[Gertie apparently had a friendship with a Mr Emil Quanetrom, 10418ave.H. East Side Sta., Chicago Ill., 36 years old, possibly beginning when she was traveling to Cuba.  She wants to correspond but Elinor has to write the letters because Gertie is too ill.  Gertie is barely able to take a few steps in the house.  Elinor is taking treatments from Dr. Easton but complaining that her “liver is so bad” and she complains of hip pain.  Pa gets his upper teeth removed, and dentures.  

Elinor talks about making popped corn (no explanation of how it was done). She talks about Elbert and Audrey trying out the new ship yard restaurant with dancing and eating. 

Nellie is keeping in touch with her husband John McKinley Harnish who is fighting in the war.  At one point she and Pa take a train to Cleveland, then a train to Columbus and then a car to Camp Sherman (Chillicothe Ohio) where John is stationed and which was suffering from the epidemic.  John McKinley Harnish returns from the war on December 15, 1918

Elinor is corresponding with Dan but chastises his name for not visiting her He shows up November 25, 1918.  She again uses code language about what Dan gave her.  It was deciphered by Sara Klips and her husband Ryan Thomas: “Dan bought me a box of writing paper a bottle of ink  & 12 stamps & a box of chocalates  a bag of nuts & a bag of oranges & apples and a newspaper every day.”  Its very unclear why she would want that to be in code.  Dan leaves by the second of December for Erie Pennsylvania.  

The first Germany surrender brought whistles and parades and shouting but in fact it was based on a false report. and the celebration was repeated. 

Almost as big as the epidemic and the war is the fact that Elinor arranges to get a “new 1900 Washing machine & Wringer”   She exclaims that for 17 years she has had to wring the clothes by hand.  She has to pay 6.75 in installments. She is selling eggs from 26 hens & a rooster.  She receives a gift of a fountain pen which may be what she used for the rest of the diary. 

Elbert is trapping and hunting including a big mink the size of a cat and a smaller one and 3 skunks & 40 muskrats for hides.  

The family friend Glenn Haught got a gift for Martha, a big soldier doll, when Pa and Elinor went to Cleveland to visit by “car” that was crowded, standing room only for the whole trip home (2.5 hours). 

Elinor is reporting more contact with the church including at the Epworth League which is a young adult Methodist association for 18-35 year olds which started in Cleveland in 1889.]

Nov.1.  Gertie’s fever 99 1/5  Nellie got her telegram. & don’t have to go, John is going to be there for a while yet.  Pa finished the washing & Nellie helped him.  I feel alive
Nov.2.  Gertie’s fever 97 1/5  I am going to bed its 1-30 a.m.  I don’t feel very well myself.
Nov.3.  Gertie is normal today  I swept & moped the dining room & aired our bedding today. 
Nov.4.  Took care of Gertie  cooked & done house work & sewed a little today.

Nov.6.  Gertie doing well  sit up today about 5 minutes.  I did a days work this afternoon.
Nov.7.  Germany surrendered today, they blew all the whistles played the band had a parade & shouted & yelled from 20 minutes two 2 p.m. until long after 12 p.m.  I thank God with all my soul. 

Nov.8.  Well the report was not true & so they’ll have to do all the soise over.  Made Gertie terrible nervous but she doing fine

Nov.5.  Got things straightened up a little more today.  Ruby’s baby came today 8lbs& 10 ozs.a girl.  both doing well.  Nellie don’t feel well.

The False WWI Armistice Report That Fooled America
Four days before the actual end of World War I, a false report misled the country and set off wild celebrations.
People celebrate the fake WWI armistice


Jubilant Americans in Washington, D.C., show newspaper headlines which announce the surrender of Germany, ending World War I — a few days premature.

Bettmann Archive/Getty Images

A minute before noon on a November morning in 1918, a telegraph inside the United Press office on the third floor of the New York World headquarters chattered a message of salvation to a war-weary country. After reading the cable from France, pressmen grabbed the largest type they could find to set the headline for that afternoon’s extra edition: “WAR OVER.”

Minutes later, the news that the Allies and Germany had signed an armistice to end World War I crossed the Dow Jones ticker on Wall Street and quickly went viral across the country’s telegraph and telephone wires.

All business in New York City came to a halt as Mayor John Hylan declared a public holiday. Barbers abandoned half-shaven customers in their chairs. Office workers who left for lunch never returned. “Who can work on a day like this? Gone to celebrate-open tomorrow” read a sign on the shuttered front door of the Rogers Peet department store. A blizzard of tickertape, newspapers and shredded telephone books were tossed from skyscrapers and fluttered down onto the weeping and cheering crowds who linked arms and danced in the streets. In Times Square, tenor Enrico Caruso waved an American flag and belted out “The Star-Spangled Banner” from a second-floor window of the Knickerbocker Hotel.

Even by Manhattan’s noisy standards, an unprecedented cacophony spread across the island. Tugboat whistles sounded in the harbor, adding to a din of trolley gongs, automobile horns, air raid sirens and church bells. Newsboys with extra editions shouted: “Germany surrenders!” “Peace! War is over!” The scene in New York was “a dozen New Year’s Eves in one,” as one woman wrote to her fiancée serving in France.

November 7 will go down in history as a day for international rejoicing among the civilized nations of the world.”

Yes, November 7. Four days before the actual signing of the armistice ending World War I, a premature peace report set off wild celebrations across the United States.

Fake WWI Armistice


A premature celebration of the WWI Armistice in New York City on November 7, 1918 , before the ceasefire became official on November 11. 

Hulton Archive/Getty Images

The false report set off coast-to-coast celebrations.

From big cities to small towns, fire stations rang their bells and factory whistles blared on what became known as “False Armistice Day.” Ignoring the prohibitions against public gatherings because of the Spanish Flu that had ravaged the country in recent weeks, Americans poured into the streets to celebrate. In Washington, D.C.President Woodrow Wilson appeared on the White House portico and waved his luncheon napkin to the crowds chanting his name. Overhead, nine Army airplanes performed loop-the-loops as the guns of Fort Myer thundered across the Potomac River.

While Philadelphia Mayor Thomas B. Smith rang the Liberty Bell with a small hammer, Begun’s Drug Store in La Crosse, Wisconsin, handed out free soda pop as a straw effigy of the Kaiser burned outside the local newspaper office. At the Paramount Studios in Hollywood, Cecil B. DeMille interrupted 19-year-old Gloria Swanson during the shooting of a silent film. “Excuse me, Miss Swanson,” the legendary director said. “We are going to stop for today. Word has just come than an armistice has been declared. The war is over!”

In New Castle, Pennsylvania, the premature celebration turned violent. A Spanish-American War veteran falsely accused of supporting the Kaiser and tearing down an American flag was assaulted and shot in the neck. Then in the town center, a firework exploded inside a launching tube, spraying steel shards that killed four teenagers, including one whose brother was serving with the American Expeditionary Force in Italy.

The truth slowly emerged.

“We thought then that all of our cares and worries were gone forever,” recalled Robert Flueger of the celebration in Akron, Ohio. Those cares and worries all returned as the country slowly deflated after Secretary of State Robert Lansing issued an official denial: “Report that the armistice with Germany has been signed is untrue.” Some refused to listen to the truth. Crowds in Times Square tore apart newspapers that printed Lansing’s armistice denial.

America awoke to a terrible hangover on November 8 as doughboys continued to die in French trenches. “Such false newspaper reports are terrible things and people responsible for them are just one grade below the worst criminal,” wrote a disgusted Captain Harry Truman.

Fake WWI Armistice


Crowds gathering at Times Square, New York holding up newspapers with false headlines of a WWI Armistice.

The National Archives

A miscommunication was to blame.

The false armistice report apparently began with a message sent to the American embassy in Paris. Some suspected that a practical joker or a German spy had called the embassy to plant the false story in order to get the Allied guns to fall silent. But a U.S. Army investigation concluded that officers misinterpreted a message declaring a localized cease-fire to allow a German delegation to cross battle lines for peace negotiations.

With rumors of peace already circulating the French port of Brest, Admiral Henry B. Wilson, the American naval commander in France, told United Press president Roy Howard that he had just received news of an armistice from the American embassy in Paris. “Is it official?” Howard asked. “Absolutely, right from headquarters,” said Wilson, who gave the newspaperman permission to print the scoop of a lifetime.

With French censors away from their post to celebrate the war’s end, Howard cabled the news to the United Press office in New York. Assuming their French counterparts had approved the cable, American military censors did the same.

Wilson quickly took responsibility for the false report and exonerated Howard and the United Press, which the New York World made sure to feature prominently on the front page of its November 8 edition. The rival Associated Press, however, called for Howard’s court-martial for his role in the “most flagrant and culpable act of public deception in the whole history of news gathering and dissemination.” Some New Yorkers suggested the city send the $85,000 cleanup bill from the premature celebration to the United Press.

News of an armistice reached the United States again on the morning of November 11—but this time the reports were true. Crowds again filled American streets, but the celebration this time was more subdued. “There were few jubilations that Monday, in comparison with wild, fake-armistice day” reported Shirley White. “People had spent their wild hilarity; all realized now what the struggle had meant and cost. We were glad—glad—but it was a gladness that lay deep in our hearts. People were prayerful and tearful; and yet joyous—too grateful for mirth.”  

Nov.9.  Audrey came home early & we did quite a lot of work.  but I’m so tired. 
Sun.Nov.10.  It fine day but I feel an unrest  Well, John phoned for Nellie to come and she & pa left in time to catch the 8-50 limited for Cleveland, they expect to get the midnight train out for Columbus & then to take a care to Camp Sherman.

The Spanish Influenza Pandemic of 1918 at Camp Sherman

Many soldiers in the backs of heavy trucks awaiting transport
Soldiers who survived the Influenza outbreak awaiting transport back to Camp Sherman from downtown Chillicothe. c.1918

NPS Photo

A local newspaper with info on the flu
The local Chillicothe newspaper informing residents about the current status of the camp quarantine due to Influenza.

NPS Photo

While the allies battled an enemy in the fields and trenches of Europe in 1918, the entire world would have to engage and fight a seemingly invisible enemy that wasn’t isolated to war combatants on the field of battle. The Spanish Influenza Pandemic of 1918 would tally a greater mortality rate than that of all who were killed during combat in WWI. No one is quite sure where exactly the Influenza originated, but once it began to spread there was no hiding from this silent and deadly disease. Over 20 million people, almost 5% of the world population, died as this disease spread with ruthless efficiency. 43,000 U.S. soldiers, around half of those who died in Europe during the war, were killed by the influenza virus and not by a mortal enemy in combat. In the U.S. alone, over a quarter of the population would become infected and nearly 700,000 would die as a result of the disease. Conditions around the globe would mimic that of the Black Death Bubonic Plague in the 14th century. However, this strain of influenza would kill more people in one year than what the Bubonic Plague did in four total years.

Female ambulance operators holding stretchers with masks on
A group of female Red Cross ambulance attendants in St. Louis, MO. holding stretchers, awaiting influenza patients.  c.1918

Library of Congress

A Global Killer comes Home

In Chillicothe and at Camp Sherman, the disease spread just as quickly as it did everywhere else. Thousands of residents and soldiers were infected in a very short time. Approximately 5,686 cases of influenza were documented among Camp Sherman soldiers in 1918. 1,777 of them were unable to ward off the disease and died. Statewide in Ohio, hundreds of thousands of people became infected and tens of thousands died. During one week alone in the fall of 1918, 1,541 people were confirmed to have died throughout the state.

With the high mortality rate at Camp Sherman, The Majestic Theater on 2nd Street in Chillicothe became a temporary morgue. Bodies would be “stacked like cordwood” at the theater while it was operated as a morgue. Body fluids that were drained during the embalming process ran off into the alley next to the theater giving it the dubious nickname of “Blood Alley.” Once victims’ bodies completed the embalming process, they would be transported by wagon back to the camp so they could be sent back to their hometowns by railway. As these wagons made their way through Chillicothe, funeral hymns were played to reflect the somber mood. As with all public places in the U.S., meeting places, bars and theaters were closed to try to prevent further spread of the disease. All personnel at Camp Sherman were quarantined from Chillicothe as well.

By summer of 1919, the pandemic would come to an end as the influenza ran its course and the world’s population built up an immunity towards it. This was a pandemic that the world had never seen the likes of before and hasn’t seen the likes since. While other strains of influenza have popped up through the years since 1919, the Spanish Influenza Pandemic of 1918 remains the most devastating and deadliest disease that the world has ever seen.

Mon.11.  To day Germany did surrender so they said & it sounds like it  Gertie is better, but the noise worrys her some.

Tue.Nov.12.  & the noise still going on, I wish it were all over.  I have done quite a little work today. 
Wed.Nov.13.  Pa & Nellie not home yet.  I went to town Mon. & took a treatment & came right back, and I had ought to went today but Audrey didn’t seem to want me to. 

Thurs.Nov.14.  I did quite a lot of work to day.  Gertie can walk to dining room now.  is weak but getting along fine.  Dr. here today
Fri.Nov.14.  Done my usual work today
Sat.Nov.16.  Well I did some straighting up & my usual work & am tired as usual.
Sun.Nov.17.  Pa & Elbert pulled Kaisers launch out, this morn.  Ethel here to day & League & Church
Mon.Nov.18.  I washed Gertie’s clothes today & did my home work & it rained. 
Tues.Nov.19.  I did my white wash & home work & bought a new 1900 Washing machine & Wringer & a 1/2 bu. basket of apples  tub 12.00  wringer 7.75 & apples 1.00  I paid 10.00 on tub & wringer & paid for apples . that 22.75 surprised the men some, but I neeed those articles wrung the clothes by hand the most of 17 yrs. & the old machine was wore out & we have been using a wash board for the past two yrs.  I wrote a letter to Dan  I wish he would write, into such stormy weather.

Early washing machines were invented back in the 1850s, but people have been doing laundry since they graduated from wearing fig leaves. Over the course of centuries, the technology for washing clothes has evolved from crude manual labor to high tech.

November 11, 1918  PostCard of ‘life in the U.S.Army Cantonment Detail Guard’ post marked Chillicothe, Ohio Sherman Br. to E C Bonney at 760 Georgia Ave Lorain O: “got here early. no trouble! am Waiting for 11.30. for Johns G come in from drill    all OK  Da. and Nellie “

Wed.Nov.20.  Thurs.21; Fri.22., Sat.23. Sun 24 & I have only done my usual work my liver is so bad
Mon.Nov.25.  Helped Nellie with her dress  I feel bad yet & Dan came 10-40 P.m.
Nov 26.Tue.  Well I have cooked  washed dishes  swept & helped Nellie sew & visited with Dan.
Nov.Wed.27.  Not so well today but done my worke & visited with Dan.  I made 4 pumpkin pies & 2 apple & 1 big custard pie & 1 for Martha.
Nov. Thurs.28.  I Made a big chicken pie for dinner & We were all Thankful but Not one ask the Blessing aloud  Will God forgive?
Nov.Fri.29.  Ma’s birthday  she would be 61 yrs. old today, poor dear ma.   I were to sick to get up much before supper.  I visited with Dan.
Nov.Sat.30.  Couldnt work much to day.  Dan gave me 40VII::VYL  f=  OVLP.  v=u  S 722  S2  S=  2fsquare  ^V=X.  [note: for some reason she put this all in “code”, which was deciphered by Sara Klips and her husband Ryan]  Dan bought me a box of writing paper  a bottle of ink & 12 stamps & a box of chocalates  a bag of nuts & a bag of oranges & apples and a news paper every day. 
Dec.Sun 1.  I’m sure sick, but I had a nice visit with Dan.  He bought me two records.  I’m sorry I couldn’t have gone to town and out to put some flower on ma’s grave.
Dec.2.Mon.  Dan went to Erie Pen. today.
Dec.2.Mon.  I did some washing today, I sick yet.
Tue 3.  Did some more wash & baked 7 loaves of bread today & liver & hip hurt me yet. 
Wed 4.  Pa & I both washed today. Oh me Pa had to quit his back hurt so bad. 
Thurs.5.  I got a letter from Dan today & finished the washing  did the sweeping & cooking & cleaned a rabbit pa shot & 3 chickens.  got two eggs today.  Nellie went to town Tue. & paid 6.75 on my washer & wringer.  I bought 8 pair of stockings from sears & two pair of slipper, have to send 1 pr. back  gave Audrey 4 pr. stockings.  Nellie bought 3 balls of crochet cotton  3 balls tating threat, 6 handkerchiefs & some lace for my corset cover to, I wrote a letter tonight to Dan. 
Fri.6.   Elbert’s Birthday he was 36 yrs. old today  I had a chicken supper for him.  I am sick yet.  
Sat.7.  We did a little bit of every thing today.
Sun.8.  I didn’t do any (work/thing) today, but went to League & Church in the evening  We expect John home soon.  
Mon.9. Well I felt so bad I went & took a treatment today & then went over to Miss Baumgarts to supper,it rained quite steady but not hard & Elbert came part way and met me & we came home together, Elbert isn’t very well but he works every day,  4 eggs today.   Nellie is crocheting & I cut out a little underskirt for her, I feel better tonight.
Tue.10.  Well I mended today I feel better but believe I ought to go/to the Dr. tomorrow.  3 eggs today 
Wed.11.  Elsie Wheeler’s birthday  she is 23 yrs old.  I mended  did my house work  made doughnuts & went to pray meeting.  I sent Miss Baumgart a loaf of bread & some doughnuts by Elbert.  I crocheted some tonight.  Frank trapped a big mink last night, it was almost as large as a cat.  he caught a smaller one the other day, he has 3 skunk hides or furs and 40 muskrat hides.  I only got one egg today.  only have 26 hens & rooster. 
Thurs.12.  Fri 13.  Sat 14.  Sun. 15.  Did my work as useral.  Pa & I went to Cleveland
Sun.15. in after noon, went to Houghts  Glen gave me a big soldier doll for Martha. 

John came home at 12-30.p.m.
Mon 16.   We came home tonight had a great time, car crowded  left Cleveland 4-30 p.m. & pa stood up all the way home. we got here 7.p.m. both tired.  Pa had his picture taken today in Cleveland & he gave me one, they are good as natural as life. 
Tue.17.  I wrote a letter to Dan & one to Anna-bell tonight, I am tired. 
Wed.18.  Gertie and I made 24 tennis squares for Nellie, while she & John were gone today, and I did the stitching it made me sick I can’t endure much anymore.
Thurs.19. Did my house work that’s all
Fri.20. /went to town had to have Nellie come meet me the I got supper & then helped Nellie & John make sanwitches for an Epsworth League social I made salid dressing & spread the bread with it then Nellie picked enough lettuce from the garden, so we made 60 with ham & lettuce between two slice of bread & Salid dressing. then Martha ;& we four girls & John went to the social   We rapped the sanwiches each with two olives & two pieces of [eiley?], in white crepe paper napkins and put X’mas stickers on them, then they served cofee with sugar and cream.
Sat.21.  I sewed on patches & buttons & did my useral house work. 
Sun.22.  Cooked & made a cake & poped corn.  pa got his upper plate of teeth yestersday, his gums are sore.  He & Gertie went on the evening train to Mich & Nellie & John went to take care of a home for a man & his wife & children for a month.  So Elbert & Audrey & Martha & I are left here to do as we please stay or go.  Emil’s birth day today  he is 37 yrs.  
Mon.23.  Nellie & John came home after dinner & stayed untill 9-15 p.m.  I cut out 6 bellie bands  4 pinning blankets  3 skirts & two pink nightgowns. to night, Audrey & Elbert went to the new ship yard restraunt to see the dance & enjoy the lunch.
Tue.24.  Did my house work & dressed 3 hens for dinner  tomorrow, got them most boiled. No Dan came yet the naughty man. 

[Note:  At this point Elinor begins to insert dates that apparently have weather predicted year or years prior, so it makes the diary tracking a bit confusing.  This is being depicted as (    )  after each date but does not conform to the actual date for the entry. ]

Wed Dec.25. (Jan)  X’Ma’s Francis Gibson gave me a fountain pen , its a nice one, he ate dinner with Elbert Audrey Martha & I today, I bought some fruit & candy & mints for Martha & gave her a handkerchief with crocheted edge.-
(the weather forecast)  Turned cold last night spit with snow all day  Cloudy all day, sunshine coming through several times during the day.  westerly wind.  Audrey & Martha went over to Francis home to supper & over to Gilmore’s after supper so Martha could see the X’Mas tree, they came home befor ten oclock  Elbert & I spent after noon & evening alone.

[See Diary entries for 1919 next]