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Grace Kemp Sharp not only cared for her eight children but helped neighbors when a flu epidemic struck

PHOTO COURTESY OF BOWMAN MUSEUM
 - Grace Kemp Sharp, who cared for flu victims, photographed with her husband, George.

Grace Bell Kemp was born in Iowa in 1882. When she was 18 years old, she married George Sharp on Nov. 19, 1900.

They lived for a while in Damascus and Ashland. In 1902, the young family with a baby daughter moved to Wheeler County. They settled near Tub Springs. Two more daughters were born while living at Tub Springs.

The family moved to the Smith Place on Waterman Flat in 1906. Five more children were born while living there.

The children attended school at Waterman Flat for a while. Winters got to be quite cold, and Grace would heat bags of salt and bricks in the wood stove oven and then wrap the children's feet and legs for warmth while they traveled horseback to school.

Grace had a full-time job of taking care of eight children as well as other domestic chores in addition to helping with livestock. George served as foreman for the OK Company and did a variety of jobs but refused to work with sheep and claimed, "I hate the snotty-nosed things."

About 1916, the family moved to live on a leased ranch at Twickenham. Grace became somewhat of a guardian angel for neighbors in 1918 when a large flu epidemic struck. She would spend hours on horseback traveling to neighbors' homes and nursing flu victims. There was a high fatality rate in the region from the virulent strain of flu.

A ninth child was born to George and Grace, but the baby died of whooping cough in another epidemic that struck the region.

Grace faced the adversity of living in an isolated region and was selfless when it came to helping neighbors or those in need.

George worked the ranch at Twickenham and also worked for Wheeler County, doing road work with his horse teams. George died of a heart attack, and the family continued living on the ranch for several years.

Grace became ill and died in Bend on May 8, 1928, according to family records. Her tombstone states her death was in 1929. She is buried in Pilot Butte Cemetery in Bend.

Steve Lent is a local historian and assistant director of the Bowman Museum. He can be reached at: 541-447-3715.

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