History – 1918 at Knox, The Spanish Flu

Only six months ago our world seemed pre-occupied with the outbreak of the H1N1 flu, and how
it would affect our lives. Thankfully, at the moment at least, that threat seems much less. But I
thought it a fitting time to tell you about a flu outbreak that really and truly did play a big part in
the lives of the world, of our town, and how it affected the people here at Knox. I am talking
about the Spanish Flu epidemic of 1918.

The fall and winter of 1918/1919 was a bad time in the history of Knox, as it was in the rest of
our town and in fact the whole world. Over that period, some 50,000 Canadians died from what
we labelled The Spanish Flu.

The Christmas of 1918 was both a happy and a sorrowful one. The war was over and there was
much rejoicing, but the flu was taking a toll on our population, and life was far from normal.
And so it was in our own church. We do not know how many people from the congregation may
have died from the flu, but it certainly did impact the life of the church. There were no
thanksgiving services in any town churches that fall, everything being closed for several weeks
in October by the department of health. And then again schools, churches and public events
were closed again in December through to mid January.

The Sunday School had prepared for a Christmas entertainment and tea to be held in December
but it could not be held until February 21 of 1919. At that affair, tea was served at 6:30, followed
by a programme, and it was advertised that “Santa Claus, having recovered from the flu will be
present.” Admission was charged to that Christmas entertainment – 25¢ for adults, children
other than those of the Sabbath School were 10¢. [Remember, we only had the small hall

The annual congregational meeting for the year was held on Monday evening, January 27th, with
a good attendance. It was reported that all the organizations of the church were doing well. The
total income for the year 1918 had been $8,907.00 and $1,513 was given to missions, but it was
stated that “The financial report would have been much better than it was had it not been for the
fact that the Church was closed all of October, our anniversary month, and then part of
December and January, the months for getting in all arrears, we were partially closed again. But
on the whole, it was a very good year, and we have good reason to thank God and take
courage.” I also see that despite the hardships of 1918, Knox was still able to send 16 boxes
overseas to soldiers, and to pack 25 Christmas boxes for the needy.

So as we enter into the time of Christmas Celebrations once again, it wouldn’t hurt to pause and
remember the hardships of Christmas’s past, and that the flu really and truly can do us all a lot of
harm – but we are a resilient people, and we can bounce back.

…Dawn Livingstone
December 2009