Storyteller: Carolyn O′Mara
Location: New Mexico
The Smyer family owned a ranch south of Deming, New Mexico. My grandmother arrived with her parents by wagon train. My grandfather hauled ore, by wagon, between Silver City and Mogollon, New Mexico before they met and married. During that time, Geronimo was still raiding ranches in the area. Even when my mother, Mary Smyer Wilder, was born in 1912, Pancho Villa was going on raids in that part of the state. The Smyers had 10 children and were very self-sufficient. They started the first school and were very involved in the community.
In the fall of 1918, 17-year-old, Joel Anderson Smyer, became ill with influenza. He was admitted to a hospital in Deming. Mary observed that he had to have been extremely ill. Otherwise, her mother would have cared for him herself and not allowed him to be sent to a hospital. Joel developed pneumonia and died on September 28, 1918. None of his siblings became ill.
Joe′s obituary in the Deming newspaper stated that he was “Deming′s first death from the Spanish Flu.”