Thursday, December 29, 2011

Miller - August and Minnie Polzin and the Spanish Influenza

By Delores Miller

One of the aftermaths of the First World War was the Spanish Influenza Pandemic or commonly known as 'La Grippe'.  Legend says this was a disease brought home from the overseas  by returning soldiers.  This malady  killed more people  than the WWI bullets.  Young  adults were victims.  Healthy today, sick tomorrow, died, and was buried.  75 million people perished world wide,  This was the deadliest natural disaster ever.  High infection rate, death was from pneumonia, demise was swift, sometimes within hours.  Patients experienced fatigue, muscle aches, sneezing, coughing, lung fever.    In those days, no antibiotics were available.  Dr. Mulvaney recommended whiskey, brandy, aspirin and quinine.  Homes were quarantined and isolated and after patients recovered  or expired the home was aired out, and washed down with bleach and disinfectant.

Because so many people were sick, there was a shortage of health care workers, medical supplies, coffins, grave diggers and morticians.  28% of all Americans were affected, but only 3% died.

Gauze masks had to be worn in public.  Closed all stores, churches and schools in Marion.  Rules and laws were instigated, funerals could not last more than 15 minutes.  Fines were issued.

The disease ran rampant from June 1918 until December 20, 1920 and vanished for no apparent reason.

Thirty people died in the Marion area including August and Minnie Polzin.  According to the History of Marion, the following people also passed away from the flu:  Mrs John Krueger, Hugo Schlender, Mrs William Woller, Oscar Brockhaus, the first Mrs Paul Knaack, Walter Poppendorf, Harvey Lutzewitz, August Hartwig, the cigar maker, Leo Poppendorf, Paul Schlender, Mrs Harry McCulloch, Mrs Emil Liskow, Mrs August Hartwig, Jesse Rodgers, Mrs Jesse Rodgers, William Garry, Mrs Emil (Annie Schmidt), Winter and others.

Memories are a gift from God

To those left behind

They bring comfort, joy and laughter

And they enable us to live forever

In the hearts of those we love.

Wilhelminia Klatt (January 15, 1858-February 3, 1934) and Gustav Polzin (April 9, 1853- August 23, 1937) were married in 1878.  They came to the USA and Dupont in 1881.  They purchased the Nohr farm, near the south branch of  the Pigeon River.  Nohrs had a saw mill which burned.  Wilhelminia and Gustav  had the following children:  Henry Polzin of Seattle, Washington, Otto Polzin of Symco, Amelia, Mrs Ed Kussman (1883-1966) of Dupont, Emil Polzin (1885-1966) of Dupont, Hilda, Mrs Francis Hoezle (1888) of St. Paul, Minnesota, Otilla, Mrs Louis Brockhaus ((1893-1978)  of Caroline, Ida, Mrs Ernest Nelson (1895-1991) of St. Paul, Edward Polzin (1899-1984) of Elderon, Albert  (1891-1918)of Dupont, and August Polzin (1881-1918) of Dupont.

August Polzin (September 10, 1881-December 9, 1918)  and a neighbor girl with red hair, Minnie Zillmer (January 4, 1890-December 13, 1918) were married December 31, 1907.   Little did they know, when they married with such high hopes, that in eleven years both would be dead.    In those days of horse and buggy or sleigh, courting was done amongst the neighboring families.    Minnie was a tall big boned, buxom woman, healthy and willing to work hard.   Two children, a daughter Lillian (January 15, 1909-March 13, 1909) and Leonard (April 9, 1910-June 7, 1938).  August was born with wandering feet,  and although a mason by trade, did travel to the state of Washington and did live there for a time.  He purchased land in 1911 in Pearce County, south of Tacoma.

Minnie as she was called, although her real name was Wilhelminia was the oldest of the eight children of John Albert  (1869-1936) and Fredericka  Lembke Zillmer (1873-1939).  Siblings were:  John Zillmer (1892-1961), Ella Knaack (1894-1952, William Zillmer (1896-1981), [Delores'  Father], Alma Pruess (1900-1969), Edwin Zillmer (1905-1977), Adeline Ratzburg (1910-1993), {and Mother to the famous author, writer, military history bluff Harold Ratzburg of New Jersey},  and Fern Ratzburg (1913-1999) who was born on her Mother's 40th birthday.

Minnie urged a family studio portrait be taken, because her brother John was due to be drafted in World War One Army and she was worried he was going to be killed in the trenches in Germany.  Little did they know at that time that John never got further than training horses  and mules in Alabama and August and Minnie would be dead in less than six months.  Doom and gloom.

From the 1977 verbal history of William Zillmer he states:  August and Minnie got sick, they had a house in Clintonville.  Because of the fear of epidemics and contagion, no one was left to nurse them, except himself and his mother.  August died on December 9, 1918 and the funeral was planned to be held from the house.  But on the day of the funeral, Minnie died on December 13, 1918.  There was nothing we could do, we just watched her die.  Leonard, their son at the age of 8 was an orphan.  Hauled the caskets and remains to Dupont's Roseland Cemetery with horse and sleigh.  A large ostentatious tombstone marks their grave.  The family always talked about Minnie and August as though they were just gone away for a little while.

Leonard was made an parentless child, went to live with his maternal grandparents and John Albert Zillmer was made his legal guardian. 

After their catastrophe demises the estate had to be probated and followed a paper trail of lawyer and court documents disposing of the Washington land.  An inventory  of personal items was performed by Ed Kussman and William Rosnow for the appraisal of the estate.  A Ford second hand automobile was valued at $125.  Other items were mason and carpenter tools, cords of wood, bushels of potatoes, stoves, cooking apparatus, tables, sewing machine, chiffonier, wood heaters, davenport, chairs, oilstove, beds and a land contract for $375.

Leonard had a happy life with the extended Zillmer and Polzin families.  Attended Sunrise School, where the commencement exercises were held on Friday May 18, 1923.  Graduates included Dora Schwan, Leonard Polzin, Linda Keup, Harold Brown, Leonard Laux and Arthur Brown.   Miss Breed was the teacher.   The diplomas were presented by his Grandfather John Albert Zillmer who was school board clerk.  Other school board members were: Gust Mielke, Director and John E. Nohr, Treasurer.  Leonard gave the Salutatory address to the Under Graduates.

Leonard married Helen  on October 6, 1932 and had two children. 

On June 6, 1938 Leonard died of a heart attack  at  28, the same age his Mother Minnie was when she died of the Spanish Influenza.

Thus ends the saga of the Spanish Influenza and August, Minnie and Leonard Polzin.

Information furnished by the Polzin Family Archives, verbal history, Mary Rahr, Genealogist and World Book Encyclopedia.

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