1918 Pandemic

In the spring of 1918 Richmond’s Medical Health Officer W.H. Hall reported to Council on the incidence of the routine infectious diseases of the day: measles, whooping cough, chicken pox and mumps, which by June had disappeared.

Telegram included in the Minute Book of the Township of Richmond, MR SE 1, Vol. 12 Brighouse clubhouse
Photograph #1978 32 33

Then, on October 8th, the Township received a telegram from Victoria: Spanish Influenza was spreading. For preventive measures the Township was being given the power to close all schools, churches, theatres and other meeting places. As a result, Richmond schools were ordered closed and church services were cancelled.

Kate McNeely
Kathleen McNeeley, ca. 1920. Detail of Photograph #1987 3 4

Detail of Isabel Clemens
Isabelle Clemens at a Bridgeport High School picnic in 1924. Detail of Photograph #1985 39 64

An emergency hospital was set up by the Medical Health Officer and Chief of Police at the Minoru Park Clubhouse. Local teachers Kathleen NcNeely and Isabelle Clemens volunteered to act as local nurses at the makeshift hospital, which was rented by the Township. The Richmond Red Cross and local residents helped with supplies and meals. By the end of October, there were four cases admitted to the hospital and at least one death.

In November, total cases in the Township reached at least 100 and then began to subside. On November 29, because the threat seemed to be diminishing, schools were re-opened, although attendance was low. When the hospital closed on December 7, a total of nine patients had been admitted; however, a second wave was already under way with 35 cases reported later in December.

In 1919, on January 20th, the schools were closed for a second time. At the beginning of February the Medical Health Officer wrote in his monthly report to Council: "Cases of Influenza reported 70, besides a large number which were not reported, especially amongst the Japanese population of Steveston with two deaths. However at present 90% of cases have completely recovered and only a few convalescent patients remain; thus we have reached the end of the second epidemic of this disease amongst us."

Clemens letter
A carbon copy of one of the letters thanking volunteer nurses Clemens and McNeeley on behalf of the Mayor and Council. MR SE 2 f.156, C, 1918

Finally, on April 30, 1919 Dr. Hall was able to report: "For the past two months the municipality has been enjoying the best of good health and therefore I have nothing exciting to tell. I may say there have been no infectious diseases reported which comes as a relief after the epidemic which prevailed during the winter months."

(The sources used are the reports from the Chief Medical Officer, captured in the Township of Richmond Council Meeting Minutes, and the Minutes of the Richmond School Board.)