Tag Archives: March

Influenza Epidemic Raging

ARCHIVAL MOMENT

March 2, 1919

Influenza Notices were  posted on all  Public Buildings.

In March 1919 Newfoundland  and Labrador was being ravaged with the dreaded Influenza Epidemic.

The local government and the churches were in the fore front of the fight against the spread of the dreaded disease. In St. John’s, on March 2, 1919,  the Catholic Archbishop Edward Patrick Roche, issued a Pastoral Letter removing any obligation of fast and abstinence during the 40 days of Lent. The rationale was that if Roman Catholics were observing the ritual Lenten fast and rules of abstinence that they might be weakening their immune systems making them more susceptible to the pandemic.

On March 12, 1919 a notice was read in all churches that:

“Owing to the prevalence of influenza among the people, His Grace the Archbishop by the authority of the Holy See, grants during this present Lent, a general dispensation from the fast, except on Good Friday”

A variation on the same notice was read in the churches of all denominations.

The move, thought small was unprecedented. One of the many steps that were taken to try and stop the spread of the disease.

St. John’s as an international port of call for ships from around the world was exposed to all the good and ill that came with its geographical location. In 1918 with the influenza epidemic raging throughout the world, it was only a matter of time before the province became vulnerable to the disease.

The pandemic reached Newfoundland on 30 September 1918 when a steamer carrying three infected crewmen docked at St. John’s harbour. Three more infected sailors arrived at Burin on October 4 and they travelled by rail to St. John’s for treatment. A doctor diagnosed the city’s first two local cases of influenza the following day and sent both people to a hospital. Within two weeks, newspapers reported that several hundred people were infected in St. John’s.

Soon after the outbreak, government officials closed many public buildings in St. John’s, including schools, churches, and meeting halls, and introduced quarantine regulations for incoming ships. Many outport communities also closed public buildings to curb the spread of influenza. By the time the epidemic was over, 62 deaths were reported in St. John’s and 170 more in outport Newfoundland.

The effects were most devastating in Labrador, where the disease killed close to one third of the Inuit population and forced some communities out of existence. Death rates were particularly high in the Inuit villages of Okak and Hebron.

Recommended Archival Collection: At the Room Provincial Archives explore Death Records 1918-1919.  Reels 32 and 33 and GN 2/5. Special File 352-A, Colonial Secretary’s Department. “Correspondence Re: Outbreak of Epidemic Spanish Influenza in Newfoundland.” November 1918- June 1919.

Recommended Publication: Boats, Trains, and Immunity: The Spread of the Spanish Flu on the Island of Newfoundland.  Craig T. Palmer, Lisa Sattenspiel, Chris Cassidy: Newfoundland and Labrador Studies: Vol. 22 – Number 2 (2007) http://journals.hil.unb.ca/index.php/NFLDS/article/view/10120/10396

 

 

“The long and hungry month of March”

ARCHIVAL MOMENT

March 1

Photo Credit: At the Rooms Provincial Archives: VA -15-A -28-10 Twillingate Garden Cellar

In Newfoundland and Labrador the month of March has traditionally been referred to as “the long and hungry month of March.”  The expression finds its origins in our ‘food’ history.

“The long” is taken from the fact that March follows – the shortest month in the year – February.  “The hungry month” can be explained by looking at the availability of food especially root vegetables and how supplies were preserved throughout the winter months.

The preservation of food for our ancestors (before the weekly and for some daily visit to the grocery or convenience store) typically involved freezing, salting or pickling.

With no electricity one of the essential structures to be built on the family property was the “root cellar.”  Root cellars served to keep food supplies from freezing during the winter months and cool during the summer months.

Typically, families would put a variety of root vegetables in the cellar in the fall of the year; the main vegetables being potatoes, turnip, and carrot.  Other food supplies placed in the root cellar over the winter months included beets, preserves, jams, berries, and pickled cabbage.  Fish and wild game also found a place in the cellars including turres, moose, caribou, salt meat, and salt fish.  In addition to what was stored in the cellar  some families had access to  domestic animals such as cows, goats, and sheep.

As the winter wore on the supplies that had been gathered and stored in September and October  – especially the vegetables – would gradually diminish,  by late March, supplies would be very low.

The coming of March  marked a time of optimism and hope.  March was the time for sealing or “swilin’ time.” Seal meat would give some reprieve to `the long and hungry month of March’  by which time the family food store was very low.  At this time of the year, in many parts of the province, sealing provided the only opportunity to obtain fresh meat and the pelts brought long awaited cash.

It would be springtime before the hope of the first new vegetable of the year would show, the spring green, know locally as dandelion leaves, the first vegetable after a long winter.

It is the long and hungry month of March.

March is Nutrition Month in Canada.

Recommened Archival Collection: At the Rooms Provincial Archives there is a small collection of photographs under the heading agriculture, gardens, crops, and hay.

Recommended Web Site: Elliston, Bonavista Bay, Newfoundland and Labrador is the Root Cellar Capital of the World.  http://www.rootcellars.com/

Lost Words: “Lazy Beds”:  a type of potato bed – a farming method where the sod was not removed but turned over with the shovel between the beds, thus simultaneously forming the trenches and raising the beds.Newfoundland andLabrador is one of the few places in the world where this type of potato bed can still be found.