Albert Z. Weichbrodt

30 August 1895 — 24 July 1915

The Eastland, one of five chartered excursion boats meant to ferry employees, their families and friends from Chicago over to the Michigan City shore for the annual Western Electric Company picnic, keeled over into the Chicago River while still at dock, trapping hundreds inside its hull and leading to the deaths of 844 of the 2,500 passengers aboard at the time of the incident which became known as The Eastland Disaster.

Albert was the third youngest child and youngest son of seven children born to German immigrant parents Herman and Elvina (Alwina) Bjick Weichbrodt. Elvina was a rare mother who was able to declare on the 1900 census that she had five living children of five she’d given birth to. I tried very hard but could find no 1910 census for the family, so I’m not sure when Albert’s two younger sisters were born, though they are mentioned in his obituary. (Somewhat frustratingly, I kept finding information for another Weichbrodt family with a very similar profile including the same father’s name and several of the same childrens’ names and similar ages including a slightly older son named Albert who died earlier in 1915 but after running each of those leads down, they were just name-twins.)

Like many of the denizens of Concordia I’ve profiled, the family lived for a time on West 21st Place early in the 1900s, but at some point after the 1900 census, the family moved to the north suburbs, settling in Winnetka. Father Herman was a gardener so it makes sense that they would want to live nearer to the people who had large properties and the wherewithal to afford to pay someone else to maintain it. Various records show family members in other nearby-to-Winnetka suburbs in the years after Albert’s death, though finding any information for the gap after the 1900 census proved impossible.

At the time of his death, however, Albert lived on S. Keeler Street in the city. It’s likely this was a small flat or a room in a boarding house nearer to his place of employment than his parents’ home in the north suburbs.

Albert’s next-older brother Arthur, who was working as a fireman in Evanston, died just seven months after Albert at only 23 years of age (1893 – 1916). Father Herman died in Glencoe in 1926, though as the death record lists Winnetka as his home, it’s likely he died while he was working. Albert’s mother lived in the north suburbs well into old age, showing up in the city directory in 1933 in Evanston. It’s unclear, but I think I found her death record in 1938 when she would have been 79 years old, but the last name is not correct (White). However it’s possible she chose to Anglicize her name as anti-German sentiment rose in the lead up to war. No other record comes up and though her name is wrong, that paired with her correct maiden name and first name lead me to believe that it’s her.

Albert, who worked in the switchboard department at Western Electric, is the only Eastland victim buried in Section 1 of Concordia though the cemetery is the final resting place to more Eastland victims than any other single cemetery. At the time of his death, the entrance to the cemetery would have been centered in front of Section 1 and 2 (I believe) and lots in these two sections are more consistently fancy than those in most of the others which vary much more. Oddly, Albert’s grave has no headstone. It’s unclear why this is the case, and there’s no detritus or fading footprint to indicate damage over time. My best guess, though, is tree destruction leading to nothing being salvagable. Perhaps no family could be found to authorize repairs, but it’s sad that his grave is unmarked.

Since I can’t confirm where his parents were buried, I have no idea if they are together in an unmarked lot in Section 1, but it’s possible. There are other Weichbrodts in Concordia, though I can’t confirm if they are directly related and none of them are Albert’s siblings. Since I couldn’t find any census records for the family after 1900, it’s difficult to determine their financial situation. Perhaps headstones weren’t something they could manage. Perhaps, as I theorized above, the headstone or memorial was destroyed at some point in the past.

The photos show the location and my purple umbrella is standing in for about where the headstone should be.

RIP Albert and family

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