Preserving Falmouth's Heritage Falmouth Historical Society 





Retrospective—March 2020


Falmouth Hunkers Down in Response to Pandemic, Again


The arrival of a novel Coronavirus has brought most activity in Falmouth to a standstill.  At least a half dozen cases have been confirmed.


Governor Mills has issued executive orders restricting non-essential businesses, prohibiting public gatherings of more than ten people, and closing dine-in facilities at all restaurants and bars statewide.


Schools, churches, and many businesses are closed.  Most residents practice "social distancing" by staying at home.


Will these extreme measures work?  They worked the last time a deadly virus swept into Maine.     


 

In September 1918, a pandemic of H1N1 virus brought ordinary life in Maine to a halt.  The United States experienced three waves of the virus.   The second wave, originating at Camp Devens outside Boston during WWI, was the most deadly for Maine.  It fell hardest on immigrant communities packed into tenements in Maine's cities.  Authorities did not at first appreciate the lethality of the virus and were slow to respond.


Falmouth in 1918 was a farming community with some manufacturing.  Its population was about 1,500-a number boosted in summer by seasonal residents of cottages along the Foreside.


Schools were closed, businesses shuttered, and church services suspended for four weeks.


Four months after the outbreak of "Spanish Flu," the town report noted that "the dread disease passed lightly over a majority of Falmouth homes."  Three residents (whose occupations put them in contact with the public) died from the flu.


By May 1919, the pandemic had subsided, the "War to End All Wars" was over, and life had returned to normal.


 

The U.S. Surgeon General tells us, "We really, really need everyone to stay at home."  History tells us those precautions blunted the impact of a deadly virus in Falmouth a century ago.


Retrospective:  Falmouth in 1820

Falmouth Heritage Museum
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The Falmouth Historical Society
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