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As It Was: Spanish Flu Kills Oregon Legislator and Wife in 1919

In early January 1919, John Stannard, left Gold Beach, Ore., by commercial vehicle to attend the opening session of the State Legislature as the newly elected representative of Coos and Curry Counties.  Stannard never returned.

The 29-year-old legislator had gained a fine reputation as a school principal and county clerk.  He was a 200-pound amateur wrestler and in perfect shape.  He and his wife, Mary, had four young boys.

At departure, the weather was stormy, and Stannard complained of a slight cold.  Several times he had to assist pushing the conveyance vehicle through mudholes.  Arriving in Bandon, he felt ill and overheated.

After several days in a hotel, he went to the hospital, where he discovered he had the dreaded Spanish influenza that was ravishing the world at the time.  He received word before he died that afternoon that his wife also had the flu. Mary’s condition was believed so critical that the news of her husband’s death was withheld. She succumbed five days later, never knowing Stannard was already gone.

The appointed administrator of their estate separated their orphaned boys, placing them into four different homes.

Sources: "Old Time Picture Brings Visitor, Leads to Story of 1919 Tragedy." Curry County Reporter. (Date Unknown, photo-copy of article in family file, Curry Historical Society); Sponaugle, Ella. Pistol River Recollections. Curry Historical Society, 2003, pp. 103-04; Brainard, Max. Card Files of Public Records. Curry Historical Society Collection.

Laurel earned a Bachelor’s degree in Geography from Humboldt State. Her research efforts as a volunteer for the Curry Historical Society produced numerous newsletter articles and exhibits and earned her a reputation as a seasoned local history buff. Laurel is the author of "Renderings from the Gold Beach Pioneer Cemetery", a 50-page booklet containing a walking tour and snippets about the lives and times of folks buried there. She is also a contributing writer to Oregon Coast Magazine.