An 8-year-old Durango girl buried in an unmarked grave at Greenmount Cemetery will finally get a headstone, more than 100 years after her death.
Loisa Bass and her family moved from Cokedale, Colorado, to Durango in the early 1900s. But just a couple of years after arriving in Southwest Colorado, Loisa died on Oct. 8, 1918 – the day of her 8th birthday.
News reports at the time in the Durango Evening Herald and the Durango Democrat said Loisa was the first death in La Plata County from the Spanish influenza.
But Andres Carlos, an office assistant at the Animas Museum, said that’s a hard claim to prove, yet it’s likely Loisa was among the first people to die from the illness.
At the time, news reports tended to shy away from the Spanish flu outbreak, instead focusing on the efforts of World War I.
Yet the influenza pandemic killed anywhere from 50 million to 100 million people across the world. The flu killed a couple hundred people in La Plata County and about 246 people in Silverton – about 10% of its population, Guy Walton, a retired nurse, wrote in a column for the The Durango Herald.
“The two hospitals in town (Durango) were eventually overwhelmed and the Red Cross opened a temporary hospital on Main Avenue,” Walton wrote. “Local schools were closed, train passengers quarantined in a local hotel and public gatherings prohibited. Because of this last restriction, the Rev. Gunby, pastor of the Methodist church, was the only non-family member at the graveside service.”
Because people were prohibited from gathering in large numbers outdoors, Loisa was hurriedly buried in an unmarked grave.
Walton approached the Animas Museum about the little girl without a headstone, and an effort that included the La Plata County Historical Society started to raise money to properly mark the grave.
“We thought it would seem right to start a fund and get a headstone to put on her gravesite,” Carlos said.
Now, more than $1,000 has been raised for the headstone, which will be placed during a ceremony at 3 p.m. Tuesday in Greenmount Cemetery.
Carlos said First United Methodist Church Pastor Jeff Huber will give a sermon he found from the 1900s during the outbreak.