‘Influenza 1918’ left its scars on local families

May 28 history program at Oscar Grady Library will discuss Spanish flu’s impact
Ozaukee Press Staff

One of the deadliest epidemics in world history that also affected the local population will be the topic of the next History Bookmark Night at Oscar Grady Public Library in Saukville.

“Influenza 1918” will be discussed at 6 p.m. on Tuesday, May 28. 

The 1918 influenza pandemic, also known as the Spanish flu, infected people around the world. The illness killed 50 million to 100 million people, representing three to five percent of the world’s population, making it one of the deadliest natural disasters in human history.

In southeast Wisconsin, movie theaters, churches and other places where large crowds gathered were closed.

Thousands of American soldiers died of the disease, including Saukville native Berthold Landt, whose death while in training at Camp Hancock in Georgia made him the first local military casualty of World War I. The Saukville Landt-Thiel American Legion Post 470 is named after him.

Other earliest victims included Jacob Bley, of Belgium, whose death on Sept. 18, 1918, was attributed to the flu.

Jean Steinke, president of the Ozaukee County Historical Society and business manager of St. Paul Lutheran Church in Grafton, said seven congregants died from the illness between October 1918 and January 1919.

“Every one of them was from the Spanish flu. Three of these people were relatives of mine,” she said.

All of the victims, except for a 69-year-old woman, were in their 20s or 30s, Steinke said.

Oscar Grady Library Assistant Martin Morante said old newspaper accounts include reports of German spies sent to the Great Lakes area to spread the disease and another about how the Army was fighting the spread of influenza by having soldiers drink large quantities of whiskey.

Each monthly History Bookmark Night includes a subject to be presented through a selected reading list, followed by discussion.

Suggested reading materials are available at the library.

For more information, call 284-6022 or visit www.oscargradylibrary.org.




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Ozaukee Press

Wisconsin’s largest paid circulation community weekly newspaper. Serving Port Washington, Saukville, Grafton, Fredonia, Belgium, as well as Ozaukee County government. Locally owned and printed in Port Washington, Wisconsin.

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Port Washington, WI 53074
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