There are references in the local histories of Wise and Dickenson counties to an outbreak of influenza in the year 1918, but the flu is only mentioned as something of an afterthought. In the Wise county entry within the Virginia Communities in War Time, the flu is only mentioned in a short passage about the Red Cross. “The nursing service of the chapter became important in the epidemic of influenza, which began in October, 1918. A special office was opened for the work, in charge of Miss Jane Morgan, a registered nurse. An automobile was bought by the chapter for her use, and in the epidemic which followed she was taxed to the utmost and worked with untiring zeal.”1 This is the only mention of the flu within that historical overview, which seems to illustrate that the epidemic was not considered a major event less than a decade after it occurred.
The Dickenson county entry in this same volume mentions the flu outbreak with only slightly more detail, again in a section detailing the Red Cross and the local chapter’s work. “[The influenza epidemic] was spread from the county fair at Clintwood, early in October 1918, and more than fifty deaths were known to have occurred in the county, in October of that year, from influenza. As many as six [people] in some families died.”2 The author does not elaborate beyond that short quote. They instead proceed to talk more about the accomplishments of the local Red Cross chapter in knitting and sewing, showing that the flu seemed to weigh surprisingly little on the peoples’ minds, despite the significant death toll.
1. R. Tate Irvine, “Wise County in War Time,” Virginia Communities in War Time (Richmond: Virginia War History Commission, 1927), 672.
2. E.J. Sutherland and J.H.T. Sutherland, “Dickenson County in War Time,” Virginia Communities in War Time (Richmond: Virginia War History Commission, 1927), 110.