When the influenza epidemic began in January 1918, it consisted of three waves that ultimately killed an estimated 670,000 Americans.
However, it took a few months before this often fatal virus affected the daily lives of Round Rock citizens. When the second, and most contagious, wave of the flu hit the U.S. at the end of September, influenza had successfully spread across the entire country. By then, its effects were definitely felt in Central Texas.
A third wave of the virus followed in January 1919 and lasted into the spring, where the virus seemed to disappear as quickly as it arrived.
The pandemic lasted just over a year and was the deadliest disease outbreak in human history. It is estimated to have killed between 50 to 100 million people worldwide.¹
Since there were no effective drugs or vaccines at the time to treat this killer flu strain, citizens were mostly confined to their homes – out of fear of contracting it, or to simply die from it.
In Round Rock, it appears that the approach of being confined to one’s home was followed², as the Board of Trustee Minutes from January 25, 1919 provide a recap of multiple school closures starting in October 1918 and ending in January 1919.
September 16, 1918 – First Day of School³
October 8, 1918 – school closed (Second Wave hits area)
November 4, 1918 – school reopens
December 21 – January 6, 1919 – school closed for Xmas
January 19, 1919 – school closed (Third Wave hits area)
January 27, 1919 – school reopens
From the start of school³ on September 16, 1918 through January 27, 1919, approximately 36 days of instruction were lost due to the influenza pandemic. Board Minutes note that school occurred on four Saturdays.
² No information regarding illness or death of students, teachers, or staff was provided in the 1918 or 1919 Board Minutes.
³ This was the noted start date for the white school. The “Negro,” or “Colored” School as it was referred to at the time, usually opened upwards to 4 weeks after the white school.
Translated from above graphic – January 25, 1919 handwritten Board Minutes:
“Below is a full account of the days closed on account of Influenza and Holiday. School opened Sept 16, Taught 17 days.
School Closed on Oct 8th, 1918. Remained Closed for 18 days.
Opened again on Nov. 4. for 23 days. Closed Wenesday [sic] Dec. 4th and remained Closed for 12 Days and Xmas week.
Opened again Jan. 6th, 1919 and remained open for 5 days or “one week”
Closed for 15 days Opened again Jan. 27, 1919, during above 4 Saturdays were taught.”