Once upon a time there were two little girls named Ella and Norma who lived with their mother and father in a little house on the prairie.
This is the house, and that's their mother--and your great-great grandmother Mary--leaning against the fence. Notice the sleigh: in the winter it must have been hard to get around.
Later a brother named Jack joined the girls, but in the fall of 1918--that's more than 100 years ago--there were just the two of them.
Their farm was near a town called Opheim in Montana, not far from the border with Canada. (You can see it up in the right corner of the state, just below Saskatchewan.)
Ella, who was 8, was starting her second year of school. She hadn't started school when she was six because they'd lived too far in the country for her to go to school every day. Norma, who was 4, stayed home with their mother who was named Mary. Their father, who was named John but whom everyone called Mac because his last name was MacDonald, was trying to farm the plot of land they had. But it was hard, dry country, and the farm wasn't doing well
He'd worked on the railroad until they came to Montana a year or so before.
That's him the middle next to the locomotive
But by 1918 Mac had acquired an Overland touring car and was operating a delivery and transport service all over Valley County. It was a very useful service because very few people had automobiles back then. (That's him driving it with his your great-great grandmother Mary sitting next to him, with Ella and Norma in back with a family friend.)
During the summer he carried people coming to settle in this corner of Montana from the railroad to their new homes. He also delivered supplies and building materials, and sometimes acted as a driver for doctors and people who were enforcing the law. It was hard work, and he often was away from the girls and their mother. He was always glad to come back to little house, and they were very, very glad to see him.
It wasn't an easy life for any of them, but they'd made it through the summer of 1918 and there was a certain optimism in the air. World War I had been raging in Europe, but signs pointed to a victory for the Allies.
Yet with the cooler weather came another threat: a very, very bad influenza. It had briefly sickened people in Montana the previous spring, but suddenly it was back and much more dangerous than ever. Schools were closed, people were told to stay at home, travel was restricted, businesses shut down. The two girls and Mary were more or less confined to their little house and the land surrounding it.
Mac, however, saw that many of their neighbors were very isolated, with no way to get supplies or medical help because they were living so far in the country. So he stepped up, and offered his automobile to check up on people and bring food to those who were running out. He also ferried doctors to many sick families (back in those days people were usually treated in their homes, not in hospitals). And for several weeks during the worst of the epidemic he did not get back very often to the little house on the prairie, both because he was so busy and because he didn't want to bring disease back to Norma, Ella and Mary.
By Christmas time the worst was over, Mac's girls were healthy and he was too despite the risks he took. When he was an old man he sometimes told a story or two about that time, but he played down the important role he played in keeping his neighbors going.
As for Ella and Norma, and Jack when he came along, they lived long and prospered. Here they are in the 1990s when Ella and Norma were in their 80s, and Jack was in his late 60s.