Lawrence and Annie Ledger – victims of 1918 flu pandemic in New Orleans, LA.

While doing my family research I occasionally come across stories of my family that I didn’t know and that require more study. In this case I was filling out family tree information for my maternal grandfather’s side of his family. My maternal grandfather was Leonard Ledger and his first cousin was Lawrence John Ledger. Their fathers were brothers. The family had come to Louisiana from French Canada in the 1860’s and grew exponentially while in Louisiana. As I was adding information to Lawrence I started to learn about his tragic life.

Lawrence was born Oct 23, 1885 in New Orleans. He was listed as a motorman on a streetcar in the 1910 census. And in each city directory after that he was listed as a laborer until in 1915 where he is listed as a welder.

He married Annie Bulger in December of 1910 when he was 25. They proceeded to start a family but things didn’t go very well for them. On August 21, 1911 they had a baby boy, Lawrence John Ledger Jr. but he died on August 23. Then on June 9, 1912 they had twin boys, Lawrence Anthony and Clarence Anthony Ledger. Clarence died the same day (or may have been stillborn, I do not know) and Lawrence died on June 15 at 4 days old. How heartbreaking this must have been for Annie and Lawrence. I discovered after much digging that they were finally able to have 2 children before their deaths, the children were only 5 and 2 years old. These children were raised by Lawrence’s parents and grew up to marry and have children of their own. I am working on their part of the family tree now – I hope I can find descendants that have photos!!!

In February 1918 Lawrence applied for a passport for a trip to British Honduras, it was a work trip and he is listed as a welder and he was going there to teach welding. Looks like he only stayed a short while.

Then on September 12, 1918 he registered for the draft. WWI was going on and all men had to register.

In October 1918 the flu epidemic had hit New Orleans. It came by ship and wrecked havoc on the city.  Between October 1918 and April 1919, the city experienced a staggering 54,089 cases of influenza. Of these, 3,489 died.  Only Pittsburgh and Philadelphia – the two cities with the worst epidemics in the nation – had higher death rates.

On October 24 at 12:25 a.m. Lawrence John Ledger, 33 years old, died of Influenza. Approximately 10 and a half hours later Annie Bulger Ledger, 24 years old, died of pneumonia-influenza.

Their funerals were held on October 25, Lawrence’s at 10:30 a.m. and Annie’s at 11 a.m. They are buried together in the Bulger family crypt.

Greenwood Cemetary, New Orleans

I found their story to be so tragic. A young couple, their babies dying, they finally have 2 children, then they die during the flu epidemic of 1918. I wish I had a picture of Annie. The one picture I have of Lawrence is from his passport and it is not very good. I won’t give up trying to find one. Lawrence was my 1st cousin twice removed and I hope by telling Lawrence and Annie’s story that I am keeping their memory alive.

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Picture from a funeral

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Photo taken at funeral of Leonard Ledger August 1918

Nowadays it seems sort of tacky to take pictures at a funeral – not that it isn’t done – but I have noticed that in the past it was a much more common thing to do.  I suppose it was a time when families were together and dressed up and seemed like a good time to have a family picture.  I am lucky enough to have my grandmother’s photo album. Thank goodness my mom’s uncle rescued it from our garage and returned it years later or it may have gone the way of most things in our house – tossed out.  This picture was taken at the funeral of my grandfather Leonard Ledger (Oct. 15, 1892-Aug. 3, 1918) At what was  called Hollywood Cemetery but is now Hollywood Forever. There are lots of famous people buried there, movie stars mostly. There are large crypts and fancy headstones but grandpa  is in an unmarked grave near the wall behind Paramount Studios.  I went to look for him in the 1990’s and the office had to pull out a very old map to show where he was.  Why he does not have a headstone is a real mystery.  He had family, In this picture is just one member of his family, his sister in law Grace Ledger, the rest are my grandmother’s Fairman family.  But he had 5 brothers and one sister, but no one put a headstone.

My grandmother was Elma Etta Fairman (Dec. 23, 1892 – Oct. 8, 1933) and she is sitting in the middle of the picture in the dark ankle high dress. At this point in 1918 Elma had been married to Leonard for 5 years and they had a daughter, my mother.  According to my mom, her mom Elma didn’t say too much about Leonard except that he wasn’t a very nice person. He supposedly pushed her down a flight of stairs when she was pregnant with another child.  He had grown up in Louisiana and he would cross the street if a black man was walking on his side, a sign of those times but still sad.   Leonard died of Tuberculosis. I believe his father had also died of the disease and perhaps one of his sisters.

Since he died way before I was born he has always just been a young man in some old pictures.  Here he is with my mother on Mt. Hollywood (where the Hollywood sign is now) in 1918.

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Leonard Ledger and daughter Etta Louise 

He had curly hair (my mom and I inherited that!) a broad flat nose (mom got that too) and he is almost always smiling in pictures.  I always have felt so sorry for him because he died so young.  My mother was put in an orphanage after he died, while her mother worked.  It affected her and her mental health for the rest of her life. My mother’s mother Elma carried on as best she could. I don’t know why family didn’t help my grandma with mom, I believe her mother did but she died in 1921.  My grandmother was living a different lifestyle in Los Angeles at the time.  She was gay.  She had a roommate named Amy and by looking at their pictures together they were very much in love. Things my mom told me confirmed what I had always suspected. I could care less,  you go grandma!  But mom was always embarrassed – I get it – again, the times they lived in.

So Leonard dying was sad, but it allowed Grandma to live the life she wanted until she died  in 1933 at the age of 41.  Elma also did not have a headstone until the 1980’s when my mom purchased one for it. But Leonard still rests, unnamed in that fancy cemetery. I have thought that one day I would honor him with one, just so he isn’t completely forgotten.