/media/ceremonies-camp-funston-thru-camp-lee-camp-funston-1918-be4ced
Troop tents at Camp Funston, Ft. Riley, Kansas (1918). According to author John M. Barry, “Epidemiological evidence suggests that that a new influenza virus originated in Haskell County, Kansas, in early 1918. Evidence further suggests that this virus traveled east across the state to a huge army base, and from there to Europe.” Photo: USNA

Meanwhile — about 300 miles east of Haskell County, Kansas — Camp Funston in Ft. Riley housed some 50,000 new military troops in overcrowded barracks and tents that had been hastily thrown together in 1917.[4]Barry, The Great Influenza, 95.

Recruits from Haskell County routinely trained at Camp Funston –and a particularly hard winter meant the soldiers were often huddled together for warmth.[5]Barry, The Great Influenza, 96.

So after a cook at Camp Funston fell ill with influenza on March 4, 1918, within weeks more than 1,100 soldiers were sick in hospital and thousands more required infirmary treatment — primarily with a milder strain of the Haskell influenza, but one that could mutate to a deadlier version.[6]ibid.

https://www.loc.gov/pictures/item/2007664230/
Panorama of Camp Funston, Ft. Riley, Kansas (1917).  Photo: Library of Congress

From there, the virus began its march with WWI troops to other bases across the U.S., to the front in Europe, then around the world —  mutating as it went — in a spreading pattern similar to that of the coronavirus, which we are all too familiar with.

Then a second wave of the influenza returned to the U.S. in its deadlier form in the fall of 1918 — which is when it caught up with Uncle Albert.

Up next: The spread of the deadly 1918 influenza — around the world and back to Dolgeville. 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

References
1 Barry, John M. The Great Influenza: The Epic Story of the Deadliest Plague in History (New York: Penguin Group USA, 2004).
2 Barry, The Great Influenza, 92.
3 Barry, The Great Influenza, 94.
4 Barry, The Great Influenza, 95.
5 Barry, The Great Influenza, 96.
6 ibid.

1918: The brief WWI service of Uncles Tom and Dewey Charboneau

Sepia Saturday 540. Eleventh 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

While my dad’s Uncle Albert and his brother Ray (my grandfather) performed alternative service during WWI, the other two Charboneau brothers — Tom and Dewey — were called to active duty.

Yet they mustered in so late in the war that each only served briefly — and neither went abroad.

Orville Nile “Tom” Charboneau was inducted into the U.S. Army in Little Falls, Herkimer Co., N.Y. on 3 Sept. 1918. According to his service card, he was appointed as a Private 1st Class on 15 Oct. 1918. However, where he served is a bit of a mystery.

https://www.loc.gov/pictures/item/2016868180/
WWI: Basic training exercises (ca. 1918). Photo: Library of Congress

Where did Uncle Tom serve?

Tom was in service when his brother Uncle Albert died from the 1918 influenza — and his places of service were given in Albert’s obituaries.

  • One obituary, in the 24 Oct. 1918 issue of the Utica Herald Dispatch, says Albert was survived by a brother “Orville, who is stationed with the American forces at Fort Schuyler on Long Island.”
  • Another of Albert’s obituaries, in the 29 Oct. 1918 issue of the Little Falls Journal and Courier, lists him as “Orville, of Camp Shutler, L.I.”
https://www.loc.gov/pictures/item/2014704955/
WWI: Camp at Ft. Totten, Queens, New York. (ca. 1918) Photo: Library of Congress

Meanwhile, his service card — under Organizations served in, with dates of assignments and transfers — says he served in  “C Def of Eastern NY Ft Totten NY Co 9 to disch.”

Did Tom have three assignments?

Is it possible that Uncle Tom served in all three places? Maybe so. There were temporary WWI training camps all over Long Island at the time, so he could have started out in a Camp Shutler.

And if Tom was in coastal defense, then Fort Schuyler (located on Long Island Sound in the Throgs Neck section of the Bronx)  seems consistent with the final assignment listed on his service card — Fort Totten (in northeast Queens on Long Island Sound).

With so many soldiers mobilized, there was undoubtedly a great deal of troop movement here and there to fill assignments — and Tom may have been caught up in that during his brief time in service.

https://www.loc.gov/pictures/item/2014704956/
WWI: The mess hall at Fort Totten, Queens, New York. (ca. 1918). Photo : Library of Congress

Proud to be veterans

Tom was was honorably discharged on 9 Dec. 2018 at the end WWI — after serving for three months.

Uncle George Dewey Charboneau’s time in the Army was even shorter than Tom’s. He was drafted on  11 Nov. 1918 — but returned home before reaching camp when Armistice was declared, ending the war.

Yet despite their brief stints, both Tom and Dewey were proud to be veterans. In his book Herkimer County in the World War: 1916-1918, Franklin W. Christman compiled an Honor Roll of Herkimer County veterans of WWI.

Here are Tom and Dewey’s entries, which I later confirmed they authored themselves in response to a survey.

CHARBONEAU, ORVILLE N., Little Falls, N.Y.; born April 23, 1891; drafted September 3, 1918; U.S. Troops, Syracuse, Fort Schuyler; discharged December, 1918.

CHARBONNEAU, GEORGE D., Dolgeville, N.Y.; born June 12, 1898; drafted November 11, 1918; returned before reaching camp, Peace Day; honorably discharged.

A Memorial Day posting

Fast forward to the year 2000, when this Honor Roll appeared online as part of a Memorial Day celebration — then to 2006, when I first saw Tom and Dewey’s names on the list and emailed for details.

Back came this response from Marine veteran Paul T. McLaughlin, Village of Ilion editor for the Rootsweb site where I found the list. Sadly, Paul died in 2017 so I will let him have the last word.

I continue to be amazed by how many inquiries I have received since that list was posted in the 2000 4-County Memorial Day extravaganza. Here’s what your relatives wrote in response to the questionnaire. [Here he typed in the above listings verbatum.]

Strange that they spelled it [their surname] differently, but that may have been a typo from the transcriber. Orville [Tom] had only to serve a couple of months, and George [Dewey] was drafted on Armistice Day, so they didn’t have much to write about. That’s good!

Up next: The deadly 1918 influenza emerges. 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: Charboneau brothers Albert and Ray in WWI

Sepia Saturday 539Tenth in a series about Albert Barney Charboneau — my paternal grandfather’s brother who died in the Great Influenza Pandemic of 1918.

A previous post reviewed the WW I draft registrations of my dad’s Uncle Albert Barney Charboneau and his three brothers — among them my paternal grandfather William Ray Charboneau. Yet for various reasons, none of them ended up serving abroad.

Albert Barney Charboneau circa 1910. Scan by Molly Charboneau

Albert’s alternative service

Albert was not called up for active duty, perhaps because he was married. But he may have performed a sort of alternative service through his job as Woodworking Foreman at the Julius Breckwoldt Sounding Board Company in Dolgeville, Herkimer Co., New York.

In its 12 July 1918 issue, the Otsego Farmer and Republican — published in Cooperstown, N.Y. — carried a front page column on Central New York that describes U.S. Naval officers visiting the Breckwoldt company where Uncle Albert worked to select spruce wood for military hydroplane construction.

www.fultonhistory.com
The Otsego Farmer and Republican, Cooperstown, N.Y. (12 July 1918). This item, from a front page column covering Central New York news, describes U.S. Naval officers visiting the Breckwoldt company where Uncle Albert worked to select spruce wood for military hydroplane construction. Source: fultonhistory.com [Cooperstown NY Otsego Farmer & Republican 1917 – 1918 grayscale – 0644.pdf]
According to the article, the U.S. government planned to take “between five to ten percent of the spruce timber turned out at the Fulton Chain mill” of the Breckwoldt company.

https://digitalcollections.nypl.org/items/510d47db-144e-a3d9-e040-e00a18064a99
An N-1 seaplane taxiing at high speed (c. 1918). Spruce was considered the ideal wood for hydroplanes and some of the best came from the Fulton Chain in New York’s North Country. Was Uncle Albert on hand when Naval officers came to select lumber at the Breckwoldt company where he worked? Photo: Library of Congress

Even without documentation, it’s not a stretch to suppose that Uncle Albert — a Woodworking Foreman who had worked with Fulton Chain timber since the age of 15 — may have been on hand when the Naval officers made their lumber-selection visits.

My grandfather’s home defense work

Meanwhile, my paternal grandfather Ray — exempt because he was married with three children — did alternative service of his own.

In Franklin W. Christman’s book Herkimer County in the World War: 1916-1918,[1]Christman, Franklin Webster, compiler. Herkimer County in the World War: 1916 to 1918 (Little Falls, New York : Journal & Courier Co., 1927), 19. W.R. Charboneau is listed among non commissioned officers and privates who served in the Dolgeville Home Defense Unit of the Herkimer County Defense Committee — a local affiliate of the Council of National Defense.

https://www.loc.gov/pictures/item/91483205/
U.S. Student Nurse Reserve recruitment poster issued by the Council of National Defense Women’s Committee (1917). This prophetic poster was issued the year before the Great 1918 Influenza Pandemic took hold. Source: Library of Congress

One of the first tasks of the county group was to conduct a military census and inventory of resources and report back to the New York State group.

Christman’s book details some of the group’s many other  tasks, which make clear the profound daily economic and social impact of the world war — from cultivating fallow farmland and working with the Red Cross on healthcare issues to recruiting workers to fill jobs that were vacated by those who were called up.[2]ibid.

Yet amid helpful tasks were other duties that likely turned neighbor against neighbor — such as reviewing and signing off on the credentials of immigrant job applicants in an area with a huge German-born or descended population.

A telegraphy school graduate

https://pixabay.com/photos/telegraph-key-communication-retro-4891039/
Vintage telegraph key. I don’t know what tasks my grandfather Ray carried out as part of in the Dolgeville Home Defense Unit. However, his obituary says he was a graduate of the New York State Telegraphers School in Albany, N.Y. So that skill may have placed him in the communications sphere. Photo: Pixabay

I don’t know what tasks my grandfather Ray carried out. However, his obituary says he was a graduate of the New York State Telegraphers School in Albany, N.Y. [3]Boonville Herald, 9 June 1968: Obituary of W.R. Charboneau. So I like to think that skill may have placed him in the more helpful sphere of communications.

And Ray and Albert may have worked together here and there as well — since Uncle Albert was head of the Dolgeville Masons lodge, which the Defense Committee collaborated with on various community-aid projects.

Up next: The brief WWI service of Uncles Tom and Dewey Charboneau. 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

References
1 Christman, Franklin Webster, compiler. Herkimer County in the World War: 1916 to 1918 (Little Falls, New York : Journal & Courier Co., 1927), 19.
2 ibid.
3 Boonville Herald, 9 June 1968: Obituary of W.R. Charboneau.