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No Flu cases Sept ‘18, 400 Daily Oct ’18

Foreman Percy Gould & dog perhaps at Rosenquist  Co.,  1008 E. Franklin Ave.

Foreman Percy Gould & dog perhaps at Rosenquist Co., 1008 E. Franklin Ave.

By Sue Hunter Weir

Percy and Nellie (Carlson) Gould amongst 199 deaths in 3 months

On September 19, 1918, Dr. H. M. Guilford, Minneapolis’ City Health Commissioner, declared that the Spanish Influenza epidemic “does not exist in Minneapolis and never has.” That didn’t mean that he didn’t expect it to appear. He warned that it would probably reach the city later in the fall. One week later, on September 26, 1918, the Minneapolis Tribune reported the first case of influenza in Minnesota. Four days later, there were 150 reported cases in Minneapolis alone. By mid-October over 400 new cases were being reported in the city every day.

The early cases involved soldiers or military men in training. Soldiers were hospitalized at Fort Snelling while the men who were in training on the University Campus went to the University Hospital and those from the naval training program at Dunwoody were quarantined in the West Hotel. Men who had finished their training and were prepared to move to other military camps around the country had nowhere to go—influenza had spread to 43 of the 48 states and military hospitals were overflowing with sick and dying soldiers.

Health department officials took a number of steps to try and slow the spread of the disease. Minneapolis soldiers who died on military bases around the country could be brought home for burial but coffins had to remain sealed during funerals. Local hospitals were in virtual quarantine; only close relatives of patients who were thought to be dying were allowed to visit. President Burton delayed the start of fall semester classes at the University indefinitely. Public drinking fountains were altered to meet new health standards. Shaking hands was discouraged. Streetcars were required to keep at least three windows open at all times. The City Council unanimously approved at ordinance that required all schools, churches, poolrooms, dance halls, movie houses and theatres to be closed indefinitely as of midnight on October 12th. Oddly, saloons were allowed to remain open but police were ordered to prohibit patrons from gathering or loitering in them.

In a period of four months, from September to December, 199 people in Minneapolis died from Spanish influenza. Ten of them were buried in Minneapolis Pioneers and Soldiers Cemetery.

Percy Gould and his wife Nellie were among them. Percy Gould was born in Wisconsin in 1876. He was living in Minnesota, working as a day laborer, as early as 1900. In 1901, he married Florence Rathbun. They had two sons, Walter and Irving. Florence died from tuberculosis on April 4, 1907; she was 24 years old.

In July 1909, Percy married Nellie Carlson. For reasons that are not entirely clear, his two sons from his first marriage were placed in the Washburn Home for Children. It may be that he was not able to support them; in the 1910 federal census his occupation was listed as “odd jobs.” His fortunes seem to have improved and by 1915 he was employed as a foreman for Rosenquist Fuel and Transfer Company, a business located at 1008 East Franklin Avenue. His good fortune did not last long. On October 19, 1918 Nellie became one of the casualties of the epidemic; she was 30 years old. Eight days later, on October 27th, Percy died, also from influenza; he was 42 years old. He and Nellie are buried in Lot 68 Block M.

Flu season is coming soon. Be prepared for it by getting a flu shot.

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