Monday, July 6, 2009

The Great Influenza Epidemic of 1918

The Great Influenza epidemic (also known as “Spanish Flu”) hit the Philadelphia area in the fall of 1918 with the velocity of a freight train at full throttle. Hospitals were quickly inundated with the sick and dying. Whole families were decimated as the flu quickly infiltrated the cities, neighborhoods and countryside. Mortuaries and cemeteries could not keep up with the dead, family members were often buried together in a single grave, unembalmed and one on top of another.

Squirrel Run was hard hit during the flu epidemic, which overtook the area the first week of October. Following is a list of those unfortunate Giusvallìn who succumbed to the flu during that fateful fall of 1918:

Flaminia (Briccotto) Pesce, died 6 Oct (age 26)
Luigia (Perrone) Baccino, died 8 Oct (age 23)
Paolo Rocco Pesce, died 10 Oct (age 70)
Charles Bazzano, died 13 Oct (age 3)
John Carozzo, died 13 Oct (age 40)
Frances Carozzo, died 13 Oct (age 1½)
Peter Bazzano, died 17 Oct (age 1)
Onofrio Baccino, died 18 Oct (age 1)
Valentino Tortarolo, died 20 Oct (age 40)
Luigia (Perrone) Tortarolo, died 20 Oct (age 34)
Adelina (Sicco) Baccino, died 21 Oct (age 22)
Giuseppe Marenco, died 30 Oct (age 2)

These poor souls were buried at St. Joseph-on-the-Brandywine Cemetery, each carrying their own sad story with them to the grave.

Adelina (Sicco) Baccino was pregnant at the time of her death. She spent her last days tending to her flu-sick parents-in-law. She nursed them until she too became ill and was no longer able to leave her bed.

Little Onofrio Baccino died just 10 days after his mother Luigia (Perrone) Baccino, leaving a childless widower, and little Francie Carozzo died the same day as her father, John. They were buried together on the same day.

Mary (Baldo) Bazzano was ill with the flu at the time she lost her two sons, Charles and Peter, who died within four days of one another. She didn’t know of their passing until after she recovered.

Husband and wife, Valentino and Luigia (Perrone) Tortarolo died within just a couple hours of one another, leaving three young children to the care of their relatives.

Allura, an vüj di ciü …. ch’am mem’nan and'umma a desh'mentiemie mai ciü!


  1. Frank,

    Such tragedy and hardship; we today cannot quite imagine. The family didn't talk much about this time as it was so difficult; the one story that they often did relate was how the entire family was ill at one time, except for little todler Anna (my grandmother) who ran around the house dancing and singing amidst all the misery. She still laughs sheepishly when we bring it up.

  2. My great-grandmother, Teresa Albina (Piuma) Salvo, apparently spent a great deal of time helping to care for those who'd contracted this awful illness, and legend has it she never contracted the flu virus herself (that information comes from my mother, Marianne (Salvo) Brady).

    The sad part however is, traces of this flu appparently hung around for some time, as this virus (or a strain of it), later took the life of my great aunt, Esther Salvo, in 1920. She was only 13.

  3. One other point I forgot to mention in my prior comment: of the three children of Valentino and Luigia (Perrone)Tortarolo that Frank mentions, one of them was my Godmother, Theresa (Tortarolo) Angelone. When her parents died, she came to live with my great-grandpop Salvo's family. A picture of her can be found in the June 2009 posts on this site.