Granby and the 1918 Spanish Influenza

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The coronavirus pandemic is affecting us all, our small town and across the entire nation. This was also true of the Spanish influenza from 1918 to 1919 when 675,000 Americans lost their lives. At that time, Granby was a small agricultural community but not immune to its effects as well. Six citizens lost their lives.

The Spanish influenza came in three waves. The first wave lasted from April to July of 1918. It was known as the Three-Day Fever because those affected had a fever for three days, the fever would break, and the person would be well again. It was reported that “Dr. Munson of Tariffville was seen Saturday in Granby and stated that he had two cases of Spanish Influenza in Granby, two in Bloomfield, one in Suffield, and two in East Granby and none in Tariffville. Dr. Munson, who had just begun practicing medicine when the old fashion grippe first struck the country and has a vivid memory of that disease, states that the present Spanish Influenza is nothing more or less than the old fashion grippe.”

However, Dr. Munson did not know there was a second wave coming. The second wave of the Spanish Influenza was a deadlier strain. From September to December was the deadliest period nationwide as well as in Connecticut. Of the 8,500 Connecticut residents who lost their lives, more than 4,100 were from Hartford, New Haven, Bridgeport, Waterbury and New Britain.

Much of the spread of influenza in the United States was the result of soldiers coming home from the war as carriers of the virus. The first recorded case was a soldier stationed at Fort Riley in Kansas. Military bases across the country would be infected. Fort Devens in Massachusetts recorded over 1,500 cases in one day. Of the six people from Granby who died from the Spanish Flu, three were in the army. William Parcel, not a native of Granby, was a veteran of the Great War and was on leave staying with the Berman Family who lived on Day Street. When his leave was up, he reported to Fort Devens where he caught the virus. He would die at age 23 and be buried in Harvard, Mass. Corporal Tankrid Thoren of North Granby also died of the virus but it is unknown where he caught it. Private Fredrick Weed of Granby who also caught the virus was stationed in Fort Wayne in Michigan. Both Thoren and Weed are buried in the Granby Cemetery.

Evon Carlson, Grace Gilbert and Harold Messenger were three Granby children, ranging in age from 10 to 14, who died from Spanish Influenza and are also buried in the Granby Cemetery.

In October of 1918, the Health District closed all the schools in town for one week in an effort to prevent the disease from spreading. The third wave of the Spanish Influenza was in January and February of 1919. And by the spring of 1919, the virus had disappeared.

The families of those Granby citizens who died in 1918 grieved just as the families of coronavirus victims are grieving today. According to the Governor’s website, Granby has lost 26 citizens to COVID-19. Please wear a mask and, when it is available, get a vaccine.

Want to learn more about the Spanish Influenza or other Granby History? Become a member of the Salmon Brook Historical Society by calling 860-653-9713 or visit