Looking back at the Reveille’s archives paints a picture of where Cloverdale was 102 years ago, as the world was impacted by the Spanish Flu. Through the historical papers, a timeline begins to emerge — one that bears a surprisingly resemblance to the current COVID-19 pandemic. While current facility closures mean that we have less access to newspaper archives, we looked through the web-accessible copies of the Cloverdale Reveille to help get a partial picture of how Cloverdale was impacted during the flu epidemic at the beginning of the 20th century.
Much of the Reveille’s publicly accessible archives detail how Cloverdale was impacted by the second wave of the flu, which, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website, began in September 1918. The flu peaked between September and November, and saw the death of approximately 195,000 people in October alone.
In an Oct. 25, 1918 article, the then-staff of the Reveille reported that there were no known cases of the flu in Cloverdale. However, Cloverdalians were being proactive about trying to prevent the spread of the illness.
“Dr. W.C. Shipley says a number of people have been suffering with colds and other minor ailments, but so far he has not found anyone suffering from the ‘flu.’ Masks are being worn by many citizens who come in close contact with the public and on Wednesday morning the school children donned masks when they went to their daily studies. The public is responding to the appeal of the health officers and taking precautions to prevent a local epidemic,” the article states.
The same issue reports that, due to the epidemic, public gatherings in the state had been “tabooed,” resulting in the postponement of a local Red Cross meeting.
That same day — Oct. 25 — presumably after press time, Cloverdale’s doctor reported nine cases of the Spanish Flu. The statistics were reported in the following week’s newspaper, but no additional cases beyond the nine had been reported. Because of this, Shipley said that he believed Cloverdale reached its peak caseload.
This article was the last that we could find detailing solid case numbers for the city. However, the Reveille continued to report about flu mitigation measures taking place at both the city and county levels.
“This week fully 90% of the people have taken to wearing gauze masks,” the Nov. 1, 1918 newspaper states.
Bearing similarities to the COVID-19 pandemic, local health officials in 1918 also warned of a possible resurgence of the illness should the public not heed suggested precautionary measures.
At the county level, the Reveille reported news of the county’s health official promoting the use of mask-wearing, and predicting how the epidemic may develop.
“He declares it is his opinion that the epidemic is dying out to some extent, but that it will undoubtedly flame up again unless people take proper precautions and continue their precautionary measures,” the paper reported county physician Dr. Fred O. Pryor as saying.
By that time Cloverdale’s own doctor (Shipley) had come down with a mild version of the flu and had been confined to his home. Shipley was ill with the flu for three weeks.
By the beginning of November, both schools and church services had closed due to fear of the flu spreading. Schools reopened a handful of weeks later on Nov. 25
On Nov. 9, Cloverdale’s Board of Trustees (city council) passed an emergency ordinance stating that everyone had to wear masks during the influenza epidemic.
On Nov. 15, the Reveille reported a flu-related death in someone who died of pneumonia following a bout with the Spanish Flu.
On Jan. 10, 1919, the Reveille reported that our neighbors to the south, Santa Rosa, was “practically a closed town until the pandemic is stamped out,” per an order from the city’s health board.
The Santa Rosa health board closed theaters, churches, parties, dances and social gatherings, as well as limited the hours that saloons could be open and ordered that funerals have as limited amount of people as possible
The available copies of the Reveille mentioning the Spanish Flu conclude in a Feb. 14, 1919 issue, where it references the flu as being the reason for a meeting being postponed.
A third wave of the flu hit in spring 1919. According to the CDC website, there were 101 deaths reported in San Francisco in the first five days of January. While the Reveille archives that we were able to access don’t cover any resurgence that may have happened in Cloverdale in spring 1919, other Sonoma County newspapers show the flu continuing to spread.
The then-Sebastopol Times (now Reveille sister paper Sonoma West Times & News), reported that a school in Forestville reopened after being on a month-long forced vacation due to the flu.
March reports from the Sebastopol Times declared that the epidemic was over, and detailed the reopening of various local entities and industries.