1918 Flu Killed Four Members Of Crothersville Family Within A Week

At a time when the funeral home in Crothersville averaged 3 funerals during a typical November, that month in 1918—the peak of the Spanish Flu pandemic 102 years ago—there were 19 local deaths, according to funeral records from the old Kovener & Son Funeral Home.
Four of those deaths occurred within a week for the James & Lena Langdon family who resided southeast of Crothersville on Moore Street.
On Nov. 13, 14-year old Elva Langdon succumbed to the flu. On Nov. 18, 17-year-old Gladys R. Langdon died of thee disease. Then 20-year-old Fay Langdon and the children’s father, 47-year old James Langdon perished due to influenza the same day on Nov. 19.
James Langdon’s grandson, 82-year old Robert ‘Nute’ Langdon resides on US 31 north of Crothersville.
“My dad, Estes Langdon, and his brother Morris, survived the flu because my Dad said their mother covered them with lard and kerosene,” said Robert Langdon. “Whether or not that home remedy really worked, my dad said that is what saved them.”
The mother and two sons of the Langdon family who survived the pandemic lived long lives. “My grandmother lived into her 90’s when she passed,” said the current day Langdon.
The first local funeral attributed to flu occurred Oct. 9, 1918 when Leabert Huckleberry, 25, a soldier died of flu at Camp Taylor, Kentucky. He was brought back to the area and his family buried him in Mt. Eden Cemetery in Washington County.
The first flu death in Indiana occurred earlier in September 1918 when a soldier who had returned from fighting in World War I Europe died of influenza in Evansville leading some to believe that servicemen coming back from the war contributed to the spread of influenza.
In the early part of the 20th century, there was no vaccine to prevent the flu and no medicines to treat it other than home remedies.
Locally, the flu claimed mostly children. The first Crothersville flu death was on Nov. 7 when three-year-old Voneta Tomlinson died. From that point, November 1918—the traditional time of Thanksgiving— was anything but a month to be thankful as the death toll due to influenza ravaged the small community in southeast Jackson County.
Those who died were:
Nov. 9: Pauline Collins, age 19
Nov. 13: Elva Langdon, age 14
Nov. 18: Gladys Langdon, age 17
Nov. 19: Fay Langdon, age 20
Nov. 19: James Langdon, age 47
Nov. 23: Winnogine and Bernidine Baxter, one year old twin sisters.
Nov. 26: Alvah Davis, age 6
Nov. 28: Viola Franklin, age 9
Nov. 28: Mildred May Cargell, age 1
Nov. 28: Jessy Lena Conway, age 42
Nov. 29: Horace Smith, 7 days old.
Dec. 2: Ishmael H. Baxter, age 5
Dec. 6: Mary Louise Shirley, age 31.
Dec. 7: Ethel Alberta Morgan, age 17.
Dec. 14: Katheryn Pauline Berry, 8 months
The new year of 1919 brought an additional death when 52-year old Catherine Rider succumbed to influenza on January 22. That brought to an end the Crothersville influenza necrology which no doubt played out in every community in Indiana until over 14,000 Hoosiers were buried as a result of the pandemic.