In Memoriam: 1918 Influenza Pandemic

Davenport photographer J.B. Hostetler photographed 22-year-old Amanda Ploehn and 18-year-old Wilma Barnes in the summer of 1918. Sadly, both young women died just a few months later during the Influenza pandemic.

Davenport Democrat and Leader. Tuesday, December 31, 1918

270 residents of Davenport died as a result of complications from Influenza from October through December of 1918. It was a record year for Davenport with 1,453 deaths total. There were 143 more deaths than births reported for the year. The worst month was December with an average of 7 deaths per day for a total of 252.

Amanda Ploehn

The 1918 Davenport City Directory says Miss Ploehn worked as a maid for the Davenport Hospital at 326 East 29th Street. She was living with her grandparents, Gustave & Sophie Larsen at 1741 West 16th Street. Her obituary, published in the Davenport Democrat and Leader on December 13, 1918, states that her parents Claus & Dora Ploehn and siblings Albert, Herbert, Alma, and Hulda all lived on a farm in Willow Vale, North Dakota.

Amanda Ploehn died November 28, 1918, sadly, at the hospital where she had once worked. Her Iowa Death Record indicates she was employed at the Rock Island Arsenal at the time of her death.

Wilma Barnes

Like many young men and women of the time, Miss Barnes visited the Hostetler Studio to have her Senior portraits taken that Summer. She had just graduated from Davenport High School and was going to start teaching at the Oak Hill school in the Fall. Her charming personality made her immediately popular with her students, reported the Davenport Democrat and Leader on September 19, 1918, when she led an “excellent” musical program during a War Savings Stamps fundraiser at Oak Hill school No. 5 in Buffalo township.

Wilma Eleanor Barnes died December 12, 1918, at her home in Blue Grass, where she lived with her parents, William & Minerva Barnes, and brothers Chester and Rolland. One of the portraits that Hostetler took during that Senior portrait session was used for her obituary, published in the Davenport Democrat and Leader on December 13, 1918.

(posted by Cristina)

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2 Responses to In Memoriam: 1918 Influenza Pandemic

  1. Nancy Roseman says:

    My mother’s family lived in the German Turner Hall in downtown Davenport. During the 1918 Spanish flu, area hospitals were full & emergency relief was set up in the Turner Hall gymnasium. My mother’s older sister, Wilma Petersen, was a teenager then & helped care for the flu patients. She later became a nurse.

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