By allowing ads to appear on this site, you support the local businesses who, in turn, support great journalism.
3 died in Manteca during flu epidemic of 1918-1919
The former hospital building today after undergoing upgrades and remodeling. - photo by HIME ROMERO

The last time Manteca – and the rest of the United States – faced a major flu epidemic that had the potential of closing schools and quarantining victims was 93 years ago.

It was the event that led to the building of the city’s first hospital that today is being remodeled for use as a homeless shelter for at least the next 55 years.

The severe influenza epidemic hit a peak of 202 deaths daily in the United States on Oct. 1, 1918.

Manteca’s first case was reported in October of 1918.

It prompted the Manteca City Council on Nov. 1, 1918 to pass an ordinance requiring everyone on city streets to wear a mask or face a $100 fine. All public gatherings were prohibited. Churches discounted services. All schools in the county were closed.

The teachers at the original Yosemite School – where the Sequoia Annex now stands – turned their classrooms into hospital wards. They then stayed there 24 hours a day to care for the sick.

The city sent representatives to homes where entire families were stricken to check food and clothing supplies. All groceries, linen and clothing were supplied by the city.

There were 49 families quarantined by mid-November

Public gatherings returned as Christmas approached but then there was another outbreak prompting many businesses as well as schools to again close.

There were no new cases reported in February 1919.

There were only three deaths although half of the greater Manteca community had fallen ill.

Nationally, a fourth of the country’s population became sick with 500,000 dying.

The flu epidemic prompted the City Council in early 1919 after the ban on public gatherings to keep the disease in check was lifted was to advertise throughout California for someone to build a hospital in Manteca.

Dr. Roscoe Gray came to Manteca from The Bay Area in the spring of 1919 to build a hospital at the corner of Yosemite and Sequoia avenues. The hospital cost just a little over $25,000 to build. It included 18 private rooms, two wards, an operating room and a pair of bathrooms. It was large enough to accommodate 30 patients.

The building was dedicated on Aug. 1, 1919. It was used as a hospital only until June 4, 1920. The building was then converted to apartments.

Manteca went without a hospital until 50 years ago when Manteca Hospital - now Doctors Hospital of Manteca - was built.