She was beautiful, charming, and graceful.
That would all fade within hours after exposure to the 1918 flu pandemic.
She was my Great-Aunt Eulah Rosalie Hilburn Willis. She died from the 1918 flu pandemic, aka The Spanish flu, on February 6, 1919. She was only 34.
Her daughter, Flossie Willis (the baby in the wagon photo), was my cousin and friend until her death in 1985. She told me her father and mother’s story, and I included in my book Destiny last year.
The plague lasted from January 1918 to December 1920.
It emerged in two phases. In the late spring of 1918, the first phase, known as the “three-day fever,” appeared without warning. Few deaths were reported. Victims recovered after a few days. When the disease surfaced again that fall, people had lost their fear of it, but this time it was devastating!
It is estimated that 500 million people or one-third of the world’s population became infected with the influenza virus. The number of deaths was estimated to be between 50 and 100 million worldwide, with about 675,000 occurring in the United States. Nearly 200,000 Americans died from the “Spanish Flu” in October 1918 alone.
In the United States, about 28% of the population of 105 million became infected. Today, that percentage could even be higher since social distancing is far more complicated.
The United States had been caught unprepared in 1918 for the outbreak partly because advances in bacteriology made many Americans believe they could control infectious diseases. At least that’s what the experts told the people.
The influenza epidemic of 1918 has been overlooked in the teaching of American history—until now.
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Photo: The Ole Willis Home Place, August 5, 1906, located near Amiable Baptist Church (near present-day Longleaf, Louisiana), on Barber Creek.
My Great-Uncle Robert Kenneth Willis Sr. (1877-1951) has the reins in his hands. Robert’s first wife Eulah Hilburn Willis (1884-1919), is in the backseat. She died in the influenza pandemic of 1918/19.
My Greatgrandmother Julia Ann Graham Willis (1845-1936) is holding a catfish and is standing next to the wagon. Robert and Eulah’s baby girl Flossie Litton Willis (August 5, 1905 – September 1985) is held by an unknown lady. Flossie told me before her death that this photo was taken on her first birthday.
The story of Eulah Hilburn Willis may be found in my novel Destiny https://www.amazon.com/Destiny-Randy-Willis/dp/1792724470
Eulah Hilburn Willis is buried in the Lecompte Cemetery in Rapides Parish, Louisiana.
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