Alma Crawford

While the "Mrs. E. L. Crawford" would have resonated with readers of the Americus Times-Recorder, it concealed her first and middle name. "The funeral of Mrs. E. L. Crawford who died yesterday morning at her home, 433 Forrest avenue, after a week's illness with influenza took place this morning from the residence at 10 o'clock," the Times-Recorder announced. "Internment was at Oak Grove Cemetery." Yet it also left clues to unpack her story. "Besides a bereaved husband and a little son," the obituary continued, "Mrs. Crawford leaves to survive her a father, Ash Spillers, of Albany; two sisters, Mrs. Hole, of Albany, and Mrs. Woodruff, of Lumpkin; and three brothers, Charlie, Oney, and Moody Spillers." A list of pallbearers offers a list of family friends: "L. L. McCleskey, Herman McDaniel, A. T. Busbee, H. W. Suggs, D. M. Edge, [and] R. L. McMath." The paper reported that she was young—just twenty-three years old.

The inclusion of her father's name and her address offers a clue into a more complete description of her life and death. The Americus City Directory places an Ernest L. Crawford and an Alma Crawford at 433 Forrest Street—a house that has not survived. Although the census taker spelled the name of the family as Spillars, a glimpse of her infancy appears through government records of Dooly County, Georgia, about thirty miles east of Americus. At the time, she was the youngest of five children. Her father, Ashwill P. Spillers was a preacher and her family had been in Georgia for at least two generations. The family apparently moved from place to place. Ten years later, her father was still a minister but the family had moved to Albany, Georgia.

Alma Crawford's home in 1919. Americus, Georgia, Sanborn Fire Insurance Map, 1924, sheet 16.

As a recently married woman in a growing family, Alma Crawford was especially susceptible to dying from influenza. "In thirteen studies of hospitalized pregnant women during the 1918 pandemic," John Barry writes, "the death rate ranged from 23 percent to 71 percent. Of the pregnant women who survived, 26 percent lost the child. And these women were the most likely group to already have other children, so an unknown but enormous number of children lost their mothers." Could Alma Crawford have been pregnant when she died of the flu in 1918? The paper mentions alludes to a young son, Earnest Crawford Jr., indicating that the family was growing. He was born on November 30, 1916, making it quiet possible that the family was expecting a second child sometime in 1918 or 1919. Perhaps to make up for the absence of the mother, three generations of Crawfords lived at 433 Forrest Street in 1920.