Marshfield, October 1918: String of tragedies strikes Krostag family
By Kris Leonhardt
When August and Louisa Krostag and their two children, Paulina and John, emigrated from Germany in 1867, they settled near the town of Schleswig, Wis. William was their first child to be born in the new country, followed by seven other children they added to their family of 12.
When the oldest son John reached adulthood, he set out for the promising area near the town of Marshfield, where he founded a farm. Soon his younger brother William followed. There the brothers met two young sisters, Barbara and Margaret Engmann, whom they married and settled into a close, comfortable family life.
While John continued self-providing for his family on the rural farm, William found employment with the government, working as a postal carrier for the rural area surrounding the growing city.
Making their home near Rozellville, William and his wife Margaret welcomed seven children. With a full house and a solid government job, things seemed to be going well for the son of German immigrants. However, in 1904 the family would experience their first of many tragedies when their son Martin would succumb to the effects of whopping cough, but it was not until October of 1918 that the family would receive its hardest blow.
The fall of 1918 brought about much fear to Marshfield and the country as a whole. As the Spanish flu weaved its way across the nation, citizens were ordered to wear masks as the Board of Health closed public venues. Without effective drugs or vaccines, the highly contagious flu could be spread by a cough, sneeze, or just someone speaking.
Marshfield area schools, theaters, churches, pool halls, dance halls, and other public arenas were forced to close as cases began appearing all around the region.
In one week 100 cases were reported, including eight deaths. Among them was William Krostag and his oldest son George. The mail carrier and his 22-year-old son had been sick for only a week before being brought in to Saint Joseph’s Hospital.
Upon arriving medical staff had discovered what was typical of so many deaths at the time. The virus had invaded the lungs, causing pneumonia in the two men, and the pair succumbed within a day and only an hour apart.
William and George were laid to rest in Saint Andrew’s Cemetery in Rozellville, and Margaret made preparations to join her sisters’ families in the state of Oregon.
Tragedy would follow the family west, however, as two years later son Arthur would be hit by a car in front of the family home. A year later, Margaret’s son Edwin would drown in the Snake River near Lewiston, Idaho, when the boat carrying him and a friend overturned.