1918-1919 Flu Epidemic: Lydia Elizabeth Strange

Sepia Saturday provides bloggers with an opportunity to share their history through the medium of photographs. Historical photographs of any age or kind become the launchpad for explorations of family history, local history and social history in fact or fiction, poetry or prose, words or further images. If you want to play along, sign up to the link, try to visit as many of the other participants as possible, and have fun.

Illness can barrel through a family or a community with the force of a train. Sometimes there are parallel stories, like the tracks that a train rolls along.

I’m continuing to look at how epidemics, pandemics and public health crises have impacted my families. Last year, I wrote a series on the death of my mother’s brother, who died as the result of the measles in 1930. That series begins here: An Uncle I Never Knew.

Now I’m focussing on the influenza epidemic of 1918-1919. I began with Woodrow Wilson (Woodye) Webber in my last post. Woodye was the daughter of Myron David Webber and Dorinda Rebecca Strange. As I was looking through old newspapers for information about the 1918-1919 flu epidemic in Lincoln County, Kansas, where the Strange family lived for many years, I came across this.

I didn’t know who Lizzie Strange was, but knew she must have been one of ours and when I reached out to cousins by email, I was assured that all of the Lincoln County Stranges are our kin.

The Strange family was very large and included step-siblings and half-siblings, siblings who cared for siblings after the death of parents, and siblings who had lots of children. I have a hard time keeping them straight!

Here is what I have pieced together about Lydia Elizabeth (Lizzie) Strange Hammond.

Lizzie Strange was the daughter of George Washington Strange and Nancy Matilda Henderson. The youngest child born to George and Nancy, she is front and center of the photo above. Her mother had two children from a previous marriage – Martha (Mattie) and William Tannehill. George and Nancy had three boys in addition to Lizzie – Benjamin, Harry, and Everett.

Lizzie was born 7 August 1882 in Lincoln, Kansas. Her father George was a half-sibling to Dorinda Rebecca Strange (Woodye’s mother). There was an almost twenty year age difference between half-siblings George and Dorinda, but Dorinda was only about six years older than George’s daughter Lizzie, her niece. Or would that be half-niece? Below is a photo of Dorinda, on the left, and Lizzie on the right.

Dorinda Rebecca Strange (L) and Lydia Elizabeth (Lizzie) Strange (R)

According to Strange genealogist John H. Mayer in his book Strange of Eastern America, Lizzie first married William McCormick, by whom she had a boy who died young. The couple divorced.

Francis Marion Strange (1880-1951), in his book of memories Anecdotes From My Life, provides a little more information while telling of a prank he played on his Uncle George:
In the fall or early winter of 1898, I had been teaching my first school in the Ingalls district in northwest Lincoln County. It was some 20 miles up there and I rode my horse to and from there every week when the weather was favorable. So one Friday night I finished up my school work and the cleaning up of the house, and started home. I arrived to find there was a real surprise for me. My cousin, Lizzie Strange, had just recently married. Perhaps the real surprise came since I didn’t know she was thinking of getting married, since she wasn’t quite sixteen.

Lizzie married veterinarian Marion J. Hammond of Luray, Kansas on 06 December 1916 and they made their home in Luray, a town a little over thirty miles west of Lincoln.

By this time, Dorinda and her large family were living in Iowa and Woodye was born seven months after Lizzie’s marriage to Marion Hammond.

The only wedding announcement I found was this in the Luray newspaper.

The Luray Herald (Luray, KS) 11 Jan 1917

Lizzie seems to have involved herself in the life of her new community, hosting the M. E. (Methodist-Episcopal?) Aid society a few months after settling in Luray.

The Luray Herald (Luray KS) 30 Aug 1917

I assume the ladies were singing rather than tinging.

The couple moved into a new home around New Year’s Day 1918.

The Luray Herald (Luray KS) 3 Jan 1918

The local newspaper kept everyone informed of the comings and goings of the Hammonds – their visits to family out of town and visits from family to their home.

In March, Lizzie attended the funeral of her aunt in Lincoln. The newspaper notice does not report the name of the aunt, but that would have been Rev. Sarah Bird Strange, wife of Rev. Thomas Madison Strange. Sarah died March 8, 1918. Her obituary does not list a cause of death, so I have no idea if her death was related to influenza.

The Luray Herald (Luray Ks) 14 March 1918

When I saw that Lizzie and Marion attended the funeral of Lizzie’s sister-in-law, Rachel Strange, wife of her brother Everett, in September, I wondered if she had died of influenza.

The Luray Herald (Luray KS) 12 Sep 1918

But John Mayer wrote in his book, Strange of Eastern America, that Rachel died by suicide.

Wedding portrait, Everett and Rachel Strange

Rachel and Everett had three sons, James Sibley, Raymond Everett, and Norwood Norton. Norwood was only two when his mother died.

Sons of Everett and Rachel Strange

Shortly after the funeral notice in the Luray newspaper, there was a notice that Everett had brought his son Raymond to live with his sister Lizzie. I don’t know where the other boys went, but perhaps they also went to live with relatives.

The Luray Herald (Luray KS) 19 Sep 1918

Less than a month after Everett left his son with Lizzie and Marion, came the news that Lizzie was ill with influenza in Junction City. Her husband had family in Junction City, so it is unclear if she became ill while visiting, or if her husband took her to the larger town for medical treatment.

The Luray Herald (Luray KS) 14 Nov 1918

A week later, the newspaper reported that Lizzie had died.

The Luray Herald (Luray KS) 21 Nov 1918

Lizzie and Marion were about six weeks shy of celebrating their second wedding anniversary.

This obituary is the first time I had heard of the Royal Neighbors. According to Wikipedia “the early members of the Society were ahead of their time. In addition to providing life insurance for women, they stood firmly behind the women’s suffrage movement. Royal Neighbors was also one of the first fraternal societies to insure children and recognize mortality studies establishing the fact that women live longer than men, and to reflect that difference in life insurance premiums…. They intended to be that helpful neighbor, combining the Biblical “neighbor” with the word “royal” that signified their belief in the nobility of the work they would do.”

Fairfield Journal, Fairfield, IA Dec. 17, 1918

Nearly everyone in the eleven-member family of Lizzie’s Aunt Dorinda was reported to be ill less than a month after Lizzie’s death.

From the brief research I did this week, I found no evidence that Lizzie’s husband Marion remarried. His widowed sister and her children had moved to Kansas before Lizzie’s death. The 1920 census shows his nephew Frank Steele living with him and, for a time Marion, and his sister and her children lived together. Marion later had a small farm where he lived alone in Clay County, Kansas. He died in California in 1953.

As for Everett Strange and his sons, they were reunited. Everett remarried and census records show the boys living with their father and step-mother and several half-siblings.

Rev. Thomas Madison Strange, husband of Rev. Sarah Bird Strange and brother of George Washington Strange and half-brother of Dorinda Rebecca Strange, died in October of 1919. His obituary lists the cause of death as uremia, a condition caused by kidney damage. This is of interest to me because of the death of my mother’s brother after having the measles. His death was secondary to measles, the cause of death being nephritis. I am no doctor and have no medical knowledge at all, but my little look into the definitions of both seem to have some possible overlap and made me wonder if T. M. Strange had a chronic kidney condition or if, like my uncle, had suffered kidney damage from a viral infection that led to his death. Always speculating… Can’t help it.

That’s all for my lengthy contribution to Sepia Saturday. Ride the rails to the next stop on the line, where other’s have surely written shorter and more uplifting tales at Sepia Saturday.

On This Day – March 27, 1927

John Norman Webber and Beatrice Irene Jensen were married March 27, 1927 in Tyler, Minnesota.

Webber, John Norman wedding 1927

Norman was the first child of Myron David Webber and Dorinda Rebecca Strange. He was my grandmother Abbie’s older brother and my great-uncle.

This quote from a Webber family newsletter sheds light on how Norman, who lived in Iowa met Irene, who lived in Minnesota:
Their first summer in Iowa City, Myron, Dorinda and 6 of their children lived in a tent in City Park – with no sleeping bags. It was a momentous summer – here in the park, Norman met Irene, who was in town visiting her cousin Phil Norman.

And here we have a picture of Irene, Norman, and a woman whom I would guess is Irene’s mother. The photo is identified with these words:
In Tyler
Showing my ring
Webber, John Norman and Irene 1926 Tyler, MN Showing my ringIrene looks really happy, but she’s not giving us a good view of that ring!

Twenty-three guests signed the memory book at the wedding. There are no names from Uncle Norman’s family.

N-Guest List wedding Norman&Irene Webber363 (1)

Attendees of the wedding of Norman and Irene Webber

Cousins have been emailing back and forth the past few days helping me by sharing information and documents. (Thank you, thank you, thank you!) Some had heard that there was a rush to the altar, but no one knows for sure. Whether or not this was a “shotgun wedding” – perhaps due to a false alarm – it was a marriage that lasted and all agree that their love for one another was genuine.

The photo on the left was taken on their 1st Anniversary. The photo on the right on their 22nd Anniversary in 1949.

1st-anniv-1928 (1) copy                22nd Anniversary

And here we have Norman and Irene opening gifts on their 25th anniversary at the home of Ersel Webber Addis and Laird Addis.
Webber, John Norman 25th wedding anniversaryUncle Norman was known to have rather unruly hair.

Norman and Irene lived in West Lucas Township, near Coralville in Johnson County, Iowa for many years. They appear there in both the 1930 and 1940 census. Norman and Irene lived a simple rural life as described in this undated story by Norman:
Webber, John Norman writings pg 1 This is our home, 1927_20170325_0001

"Goat Island"

“Goat Island” Click to enlarge

Uncle Norman may not have given a monetary value to his home, but the 1930 census taker valued it at $300. To give some context, other homes on that page were valued in the thousands. Uncle Norman earned his living as a plasterer and it was not full-time work.

I love Uncle Norman’s sense of humor and writing style. “After leaning lean-tos completely surround the house and lean-tos leaning lean-tos to the lean-tos, we are beginning to feel just a bit crowded again. Shall we repeat the cycle?”

Norman’s words: “We have learned to live with the two of us” seem to echo their sense of loss in having no children. But this story also makes clear that Norman and Irene felt great joy in having nieces and nephews come to visit and be a part of their lives. As cousin Yvonne wrote in an email, “We are their children.”

In later years, Norman and Irene lived with Norman’s parents in Iowa City. They also lived in a house on the property of Norman’s sister Abbie and her husband Charles (my grandparents). I wrote a little about their home and business in Charles’ and Abbie’s Place.

One more story for this wedding anniversary post. As a wedding gift, Uncle Norman gave one of his nephews and his bride a “kissing stool” because of their height difference. As you can see, Uncle Norman was well acquainted with this particular problem.
n-i-6 copy


Fred Webber – General Presbyter of the Baltimore Area 1960-1971

Fred Webber InstalledOn Wednesday, September 28, 1960, the Rev. Fred M. Webber was installed as General Presbyter of the Presbytery of Baltimore. He remained in this position until his “retirement” in 1971. The installation took place at Faith Presbyterian Church in Baltimore, Maryland.

I’ve been digging around to learn more about my great uncle Fred and his involvement in the civil rights and ecumenical movements during the 1960s. To provide some background I’m considering these questions:

What did this move and new job mean for Fred Webber and his family?
What does a General Presbyter do?
What prepared him for this position?

Although I can’t really know what this new job and move meant to the Fred Webber family, I can imagine that Fred viewed it as a great opportunity. His wife, Carol, had been through several moves and job changes by this time – all part of the life of a minister. Three of Fred’s and Carol’s children were grown and on their own, so they were unaffected by the move from Hamburg, New York, to Baltimore, Maryland. However their youngest daughter, a Junior in high school, was “very angry (very, very, very angry)” with her father for moving before she finished high school and she did not make the move with her parents. Instead, Bea lived with the school librarian and her husband (members of Hamburg Presbyterian Church where Fred had been the minister), until the end of 11th grade. Happily, Bea reports that “the minister and his wife at the Catonsville Presbyterian Church (in Maryland), where Mother joined, had a daughter my age and she very graciously welcomed me that summer before our senior year. She met me on the way to school the first day and walked with me. After that, I found my own way and had a fabulous year, so I forgave my father.”

What does a General Presbyter do?

In my search for a job description, I found this one by The Rev. Dr. Kevin Yoho, General Presbyter of the Newark Presbytery: “As General Presbyter, I support and direct the work of the staff, provide guidance to the Mission Council, committees, and teams of the presbytery, represent and link the presbytery to educational, civic, and private institutions. I also serve as a pastor to the pastors and am available to offer confidential support, coach, and pray with our pastoral leaders. 

Many conversations emerge with opportunities for partnering with congregations seeking and changing pastoral leadership; supporting congregational leaders feeling the pain of transitions, stress, and conflict that comes from growth and transformation; encouraging congregations in their discernment and pursuit of their missional identity; offering leadership in the Synod and national Presbyterian Church, and fostering denominational, ecumenical, and interfaith relationships….

Building trust, celebrating growth, fostering discernment through appreciative inquiry, inviting collaboration, clarifying ministry, assessing wellness and effectiveness, offering guidance, leading presbytery staff; these are the kinds of activities that I hope add value to the entire presbytery as it helps every pastor and session fulfill their unique mission in the world.”

That last paragraph fits my imaginings of how Fred envisioned his role as General Presbyter.

What prepared Fred for his new job as General Presbyter and his involvement in the civil rights and ecumenical movements?

A rather stern looking family. Fred Webber 2nd from left

Fred Webber 2nd from left

Fred M. Webber was born to Dorinda Strange and M. D. Webber in 1906, the fifth of nine children. He was a younger brother of my grandmother Abbie. His father, M. D. Webber, served as a pastor in several small churches, although he eventually gave up the ministry in order to support his large family. Nevertheless, the practice of their Christian faith was a given in Fred’s family of origin.

Debate Champions

Debate Champions – Fred 2nd from left

Fred was an avid reader and enjoyed debate. He was named “Best Debater in the State of Iowa in 1926.” He graduated from The State University of Iowa in 1930 and later earned a Master of Divinity from Colgate-Rochester Theological Seminary in Rochester, New York. Fred began his ministry as a Baptist pastor in 1932, but was received into the Presbytery of Buffalo-Niagra in 1941 and served several churches in New York.

In a resume written around 1974, Fred summarized a few of his professional duties and accomplishments prior to his position as General Presbyter. It’s a little difficult to read, so I’ve typed in the highlights below.

Webber, Fred Myron 1974 Resume pt. 1

Webber, Fred Myron 1974 Resume pt. 2

* In Bath I followed a Pastor who had left under quite unhappy circumstances, so my first responsibility was a healing ministry, which I feel was rather well accomplished.
* (Weedsport) My major contribution to the life of this congregation was broadening its view of the total mission of the church; from virtually no support of mission outside the congregation, we moved to fairly significant support
* (Youngstown) I found here the same lack of support outside the parish, and brought that support up to a respectable figure. Growth in membership was about 20%, and in attendance about 40%
* (Hamburg) Once again I was confronted with a lack of concern beyond the parish … By the time I left, the church was giving $1.00 to general mission for every $2.00 for local mission. Membership grew from about 150 to over 1,000; a new church was erected.
* Fred was commissioner to the General Assembly in 1947, 1958 and again in 1965.

It does appear that these were valuable experiences that Fred could apply to his job as General Presbyter. In the resume above, he says the following about his work in the presbytery: Presbytery was severely divided when I came, and we made significant strides toward uniting it. 

In addition to the experiences listed above, Fred was known as having a “can do” attitude as exemplified by his favorite saying, “If you can read, you can do anything.”

Among the files sent to me by Fred’s daughter, Bea, is a humorous letter written in 1968 addressing the Presbytery of Baltimore at the 566th Stated Meeting. The letter was submitted by the congregation at Catonsville and speaks of Fred as an impossible man in an impossible job in an impossible place.

November 16, 1968

November 16, 1968

An additional question I have is what influenced Fred’s involvement in the civil rights movement. I haven’t read any of Fred’s sermons, so I don’t know if, when, or how often he preached on the issue of civil rights, but it is obvious from his resume that Fred always pushed his congregations to look (and give) beyond the doors of their church. I asked family members to offer their thoughts regarding what influenced Fred’s commitment to civil rights:

Anyone care to speculate what his early life and family experience played based on what you heard from Fred or what you heard about or experienced yourself in the home of Dorinda and M. D. Webber? Or maybe it was time spent in seminary, as a pastor?

I received the following responses:

* I think his civil rights position came from his Christian principles. I think civil rights became a big issue after he had a congregation.
* Bea found a 1920s prayers for social justice book in all the things she went through last year, so I think his convictions surely came from his full life experiences.
* One of our grandmother’s (Dorinda Strange Webber) brothers was killed by an Indian before she was born. She talked about that fact fairly often, but I never heard one negative word about that particular Indian or about Indians in general. I think that the Webber family was not into racial, ethnic bigotry at all. God made and loved each human being, no matter color, etc. I think that would have had an impact on anyone who lived with them – especially those who grew up with them.

To add a little more context, I did just a smidgen of research on the Rev. Dr. Kenneth G. Neigh, who gave the sermon at Fred Webber’s installation. Mr. Neigh was the general secretary of the Board of National Missions, a position he held from 1959-1972.

In 1996, the New York Times published an obituary for Kenneth Neigh calling him “a national Presbyterian church official who put the church in the forefront of the civil rights movement and broadened its commitment to social causes in the 1960s.” It continues – “For a man who was less than five and a half feet tall and had an uncommonly soft voice, Mr. Neigh wielded a lot of power from his office on Riverside Drive, then the headquarters of the United Presbyterian Church in the United States….. Although he had official power only within his own church, Mr. Neigh’s pioneering approach was credited with influencing similar efforts in other churches, especially after his friend and admirer, Eugene Carson Blake, the Presbyterian Church’s top ecclesiastical official, carried Mr. Neigh’s vision with him when he became head of the National Council of Churches and later of the World Council of Churches.”

So – there we have some background to place Fred Webber in Baltimore in the 1960s. Coming soon – a look at some of Fred Webber’s actions in support of civil rights and ecumenism – and perhaps a look at some of his other contemporaries, including Eugene Carson Blake.

If you would like to read more about Fred M. Webber, click the Fred Myron Webber tag/link at the bottom of this post.

Webber, Fred Myron 1930 College DiplomaWebber, Fred Myron Master of DivinityWebber, Fred Myron 1932 Baptist