The Spanish Flu Comes to Humboldt…

July 9, 2020


First published in the Lost Coast Outpost July 6, 2020


By the end of September 1918, as Spanish Influenza1 traveled quietly from east to west across the United States, Humboldt County residents started to hear about a new, especially particularly “energetic” and “swiftly spreading” germ that was ravaging communities across the country.

It was not a bad cold, officials warned, or even “la grippe,” a familiar form of the flu. Instead, this was a virulent and deadly virus. The US first case of Spanish Influenza, or “flu,” was identified in March of 1918 at a military base in Kansas — but even as the virus spread out of Kansas, first through the close quarters of army camps and prisons and then into American towns and cities, governments and media outlets in the US and abroad downplayed the danger as countries sought to keep spirits high and attention focused on the war.

On September 29, 1918, Edmund Wilson of Boston City Hospital, who had seen his community overrun with at least 10,000 cases, tried to warn the public of the “dreaded epidemic” and the Humboldt Times ran the story. His statement included symptoms to watch for, such as coughing, body pain, headaches and worse, included “simple” precautionary measures:

Keep away from infected persons. … Promiscuous spitting and coughing should be absolutely prohibited. Antiseptic-gauze masks should be worn by all attendants on a case. Public towels and drinking cups should be avoided and great care exercised in handling … all articles that have come in contact with the stricken.

Wilson concluded with a reminder that “only by loyal and intelligent co-operation of the general public can the epidemic of Spanish influenza be prevented from spreading throughout the country…” Unfortunately, still in the midst of war, America’s attention was elsewhere, and the virus spread unchecked. Just days after Wilson’s address, the Office of the Surgeon General reported 14,000 new influenza cases and hundreds of deaths.

The warnings were not heeded locally either. In July of 1918, Imogene Lockwood arrived in Humboldt County to train and work at the Union Labor Hospital in Eureka. Imogene noted in her diary that her first “Dr’s Lecture” on October 1, would be presented by Dr Wing, the City of Eureka’s Health Officer. Wing focused on pediatrics and obstetrics, Imogene wrote, without a mention of Spanish flu. Headlines in the Humboldt Times that day were all about the War, boasting of Bulgaria’s defeat and the anticipated Turkish surrender.

On October 2, the front page of the Humboldt Times did run a piece stating that the “Spanish Grippe” was spreading rapidly, but seemed to imply it was concentrated in Army camps. There was no local story and on October 3, Thompsons, a local merchant, advertised the “famous Beacon” blankets, and wool-filled comforters, without recognizing a potential new demand for their wares…

On October 4, the front page of the Humboldt Times featured excerpts of a National Health Service report citing an “alarming increase in the disease’s spread,” with over 120,000 flu and pneumonia cases and almost 2,500 deaths — but still there was no local coverage. Germany’s impending defeat grabbed the headlines instead, and on October 5, when the paper printed an Associated Press story about the “epidemic” and said the best way to combat the epidemic was to “prohibit public gatherings,” there was no local elaboration.

On October 6, 1918, the Humboldt Times did publish a national call for nurses, including those trained to be “merely assistants” asking them to prepare for deployment to areas of high infection. Within weeks, Humboldt County resident Mrs. Ira Russ was reassuring the young women on her list of volunteers that patient care would be “so light as to be well handled by a practical nurse.” Later, too many would lose their lives to the flu instead. October 8th’s paper was filled with news about the German’s surrender and the end of the war and included only a very short piece about a brigadier general who had lost his life to the Spanish Flu.

On Oct. 10, 1918, the Associated Press reported that Spanish Influenza had taken 7,432 American lives, infected 211,000 others and that another 25,083 suffered from pneumonia. California reported one thousand cases, though “only a few deaths.” Doctors in California, Nevada and Arizona, the story announced, had also been “mustered” to combat the Spanish Flu. The next day, a published statement from the Red Cross pleaded with Americans to uphold their “patriotic duty” and “Take Great Care To Prevent Spread On Pacific Coast,” warning that “the shortage of nurses and doctors is very serious… and an epidemic may spread so fast as to get entirely out of control.”

Spanish Flu Arrives in Humboldt County

On Saturday, October 12, 1918, the Humboldt Times announced the first identified cases of Spanish Influenza. The virus had arrived with two Austrian brothers, who had recently traveled north from San Francisco and then immediately infected their rooming house hosts, a man and wife “named Garbish.” Eureka City Health officer Dr. Lawrence Wing announced that “All but the woman are now in bed with the malady and are isolated.” Asked to elaborate, Wing said the sick would stay in their rooms — but he would not order a quarantine, “unless we are so instructed by the State Board of Health.”

Mayor George W. Cousins declared that if there were other cases by Monday, schools and public gathering places like churches and theaters, would close. But there were no cases identified that Monday and life continued as usual.

October 13 saw five new cases reported to the Board of Health, with area physicians reporting several more. A Eureka physician, Dr. Quinn, personally diagnosed five infections but declared the virus “not a quarantinable disease” and declined to give more specifics about the cases. This news was reported on page 6 of the Humboldt Times along with a warning the disease more often attacked young, strong, healthy adults between the ages of 20 and 40. The story included threats that if the virus continued to spread, officials might close “all places of public gatherings,” but that did not happen.

The Humboldt Times’ editor tackled the subject briefly on October 14, suggesting that the area’s citizens might well need to take precautionary measures “in time.” Above all, he declared “Do not let fear enter your mind. Exercise plenty, forget it and you will be less likely to become a victim.”

At least two local doctors assumed a similar attitude. Despite increasing fatalities across the country and rising local case numbers, on October 15, Dr. Quinn described the Spanish Flu as simply a more serious form of la grippe, or regular flu,  brought on by a changing climate. The city’s health officer, Dr. Wing, predicted zero fatalities “if patients take care of themselves” and the epidemic was handled competently.

Imogene Lockwood, the young nurse at Eureka’s Union Hospital, seemed similarly unconcerned when was despite admitting that she had never been ill in bed “a whole day since I could remember, ” she fell sick and was down the greater part of a week. After all, on October 15 the County had only 19 official cases of Spanish Influenza and none appeared serious.

At this time, officials considered and then declined to close the schools, which they considered safer and offered “better sanitary condition than many of the homes from which some of the children come.” Also like COVID-19, initially the Spanish Flu was not considered a “children’s disease” and therefore even less dangerous than the measles or chicken pox. Officials also thought that closing the schools would enable many children “to run the streets and visit the picture shows and libraries,” which might lead to greater spread of infection than more sedentary classroom activities.

Officials did acknowledge that “moving picture shows and like gatherings” were a different matter but would not stop them until the county saw a “tendency to a rapid spread of the disease.”

On October 16, the paper offered a list of suggestions to avoid the flu. These included avoiding crowds and covering coughs and sneezes. Number five in the list of ten was to “Keep your hands clean and keep them out of your mouth.” In this issue, local doctor Charles Falk also offered suggestions on how to stay healthy and warned that unlike measles, scarlet fever or small-pox, which offered immunity to another “attack,” a bout of the Spanish Flu did not appear to offer the same protection.

Like COVID-19 today, in 1918 the more populated areas were hit with the “flu” sooner, “owing apparently to the more crowded conditions in the large cities.” On October 17, as case counts continued to rise, San Francisco ordered “practically all” public gathering places in the city to close per the city Board of Health. Theaters, churches, public and private schools, public and private dances and gatherings, cabarets and more were ordered to shutter their doors. Humboldt County officials, despite 21 new cases reported in a single day (principally in the lumber camps) and a new county total of 30 (official) cases, still resisted this drastic measure. Lack of information regarding the threat may have played a role, especially in the smaller communities, for as late as October 19, “Uncle Sam’s Advice on the Flu” ran on page 6 of the Blue Lake Advocate, while news about a county supervisor’s session, a new electric light plant and a recent timber deal made the front page.

In Eureka, however, October 19 marked a turning point. When the State Board of Health ordered closure of all “public places of amusement” and the temporary end to public meetings, the county followed suit. And though the state stopped short of closing schools and churches, the local board of health declared that it did not “see the advisability of closing merely a few of the places of greatest danger and leaving others open” and closed local schools and churches as well. The absence of 187 pupils from the high school and 216 from the grammar school may have played a part.

Unfortunately, the virus continued to spread. October 20 saw 132 cases reported to the Eureka City Health Office and by October 24, the number had reached 500. Nine people had already lost their lives …

Next week:

Humboldt County’s efforts in 1918 to stop the spread of the deadly Spanish Flu, including masking up, social distancing, closing non-essential businesses and more.


1. Origin of “Spanish” influenza: There is no evidence the “Spanish flu” originated in Spain. During World War 1, Spain was one of the few European nations to remain neutral and had no reason to suppress news of the 1918 epidemic, which other countries feared might make them look weak or divert attention from the war. Because news of the virulent virus first broke from Spain, people erroneously assumed it originated there.

Pet Birds and Copper Ware, Eureka 1891

June 11, 2020

Pet birds were clearly a thing in 1891.  And so was staring at the photographer (or having everyone in the vicinity gather and pose “casually”) while he or she took a picture.  I wish I had a pic of their Copper Ware. I bet it was lovely…

As always, please click the image to enlarge for more detail…


A friend just sent me this Wikipedia link with info about Studebaker-(referencing the sign on the left).  Here’s the relevant part:

Studebaker  was an American wagon and automobile manufacturer based in South Bend, Indiana. Founded in 1852 and incorporated in 1868[1] as the Studebaker Brothers Manufacturing Company, the firm was originally a producer of wagons, buggies, carriages and harnesses. 

This photo makes it tempting to discuss the pretty serious changes happening in the newspaper industry- but frankly, right now I’m trying to use this blog as an escape from all the sad and challenging and awful news whirling around us in everyday 2020. I’d rather not contribute to it-not that often anyway….

And so…

Here is a brief history of our local papers, including the Humboldt Standard, housed above, from Wikipedia

Established by E.D. Coleman[5] in 1854, the Humboldt Times began publishing in what is known today as Old Town Eureka. The first issue of the Humboldt Times was printed on September 2, 1854. Another daily newspaper, the Humboldt Standard, began publishing in 1875. After a lengthy period of spirited competition and then a period of joint ownership with separate operations, the two papers merged in 1967 to form what is now the Times-Standard.[6] According to an older version of the newspaper’s “about us” section of its web page, moving day came on December 7, 1968. Staff writer Andrew Genzoli later recalled, “There hadn’t been so much excitement in the newsroom since Pearl Harbor”.[7]

Click HERE for a much (much, MUCH) more detailed history of local papers (with graphs and everything)…

Click HERE to see a pic shows the Union (Arcata) newspaper office (up the street on the right).

And here is 2nd and E in Eureka now. It is not impossible that the false front on the left side hides an original building. Not impossible…




Illegitimate children expose illicit relations (update 2020)

May 28, 2020

Image borrowed from this genealogy blog, original source unknown

I ran across this old post the other day, which I’ve always found interesting and pretty tragic in its ramifications ….

Researching Lucy has given me an opportunity to learn many, many things about our history, including the court’s attitude toward illegitimate children in the early 1900s.

The following came from the Superior Court of California (County of Humboldt) probate record for Charles Mulberg (Lucy’s son) , who died “on or about March 23, 1928″.

…Inheritance in all other cases is eliminated on account of public policy founded upon a moral reason.  If every illegitimate child could claim inheritance from his brothers and sisters, public scandal would be placed upon the head of many otherwise decent and respectable citizens.  The legislature therefore evidently considered it a better policy to lessen public scandal and deny inheritance to an illegitimate, than to throw open the doors of public scandal and gossip, subject many persons to questionable ridicule and permit an illegitimate to expose the  illicit relations of his or her ancestors, merely for the purpose of sharing the estate of his parent’s kindred.   It therefore left the right of inheritance of an illegitimate to these cases where the parents themselves had exposed such illicit relations by admitting parentage. …

 Sucks for the poor children  whose fathers didn’t want to claim them.

2020 Note: I did find this interesting article on the history of child support in 18th and 19th century London (from the University of Cambridge) while looking for an image for this post… 


Carson Block – Then and Stucco and Now

May 24, 2020


Notes from 2020:   This is another of my favorite posts highlighting a true architectural treasure in Old Town, Eureka (with some added 2020 notes)…. 

Here is a story the Lost Coast Outpost did about the restoration work.

And here is a little blurb from the Arcata Economic Development Corporation (AEDC) that gives a little history on the building and the financing that made the restoration possible

And this story by Kathy Dillon for the Eureka Heritage Society’s Architectural Legacy newsletter gives the most detailed information about the building’s history and restoration. This also includes some great photos of the building’s original Ingomar theater.

Please click on the photos below to enlarge and see details.

1892.12.23_Daily Humboldt Times (Humboldt County Library)

1892.12.23: Daily Humboldt Times (Humboldt County Library)

1904- Souvenir Photo-Carson Block Ext (Humboldt County Library)

1904- Souvenir Photo (Humboldt County Library)

Carson Block Building (Humboldt County Historical Society)

Humboldt County Historical Society

Carson Block Building (Humboldt County HIstorical Society)

Humboldt County Historical Society

NCIDC Collection

NCIDC Collection

NCIDC Collection

NCIDC Collection

North Coast Journal, January 2016

North Coast Journal, January 2016

The building is quiet now, but that will change….

1850 Description of Humboldt

May 6, 2020

HSU Collection: 2003.01.0490

Eureka as painted by a soldier in 1854- Please click on the painting to enlarge.


Understanding Our Region Through Historic Landscape Narratives

October, 2013

When the first Euro-American ships arrived off Humboldt Bay in the spring of 1850, those onboard witnessed a spectacle that we can only dream about.

“I must now tell you that the land is so beautiful and the soil so rich that I was almost fascinated with the scene, and if I could have you and Ginney, Rachel and our family, with some of our valued friends, I could almost give up Erie. In addition to the good qualities of the land, the waters produce clams in abundance as well as fish; and geese, ducks, snipe, plover, etc. are about as numerous as wild pigeons at Erie in the spring. The wood is not less productive than the water and droves of elk and deer, with a goodly number of bears are always to be found….” (Lewis, 1966)

Captain Douglas Ottinger, on board the Laura Virginia, in Humboldt Bay, April 1850, to his “Good Wife,”


Note: Susie Van Kirk was an amazing and generous historian and a wonderful human being. She passed away in 2016 and I miss her still….

Remnants of Eureka’s Past…

May 3, 2020

So I’ve always liked to walk and luckily for me, Eureka offers no end of things to see for those who loves historic architecture.

Apparently Sam McManis from the Sacramento Bee concurs.

And Wikipedia said this:

Old Town Eureka (formally the Eureka Old Town Historic District) in Eureka, California, is listed on the United States National Register of Historic Places. This Historic district is a 350-acre (1.4 km2) area containing 154 buildings[2] mostly from the Victorian era. The core of the district runs the length of First, Second, and Third Streets, between “C” and “M” Streets and includes many types of architecture from the 1850s to the present. Though not officially within the district, the Carson Mansion, the undisputed Victorian jewel of the city and region, commands the highest elevation at the eastern edge of the district. Art venues, coffee shops, bed and breakfasts and inns, antique stores and shops, restaurants, museums and galleries, and public areas (complete with views of Humboldt Bay and its marinas) are among the highlights of this gem of the West Coast. Of particular note is the remarkable authenticity of the district simply because it did not suffer the ravages of extensive fires or redevelopment like many other historic commercial centers.


While I have more time on my hands and beautiful days to walk Eureka, I thought I would focus on specific blocks- and see what I find. Yesterday I noticed that behind the facades on 5th Street between A & B Streets, there seemed to be houses. Quite a few of them. Below is what I found when I dug online.

And… I do realize there are only a small number of folks will find this truly interesting, but for those that do, enjoy. And if you are out and about and find other architectural remnants, please do send your pics my way. Pretty please.


*     *     *

Let’s start with yesterday… (BTW, click on any photo/graphic to enlarge for detail). 

You can see the roof line of houses behind the commercial facades… 

5th Street, Between A & B

So I checked the Sanborn Fire Insurance Maps and sure enough…. (Dwg=dwelling; Gro=grocers; Store Rm= Store room- looks like part was one story, the back part 1 1/2 stories- which you’ll see soon…)

Sanborn Fire Insurance Map, 1889


Thanks, Google

Ok, the Google satellite view shows the warehouses, which were built by 1920- so here’s those…

Sanborn Fire Insurance Maps, 1920

I love (love, LOVE) that there was a “2nd hand store” on the corner in 1920 (100 years ago !)  I am a big fan of 2nd hand stores…


And here is the alley (because the alley tells a story too….)

The alley between 4th and 5th Street, A-B Streets- Notice the 2 warehouses from the 1920 map…


Also from the alley- You’ll notice this footprint (recessed area) in the maps above ….


And this is the storeroom from the 1889 map (I think) with a little addition to tie it to the front building. Sure looks the same…


Sanborn Fire Insurance Map, 1889

Hope you enjoyed- and don’t forget to send me pics of any remnants you find:




The windows are dark in the Ricks Building

May 2, 2020

So, umm, yes, it has been 3 long years since I’ve posted on this blog (it took forever to remember how to log-in) but my interest in local history and Humboldt’s beautiful historic architecture has never waned.  Nor has my interest in the local community—local prosperity.

I went into the now-closed Old Town Coffee and Chocolates (OTC, 211 F Street, Eureka) the other day to pick up some crafts the owners had been generous enough to let me sell there –  and had to be let in through locked doors by one of the owners- who I’ll call G. She had to let me in because there was no staff on site.

The café was dark and oh-so-quiet.  I told G that OTC had been one of my “satellite” offices, as I work from home,  but did not share that I had also enjoyed many Thursday night Open Mics there too. Evenings where you could hear angelic voices singing beautiful love songs, or a man with no home sharing Viking ballads or the most brutal poems. It was a gift, that space. Those nights. For both the performers and the audience.

And now… Damn. There are no words. Old Town Coffee’s Henderson Center shop is still open and I hope it stays that way. But I can only hope.

Until then, a distraction…

Enjoy this post of the Rick’s Building- where Old Town Coffee and Chocolates and many other businesses recently thrived. And still may, someday.

If not, as the map from 1889 clearly shows,  things will change. And change again…


Ricks Building- F Street, Old Town, Eureka


1889 Sanborn Fire Insurance Map (Source: HSU Special Collection)



Survey about Fort Humboldt

April 1, 2016
Fort Humboldt Entrance Signs - 2
Nicholas Hubbard, who grew up in Humboldt and is currently going to school on the east coast, is doing a masters project focused on Fort Humboldt. He is asking local folks to respond to his survey-which will help him with his efforts.  Please take a moment to take the survey (it is quick and simple and will help him immensely). Thank you.
Survey Link:
From Nick:
“Through Various Hazards and Adventures We Move is a series of site specific installation and participatory performance events created by artist Nick Hubbard, that will take place in late April in Eureka.  The work examines the meaning of Fort Humboldt in the present day.
Nick has designed a survey as part of Through Various Hazards.  Your anonymous responses may appear as quotes on installation plaques, in tweets by the artist, or on the project website.  By participating you have the opportunity to enrich the community’s understanding of one of its foundational sites and share what Eureka’s history means to you.

The questions in the survey are open to interpretation, and there’s no right way to answer them. Whether you grew up going to Fort Humboldt, or you’ve never been, you are invited to share your perspective.  And please share widely amongst your Eureka and Humboldt circles.”

1906 Expulsion of the Chinese

January 24, 2016
The County photo is dated 1885, but Pfaelzer dates is 1906...

Source: Humboldt County Collection (notice the Yacht Club in the background)

Jeannie Pfaelzer included a photo in her book, Driven Out, The Forgotten War Against Chinese Americans, that references a Chinese expulsion in Humboldt County in 1906- I’ve finally found the story…

In the summer of 1905, the Tallant-Grant Co. of Astoria, Oregon established a cold storage plant at Port Kenyon on the Salt River and with the commencement of the salmon season in October, purchased the fishermen’s catches for two cents a pound. During two months of fishing and at various times, daily receipts of nine, ten, and twelve tons were recorded (Ferndale Enterprise, 1 Aug. 1905; 17 Oct. 1905; 27 Oct. 1905; 5 Dec. 1905). Because Eel River salmon were no longer of the size or grade most desirable for cold storage purposes and in order to handle this surplus, the Company explored the feasibility of developing a cannery at Port Kenyon (Ferndale Enterprise 2 Oct. 1906). An inquiry was made to the Ferndale Chamber of Commerce about the employment of Chinese labor, without which, the Company claimed such a plant could not be successful. The Chamber responded that there would be no objection as long as certain conditions were met,including 1) the Chinese would work only at the cannery, 2) stay no longer than the period of operations, and 3) they would not be permitted at any time to leave the vicinity of the cannery (Ferndale Enterprise 22 June 1906). The Tallant-Grant Company built a 110×50 addition to the Port Kenyon Cold Storage Company building for the cannery, which began operations during the 1906 season. The investors felt that such a facility would be economically viable by utilizing the smaller salmon caught by the local fishermen and easily exported via the Salt River (Ferndale Enterprise 4 Sept. 1906; 9 Oct. 1906). Read the rest of this entry »

The Carson Block Turret

January 7, 2016

Photos: NCIDC & Clarke Collections

Some day this project will be done and I’ll stop posting Carson Block Building photos. But not yet. I’m proud to say my client Pacific Builders is leading this project and doing an incredible job.