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The Grandmother I Never Knew

The Spanish Flu killed my grandmother Gladys Whitt-Puryear (pictured

above). She was born 1895 in Travis County, Texas. She married my

Grandfather Harvey Puryear ca 1913 in Austin, Texas. Both were

descendants of early pioneer families in Travis County. Their first child Lois

(pictured below) was born in 1915. My mother, Alta Mae, was the second

child of their marriage. She was born October 18, 1918, in Harrisburg,

Texas. Why the family was there remains a mystery. On October 9, 1918,

Mayor Dan Moody closed the schools and quarantined the town of Houston

for 17 days because of the Spanish Flu. The population at the time was

about 200,000. President Woodrow Wilson was infected, and 675,000

Americans died. The death toll in Texas was 2,100. Of those, two were

family; Gladys died October 29, eleven days after the birth of Alta Mae.

Three-year-old Lois died about the same time; their death certificates say

they died of the Spanish Flu.

My mother went to her grave in 1996 thinking her mother died giving birth

to her. I assume my Grandmother Gladys is buried in Harris County with

her three-year-old child Lois. Most likely in mass burial sites. My widowed

Great Grandmother Rosa Puryear took Alta Mae to raise her. A century

later history repeats itself; that is why history and family stories are so


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