Ethel Underwood Whitener always remembered where she had been on 11-11-11. (That was the 11th month, the 11th day and the 11th hour, 1918).
As a fourteen year old girl, she was walking across the field from her home down toward her grandparents home. This is probably a 20 minute walk on a pleasant day. At 11 A.M. the Old Trace Creek Church bells tolled indicating the signing of the Armistice. Although this was in Bollinger County, southeast Missouri, and in the US central time zone, it was a celebration of an event that had occurred earlier in France which officially ended World War I.
Just a few days before that she had been one of those who mourned at the burial of her uncle – Charles Underwood (1888-1918). He was a casualty of the Great Influenza Epidemic. His body had been returned to his home after service in the US Army. There had not been too many people at that service because of fear in the community of the contagion of the disease.
When she got to her grandparents’ home, her grandmother Elizabeth Adeline (Rickman) Underwood was standing on the porch. She said, “They won’t get any more of my boys.”
(Elizabeth was the mother of Emroe, Will, John, Zach and Charles Underwood. Ethel was the oldest daughter of Will and Nellie.)
By James Richard Whitener
Notes, Sources, and References:
1) Whitener family oral history
2) Elizabeth Adeline (Rickman) Underwood on Find A Grave: http://www.findagrave.com/cgi-bin/fg.cgi?page=gr&GRid=5822248.
3) The “Spanish Flu” or “La grippe”outbreaks of 1918-1919 were more deadly than war. WWI caused the death of an estimated 16 million persons; the flu pandemic, however, killed over 50 million people worldwide, or one-fifth of the population. Young adults, a population normally not as widely affected by such viruses, were hit very hard by this influenza, as were the young and elderly. Over 25% of the US population was affected by this flu (ten times as many as were lost in “The Great War”, and life expectancy in this country decreased by 12 years in 1918. One half of the American soldiers lost in WWI died from influenza, not the enemy, as did Charles Underwood. Funerals were often regulated by the public health system to only 15 minutes, to avoid further spread of the disease.
“The Deadly Virus. The Influenza Epidemic of 1918.” A National Archives Exhibition (online). http://www.archives.gov/exhibits/influenza-epidemic/. Accessed 11-12-13.
“The Influenza Pandemic of 1918.” http://virus.stanford.edu/uda/. Accessed 11-12-13.
4) Photo: Grave site of Charles Underwood – Old Trace Creek Church Cemetery, Bollinger County, Missouri.
Please contact us if you would like a higher resolution image.
Copyright 2013 by Heritage Ramblings Blog, jrw & pmm.