The 1918-1919 Flu Pandemic, by Jim Wetzel

For the past six months or so, the Delta County Independent has had lots of local historical references to World War I as presented in the From the Past section.  I have been particularly interested in the manner in which the Delta County community had approached this war with German, not realizing the patriotic fervor which developed then, and again in World war II.

When the United States entered the war in later 1917, there was no hint at the horrendous flu outbreak soon to come, and which did not appear until October, 19198.  On the eve of the outbreak of the worst epidemic in local history, Delta County citizens read a one-inch article in the local paper entitled “Soldier suffering from pneumonia” printed on the front page.  It was the first of many articles documenting a period of unforgettable suffering.

The 1918 influenza epidemic, also known as “La “Grippe,” claimed the lives of at least 100 million people worldwide.  Scientists today calculate that the flu killed between 8 to 10 percent of the world’s young adults.  Some 675,000 Americans were killed by the virus, more than were killed on the battlefields in World War I, World War II, the Korean War and the Vietnam War combined.

One out of four people who got the flu died, with from the flu itself or from a bout with pneumonia that often followed it.  But to Delta County residents the flu was something that was happening somewhere else.  Many were saddened to learn of two county soldiers who had died of the flu elsewhere in early October, but within a week, all hope that the local area would be untouched by the flu was shattered. Two young local women had died from the flu, but neither were in the county at the time.

Louise Amsbary, daughter of a local pharmacist, was a nursing student in Philadelphia, and Sallie Gilmer, then living in Grand Junction, had both died.  The deadly disease was showing up closer to home.

Nearly every family in Delta County was affected by the flu epidemic.  When the State Health GBOard ordered the closure of “all places of amusement, the pool halls, churches, schools, the lodges, picture shows, etc.” in an effort to prevent the spread of the disease, it only slowed it temporarily.  Family members living in separate households in Delta County could communicate only by mail since postal carriers were not subject to prohibitions regarding the movement of people in and out of town.  It was from one such letter that the Rev. James Hunsicker, pastor of the Eckert Presbyterian Church, learned that this daughter’s Ruth and Margaret had succumbed to the flu and were suffering at their apartment in Delta.

In the county, the loss of life due to the flu epidemic far surpassed the losses resulting from the battlefield during World War I.  The exact number of Delta County citizen deaths from the flu is not known but is known to be far greater than the war-related deaths.  Let us hope such a pandemic never occurs again!  Hopefully, current medical technology wins on that issue.

 

 

 

 

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Bernice Musser — Gone But Not Forgotten

Bernice Musser in her beloved canyon, Escalante.

Long-time contributor of her time and energy, Bernice Musser passed away on November 30, 2017, having been a member of the Delta County Historical Society for the past 30 years. Bernie was born in Delta in 1922, and moved in 1930 with her parents, L. H. and Carrie Hendrickson, to Escalante Canyon where she attended school in the lower grades.  She graduated from Delta High School in 1940 and married John (Jack) Musser in 1944.  Forty-four years later, they sold the ranch in the canyon and moved to Delta in 1988.  Thus began Bernie’s long association with the Delta County Historical Society, serving as a volunteer and member of the Board of Trustees for most of those years.

In later years, Bernie was best known for her historic tours of Escalante Canyon, showing with pride the many historic places in the canyon, including some of the stories and historical events relating to the canyon history. Having grown up in the canyon, she knew just about everything about the canyon and its colorful history.  Hundreds of local citizens benefited from her tours, and they were always in demand.

The Delta County Historical Society is entertaining ideas for a lasting memorial an

tribute to Bernice “Bernie” Musser for action in the near future.

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Jim Wetzel’s Message—Monday, June 11, 2018

It was twenty years ago in April that I was offered the position of Museum Director/Curator.  At the time, I did not really know what the position involved, but I was willing to find out.  The Director then had planned sufficient overlap in her scheduled departure to give me enough training to take over, however, an unscheduled emergency surgery on my part delay my orientation so that I had only one day to learn everything I needed to know to take over.  Needless to say, it was many months before I actually knew what I was doing. However, a superb group of volunteers continued to do the majority of the daily workload, and things just got done.  I learned a lot those days, and everything about this work began to take on a new meaning.

The history of this area began to fascinate me.  It wasn’t only the events or buildings that captured my interest, but the people that made it the community we enjoy today. Many will recall the Meet the Spirits events we pout on in the Delta Cemetery for eight consecutive years beginning in 19999.  Those events were all about our early citizens and their life stories told in many cases by descendants of those who rest there.  One has only to view some of the museum collections of early artifacts to appreciate the difference in their lives compared with ours today.  We would call their lives ‘difficult’, or ‘challenging,’ facing struggles with weather, or the reality of early technology- or the lack of it.  I imagine it will be no different one hundred years from now, as future generations look upon these times as  ‘primitive’, or some other adjective, in spite of our reliance on smartphones, computers and all kinds of related technological advances many look upon as ‘futuristic.’  Who knows what lies in our future?  Good things, I hope.

The Delta County Historical Society had its beginning in 1964, and with this beginning, collections of historic value were documented and exhibited or stored for the future education of citizens of all ages.  It is probably the most important part of museum work.  Preservation of our history is important, but if the historic artifact or document cannot be readily located in the museum, it has no value to the researcher or family member wanting to see “my great grandmother’s wedding dress.” With over 20,000 artifacts in our museum, you can appreciate how important this is.

The DCHS organization is a non-profit corporation and has been our entire existence.  That means, in a nutshell, that any donation, cash or in-kind, is tax deductible for the donor.  We hope you keep that in mind for future membership or other similar donations.

Someone asked me what events were “highlights” of my career with the Delta County Historical Society, and there are two things which I would identify as highlights: first would be the volunteers I have worked with over the years–many of who were decended from our pioneer citzens, and included in this group would be the many visitors I have met who are also descended from our local historic pioneers; and second; the foresight of those who have gone before me to document and preserve our hisoty so that such items were available to “correct” others who have written about our “history”, but have distored some of it thorugh lazy research.  Three of the four books I have written were indirectly motivated by my passion to correct events in our county history which I believe were poorly documented by earlier writers. Perhaps someday, another historian will critique my writings, as well.  I have no problem with that, as long as it adds to the information and/or accuracy of the historical content.

For those of you who are wondering what is next for me, I can assure you I will continue to be involved with the Delta County Historical Society but at a different level.  It is time for new ideas and new energy to take over, and I wish that person much success in leading this wonderful organization into the future.  For me, some travel with my wife, perhaps another book or two, and some quiet time in our garden.

My sincere thanks to our Board of Trustees for their support over the years, and to the many volunteers at the museum, without whom we could not do this work.

Thanks to all!

Jim

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Board President’s Message April-June, 2018

Board President’s Message

Greetings,

This is becoming not only a seasonal change, but also a change of personnel.  As you know Jim Wetzel will be retiring from the position of director and he will be missed.  We have greatly appreciated his leadership for 20 years.  Jim has provided valuable help in archiving, researching and assisting request for information over the years.  He has also provided guidance to the Board of Trustees.  Our Board would like to take this time to thank Jim for his valuable help to us and to the public.  We look forward to Jim continuing to serve on the Board of Trustees, after a time of much-deserved relaxation!

A time of change for the Board is also presenting itself as we look at the options we need to take in searching for another curator/director.  We also will be seeking candidates for Trustees to serve on the Board.  The Board is confident we will be successful as we navigate through this time of transition and we appreciate your continued support.

We are currently recruiting volunteers to fill time slots during the week here at the museum.  Please give some thought to volunteering your time, we are always appreciative of citizen involvement with the Delta County Historical Society.

With your continued interest and involvement here at the museum, we are certain of a bright future!

Enjoy the Spring!

Keith Lucy

 

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1913 Sugar Beet Harvest

From the Past
Compiled from Delta Newspapers by the Delta County Historical Society
251 Meeker Street, Delta, Colorado, 81416 (970) 874-8721
From the Delta County Independent

Oct 31, 1913

The sugar beet harvest, which has been one of the largest in the history of this section, is nearing its close, though shipping of the product will continue several weeks.  Ten days to two weeks more will probably see all the beets out of the ground. The apple harvest is practically concluded, though teams are still hauling to the cars and more or less apples are still sored which will gradually find their way to local and outside markets. Other crops are about all harvested and the close of the busy fall season is now in sight.

Jim
Museum Director / Curator and Newsletter Editor
Jim Wetzel (970) 874-8721
deltamuseum@aol.com
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Jim Girardet and the Electric Power Needs

From the Past
Compiled from Delta Newspapers by the Delta County Historical Society
251 Meeker Street, Delta, Colorado, 81416 (970) 874-8721
From the Delta County Independent

Oct 17, 1913

Jim Girardet was in Hotchkiss Sunday from Cedaredge and told us that the electric power company that has a franchise for a line in Hotchkiss is still on the map and will soon overcome the obstacles that are delaying it.

Jim
Museum Director / Curator and Newsletter Editor
Jim Wetzel (970) 874-8721
deltamuseum@aol.com
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Delta’s Light Service

From the Past
Compiled from Delta Newspapers by the Delta County Historical Society
251 Meeker Street, Delta, Colorado, 81416 (970) 874-8721
From the Delta County Independent

Oct 17, 1913

Any town in the country but Delta can have a light service worthy of the name. Absolutely the best town on the Western Slope, it is pottering along with a short night service, while dinky places like Ouray, Montrose and others have day and night lights.

This is accountable to several things, but primarily to the fact that our electric light plant originated with a shoestring the sole object of the owners of which seemed to be to build up something to sell.  An auspicious opportunity came to unload and the thing was sold.

Possibly the new company should be given time, but it has been given more than time to fulfill the first promise, and the promise is nil.  It does seem strange, however, that Delta, which we reiterate is the best town on the Western Slope from the viewpoint of natural advantages, should allow herself to be handicapped in so many petty ways.

Jim
Museum Director / Curator and Newsletter Editor
Jim Wetzel (970) 874-8721
deltamuseum@aol.com
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