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Colorado Springs During The Spanish Flu

16 Apr

Note: Most sources are linked or cited in the body of the text, so that you can read them or view them for yourselves. Those used only for slight reference are listed in the endnotes.

Most days are the same. I get up each morning, have a bowl of cereal or a fruit smoothie, a cup or two of coffee, and then get dressed and ready to go… nowhere. My boyfriend sets his laptop up, and begins to work remotely. At some point, I have an apple, a carrot, and bathe in the sun. Our dog typically joins me, reveling in the remains of the apple and the carrot. Some days, I can’t remember if I’ve had my apple or my carrot, or if it’s the day before I’m recollecting. The chickadees have discovered our bird feeder and bath, and come to visit and chatter each morning and evening. Our cat, Finn, comes running when he hears their call. The big excitement comes when we have a grocery pickup. I order days in advance to get a pickup slot, and until half an hour before the order is ready, it’s a guessing game as to what items will be in stock. After driving to the grocery and back, we empty everything onto the patio. We wipe down everything we need to put in the fridge or freezer and put everything else into a three day quarantine. I don’t know how long it will take for this to feel like a normal practice. Because of cell phones, video calls through the Portal and the Zoom app, and Facebook, I don’t feel too disconnected. Though, to read a story in person to my niece and nephews or go on a bug hunt or give my grandma a hug would be an occasion of great joy right about now.

As I ponder my own sudden confinement and the ways in which my community, state, and nation are reacting to the COVID-19 pandemic, I find myself contemplating which of my ancestors would have experienced something similar about 100 years ago during the Spanish Flu Pandemic in 1918. To my knowledge, every one of my relatives survived this outbreak, and it is a point which gives me hope. In the photo below, are my great great grandmother Genevieve L. Paul (in the hat) and my great grandmother Genevieve A. Norris (in the lovely dark-colored dress). I fondly call them, “The Genevieves.” The young girl may be my grandpa’s sister, Barbara. I would love to identify the woman in the gorgeous white dress.

Genevieve Norris, Genevieve Paul,

Genevieve Paul and Genevieve Norris

Here’s what I know about their life during the Spanish Flu:

Doc, Genevieve, and Grandpa

Doc, Lawrence, and Genevieve Norris

On Jan. 16, 1918 in Golden, Colorado my great grandfather Samuel Ernest “Doc” Norris married Genevieve A. Paul. Doc attended dental school at The University of Denver. He grew up in Colorado Springs, as did Genevieve, so I suspect they knew each other from high school or some other Colorado Springs gathering spot. Doc’s mother, Minnie Norris, lived in Colorado Springs as well. Genevieve’s mother, Genevieve L. Paul, came to Colorado Springs after her husband John Charles Fremont Paul died in Washington. The story goes she came here with her two daughters, Genevieve and Ethel, for tuberculosis treatment. Her sister, Lillian Ogilvie, moved here around the same time. A third sister, Inestine Roberts (an adventurer famous for climbing Pikes Peak many times and going missing on her final ascent) lived in Colorado Springs by the early 20s as well. According to Colorado Springs City Directories, Genevieve L. Paul lived in a house on W. Platte Avenue in Colorado Springs. After marriage, Samuel and Genevieve lived there too for many years. My grandfather, Lawrence, was born in Sept. 1919, and then they all resided there together.

Doc was a dentist in town with his own practice in the Robbins Building on


A snowstorm in 1913 showing The Robbins Building on S. Tejon St. in Colorado Springs

Tejon St. (it looks quite different, but was right about where the Thirsty Parrot was located). In this photo from Pikes Peak Library District’s Stewarts Commercial Photograph Collection, you can see what that block looked like in 1913. It’s interesting, because there is a dentist office in this photograph in the Robbins Building, which likely belonged to C.A. Dennis who was still practicing in the building at the time my great grandfather opened his office.

Advice from Oct 1918 gazetteThe 1918 pandemic was said to have started in Kansas (either in Haskell County or at Camp Funston in Fort Riley, Kansas) as early as January 1918. (1) It  reached Colorado by the fall. (2) During that time, the city of Colorado Springs shut down operations in almost the same way as it has in 2020. An article from October 5, 1918 announced the closing of, “all schools and colleges, churches, theaters, moving picture houses, pool an billiard halls and amusement parlors.” It also noted that, “all indoor public gatherings, dances, lodge meetings, etc. be prohibited, and that the public be excluded from all court rooms and be prohibited from congregating in public buildings.” All public libraries were also closed as were the gyms and pools at the YMCA and YWCA. At that time there were four known deaths in Colorado Springs from the flu. The advice at right was included with the article.

Over a month later, a Colorado Springs Gazette article from Nov. 22, 1918 notes:

All members of the police department have been given strict orders to see that influenza rules are strictly observed. Yesterday patrolmen and officers visited all restaurants and hotel dining rooms in order to see that the rules were properly observed.

Another article on Dec. 5, 1918, announced a new regulation issued by the Health Officer in Colorado Springs, which required anyone with symptoms of the flu to quarantine in their home. Unless they were properly separated from others in the home, everyone in the house was also under quarantine. A white quarantine card was placed on the home and the only people allowed to enter and exit were doctors and nurses. The quarantine would end when the person with the flu was moved to a hospital. An article on  Nov. 30, 1918 announced a temporary hospital with extra space was set up in the YWCA building in town. Oral histories from the time recall how people would seem fine one day, and die the next. Check out what Harry Collier says in this one. Reports included new cases and cases of pneumonia, which was the major cause of death during this pandemic. It must have been a terrifying time in a sense. Then again, I can’t help but wonder in an era with so few vaccines, less travel, and so much uncertainty post World War I, if it actually wasn’t as scary to them as it is to us now.

On Dec. 13, 1918 it was announced the “Ban would be lifted next Sunday.” Unfortunately, I cannot see this full article right now, or order it since the library is closed for the exact same reasons as it was in 1918. An article the following day, however, lists rules that will be in place after the ban is lifted. These include filling only every other row in churches and theaters,  no gatherings of children from more than two families, no dances, no crowding around pool tables, no public funerals for those dying of influenza or pneumonia,  and additional notes that people who are sick must stay home and be reported. By Jan. 6, 1919, schools in Colorado Springs re-opened.

While it would seem life was back to normal, by January 1920 the city started shutting down again due to a flue epidemic. Schools closed indefinitely on Feb. 5, 1920, and the city health officer urged residents of the city to voluntarily keep away from, “needless gatherings.” Physicians of the time signed a petition noting that, “The mere advice to the people to refrain from public gatherings is inadequate.” They go on to describe what they believe should happen. Check out the article and note the similarities. It’s fascinating!

An article from Feb. 8, 1920 soon announced that public meetings were prohibited. This solidified the closing of,  “schools, churches, theaters, and the prohibition of all public gatherings, both indoors and out of doors.”


The house where my great grandmother lived on W. Platte

In order to get a sense of the space my great grandparents lived in during the 1918 pandemic and 1920 epidemic, I drove past their house on West Platte, which is still standing. It is small, only four rooms according to the assessors website. What’s interesting is that there is another small house behind it, which I determined was built in 1920. I couldn’t get a great photo of this second house. All this time, I imagined my great grandparents and great great grandmother all living together, but now suspect one family lived in the other house starting around 1920 until they moved to the house which became my Grandpa’s around 1924.

Like my great grandparents, our home isn’t super spacious, but we have a yard and can garden and sunbathe and wander about. The 1918 pandemic took place in the winter, though, so perhaps they spent more time indoors. Genevieve Paul had already survived tuberculosis (if the story is correct) and must have known the magic of sunshine. I have to believe if it was sunny, then they were soaking it in. She was also a painter and in the 1917 Colorado Springs City Directory she was described as a seamstress, so I like to imagine she was spending time creating in some way. I wonder if my great grandfather, Doc, was getting many dental patients during this time and how he protected himself and his family. By the time my grandpa was born in Sept. of 1919, did they believe they were safe from the flu, or were they bracing for another round? 

  1. Barry, J. M. (Nov. 2017). How the Horrific 1918 Flu Spread Across America. Smithsonian Magazine.
  2. (1976, Oct. 10) State Spanish Flu may have started among trainees. Colorado Springs Gazette, A 3:1. Retrieved April 16, 2020 from:

Family Photo of the Week: Genevieve Norris & Family

5 Jun

I was looking for something else, when I stumbled upon this photograph that I’d scanned and never shared. I know the woman on the far left is my great-grandmother Genevieve Norris, below is her daughter Barbara. I believe the older woman in the photo is Genevieve Bush Paul, my great-great-grandmother, but it could be Minnie Lee Rose Norris (my other great-great-grandmother). I’m not sure who the younger woman is yet, but possibly Genevieve Norris’ niece Lorraine. Based on the age of Barbara, I would say this photo is from the late 1930’s.

What struck me as interesting is that I recognized the street behind them. I’m fairly certain that it’s a road within  Evergreen cemetery in Colorado Springs. If you look closely, I think you can even see tombstones behind them. I don’t know why they took this photo in the cemetery. It could be Memorial Day or it could be for a funeral that I’ve yet to associate with that year. In any case, it’s a lovely picture of them, isn’t it?

Genevieve Leoline (Bush) Paul

6 May

After being orphaned at 14, widowed with two small children at  30, watching her younger brother die of drug abuse, potentially surviving tuberculosis thereafter, and losing one of her daughters prematurely to cancer, this beautiful lady lived to be 85-years-old. She’s a survivor if I ever saw one, and I couldn’t be happier to call her my great-great grandmother.

Genevieve Bush was born in Smethport, Pennsylvania on August 12 1866 to Hiram M. Bush and Sarah Douglas Bush. She had two sisters, Lillian M. (the oldest), and Inestine C. (the youngest), and one brother Lionel (known as Lee). Her father Hiram worked as a lumberman and a farmer, and according to a very informative obituary written by Lillian for her brother Lionel, the Bush’s owned the flour mill and lumber mill in Smethport for a “good many years.” After her mother Sarah died around 1876, Hiram re-married at some point and the family continued to live in Smethport until his death a few years later on approximately Dec. 14, 1880, as seen in this Dec. 16, 1880 listing in the McKean County Miner.

Shortly before his death the 1880 census shows the entire Bush clan (minus Sarah) with Genevieve listed under the nickname Eva. This is the first and last time I’ve heard her called this. Interestingly enough, there is also a border by the name of Frank Ogilvie living with the Bush’s, who will later marry Genevieve’s sister Lillian.

Due to the lack of census data from 1890, the whereabouts of Genevieve and her siblings is hard to track after 1880, but not as difficult as it could’ve been thanks to the aforementioned obituary from 1898 written by Lillian about their brother, his struggles, and most interestingly the movement of each sister after their father’s death. Though it’s difficult to read, and we must take it’s accuracy with a grain of salt, this article gives many clues into the lives of the Bush sisters and their brother between 1880 and 1898.

According to Lillian, after their father’s death all three sisters and their brother went to Hamilton, New York to live with their “mother’s people” for about two years. Then, Lillian married Frank Ogilvie and they all returned to Smethport for a time and lived with them. In what could potentially be 1889 (it’s difficult to read), they all went to live in Washington Territory. Inestine had married Hugh J. Hamilton at that point, and Genevieve and Lee were the under the guardianship of a man by the name of William Haskell (connection to be determined). Genevieve asked to take charge of Lee, and according to Lillian he lived with her most of the time.

Genevieve at some point married John Charles Fremont Paul (a very difficult man to find) of Oakville, Washington (but born in Iowa). They had two children, Ethel, born in 1892, and Genevieve, born in 1896. Sadly, he died in 1896, the same year Genevieve was born. Family rumor had it down as a logging accident, but on the death index he’s listed as a farmer, and his cause of death was a “cerebral tumor.” We’ll talk more about him someday soon.

Shortly after John’s death, Lee was said to have come back to live with Genevieve, and was looking forward to moving with her and her daughters to Colorado Springs, where she was planning to go in the beginning of 1899 for health reasons. According to Lillian’s meanderings in Lee’s obituary she was at the time of his death in very poor health, presumably with tuberculosis.

By 1900 Genevieve Paul was living in Colorado Springs with her two daughters, along with her sister Lillian and brother-in-law Frank Ogilvie at a house on Colorado Avenue.

She’s listed on this census as an artist, which her sister Lillian had also mentioned in Lee’s obituary. This is well-known amongst our family members. In fact, two of her paintings hung at my Grandparents house for as long as any of us can remember. Recently, we discovered the one above the mantel was listed as a wedding present to my grandparents from her in their wedding gift log.

In 1910, she was living with her 13-year-old daughter Genevieve at a house on 616 West Platte Avenue in Colorado Springs. It’s hard to read what her profession was in this census, but she was working at home.

By 1920, her daughter Genevieve and husband Samuel Earnest Norris (a local dentist, and my great grandpa) were living with her along with their three-month old son, Lawrence (my grandpa). Genevieve is listed as a seamstress in this record.

In 1930, and in the recently released 1940 census she was living in the same house on North Platte, though here in the 1940 census the address is listed incorrectly as being on North Chestnut. This made it a bit of a challenge to find during my initial search of the 1940 census before it was indexed. She’s 73-years-old in this census record, which was taken the same year as the wonderful photograph at the top of this page.

In this photo of her from 1950, she’s celebrating her 84th birthday. We’re not sure who the girl on the far left is, but the other people in this photograph from left to right are her sister Inestine (Bush) Roberts, her granddaughter Lorraine(Essick) Crocker, her granddaughter Barbara (Norris) Shupe holding her great-grandson Bo, her daughter Ethel (Paul) Essick, and her granddaughter-in-law Dora (Collins) Norris (my grandma). The two girls right behind her are her great-granddaughters Vivalee and JoAnne.

She passed away the next year at 85-years-old. Note, the city of Smithport, PA is listed as her birthplace in the obituary below. This is also true in an article I’ll share about her sister Inestine’s death on Pikes Peak. It was only in searching for Smithport, and realizing there was no Smithport, that I tracked them to Smethport where I found a wealth of information about the well-known Bush family.

A Pictoral Bible is Worth 1,000 Words

21 Jun
To close my Norris research for a little while, in order to spend some time tracing the remaining two branches, here (at long last) are photos of both Genevieve Paul’s Bible and William R. Norris’ Bible. Click on any of them for a better view. 

Genevieve Paul’s Bible

An Obituary for William R. Norris in the Book of Samuel in Genevieve Paul's Bible

William R. Norris & Minnie Lee Norris’ Bible

Spine of Bible

William R. Norris Writing in Inside Cover

Note the witnesses to the wedding: Minnie’s parents and the pastor M.B. Wharton. Wharton, incidentally, is the middle name of William and Minnie’s first son Elmer (great-grandfather Samuel “Doc” E. Norris’ brother). This was something Mom caught the second time we looked over the names.

Marriages Listed in Bible


Births Listed in Bible

Deaths Listed in Bible


 One of the other things I’d like to know about the Bible is who wrote the entries. Are they in Minnie or William’s handwriting? I hope to find some of Minnie’s handwriting to compare.

Inside Title Page

Aren’t these pages amazing, though? There are many pages just as intricately drawn as this one. Sadly, there are also places for family photos, but there aren’t any there. I’d love to see a photo of Minnie or William when they were younger; well William at any age actually.

Beautiful Stones

22 May
I decided to spend the late afternoon/early evening of the 2011 rapture (heh) at the graveyard. More of a coincidence than a morbid plan on my part, though I do find the timing amusing (hence, the prior heh). Needless to say, I am still here, thus able to post my findings from the cemetery.

My mission seemed simple. I had three tombstones to find; Genevieve Norris (my great-grandmother), Genevieve Paul (my great-great grandmother, mother of Genevieve Norris), and the shared burial site of Minnie Lee Norris and William Robert Norris.

Lesson number one in tombstone searching: Don’t leave home without the location of the stones. Sometimes our trusty smart phones, aren’t nearly as trusty as one would hope. In this instance my “smart” phone decided not to search the cemetery’s website. Luckily, I could access the other tombstone database that I’d used to find info. about their burials. Sadly, T-237 and T-60, were rather mysterious descriptions. There was no section T on the map, and if they were buried in 237 and 60, then the next big question was…WHERE? There was no plot number listed.

After a quick text to mom to see if she could access the cemetery’s website, she came back with the same results (well minus the mysTery T). I began to fear my whole trip would be a bust. The office was closed for the day, so there was no one to tell me what plot numbers my Norris relatives lie (lay?) beneath. I decided to take a meager attempt at wandering about randomly (once even counting the rows up to what might’ve been row “T”).

Just as I had decided my day of reckoning should’ve been spent elsewhere, and right after I pulled my car along the side of section 237 to do a drive-by search, I spotted her.

My next hope was that Genevieve Paul, her mother, was nearby. No such luck. I proceeded with my random search, in hopes that her tombstone would magically appear to me just as my great-grandmother’s had. I really don’t know how I lucked out, but I did. Three or four rows away, I found this beautiful stone.

 Check out the columbines carved on it.
Feeling rather smug, but mostly just lucky, I ventured to section 60 of the cemetery, where I hoped to find the burial site of Minnie L. Norris and William R. Norris (my great-great grandparents). My guess was that good luck wouldn’t strike three times, plus I had to pee. I found the section, pulled my car to the side, and started to walk toward the graves (debating in my head where to begin, and how long I could search before driving two miles down the road to the nearest gas station bathroom). I hadn’t even gotten across the street to start my search, when my eyes were directed right toward their gravestone. The sunlight beamed down upon it, lighting it up, and literally drawing me right toward it. It was as if Minnie herself saw me coming, and said, “Look! Right here! Here I am! Here I am!” You probably think I’m exaggerating, but I really couldn’t have made this up (okay, I could’ve, but I didn’t). It was so fantastic that I’m quite certain I breathed an, “Oh my goodness No way!” out loud immediately. You can even see the remnants of the sun-shimmer on the stone in this picture. (If you really think about it).

I was so happy to find them; in the very first plot in section 60.

With a lot of room around them…

Gravesites are strange. There’s this aura about them that makes you want to reach out to the people buried there, and yet at the same time they are just stones…and well…bones. I was amazed at how beautifully preserved all three of the gravestones I found were, of course the oldest one was only from 1942, but still… I think in my mind I expected something strange, fading, and distant, when in reality they were clear,strong, and present. Minnie and William and the Genevieves were right there in front of me, and didn’t feel like they’d been gone nearly as long as they have. I never knew any of them, but I touched each of their stones, and told them how much I would’ve loved them. They were, of course, the people who brought me my Grandpa, my mom, and my aunt. They were just as wonderful. I know it.

The Evasive Norris

10 May

After spending several weeks on the Hastings side of our tree, I decided to switch gears and see if I could trace back my mom’s side (Norris) the same number of branches as I had the Hastings. After knowing for sure that I’ve gone back to my great-great-great-grandfather Hastings (and as you will soon find out, probably my great-great-great-great-grandfather— that’s a lot of greats), my next step will be to get to my great-great-great-grandfather Norris. Once you say great that many times, it no longer looks like a word. Try it!

Starting out, the only Norris’ I knew the names of besides my own grandparents were my great-grandfather and grandmother and his mother (my great-grandmother Norris).

Samuel Ernest Norris, known as “Doc,” for he was a dentist was married to Genevieve Paul Norris. Genevieve’s mother, incidentally, was also named Genevieve, and oddly enough my Grandma Hastings is ALSO a Genevieve. There have not been any Genevieve’s since. Doc is my great-grandfather and, as I’ve been told, came to Colorado when he was quite young. His mother, Minnie Lee Rose, my great-great-grandmother was from Alabama and lived at one point on a place called The Rose Plantation. This is really all I know. 

Below is a photo of Doc, Genevieve, and my Grandpa as a boy.

Doc, Genevieve, and Grandpa

In doing some census research, I first found a 24-year-old Doc (listed as Ernest instead of Samuel), a 23-year-old Genevieve, and my Grandpa who wasn’t even a year old in the 1920 census living with Genevieve’s mother, Genevieve Paul, 53. Genevieve Paul has listed her profession as seamstress, though I know she was also a very talented painter. Doc is listed as a dentist. Click on the census record to make it larger.

1920 Census Record for Genevieve Norris

Incidentally, Minnie Lee Rose Norris, 51, was also on the 1920 census for El Paso County, Colorado. She was living by herself at this point, leaving me no clues as to the name of my great-great-grandpa. Click on the record to make it larger.

1920 Census Record for Minnie L. Norris

Next, I tried looking forward to the 1930 census to see if I could find my great-grandpa and my grandpa in the house I know he lived in most of his life. However, though the 1930 census has been released, it seems as if Heritage Quest, where I’ve been doing my research (for now), doesn’t have the census roll I need digitized just yet. I’ll find them eventually, but for now, let’s go back farther.

By searching for “Norris” in the 1910 census, I found a listing for Minnie L. Here, at age 41, she’s listed as the head of household and has three sons living with her. My great grandpa, Samuel (Doc), at age 15 seems to have been working for a florist at a greenhouse and his brothers William and Elmer were working as a clerk at a real estate office and salesman for (well I can’t read it, but it looks like cooking utensils) respectively. All of the boys and their mother are shown to have been born in Alabama. Her mother is also shown to be born in Alabama, while her father was born in Mississippi. Click on the census record to make it larger.

1910 Census Record for Minnie L. Norris

So… At this point I’m thinking this is all REALLY cool, but where is great, great-grandfather Norris? I don’t even know his name! I try the 1900 census for El Paso County, Colorado. There is no sign of them in Colorado in 1900. Shoot!

At this point, I have two ideas. I can either begin searching for them in 1900 in Alabama in hopes that they moved straight from Alabama to Colorado OR I can try looking for obituaries and cemetery records in Colorado Springs in hopes that Minnie L. Norris’ husband is listed somewhere in one of those. First, I try finding her obituary in Pikes Peak Newsfinder, which is a really cool database available from the Pikes Peak Library District’s site. There are tons of local articles and obituaries digitized. Unfortunately, Minnie’s isn’t one of them. But then, I’d never heard whether she was buried here, so it was a long shot anyway. Afterall, I couldn’t trace her past 1920, and she was only 51 then. She could’ve been anywhere when she died.

I decided to search the Colorado Springs cemetery records, though, on the off-chance that she stayed in Colorado Springs. By going to the cemetery records at this site:,I was able to search for Minnie Norris and BINGO! I found her.

According to the cemetery record she was buried 12/30/1958, making her about 87 years old when she died. This record, however,  just directs you to the grave itself and offers key birth, death, and burial dates (though in Minnie’s case the record only had a burial date). There were still no clues as to who my great-great-grandfather was. Perhaps he never made it to Colorado?

I decided to try one more thing before checking the Alabama census’ or making a trip to a microfilm station to find Minnie’s obituary. In many cases, there are people who go out with the sole purpose of transcribing gravestones and going to the arduous task of typing them out and posting them online. From what I understand it is both to preserve what they say on them before the stones become hard to read, and also a means of sharing them for genealogists who aren’t near the stones to read them in person. This is a cool site I found that has links to many different transcription sites as well as official cemetery records.

By clicking on El Paso County Cemetaries from the Colorado Tombstone Transcription Project, I was directed to this site: which allows you to search by cemetery and date. By looking in the cemetery book from 1972, and scrolling down to Norris, I easily found this entry for Minnie L. Norris.

NORRIS               MINNIE L.                             1868               30 DEC 1958 T-060 (Bur w/William Robert)

Ch-ching! As you can see, here it says that Minnie L. was buried with William Robert. Looking down the page a very short distance, I can see a William Robert Norris. His entry reads:

NORRIS               WILLIAM ROBERT                        1859               12 FEB 1908 T-060 (Bur w/Minnie L.)

As you can tell, William Robert Norris died in 1908, according to this transcription. This would explain why he didn’t appear in the 1910 census, which could be the first census record for the Norris’ in Colorado. Clearly, they moved here before then, though, since we now have him buried in Colorado Springs in 1908.

After finding these transcriptions, of course I want to go find the gravestones for myself. I had no idea my great-great-grandmother and grandfather Norris were buried here. I knew that my great-grandmother, Genevieve Norris, and her mother, Genevieve Paul, were buried here, and I’ve been meaning to find their stones. Now, it seems I have a surplus of tombstones to find, and this, I believe will be my next mission.

For now though, I’m quite satisfied to have traced another generation back on the Norris side. Heck, I even have a lead to  Alabama where I hope to pick up the trail. Hopefully William Robert Norris, will be the only evasive Norris for a while…

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