Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Mountain View Cemetery: 1918 Flu Pandemic

Last month I was in Mountain View Cemetery again to check out the grave of Captain William T. Shorey, and noted that he died during the 1918-1920 influenza pandemic, or as it's widely known, the Spanish flu. You may also have seen the name grippe, or la grippe.

Kaiser Convention Center

Although Capt. Shorey and his family are in their own plot, there's a section in Mt. View where many Oakland victims of the flu are buried. According to Wikipedia, the three waves of the pandemic killed more than 1,400 people out of 216,000 then living in Oakland, or about 0.65% of the population. For a time, the Kaiser Convention Center (then known as the Oakland Auditorium) was used as a makeshift hospital.

The worldwide toll was staggering. It's estimated that between 50 and 100 million people died in the years of the pandemic, or between 3 and 6% of the world's population at the time. In an unusual twist, most of the victims were healthy, young adults, because the virus stimulated an overreaction from their healthy immune systems. It spread rapidly around the world because of advances in transportation and because of World War I, even as far as the Arctic and remote Pacific islands.

Warren E. Greer

Not all of the people buried in plot 53 at Mt. View are influenza victims, but one was Warren Everett Greer (1880-1919). He married Freida Jund, and they had a son, Everett Greer (who is buried nearby in St. Mary's cemetery). Warren was an accountant, and a Woodman of the World. He would have been about 39 when influenza struck, in the prime of life.

A few of the other gravestones that caught my eye are below. Not all are influenza victims, but there's a native of Australia, some symbols that were new to me, and more. DeMolay International (the crest with the DM, crescent moon and star) is connected to the Freemasons, and past members include Walt Disney, John Wayne, Walter Cronkite, John Steinbeck, and Bill Clinton.

lots more pictures:

Read more about the influenza plot at Mountain View Cemetery, and about some of the more famous victims of the flu at Lives of the Dead. Read some newspaper articles from the period at Oakland Genealogy.

Visit Taphophile Tragics for interesting graves from around the world.


Ann said...

I didn't know grippe was flu. Those are very "modern" and simple headstones for that period, the one's I've seen here are more ornate.

Halcyon said...

Very interesting post. I love seeing the different kinds of grave markers.

Melbourne Australia Photos said...

The flu pandemic caused a huge number of deaths worldwide and and it's interesting seeing it being related to a cemetery like you have done in your post. An interesting selection of headstone too!

Gene said...

@Ann - I learned 'grippe' in researching this, too.

@Halcyon - As Ann noted, these are simpler than many. I don't know if it's because of tastes at the time, the flu and WWI so things were more somber, or if these are simply not as fancy as the markers of the really wealthy.

Julie said...

So many young deaths, I agree. The 'Lamb of God' is a popular carving over here, too. Nearly identical.

Over here, we have many many markers which say where the person was born, but they do not use the expression 'native of'.

This reminds me more of our 'lawn cemeteries', Gene. However, these are nearly always in the most boring of straight lines. they are also covered in flowers (in pots and in stands. So look more of a jumble ...

The Spanish Flu epidemic here was attributed to rats being brought in in the holds of ships. One suburb in Sydney, Millers Point down near the harbour bridge, was razed in an attempt to eradicate the cause. It eventually worked, but at great cost to the working class, poor. Isn't that always the way.

Oakland Daily Photo said...

I'm guessing the star is for Eastern Star, the women's auxiliary to DeMolay.

Gene said...

Yep, Eastern Star. It's hard to see in the photo, but it has F A T A L around the star = Fairest Among Thousands, Altogether Lovely

Francisca said...

I knew about the 1918 Spanish Flu Pandemic and the 14th C Black Bubonic Plague in Europe, but never knew the former hit the USA and other areas of the world, too, so this post was enlightening. Hope I don't miss your post when you cover Golden Lotus Mountain. :-)