1918 Influenza Excerpts

March 19, 2020 | Missions and Outreach

The 1918 Spanish influenza epidemic as it was called was the most severe pandemic in recent history. It spread worldwide during 1918–1919 and is estimated that about 500 million people or one-third of the world’s population became infected with this virus. The number of deaths was estimated to be at least 50 million worldwide with about 675,000 occurring in the United States. The following is excerpted from the North Pacific Union Gleaner published October 24, 1918 and shares how Adventists in the Pacific Northwest were affected by the outbreak.

Mask-wearing women hol​d stretchers at back of ​ambulances during 1918 influenza outbreak. CREDIT: Library of Congress: LC-DIG-ds-01290

COLLEGE PLACE, WASHINGTON, October 24, 1918 — Seattle, with many other portions of the state, is feeling the effects of the Spanish influenza. There have been thirteen or fourteen cases among the church membership thus far, but we are thankful to God that there have been no deaths, though some have become very sick. It is a new and strange experience not to be able to assemble at the house of God for worship on the Sabbath.

We will probably appreciate more fully the privilege of meeting together for worship after being deprived of our Sabbath services for a few weeks. Though we are unable to meet in public worship we have a splendid opportunity to read God’s precious word at home and to pray much for each other and the advancement of the message in the earth. Though not permitted to meet in the sanctuary the Lord says, “I will be to them as a little sanctuary.” Ezekiel 11:16

The epidemic is also delaying our Harvest Ingathering Campaign, but we will have to work all the harder when the ban is lifted. There are many souls interested in the truth and all the workers have more visiting and studies than they can look after.

—C. L. Lingenfelter

The 1918-19 influenza pandemic affected people of all walks of life and all ages. CREDIT: Library and Archives Canada / PA-025025

"It is impossible now for us to meet together in our regular Sabbath schools while the quarantine is on and I am sure we all will appreciate more than ever before, the blessing of the Sabbath school. We can sympathize now with some of our faithful Home Department members who never have the privilege of meeting with the brethren and sisters except at camp meeting."

Now while we can not go to our regular place of meeting on Sabbath morning, I trust that every family will have Home Sabbath school and be faithful in giving a liberal Sabbath school offering to missions. Unless we do this, we will see a falling off in our offerings this quarter, and we will have lost a blessing besides.

—Mrs. J. F. Piper

The Lord’s work in Seattle continues to prosper in a wonderful way. While all our meetings have been discontinued temporarily because of the Influenza epidemic, the personal house to house work has been but little hindered.

—Elsie M. Leadsworth

Precautions taken in Seattle, Washington during the Spanish influenza epidemic would not permit anyone to ride on the street cars without wearing a mask. One hundered and twenty Red Cross workers made 260,000 masks in three days. CREDIT: Library of Congress: LC-DIG-anrc-02654

At present it is impossible to hold public meetings in the city, so we are visiting from house to house and giving Bible readings to those who are interested. There is plenty to do along this line and we are trying to enlist the church members in this good work.

One sister spends about three hours each day in missionary work for her neighbors and she reports splendid results. … If all of our people could catch the spirit manifested by this sister it would not take long to send the message to all the world. Let us pray that it will soon be so.

—F. M. Oliver