Amos Brownell and Mary Palmer Hensley

Pandemic Influenza Storybook

Storyteller: Dave Brownell

Location: Missouri

Train station

I am the product of much older parents. My father was born in 1884 and my mother was born in 1902. I am currently about the same age (61 years) as my father when I was born.

My mother′s mother, Mary Palmer Hensley died in Bellflower, Missouri during the first wave of the 1918 pandemic. Bellflower is about 100 miles west of St. Louis. Like many, she was a healthy, farm wife who had had eight children over a 26–year–period. She woke up one morning healthy and was dead by sunset the next day. The small church in that community could not keep up with the funerals and many were fearful of attending services. Her husband lived on another 15 years, but never got over the loss or the speed of the situation.

My father′s father, Amos Brownell, was born just before the Civil War in Wisconsin. He was living in St. Louis, Missouri in 1919 working as a railroad switchman when the second wave of the pandemic hit. He, too, was healthy one day and then died the next day. His burial was delayed for weeks because gravediggers could not keep up with the demand. His wife and six adult children all lived another 20 years.