World War I

& The Spanish Influenza

The United States declared war against Germany and her allies. In a nationalistic fever that raged throughout the nation, Germans and anything having to do with Germany became suspect. The San Benito Light carried a piece about an employee in an office building who was ordered to trim his moustache because it too closely resembled that of the German Emperor Wilhelm II.

Adele Robertson, Sam's wife, had relatives in the German armed forces. Yet this did not deter her from working as a Red Cross Volunteer.

On Nov. 16, five days after the armistice, the S.B. Light noted the city's first battle death. "San Benito has given her first soldier to the great cause of democracy on the field of battle, for this son of the Lower Rio Grande Valley city was killed in action. A telegram has been received by Mrs. Micaela Trevino de Garcia that her son, Alejandro Trevino Garcia, was killed in action in France, October 8, 1918.

Third Iowa Regiment San Benito, Texas ,Nov.17,1916

Photo Courtesy of San Benito Historical Society


"Young Garcia is a nephew of Luis Ramirez, who has several sons on the west front. This makes the third gold star in the city's service flag." After a plug for the peace campaign, "The other soldier died of wounds received in action, and still another died on the eve of his departure for the west front of Spanish influenza at a Long Island camp."

Spanish Influenza

The influenza epidemic was not confined to Long Island. It spread throughout the world, killing more soldiers than died from enemy action, and more locals than could have ever died in bandit raids.

On Sept. 24, 1918, amid war news and casualty lists, the Light published an incidental piece from Boston. It stated local schools had been closed because of Spanish influenza, and several training camps in New England had been quanrantined.

It also mentioned the disease had spread among German forces in Europe, and speculated on its effects in crippling the German war effort. But the disease continued to spread. On Oct. 2, word was received that Camp Travis at San Antonio had also been closed. By Oct. 13, the San Benito City Council decided to take preventative action. An ordinance was passed ordering "That all public places, and places of public gathering of every nature and description be closed are hereby forbidden from opening after nine o'clock a.m. on the 13th day of October.

Photo courtesy of San Benito Historical Society

By November, the disease was beginning to abate. Conditions west of the resaca were still bad, but more were recovering and less were dying.

On Nov. 13, the Methodist Church held a special Thanksgiving service. The quarantine had been lifted, and it was the first time the church had been able to hold services for a month.

Lupe Aguirre worked as a doctor's aide in the emergency hospital in Fred Booth School.

"People that died," he said, "we'd just take them and put them in a wagon and take them out here to the old city cemetery...and just dump them in there."

"We didn't have time to build them a casket or nothing. We'd just wrap them in a blanket or a sheet and dump them in there and bury them."

Hundreds died, and anyone with the slightest degree of medical knowledge pitched in. Aguirre recalled a dentist named Dixon who proved to be a competent physician as well.

"We saved a lot of people's lives," he said, "but some of them was so bad, we couldn't do it. Something you regret in those days."

The end of the war brought a prosperity boom throughout the country. The Light's bank call list showed the San Benito Bank and Trust, The Farmer's State Bank and the Arroyo State Bank in Rio Hondo all to be doing well. The potential for the future seemed unlimited.