Revisiting R. C. Foland, Lucy Washington And The 1918 Spanish Flu Epidemic

I’ve got some reader feedback to catch up on!

After the column about R. C. (Roland) Foland’s Polar Bear activities ran, Marilyn Conner and Larry Cloud both brought up local attorney Arvin Foland, who died just a few years ago.

Marilyn wondered if the two men were related. They were — Arvin was R. C. Foland’s grandson. (His father was Robert Foland.)

If I’d had more space in the column on R. C. Foland’s auctioneering, I would have mentioned some of his family connections.

Remember the story about the turkey that got loose in the local American Express Company office? The man who intended to send the turkey to a friend was Roscoe R. Foland, R. C. Foland’s brother.

Another well-known member of the family was R. C. Foland’s son, John A. Foland.

John Foland was active in the television industry for many years as a writer, producer and director. He joined the staff of Indianapolis television station WFBM (now WRTV) in 1959 and eventually became the program director.

Both he and his wife, Betty, were also quite involved in the Hamilton County Theatre Guild.

In 1976, Foland’s interest in local history led him to write “Remembrances,” a book that blends his own memories of Hamilton County with those of some other prominent county residents and articles taken from old Ledgers.

(You’d better believe I’ve consulted that book many times!)

Pam Ferber emailed to say she became curious about the Spanish flu epidemic of 1918 when we were in the early stages of our own pandemic, so she borrowed a book from her library to find out more about the ways people tried to control the spread of the disease back then.

She said the book noted that cities where masks were worn DID have fewer deaths than those where people went maskless and that doctors actually were working on a vaccine then; they just didn’t have any success. (One doctor even died when he used himself as a guinea pig to test his vaccine!)

Pam also mentioned that her mother, Pat Gibbs, had exchanged correspondence with Lucy Washington’s great-great grandson, African American author and lawyer, Cyrus Colter. (Pat wrote a piece on Colter for a special publication the Ledger put out in 1998 to commemorate Hamilton County’s 175th Anniversary.)

David Sutton asked if Lucy Washington was buried in Noblesville, either in Riverside or Crownland Cemetery.

Actually, she was living in the Howard County Infirmary at the time she died and, according to, she’s buried in a Kokomo cemetery.

I don’t know for sure how she ended up in the Howard County Infirmary, but my guess is that her granddaughter, Mary, who wasn’t young herself by then, probably no longer felt able to care for her adequately.

I’m also guessing that she was taken to Howard County because that was one of the periods when Hamilton County’s county home/poor farm was in fairly bad shape.

(In December of 1900, the Hamilton County Board of Charities reported that, among other things, the home’s 46 residents were expected to bathe in a single washtub in an old run-down outhouse that couldn’t even be used during the winter.)

Mrs. Washington wasn’t abandoned, though. There were family members in Howard County who could keep an eye on her. Reverend Richard Bassett, the younger brother of Mary’s husband, Reverend Miles Bassett, lived in Kokomo.

(By the way, Reverend Richard Bassett was quite distinguished in his own right. He was the third African American to serve in the Indiana House of Representatives, having been elected to represent the people of Howard County in 1892.)

Notable Nineties Update: Nancy Lacy has added her husband, Wilbur Lacy, to the Notable Nineties list. Congratulations, Wilbur! – Paula Dunn’s From Time to Thyme column appears on Wednesdays in The Times. Contact her at