The 1918 Spanish Flu in Augusta, Georgia

Camp Hancock, Georgia 1918

How to Avoid Spanish Influenza

Avoid crowds. Practice scrupulous cleanliness. Always wash hands before eating. Get plenty of fresh air. Get plenty of nourishing food, and do not worry.

Printed in the Augusta Chronicle a little over 100 years ago, on September 30, 1918, this statement issued by president of the Augusta Board of Health, Dr. John Wright sounds eerily familiar to what we are being told to do today by the Center for Disease Control and the National Institute of Health to limit the spread of COVID-19.

Augusta Chronicle 30 September 1918 p. 2

While none of us have lived through a pandemic such as COVID-19, and the world is a much different place than it was at the end of World War I, the Spanish flu does set a precedent for us and offers some guidance on how to proceed. Many studies were conducted following the 1918 Spanish influenza, comparing how major U.S. cities responded, and what measures were taken to limit the spread of the virus. For example, Philadelphia waited longer than most cities to implement social distancing measures, such as closing schools, churches, and banning other social gatherings, and even decided to host a parade that drew a crowd of over 200,000 people. Because of this, the city saw a total of 748 deaths, compared to St. Louis, a city that implemented strict social distancing measures early on in the pandemic, thereby “flattening the curve,” and at 358 deaths, had one of the lowest mortality rates of any major U.S. city.

National Geographic. How Some Cities Flattened the Curve During the 1918 Flu Pandemic, 27 March 2020
National Geographic. How Some Cities Flattened the Curve During the 1918 Flu Pandemic, 27 March 2020

The first known U.S. case of the Spanish influenza occurred at Camp Funston, Kansas in March of 1918, and from there quickly spread across the country. The first cases reported in Georgia occurred at Camp Gordon in Atlanta. A September 17, 1918 article in the Augusta Chronicle stated that the camp had been quarantined in light of the illness, and went on to compare other cases at army camps in Massachusetts, Virginia, and New York where U.S. Army Surgeon General, William Gorgas said the disease was at epidemic levels. Because of the crowded conditions, and the travelling of military officials from camp to camp and across the Atlantic, the virus spread unabated through army and navy installations throughout the United States.

Augusta Chronicle. 17 September 1918, p. 2

For days afterwards, the Chronicle reported no influenza at Camp Hancock nor in Augusta proper, but it was only a matter of time before cases began popping up, and on September 30, 1918 in bold, block print on the front page, the newspaper reported that 13 out of 3000 troops, recently arrived to Camp Hancock from Camp Grant in Rockford, Illinois were infected with the dreaded flu. Army officials downplayed the cases, insisting that none of the infections originated at the camp, and given the healthy conditions of Camp Hancock compared to other army camps around the United States, they believed “the disease will be controlled at this point without great difficulty.” However, the camp went on immediate lock down, quarantining those sick, and limiting the movement of soldiers within the camp, but stopping short by continuing to allow soldiers to visit downtown Augusta.

Camp Hancock was a massive World War I temporary military installation named for Civil War General Winfield Scott Hancock. Located on 1,777 acres at the top of “the Hill” where Wrightsboro and Highland Roads converge with Daniel Field, the rising tent city held 35,000 men, and 1,300 buildings, barracks, eating halls, hospitals, showers, latrines, storerooms, garages and office buildings.

Augusta Chronicle 30 September 1918, p. 1
Augusta Chronicle 30 September 1918, p.2
Augusta Chronicle 30 September 1918, p. 2

The following day on October 1st, the number of reported cases at the camp jumped to 700 and the city’s Board of Health began enacting social distancing measures.  Streetcars were ordered to not overcrowd, limiting them to the carrying capacity of seated passengers only and soldiers from the camp were banned from riding any public transport though they could still accept rides in private vehicles.  The Board also ordered the newly arrived Ringling Brothers Circus to limit their crowds to 1200 people at a time.  Time and again, the disease was downplayed as “not that serious” and as long as people kept themselves clean and well nourished they would have no trouble avoiding the disease or quickly recovering if they did become ill. 

Augusta Chronicle. 1 October 1918, p. 1.

By October 4, 1918 three cases were reported in the city, but two days later on October 6th, the Chronicle reported a total of forty-seven cases scattered around Augusta, including 200 cases in Graniteville and fourteen in Blythe. Area health officials began issuing face masks to local physicians and encouraging them to have their nursing staff wear the same. Travel to Camp Hancock was also prohibited. By October 5th, the Camp had suffered a total of thirty-two deaths since the outbreak began on September 30th with ten of the deaths happening in a forty-eight hour period. Elliott Funeral Home handled the funerals, and the newspaper began listing the dead. Striking are the ages of those who succumbed to the virus. Unlike COVID-19, the Spanish influenza was especially fatal to the young and those with strong immune systems.

Augusta Chronicle 4 October 1918, p. 7
Augusta Chronicle. 5 October 1918, p.1
Augusta Chronicle 6 October 1918, p. 5.

On October 7, 1918, Augusta reported sixteen new cases in the city, and twenty-five deaths at Camp Hancock. The following day the newspaper reported a total of sixty-five cases emerging in a twenty-four hour period bringing the total number of to 112. Stating that the numbers in Augusta had not yet reached epidemic levels, but in an effort prevent that from happening, the Board of Health issued an immediate city-wide quarantine – closing schools, churches, movie houses, and banning public gatherings, although “open-air” gatherings for funerals, church services and fairs were still allowed.

Augusta Chronicle. 8 October 1918, p.7
Augusta Chronicle. 8 October 1918, p. 7

During the month of October 1918, the city of Augusta suffered eighty deaths as a result of the Spanish flu, which the Chronicle reported be the highest number of deaths to occur during a single month period in the history of Richmond County. However, by the end of the month cases at both Camp Hancock, and in the city had begun to wane, which city health officials attributed to the strict quarantine measure.

Augusta Chronicle, 27 October 1918, p. 5.

The Armistice was signed on November 11, 1918, ending World War I, and with fewer cases emerging in Augusta, the flu seemed to be losing steam as well. As a result, the Board of Health decided to end the six week quarantine on November 15, 1918.

Augusta Chronicle. 11 November 1918, p. 1.
Augusta Chronicle. 15 November 1918, p. 5.

Almost immediately new cases of Spanish Flu were reported.  Schools still reopened and Augusta went back to its normal routine, but by December 17, 1918 it was obvious that the epidemic was not over.  On January 9, 1919 the Board of Health once again placed a flu quarantine on the city.  Despite the order, several churches reopened to the public “for prayer” only. Advertisements for every tonic and “cure-all” to fight the flu appeared in the paper daily, and had been since the epidemic began.  This time the quarantine ban stayed in place until February 1, 1919, although schools remained closed until February 10th.  By this time the number of new cases being reported to the Board of Health was dropping significantly and officials were more confident that the pandemic was finally passing.

Augusta Chronicle. 9 January 1919, p. 7
Augusta Chronicle. 17 December 1918, p. 3.

Ultimately, the 1918 Spanish flu pandemic lasted until 1920, and according to Center for Disease Control estimates the disease infected at least 500 million people worldwide, with about 675,000 occurring in the United States. The worldwide death toll was a least 50 million, but some sources believe it could have been as high as 100 million, making it the deadliest pandemic in modern history.

“Though seriously affected by the Spanish flu epidemic, Georgia escaped the massive numbers of sick and dying counted in other states along the east coast.”1

It seems Augusta too escaped the worst of the pandemic. In late 1918, the Chronicle reported a total of 1,400 cases in the city and 118 deaths, and Camp Hancock had 7,800 cases with 500 deaths.

Let’s hope we fare as well this time around.

  1. Womack, Todd. “World War I in Georgia.” New Georgia Encyclopedia. 05 November 2018. Web. 07 April 2020.

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Georgia Heritage Room Offers Remote Research Assistance

While the Augusta-Richmond County Public Library System remains closed to the public due to the Covid-19 pandemic, the staff of the Georgia Heritage Room have arranged to provide limited services remotely. Now might be a great time to start that family history research project you’ve been putting off, and the Georgia Room staff can help by answering basic getting started and how to research questions. We can assist with accessing the Augusta Chronicle digital archives, using Ancestry Library Edition from home (available remotely until April 30, 2020), and searching the Digital Library of Georgia Historic Newspapers website. Any requests requiring look ups in our print and microfilm collections will have to wait until the library reopens. We are available for basic newspaper searches, such as obituaries, and local history articles as well. Please send questions and/or requests to genealogy@arcpls.org. If you have questions about the Galileo password, or your library account password call the Headquarters Library at 706-821-2600. We look forward to seeing our local history and genealogy patrons when the Augusta Public Library reopens. In the meantime, stay healthy and safe.

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Ancestry Library Edition Available From Home Until April 30, 2020

Ancestry Library Edition is now available remotely to all Georgia PINES library card holders until April 30th. Ancestry Library Edition is the library subscription version of Ancestry.com and is accessible through GALILEO. If you’d like more information on how to access the database remotely, please send an email to genealogy@arcpls.org. The Georgia Room is closed but we are checking our email daily. Thank you and stay healthy.

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Ancestry Library Edition Class

Free Ancestry.com at Your Public Library
Tuesday, January 21, 2020
10:30 am
Third floor Computer Lab at Headquarters Library
Did you know an Augusta Public Library PINES card gives you free access to Ancestry.com? Join Georgia Room genealogist, Tina Rae Floyd, to learn how to search this vast collection of digitized records and find the ancestors you have been missing. This live tutorial will cover how to look through the various databases, mine the Learning Center to improve your research skills, and use the charts and forms available to keep your research organized. There is something for beginner and advanced researchers alike! Space is limited so be sure to call 706-826-1511 to reserve your spot!

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Historic Augusta Newspapers Now Available Online

Great news for Augusta, Georgia researchers and family historians. Thanks to a grant from the R. J. Taylor, Jr. Foundation, the Digital Library of Georgia (DLG) has digitized 188 Civil War and Reconstruction-era newspapers. The titles will be available through the Georgia Historic Newspapers Website, and among those digitized are several historic Augusta, Georgia newspapers: Atlanta/Augusta Daily Register (1864), a Civil War refugee newspaper, published in Augusta during Sherman’s March to the Sea; the Daily/Weekly Loyal Georgian (1867-1868), Augusta’s first African American newspaper, published during the early years of Reconstruction; Pacificator (1864-1865), Georgia’s first Catholic newspaper, published in Augusta during the Civil War; Southern Cultivator (1867-1870), an agricultural newspaper established in Augusta in 1843 and published in Athens after the Civil War.

Coming in the Summer of 2021, Augusta’s longtime evening newspaper, the Augusta Herald will be available too. Stay tuned!!

For more details, see the press release below:

For Immediate Release
December 11, 2019

WRITER: Mandy Mastrovita, mastrovi@uga.edu, 706-542-0587
CONTACT: Sheila McAlister, mcalists@uga.edu, 706-542-5418

Georgia Civil War and Reconstruction newspapers now freely available online

ATHENS, Ga. — As part of a $27,405.00 grant from the R. J. Taylor, Jr. Foundation, the Digital Library of Georgia has digitized over 100,000 pages of Georgia newspaper titles published from 1861 to 1877 from microfilm held by the Georgia Newspaper Project (libs.uga.edu/gnp/).

The project creates full-text searchable versions of the newspapers and presents them online for free in its Georgia Historic Newspapers database at gahistoricnewspapers.galileo.usg.edu in accordance with technical guidelines developed by the National Endowment for the Humanities and the Library of Congress for the National Digital Newspaper Program (see loc.gov/ndnp/).

The Georgia Historic Newspapers database will utilize the Library of Congress’ open-source tool, Chronicling America, for the online delivery of the full-text newspapers. Users will be able to search the database for geographic, corporate, family, and personal names.

Vivian Price Saffold, chairman of the R. J. Taylor, Jr. Advisory Committee, states: “Since 1971 genealogy researchers have depended on publications funded by grants from the R. J. Taylor, Jr. Foundation. The Foundation has funded the printing of thousands of books in traditional format. More recently the addition of digital projects, such as the Digital Library of Georgia’s newspaper project, has made possible free online access to tens of thousands of Georgia newspaper pages that previously were difficult to research. The DLG project is a great example of the kind of grant request the Foundation is proud to fund. Georgia newspapers are a valuable resource. On the technical side, the online newspaper images are sharp and clear, and the functionality of the indexing is excellent.”

188 Civil War and Reconstruction-era titles have been digitized from the following Georgia cities:

Alapaha, Americus, Athens, Atlanta, Augusta, Bainbridge, Brunswick, Buena Vista, Calhoun, Carrollton, Cartersville, Columbus, Conyers, Covington, Crawfordville, Cuthbert, Dallas, Dalton, Darien, Dawson, Eastman, Eatonton, Elberton, Ellijay, Fairburn, Florence, Forsyth, Gainesville, Greensboro, Greenville, Griffin, Hamilton, Hartwell, Hawkinsville, Hinesville, Jesup, LaGrange, Lexington, Louisville, Macon, Madison, Marietta, Milledgeville, Monroe, Palmetto, Quitman, Ringgold, Rome, Sandersville, Savannah, Social Circle, Summerville, Talbotton, Thomaston, Thomasville, Thomson, Washington, Waynesboro, and West Point.

Papers of interest include:

Christian Index (1867-1878) – Baptist newspaper published in Atlanta after the Civil War that claims the distinction of being the oldest continuously published religious newspaper in the United States.

Atlanta/Augusta Daily Register (1864) – Civil War refugee newspaper that fled approaching Union forces in Knoxville and published in Atlanta, and later Augusta during Sherman’s March to the Sea.

Daily/Weekly Loyal Georgian (1867-1868) – Augusta’s first African American newspaper published in the early years of Reconstruction.

Lucy Cobb Institute Messenger (1876) – School newspaper covering the events of the Lucy Cobb Institute, a young women’s secondary school in Athens.

Pacificator (1864-1865) – Georgia’s first Catholic newspaper published in Augusta during the Civil War. The paper advocated for an end to the fighting in the later years of the conflict.

Southern Cultivator (1867-1870)- Agricultural newspaper established in Augusta in 1843 and published in Athens after the Civil War.

Newspaper title highlights from Georgia regions include:

East Georgia:

  • Augusta Weekly Chronicle and Sentinel (1861-1881)
  • Jefferson/Louisville News and Farmer (1871-1923)
  • Washington Gazette (1866-1885)

Metro Atlanta:

  • Atlanta Daily New Era (1866-1871)
  • Conyers Rockdale Register (1876-1877)
  • Marietta Field and Fireside (1877-1879)

Middle Georgia:

  • Forsyth Monroe Advertiser (1873-1888)
  • Macon Georgia/Daily Journal and Messenger (1862-1869)
  • Hawkinsville Dispatch (1867-1877)

North Georgia:

  • Athens Georgia Collegian (1870-1872)
  • Calhoun Weekly/Saturday Times (1870-1877)
  • Cartersville Express (1867-1879)

South Georgia:

  • Dawson Journal (1866-1882)
  • Savannah Daily Herald (1866-1867)
  • Thomasville Southern Enterprise (1867-1876)

West Georgia:

  • Carroll County Times (1872-1880)
  • Columbus Daily/Weekly Sun (1861-1873)
  • Thomaston Herald (1870-1878)

Selected Images:

Banner of the South, October 15, 1870, page 1
Burke’s Weekly for Boys and Girls, June 6, 1868, page 1
Southern Cultivator, April 1, 1867, page 1
Daily Loyal Georgian, June 1, 1867, page 1
Pacificator, October 15, 1864, page 1

About the R. J. Taylor, Jr. Foundation

The purpose of the R. J. Taylor, Jr. Foundation Trust is to promote genealogical research and study in Georgia in conjunction with the Georgia Genealogical Society and the Georgia Archives. Grants are made to individuals and organizations to defray the expense of publishing (print or digital) records of a genealogical nature from public and private sources. The primary emphasis is on preserving and making available to the public genealogical data concerning citizens of Georgia who were residents prior to 1851. Visit the R. J. Taylor, Jr. Foundation at taylorfoundation.org

About the Digital Library of Georgia

Based at the University of Georgia Libraries, the Digital Library of Georgia is a GALILEO initiative that collaborates with Georgia’s libraries, archives, museums and other institutions of education and culture to provide access to key information resources on Georgia history, culture, and life. This primary mission is accomplished through the ongoing development, maintenance, and preservation of digital collections and online digital library resources. DLG also serves as Georgia’s service hub for the Digital Public Library of America and as the home of the Georgia Newspaper Project, the state’s historic newspaper microfilming project. Visit the DLG at dlg.usg.edu.

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ONE DAY ONLY!!!!

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Take Me Out to the Ballpark

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Beyond Basics Class

At some point or another, every family researcher runs into that dreaded “brick wall”. Join Tina Rae Floyd as she shows you how to mine your documents for more clues to help you overcome brick walls and challenging ancestral research. Discover how developing a better understanding of record creation can help you determine where to look next for that elusive clue to your ancestor’s story. Call (706)826-1511 to reserve your spot today!

Tuesday, 23 April 2019 @ 10:30am
Augusta-Richmond County Public Library Main Building
Auditorium A
823 Telfair St, Augusta, GA 30901

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Robert Mills Book of Designs Now Available

Historic Architectural Sketches of Augusta First Presbyterian Church now available digitally

March 25, 2019

Architectural record book created by nationally renowned architect Robert Mills in 1807 is believed to be among the oldest surviving plans for any building in Georgia.

Augusta, GA– The Georgia Heritage Room of the Augusta-Richmond County Public Library System is pleased to announce the availability of Designs for Augusta Church, State of Georgia by Robert Mills of South Carolina, Architect, Philadelphia, 22 July 1807 at https://dlg.usg.edu/record/fpcag_rmfpc.


The collection consists of an architectural record book belonging to First Presbyterian Church of Augusta, Georgia, and created by nationally renowned architect Robert Mills in July 1807. Mills executed the three-part record at the behest of the building committee, and in it details plans for the design of the future church. Support for this project provided by the Augusta-Richmond County Public Library System and Georgia HomePLACE, a unit of the Georgia Public Library Service.

Tina Monaco of the Georgia Heritage Room notes: “Augusta-Richmond County Public Library System is honored to have assisted First Presbyterian Church of Augusta with the digital preservation of Robert Mills’ manuscript of architectural designs, particularly as it contributes to the early history of the Church as well as Augusta. More broadly, the plans are an excellent example of Mills’ early portfolio, complementing an already vast body of work that defined him as a key architect of the Early Republic.”
About Robert Mills

Robert Mills is known, among his many projects, for the design of the Washington Monument. A prolific architect and engineer, Mills began his studies in Charleston, but as a young man moved to Philadelphia, and apprenticed under James Hoban, designer of the White House, a project to which Mills contributed. He also studied under famed architect and engineer of the period, Benjamin Henry Latrobe, and fell under the tutelage of Thomas Jefferson who designed and built Monticello, his home in Charlottesville, Virginia.

Throughout his life, Robert Mills designed numerous buildings throughout the Mid-Atlantic, including official appointments by President Andrew Jackson in 1836 to design office complexes for the U.S. Treasury and the Patent Office. Mills was also an accomplished author, having published Mills’ Atlas of South Carolina in 1825.
Design for First Presbyterian Church in Augusta, Georgia (1807) was accomplished early in his career, during a time when he received commissions to build other churches, notably the Circular Congregational Church in Charleston, South Carolina. Classical Revival architecture predominated during the mid-eighteenth century onward, heavily influencing Mills and his contemporaries. This style is reflected in his plans for First Presbyterian Church. Though the building has undergone significant remodels over the years, it retains its original classical form.

About Augusta-Richmond County Public Library System

The Augusta-Richmond County Public Library System (ARCPLS) serves more than 250,000 county residents. As a member of Public Information Network for Electronic Services (PINES), a program of the Georgia Public Library Service, ARCPLS provides access to over 10 million books. ARCPLS facilitates programs and classes to educate and entertain all ages at no cost. In addition to being a vital meeting place where the community can gather, explore new worlds, and share ideas and values, ARCPLS is a community hub and a critical anchor for our residents and neighbors. With a committed and diverse staff, ARCPLS continues to bring innovative and adaptive information and technology to its patrons. Visit ARCPLS at https://arcpls.org/.

About Georgia HomePLACE

Georgia HomePLACE encourages public libraries and related institutions to participate in the Digital Library of Georgia. HomePLACE offers a highly collaborative model for digitizing primary source collections related to local history and genealogy. HomePLACE is supported with Federal LSTA funds administered by the Institute of Museum and Library Services through the Georgia Public Library Service, a unit of the Board of Regents of the University System of Georgia. Learn more at http://www.georgialibraries.org/homeplace.

About the First Presbyterian Church of Augusta, Georgia
First Presbyterian Church was established in 1804. These 1807 drawings by Robert Mills were used to guide the construction of the sanctuary, which was completed in 1812. It has been occupied continuously since that time. During the Civil War, the sanctuary was converted to a hospital and used for wounded soldiers. The church celebrated her bicentennial in 2012. Located in historic downtown Augusta, the church seeks to restore people and rebuild places through the gospel of Jesus Christ to the glory of God.

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Genealogy One-on-One

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