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As It Was: Flu Pandemic Reaches Klamath County in 1918

In the fall of 1918, newspapers across the country were reporting that a flu pandemic was infecting millions and killing thousands of people week by week.

The virus first appeared in Klamath Falls in early October 1918 and claimed its first fatality in the community a week later. Some 40 Klamath County residents died of the flu over the next four months.

The Evening Herald newspaper published detailed accounts of some victims, including those of Renna and Ida Hefner in late November 1918.

Ida died the day after giving birth to the couple’s third child, and the baby died a few hours later. The father succumbed to the virus just two days later, leaving orphaned the couple’s two older children.

Not all influenza deaths in Klamath County received detailed attention.

The newspaper reported in October 1918 on 11 deaths on the Klamath Reservation, although no one was identified by name and nothing more was reported about the impact on Native Americans in the area.

Sources: "Influenza Is Started In Klamath." Evening Herald, 9 Oct. 1918 [Klamath Falls, Ore.], p. 1; "First Death of Influenza Occurs Today." Ibid, 18 Oct. 1817, p. 1; "Most County Points Still Free of Flu." Ibid, 24 Oct. p. 1; "Woman With Day-Old Babe 'Flu' Victim." Ibid, 29 Nov. 1918, [Klamath Falls, Ore., p. 1; "Hefner Home Nearly Wiped Out By Flu." Ibid, Dec. 1918 [Klamath Falls, Ore.] , p. 1.

Todd Kepple has been a Klamath Basin resident since 1990. He was a reporter and editor the for the Herald and News from 1990 to 2005, and has been manager of the Klamath County Museum since 2005. He enjoys volunteering at Crater Lake National Park, the OC&E Woods Line State Trail, and the Pacific Crest Trail. He is also a founding member of the Klamath Tree League.