The Last Democrat in Kansas


This was my grandfather, when he was nearly 30 years old.  This card was his total political campaign, but he was elected to the Kansas Legislature as a Democrat.  Unusual, to say the least.

I never knew him, because he died in the great Flu Epidemic in 1918.  He was 30 years old.  The state Capitol was in Topeka, and his wife and three children, Robert, Merlin and William, lived in Meridan.  My father, William, was an infant.

The flu killed young adults with a terrible rapidity.  It struck my grandfather so quickly that he was unable to get home before he died.  Knowing that his life was ending, he dictated a heartbreaking letter of farewell to my grandmother, telling her how much he loved her, and to take care of the babies.

I am sure there was no way to measure her sense of loss. She was a young widow with three small children, left alone to manage the family business, Moser Mercantile.

I know he was a wonderful man, because he had a brave wife, great children, and a wonderful sense of humor.  I wish I had known him.

Remember to get your flu shot.

3 thoughts on “The Last Democrat in Kansas

  1. Wow. My husband and I both got flu shots this year because of our new baby, but it so easy to forget how fatal it can be.

    Thank you for the public health reminder, but also for the very touching tribute to your grandfather, a man who was clearly a pretty exceptional guy.

  2. How tragic for your family. So many people now just do not appreciate how deadly the flu was and still can be. In the 1918 epidemic it struck mainly young healthy individuals like your grandfather. I found this quote on a website devoted to the flu pandemic: “The effect of the influenza epidemic was so severe that the average life span in the US was depressed by 10 years. The influenza virus had a profound virulence, with a mortality rate at 2.5% compared to the previous influenza epidemics, which were less than 0.1%. The death rate for 15 to 34-year-olds of influenza and pneumonia were 20 times higher in 1918 than in previous years. People were struck with illness on the street and died rapid deaths. One anecdote shared of 1918 was of four women playing bridge together late into the night. Overnight, three of the women died from influenza. Others told stories of people on their way to work suddenly developing the flu and dying within hours.” And yet, we still have “anti-vaxxers” in our country who won’t protect themselves or their children.

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