A hundred years ago Alfred G. Sensenbach left Jackson Hole to be inducted into the Army. He never came home.
He never even made it into the service. Instead, during a time when America was focused on the war against Germany and was under siege by the great worldwide influenza epidemic, his death was a conjunction of the two great disasters. Reporting to take the oath in Kemmerer he was told the war was over and the draft didn’t need him. Alfred went to visit friends in Rock Springs, where, a week past his 22nd birthday, he died Nov. 23.
The headline on page 1 of the next Jackson’s Hole Courier said: “A.G. Sensenbach Victim of Pneumonia.”
This week it’s a century since he died, and next week is that long since he was buried on his family’s homestead near the south end of Timbered Island, in what’s now Grand Teton National Park. His grave is still there, alone, surrounded by a chest-high chain-link fence erected by Post 43 of the American Legion. That replaced a wooden rail fence that had been there.
“He went down to Rock Springs. He had gone to some school there. He went down, got that flu bug — the epidemic — and he died,” said Charles Carlson, a nephew born five years after young Alfred died. “They shipped him up by railway to Victor and by wagon over the pass to Jackson Hole.”
The Courier reported that Alfred “went out to Kemmerer in response to his draft call, but, the armistice having been signed, he was released” and went on to Rock Springs.
Alfred’s death stood out even in a Jackson that had sent others to the war and that was battered by influenza at home.
The newspaper story said Alfred “was stricken with pneumonia, the disease very quickly claiming him its victim, so that the news of his death came without warning and was a great shock to relatives and friends.
“He was a splendid young man of admirable character and habits, and his death, coming when he was just on the threshold of manhood, brings general sorrow,” the unnamed reporter wrote.
Though Jackson Hole was a tiny town, it wasn't left untouched by World War I or Spanish Influenza. Read the full story on Jackson in 1918 here.