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Another look back at influenza

Many Alabamians lost their lives as a result of contracting an influenza virus prior to 1918. The Spanish flu strain would prove to be much more virulent in its widespread impact, but many families had already suffered casualties when a loved one was stricken with another strain.   

Influenza has been identified as a cause of death in the United States since 1900.  However, as early as 1889 a flu virus was taking thousands of lives. 

In this time period, there were few hospitals in north Alabama. Critically ill patients remained at home, where they frequently spread the flu virus to different family members.   

  • March 14, 1910Dr. W. A. Barclift died at his home in Hartselle tonight as a result of multiple health problems, the most recent one being a lethal case of influenzaDr. Barclift was about 57 years of age. He was one of the best known and most prominent physicians of this county, as well as one of its most highly respected citizens. He had practiced medicine in north Alabama for a number of years and had a wide acquaintance and a large circle of friends throughout this and other counties of this part of the state. The funeral and interment will take place here in Hartselle tomorrow afternoon and will no doubt be attended by a large number of Dr. Barclift’s relatives and friends. 
  • Nov. 25, 1910—This date was undoubtedly the saddest in the lives of Andrew and Lucy Patterson. Their little boy, Jim, succumbed to influenza at his parents’ home in Falkville. Within a decade and a half Andrew Patterson became a major state political figure, and Patterson for Governor clubs were being organized to promote his goal of being the Alabama chief executive.  However, the loss on the day before Thanksgiving in 1910 would never be forgotten. This would be true even though the father lived to be 81passing away in 1958, and the mother to be 90outliving her husband by eight years. 
  • March 4, 1912—Joe Turney, a lifelong resident of Morgan County, passed away due to influenza at his home in Somerville today. Mr. Turney, 72, was born down in Falkville Nov. 2, 1840. He was preceded in death by his wife, Martha, the former Martha Nelson, five years ago. Mr. and Mrs. Turney had seven children, all but one of whom are living. He is also survived by three brothers and two sisters. 
  • July 24, 1912—Dabney Adair Burleson, one of Hartselle’s most distinguished citizens, died from influenza today. Mr. Burleson’s father, Jonathan Adair Burleson, was born the year George Washington was inaugurated as president of the United States, 1789. Mr. Burleson and his late wife, Sallie Ann V. Orr Burleson (1839-1908) were the were the parents of seven children, five of whom survive their father. Two small children, Ralph and Mary, died in 1873. Dabney Burleson, at age 77, was the last surviving offspring of a family of a dozen children.   
  • March 13, 1913—William Hartsell Jr., played a big part in the development of the community that bears his family’s name as well as in getting Morgan County in a condition to where it could develop a vibrant agricultural economy. Mr. Hartsell was born Sept. 23, 1840, in the area where the town of Hartselle would ultimately be established. In 1873, he and six other members were appointed commissioners to lay off a road from Hartsell to Ford Ridge. The first crisis Mr. Hartsell faced was when his first wife, the former Mary Reeves, passed away shortly after the two were married. In 1869 Mr. Hartselle wed Anna Crow. To their union were born seven children, four daughters and three sons. One of their sons, Willie Hartsell, has been mentioned in a previous column as an employee at the L&N shops in Decatur. The second crisis occurred when William Hartsell was beset with a severe case of influenza. It took his life in 1913 at age 72. His widow lived for 18 more years, passing away in 1931.