Tag Archives: George Dewey Charboneau

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?”

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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.

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

And 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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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.

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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.”
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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.

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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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1917: Uncle Albert and the Charboneau Doughboys

Sepia Saturday 538Ninth 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

At the outbreak of World War I, my father’s Uncle Albert Barney Charboneau and his brothers were required to register for the draft.

And this they did, carefully penning their information on cards that have survived into the digital age.

Albert, the oldest brother, was age 33 when he registered in 1918 — giving his date of birth as 15 Feb. 1885, his address as 42 State Street, Dolgeville, Herkimer Co., N.Y. and his wife’s name as Annie E. Charboneau.

He wrote that he was employed as Woodworking Foreman at Julius Breckwoldt lumber works. The registrar described Albert as tall and stout with black hair and blue eyes.

WWI Doughboy statue in Woodside, N.Y. (2020). Selected in 1928 as the best war memorial of its kind by the American Federation of Arts, this statue depicts a returning WWI soldier with bandaged head, holding his helmet with his gun to one side. Photo: Molly Charboneau

My grandfather Ray’s draft registration

Two of Albert’s brothers registered before him. My paternal grandfather William Ray Charboneau registered on 5 June 1917. Born 3 April 1888 in Forestport, N.Y., he was age 29 and described as tall and slender with blue eyes and black hair.

Ray lived on Dolge Ave. in Dolgeville, N.Y. and worked as a warehouse clerk at the Daniel Green Felt Shoe Co. — which had taken over the original Dolge factory complex. Ray also had an exemption from the draft: He was married with three children — my dad’s older brothers Owen, Franny and Hube

Uncle Tom signed up with Ray

Next in line on 5 June 1917 — registered the same day as Ray — was Orville “Tom” Charboneau. Born on 23 April 1892, Tom was 25 and described as tall with medium build, blue eyes, brown hair and slight baldness.

Tom lived at 10 Church St. in Little Falls, N.Y., where he worked as an automobile repairman for C.A. Ross on West Main St. He was single with no dependents.

Uncle Dewey registered in 1918

George Dewey Charboneau, the youngest brother, registered on 12 Sept. 1918 — the same year as Albert. Born 12 June 1898, he was age 20 and described as tall and slender with blue eyes and brown hair.

Uncle Dewey worked as a shoemaker at the Daniel Green Felt Shoe Company — where my grandfather Ray also worked — and lived with his parents Will and Eva (Bull) Charboneau on Cline Street in Dolgeville, N.Y. Unmarried, he listed his father Will as his next of kin.

Wartime service

Of the four, Tom and Dewey were called up — toward the end of the war — and their service was entered onto a roster compiled by the Herkimer County Home Defense Committee of soldiers who were drafted or volunteered their services in WWI.  However, Uncle Albert and my grandfather Ray appear to have performed service of their own in Herkimer County.

More on this 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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