Jan Cook

Jan Cook is a library technician for the Lake County Library where she has worked since 1989. She wears a multitude of library hats, including the one for answering Lake County genealogy and history questions. Jan belongs to the Lake County Genealogical Society, the Lake County Historical Society and the Ladies of the Lake Quilt Guild. She designed Lakeport Library’s Quilt Trail block, Friends of the Library. One of her favorite library jobs is doing research in the old newspapers.

A History of the 1918 Spanish Influenza in Lake County

Weekly newspapers, the Lake County Bee and the Clear Lake Press, both published in Lakeport, the Kelseyville Sun and the Lower Lake Bulletin, kept Lake County’s estimated 5500 residents informed with the hard news and the social news columns.
Lake County’s day to day life unfolds in the antique social media. Routine reports of property sales, cattlemen in town on business, and relatives visiting each other are interspersed with flu cases and flu deaths. Red Cross volunteers reported on making clothing for soldiers in combat and for European refugees, and on making gauze anti-flu masks.

The newspapers convey a sense of Lake County fighting influenza on its own. Relatives, friends, neighbors and nurses cared for patients at home. Overwhelmed caregivers begged for volunteer nurses. Doctors like Walter Fearn, Henry Stipp, J.B. Baker, county health officer Murdock Craig and Calistoga’s Walter Blodgett coped with the crisis as best they could.
Local newspapers printed Surgeon General Rupert Blue’s “Advice on Flu” that recommended avoiding crowds, covering coughs and sneezes, getting fresh air, eating wholesome food, and wearing masks.

In October Dr. Craig advised people to avoid public gatherings for a week. Although the moving picture show, churches services and schools closed for few days, some folks doubted the need for concern.

The Lake County Bee scoffed, “There is no epidemic of influenza here, nor of anything else unless it is fright. The Board of Health acted on the theory that an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure and that a majority of the people of Lakeport wanted them to take the action they did.”
The social news tells the other side of the story. People came to Lake County from cities to avoid the influenza. Social customs changed as small unostentatious weddings and outdoor funerals became the norm. Masks became fashionable.


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