Family Histories

Family Histories for the Rose and Kirkpatrick Families

Monday, June 27, 2016

Sartin Family: Spanish Flu Pandemic 1919


Arch Sartin (third from left, top), Lucy Stodsgill Sartin (far left, seated) and Ira Sartin (far right, seated) all perished in the Spanish Flu Pandemic of 1918-1919

The photograph above, of William & Nancy (Gilbert) Sartin and their children, along with their spouses and grandchildren, was taken in Jackson, Alabama about 1916.  William Sartin would die a year later, crushed by a falling tree while cutting timber.  The little grandson he is holding, Robert, child of his son Bill, who was born an "invalid," died in January 1918. 

Two years after this photograph was taken, the Spanish flu pandemic would strike the United States and would take several members of the Sartin family.  Arch Sartin and his wife, Lucy Stodsgill, died a day apart in January 1919.  His brother Ira died six days later, just one month after his youngest son was born, leaving three young children.  The five children of Arch and Lucy Sartin (with the exception of the baby seated on Lucy's lap in the photo; she is not accounted for after 1916) went to live with their mother's brother and his family.  Ira Sartin's widow remarried just seven months after his death, to a widower with several children of his own.


The first wave of the flu struck Alabama in September 1918, with 25,000 cases appearing within a week.  Within two weeks, 37,000 cases were reported.  The first wave was not as deadly as the second, during which deaths spiked in January 1919.  A report sent to the U.S. Public Health Service during the pandemic said that "...[Doctors were] overwhelmed with work [and] were handicapped by inadequate transportation and two days behind in making calls; many patients . . . had been sick in bunk houses and tents for several days without nourishment, or medical and nursing attention, the sanitary conditions of the bunk houses were deplorable; the mess halls were grossly unsanitary and their operation much hampered by the lack of help; the existing hospitals were greatly overcrowded with patients; and patients were waiting in line several hours for dispensary treatment, and were greatly delayed in obtaining prescriptions at the pharmacy. The epidemic was so far progressed that the immediate isolation of all cases was impossible."  Another report said "We worked like dogs from about seven in the morning until the last patient of the day had been checked in or out-usually about 10 o'clock that night. The men died like flies, and several times we ran out of boxes to bury them in, and had to put their bodies in cold storage until more boxes were shipped in. It was horrible."

The Sartins were undoubtedly only one of the many Jackson County families struck by the pandemic.  Nancy Gilbert buried two sons and a daughter-in-law within a week of each other.

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