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Another look back at influenza Part 5

Influenza first began to be specifically mentioned in U.S. public health reports in 1900. Before that time, it had been included as one of the different forms of pneumonia.   

In the first year in which the word “influenza” appears, there were 40,362 cases of pneumonia in all of its forms, plus flu. This number remained relatively stable for several years.   

When data was presented for 1904, it showed 40,989 cases, a gain of 627 cases – or an increase of less than a quarter of a percent. 

During the last half of the first decade of the new century, however, pneumonia and flu showed sizable gains. By the middle of the second decade, when Burwell Hardwick succumbed to influenza, government reports were showing 80,703 cases of the combined illnesses.   

This represented a full 1 percent growth from 1904.   

Showing the steady rise in pulmonary illnesses leading to the critical year of 1918, the cases for 1915 were up about 10,000; for 1916 it was nearly 20,000. 

May 20, 1914Burwell Green Hardwick died on this date from a strain of influenza that was continuing to take numerous lives in Morgan County and the state at large. Mr. Hardwick was a prosperous farmer residing in the Cedar Plains community. He was commended by the Enquirer for raising everything he needed on his own place, selling the surplus for a neat sum. Even during the panic of the 1890s he did not need to go into debt.  

Mr. Hardwick was survived by his wife, Sarah Elizabeth Hardwick, and three children, Jasper Evans Hardwick, Sallie Green Garner and Mattie Lura Stewart.  

(Mr. Hardwick was my greatgrandfather, the father of my grandmother, Mattie, who married Hartselle merchant S. E. Stewart in 1890.) 

Dec. 9, 1915Marvin Gwyn Sparkman died from an agonizing case of influenza at the young age of 21. Marvin was the older brother of John Jackson Sparkman. Marvin had been born in 1894, while John was born in 1899. Their parents, Whitt and Julia Sparkman, had 11 children, John being the seventh born and Marvin the second.   

When Marvin died at their home east of Hartselle, John was finishing up his studies at the former Morgan County High School. Marvin did not live to see his younger brother become, successively, a U.S. representative, a senator and the Democratic vice-presidential candidate in 1952.   

Their father, Whitt Sparkman, died the year John was elected to the U.S. House (1936), and their mother died the year before.  

Marvin was the first of their children to pass away; John was the lastin 1985. 

April 15, 1916Harvey H. Wright was chief of police of Hartselle in the second decade of the 20th century. The first great potential tragedy of his life occurred on Valentine’s Day 1915.   

On that date his little boy, age 7, was bitten three times by a dog believed to mad. The father killed the dog and sent its head to Montgomery to be tested at the Pasteur Institute. The Wright family could afford to take their son to the Pasteur Institute, and he was returned to Hartselle in good health.  However, the second Wright family tragedy had no happy ending, Chief Wright losing his battle against influenza in mid-April 1916.  

Dec. 16, 1916A. A. Oden was one of the most influential citizens of Hartselle and Morgan County in the early years of the 20th century. He was the station agent for the L&N Railroad and was said by a leading state newspaper, the Birmingham Age-Herald, to be “one of the oldest and most valued men in the service of the road.” In 1904 he was serving as the treasurer of Morgan County. His career was cut short, however, in 1916 when he was fatally stricken with influenza.   

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