History of Quarantine in Geneva

The past few weeks of social distancing and quarantine is not the first time for Geneva. The Spanish Flu pandemic in 1918 killed somewhere between 20 and 40 million people. It has been cited as the most devastating epidemic in recorded world history. Here is what it did to Geneva, Illinois.

As reported in the Geneva Republican on October 25, 1918, a troop train on the Chicago & Northwestern Railroad east bound from Camp Fremont, California left the track three miles west of Geneva.  The train was estimated to be traveling at a rate of 60 miles per hour at the time of the wreck.  Thirty-four soldiers were injured, several with broken legs or arms but most received only cuts or bruises.  The injured men were rushed to Geneva’s Colonial Hospital on Third Street in motor cars owned by local residents who came to the scene of the accident.

“Physicians from Aurora, Elgin, St. Charles and Batavia assisted Geneva doctors to care for the men.  A number of women from the Red Cross arrived and made sure the men were treated to hot coffee and sandwiches.  Smokes were provided by Geneva men and everything possible was done to make the men comfortable.”

One car on the train held 60 men who were ill and under quarantine with the Spanish flu

Several Geneva soldiers died overseas from the flu.  However, just one month after the troop train wreck, in November 1918, there are several deaths in the area all with short illness of influenza which quickly developed into pneumonia.

One of the dead was St. Charles Health Officer, Dr. William Calhoun who was the leader in trying to stamp out the disease and flu epidemic. Maybe Dr. Calhoun was there to assist with the quarantined troops?

Noted as “Popular Geneva Boy,” Charles Lencioni died at the age of 20 following a brief eight day illness with influenza and pneumonia.  Lencioni contracted a severe cold the night of the troop train wreck.  He had worked at his father’s fruit store and was the chauffeur at Riverbank estate of Col. George Fabyan.

In December, Margaret Hanna, wife of head farmer at the Riverbank Estate died at the age of 44 after a short illness with pneumonia.

Josephine Works of Aurora died after a four day illness in December.  She had many friends in Geneva and was a collector on one of the Chicago & Northwestern local trains.

Quarantine restrictions were made in Geneva regarding public places, social gatherings and exclusion from activities of those who show evidence of a cold. Schools and businesses remained open, however, as written in the Geneva Republican on November 8, 1918, “provided that all such premises shall be thoroughly cleaned, kept clean and well ventilated at all times. Conditions of crowding shall be strictly avoided. Extraordinary diligence shall be exercised to exclude from the audience possible infection bearers. Social gatherings may be held under the same restrictions as are herein provided for places of public amusements. Public sales and special bargain sales may be held provided conditions of crowding are avoided and other necessary sanitary precautions are taken. Public funeral of those dead of non-contagious diseases shall be held but all funerals of those dead from the commutable diseases shall be held only in conformity with the rules and regulations of the State Department of Public Health. Churches will continue to operate under the restrictions previously provided. Schools may operate under the following conditions: Each and every citizen is asked to cooperate and be governed by the above rules. If you have a cold or reside in premises where a case of influenza or pneumonia exists do not go into places of amusement or churches where you may come in direct contact with others.”

And they called THAT a quarantine?