Of Pandemics, Sacrifice, and Peace

Posted November 7, 2018 at 5:50 am by

Mark­er for Budd C. Lar­son at Meuse-Argonne Amer­i­can Ceme­tery, France
Por­traits, left to right:
Top row: George D. Allain, Harold But­ter­worth, Fred E. Hack­ett
Mid­dle row: Wal­ter E. Hei­den­re­ich, John M. Jones, Budd C. Lar­son
Bot­tom row: Charles Law­son, Jr., Fred Mar­tin, Voyle B. Martin

This month’s his­to­ry col­umn from the San Juan His­tor­i­cal Soci­ety and Muse­um

Although it’s now been 100 years since the end of World War I, many of us grew up with first hand sto­ries of fear, brav­ery and all too often, sad­ness about fam­i­ly expe­ri­ences with the dou­ble punch of world war and a pan­dem­ic known as the Span­ish Flu. San Juan Island was no exception.

First, there are some facts to know about the Span­ish Flu of 1918. It did not orig­i­nate in Spain. It’s just that Spain, as a neu­tral coun­try, had no rea­son to sup­press news of its spread while oth­er coun­tries did, so as to avoid show­ing any weak­ness to their war oppo­nents. This cre­at­ed an impres­sion that the flu was more preva­lent in Spain and had orig­i­nat­ed there.

The pan­dem­ic hit Wash­ing­ton state hard in the fall of 1918. With so many ser­vice­men from around the coun­try housed in mil­i­tary camps, this strain of influen­za spread quick­ly and could devel­op into bac­te­r­i­al pneu­mo­nia, the more seri­ous threat to life. The Army’s Camp Lewis in Pierce Coun­ty report­ed an aver­age of ten influenza/pneumonia deaths a week dur­ing its spread in Sep­tem­ber. In just one year, this pan­dem­ic would kill at least 50 mil­lion peo­ple around the world.

In 1918, San Juan Coun­ty had a pop­u­la­tion of just around 3,600 peo­ple. This small coun­ty was home to 124 men who left fam­i­lies behind to serve our coun­try in World War I, the “Great War” as it was called then. Of these 124 men, nine of them nev­er returned home. Com­bat in France claimed six of their lives, while pneu­mo­nia was list­ed as the ulti­mate cause of death for three oth­ers. You can see their names on the stone mon­u­ment in Fri­day Harbor’s Memo­r­i­al Park, a project of the Women’s Study Club, ded­i­cat­ed on Novem­ber 11, 1921. Here are small glimpses into the lives of the nine men, pic­tured above, who perished:

George D. Allain, 21, Roche Har­bor, U.S. Navy. Died Octo­ber 2, 1918 of pneu­mo­nia at Uni­ver­si­ty of Wash­ing­ton Hos­pi­tal in Seat­tle. Son of Tou­s­saint and Mary Lacroix Allain, George left behind wife Josephine, a grand­daugh­ter of San Juan Island pio­neer Charles McK­ay (who raised the first Amer­i­can flag on the island after the British troops left in 1872). A son named Lau­rence was born to Josephine two months after her husband’s death and one day after her grand­fa­ther McKay’s death. Lau­rence him­self would lat­er die at age 20, in a wood truck acci­dent on San Juan Island.

Harold But­ter­worth, 19, Roche Har­bor, U.S. Navy. Died Novem­ber 30, 1917 of pneu­mo­nia at the Naval Hos­pi­tal in Brook­lyn, New York. Son of Levi and Mary Brier­ley But­ter­worth, Harold was the first from San Juan Coun­ty to die in ser­vice to the coun­try dur­ing World War I.

Fred E. Hack­ett, 19, Fri­day Har­bor, U.S. Army. Killed in com­bat May 1, 1918 near Mont­di­di­er, France. Son of Collins and Eliz­a­beth Guard Hack­ett, he was the first from San Juan Coun­ty to give his life on the bat­tle­fields of France. Amer­i­can Legion Hack­ett-Lar­son Post 163 on San Juan Island bears his name.

Wal­ter E. Hei­den­re­ich, 24, Fri­day Har­bor, U.S. Navy. Died Octo­ber 8, 1918 of pneu­mo­nia at Train­ing Camp in Seat­tle. Son of George and Mar­guerite Beck Hei­den­re­ich, he died a month after enter­ing service.

John M. Jones, 23, Decatur Island, U.S. Army. Wound­ed at Meuse-Argonne, France on Sep­tem­ber 29, 1918 and returned to the U.S.; died from effects of his wounds on June 5, 1919 at Camp Lewis, Wash­ing­ton. Son of John and Isabelle Reed Jones.

Budd C. Lar­son, 28, Fri­day Har­bor, U.S. Army. Killed in action at Gesnes, France on Octo­ber 11, 1918. He was the last from San Juan Coun­ty to die in com­bat. Son of Lars and Car­o­line Syver­son Lar­son, Amer­i­can Legion Hack­ett-Lar­son Post 163 on San Juan Island bears his name.

Charles Law­son, 27, Orcas Island, U.S. Army. Gassed at Meusse-Argonne, France and died Novem­ber 5, 1918 at Nantes, France. Son of John and Jen­nie Lawson.

Two Orcas Island broth­ers were both killed in com­bat in the Argonne For­est of France:

Fred Mar­tin, 37, U.S. Army. Died Octo­ber 3, 1918. Son of George Mar­tin and his first wife Amelia.

Voyle B. Mar­tin, 27, U.S. Army. Died Sep­tem­ber 28, 1918. Son of George Mar­tin and his sec­ond wife Anna. Amer­i­can Legion Voyle B. Mar­tin Post 93 on Orcas Island bears his name.

Ulti­mate­ly defeat­ed, Ger­many signed an armistice agree­ment with the four Allied pow­ers (Great Britain, France, Italy, and the Unit­ed States) on Novem­ber 11, 1918. Mark­ing a cease fire and truce, it went into effect in the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month. It led to the Treaty of Ver­sailles, the 1919 peace treaty that offi­cial­ly end­ed World War I.

Orig­i­nat­ing as Armistice Day, we now rec­og­nize Novem­ber 11 each year as Veteran’s Day, a day set aside to thank and hon­or all who have served in the U.S. mil­i­tary, dur­ing any era of war or peacetime.

To learn more about San Juan Coun­ty dur­ing the Great War, check out “World War I: The San Juan Coun­ty Expe­ri­ence,” an excel­lent arti­cle by Lynn Weber/Roochvarg for HistoryLink.org, the online ency­clo­pe­dia of Wash­ing­ton State.

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Categories: History

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