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November 3, 2018 / Jim Fenton

In memory of my grandmother and the Great Influenza

Anna Crandell Robson and children

Today is the 100th anniversary of the death of my grandmother, Anna Crandell Robson, at the age of 33. She died of influenza only five days after her husband, Findlay Robson, and seven days after Findlay’s brother Neil. The death of Anna (usually called Annie) orphaned my uncle Fremont (age 5), aunt Pat (2), and mother Mary (15 months).

Anna grew up in Lindsay, Ontario, the eldest of five children of Fremont Crandell and Irene Fee. She was the granddaughter of Captain George Crandell, who was well-known in the area as the operator of a number of steamboats that operated in the Kawartha Lakes area of Ontario at the time. Prior to their marriage in 1910, Annie had worked at Flavelle Flour Mills, at the site of the mill ruins in Lindsay, Ontario. Since Findlay was in the grocery business, it is likely that they met through that connection.

They moved to British Columbia about 1913, where all three of the children were born. Her younger sister, Agusta (“Gussie”) lived in Calgary, Alberta, the wife of Charles Elliott, a Canadian Pacific Railway employee. Gussie came to Cranbrook to take care of the children at some point (the timing is uncertain, but perhaps before Annie passed). After Annie died, she reportedly had planned to adopt the children; she and Charles had none. However, Gussie also contracted the flu, and died on November 14 at the age of 26. Another relative, perhaps Annie’s mother, came to Cranbrook to retrieve the children and bring them back to Toronto, where they were raised by the families of two of Findlay’s brothers.

The family was thus devastated by the deaths from influenza of four young adults between ages 26 and 37.


Leave a Comment
  1. Eileen Weldon Fenelon Falls Ontario. / Nov 3 2018 12:43 pm

    Wow that was so tragic, Stan always called his mother”Helen” as i think that was her real name. That’s a beautiful picture of your grandmother and the children. Eileen Weldon

  2. tajmutthall / Nov 5 2018 12:59 pm

    Terrifying. Thanks for the stories.

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