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World War I Flu Deaths


The final months of World War I collided with the terrible flu pandemic of 1918. The war facilitated the global spread of the virus, and many service members were among the victims. 


One of the first American Legion posts formed in North Dakota was the Florence Kimball Post No. 7 in Lisbon. The post was formed just after Memorial Day in 1919, named in honor of a nurse from Lisbon who died in October 1918 from pneumonia and influenza while serving with Army Nurse Corps in France. She was 24 years old and was buried in France with full military honors.

Sophia Ellen Morrison was a nurse from Crystal, North Dakota, who enlisted in 1917 and served at Camp Dodge in Iowa and Camp Devens in Massachusetts. She was furloughed to care for flu patients in Minot, where she contracted flu and pneumonia and died in February 1919. She was 32 years old.

In Coteau, North Dakota, Arthur Peterson and Lotty Hanson were married in September 1918 while he was furloughed from military training at Camp Custer in Michigan. After returning to camp, he caught the flu, which turned into pneumonia. His wife was at his bedside when he died, and when she returned home, she too was stricken. They were only 26 and 18 years old when they died, and had been married for 25 days. And one day after Lotty died, her 38-year-old mother also died from the flu. The three died within eight days of each other.

Mandan’s American Legion post honors Sgt. Maj. Gilbert Furness, who was the city’s first soldier to die in World War I. He was 20 years old when he died at Camp Zachary Taylor in Kentucky from pneumonia brought on by flu. Other American Legion posts throughout North Dakota are also named for soldiers lost to the flu pandemic, including ones in Edinburg, Tolna and Woodworth.

These service members, who we honor this Memorial Day weekend, are a few of the estimated thousands of North Dakotans who died due to the pandemic, which lingered into 1920. 

Dakota Datebook by Jack Dura

The Bismarck Tribune. 1918, October 7. Page 6
The Bismarck Tribune. 1918, October 10. Page 5
The Bowbells Tribune. 1918, November 1. Page 1
Pembina County in the world war. (1920). The Crystal Call: Crystal, ND
Lisbon Centennial Committee. (1980). Lisbon 1880-1980.

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