For­mer hospi­tal re­opens in 1918 to fight the flu

Times Standard (Eureka) - - LOCAL NEWS - By Heather Shelton hshel­ton@times-stan­

Eureka’s old North­ern Cal­i­for­nia Hospi­tal, which be­came St. Joseph Hospi­tal in 1920, ended up be­ing a vi­tal player in the fight against Span­ish in­fluenza in Oc­to­ber 1918.

On Oct. 23 of that year, the Hum­boldt County Coun­cil of De­fense and the Board of Su­per­vi­sors met and, with ap­proval from state of­fi­cials, leased then­closed hospi­tal to the city of Eureka for up to six months as ex­tra space to treat Span­ish flu pa­tients.

Lo­cal his­to­rian and au­thor Jerry Ro­hde — a past pres­i­dent of the Hum­boldt County His­tor­i­cal So­ci­ety — said that the North­ern Cal­i­for­nia Hospi­tal, lo­cated at Trin­ity and F streets in Eureka, had been owned by two broth­ers, Drs. Cur­tis and Charles Falk.

“I don’t know when it started, but it had closed by 1918 when the Sis­ters of St. Joseph per­suaded the county Board of Su­per­vi­sors to re­open it as an emer­gency hospi­tal dur­ing the in­fluenza epi­demic,” he said.

“I be­lieve the Sis­ters, who did not have med­i­cal train­ing, helped staff the re­opened hospi­tal. In 1920, af­ter the epi­demic had passed, the for­mer North­ern Cal­i­for­nia Hospi­tal was re­opened as St. Joseph’s,” said Ro­hde, not­ing he ob­tained much of this in­for­ma­tion from the Septem­ber/Oc­to­ber 1990 edi­tion of the Hum­boldt His­to­rian mag­a­zine.

The Amer­i­can Red Cross over­saw re­open­ing of the for­mer North­ern Cal­i­for­nia Hospi­tal in 1918, with Dr. C. M. Mercer and oth­ers mak­ing sure the space — which was to house at least 100 beds — had am­ple in­ven­tory on hand. An Oct. 23, 1918 Hum­boldt Times ar­ti­cle stated: “The (hospi­tal re­open­ing) will … greatly re­lieve the sit­u­a­tion with re­spect to nurses and the cen­tral­iza­tion of a larger num­ber of cases now spread around in homes, ho­tels and room­ing houses.”

Mrs. Ira Russ was put in charge of the re­fur­bished hospi­tal. City at­tor­ney J. J. Cairns, the Rev. Robert Crich­ton and other res­i­dents gath­ered in late Oc­to­ber 1918 to move fur­ni­ture and sup­plies into the hospi­tal, ac­cord­ing to the Hum­boldt Times. Red Cross nurses, as well as re­tired and prac­ti­cal nurses, showed up to work in the ini­tial days af­ter the build­ing opened.

Com­mu­nity vol­un­teers also helped out. Fifty seam­stresses made face masks and pneu­mo­nia jack­ets, ac­cord­ing to the Oct. 25, 1918 Hum­boldt Times.

Women in the com­mu­nity cooked and de­liv­ered meals to the hospi­tal for pa­tients. The Hum­boldt Times re­ported: “It is re­quested that the women send­ing in cooked foods in con­tain­ers mark the dishes so that they may be re­turned to them.” A call was also put out for linens for the hospi­tal, which needed at least 25 ad­di­tional sets of sheets and pil­low cases to ac­com­mo­date the num­ber of beds avail­able.

Lots of other flu-re­lated sto­ries also ap­peared in the late Oc­to­ber edi­tions of the Hum­boldt Times. Here are a few:

· Mem­bers of the Eureka Elks Lodge vol­un­teered the use of their head­quar­ters to house peo­ple suf­fer­ing from the flu. In an Oct. 27, 1918 ar­ti­cle, Eureka city physi­cian Dr. Lawrence Wing — who was ill in bed with flu-like symp­toms at the time — said it wasn’t nec­es­sary right then, but he might take the Elks up on the of­fer if the epi­demic es­ca­lated.

· The Oct. 28, 1918 Hum­boldt Times re­ported that po­lice of­fi­cer Quigg “did valiant duty yesterday in the en­force­ment of the or­der of the health board to wear anti-flu masks. One launch from across the bay brought a load of pas­sen­gers, nearly all of whom were with­out masks. Quigg … met the launch, and the whole load was es­corted to a drug­store, where they put on the masks.”


This ad ran in nu­mer­ous Oc­to­ber 1918 edi­tions of the Hum­boldt Times news­pa­per. Do­bell’s So­lu­tion, which peo­ple used as a mouth­wash or nose spray, was one way to help guard against in­fluenza, ac­cord­ing to the ad­ver­tise­ment.

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