Spanish Flu Epidemic of 1918 in New Mexico

I have a New Mexico Historical Review of July 1982, Vol. 57, No. 3, published quarterly by UNM with an article called A DARK AND TERRIBLE MOMENT: THE SPANISH FLU EPIDEMIC OF 1918 IN NEW MEXICO, by Richard Melzer. Part of his source of information came from newspapers in Carlsbad, Albuquerque, Santa Fe, Fort Sumner, Raton, Las Vegas, Deming, Gallup. But no Clovis paper, or Tucumcari, nor Santa Rosa mentioned. Approx. 5,000 people died from that flu, out of a population of NM of 350,000 in 1918.

New Mexico thought they were secure from getting that flu and medical people did not prepare for it. But it came carried by train passengers and other immigrants (in Carlsbad it spread from a circus out of state that stopped there with a lot of their people sick with flu).

Here in Clovis I have a story by Dr. Wm. Lancaster where he said 14 or 15 died of diptheria here in 1918. He was calling the Spanish flu "diptheria". He got the schools and theaters to close during the worse of it, but a lot of kids died and you can look in our cemeteries and see kids in 1918-19 dying and you'd have to believe it was Spanish flu. Hospitals and doctors did the best they could, but it was after the pandemic of Spanish flu around the world that killed over 40 million people, that people with TB, and asthma, and other lung diseases started coming to New Mexico for a "cure" because of our dry climate and high altitude. That's when TB sanatoriums were built, but there was no time for flu clinics to be built, it happened so fast.

The medical people gave everyone that was around a gauze mask to wear and told them to avoid sick people and crowds. And told them to stay home. Some towns, like Tucumcari, Albuquerqie amd Raton were extremely fortunate, it said, as few people got the flu, but other towns were devastated by the flu. In small towns and comunities where there were hardly any medical facilities the doctors made house calls. I don't know if Santa Rosa had a hospital in 1918, but I suspect they did have some facility for care of sick people. Hardly any history books on New Mexico mentioned the flu pandemic.

Don McAlavy, High Plains Historical Fd. Historian.