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As It Was: Flu Epidemic Takes 11 Ashland, Ore., Lives

Two headstones engraved with roses stand together in Ashland’s Mountain View Cemetery, marking the burial place of three Bezold family members who died during the Spanish influenza pandemic of 1918.

On Oct. 22, William Bezold, his wife, Edna, and two sons, 4-year old Arthur, and 2-year old Loren, were driving from Washington State to Arizona. In Southern Oregon, the parents and children became feverish and had difficulty breathing. They stopped in Ashland for medical care but it was too late. William died the next day, and the following morning, their 2-year old son succumbed to the virus. Edna lingered for three more days before succumbing. Only Arthur recovered.

The first cases of Spanish Flu surfaced in Ashland in early October. The authorities closed schools for 21 days, suspended church services, lodge events, and other social functions, and required memorial services to be held outside. The Red Cross distributed gauze masks and a nurse tended a health office downtown.

By the time the epidemic ran its course in the summer of 1919, some 3,500 Oregonians had died, at least 11 from Ashland, population about 2,000 at the time.

Sources: "Spanish Influenza Reported in City." Ashland Tidings, 7 Oct. 1918; "Nurse Visiting Ashland Schools." Ibid, 15 Oct. 1918; “Ban on City to Prevent Contagion." Ibid, 22 Oct. 1918; "Third Influenza Victim Laid Away." Ibid, 27 Oct. 1918; "Three Died from Spanish Influenza." Ibid, 29 Oct. 1918; "Schools Closed in Order to Check Spread of Flu." Ibid, 17 Dec. 1918; "Red Cross Can Supply Calls for Gauze Masks." Ibid, 17 Dec. 1918; Miller, Bill. "Terror of the Spanish Lady." Medford Mail Tribune, 28 Oct. 2018; "Influenza Claims Another Victim." Oregon Secretary of State, sos.oregon.gov/archives/exhibits/ww1/Pages/active-influenza-victim.aspx.

Lynne Hasselman has a passion for storytelling and a heart for history. As a freelance historical writer for the Oregonian, she’s drawn to the experiences of ordinary people living in extraordinary times.