26 December 1897 – 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.
Edwin worked as a messenger boy at Western Electric, but according to his Tribune obituary (which got his age wrong by five years), he was already a member of the Hawthorne Club – a social and educational club made up of company employees (named after the central Hawthorne Plant where many of the disaster victims were employed).
Edwin was the middle of three children, sandwiched between sister Mamie (Mary) and little brother Lester. His parents, Gustave and Martha (nee Voss), were themselves the children of German immigrants but had been born in the US — father Gustave in Missouri; mother Martha in Chicago.
Gustave worked as a type-caster for a type foundry in 1900 and 1910 but on the 1920 census, he’s listed as working as a foreman at Western Electric. Whether this was some aftermath of the disaster (many relatives of victims turn up in 1920 working for Western Electric) of it he had already switched professions prior to his son’s death is of course lost in the gap between the census years but it could be either considering Edwin’s age when he died. The probate record for Edwin is only partly filled out so it’s unclear if the family got any settlement.
Martha was a rare 1900s mother who could claim three children surviving of three born on the census, but she was able to do so for both 1900 and 1910. By 1920, however, she had lost Edwin, and Lester also died young, though she did not live to see that, dying herself in 1934 at just 57 years old.
The 1930 census tells us that Lester had only just married a widow ten years older than he was and was living with his brand-new family including a teenaged daughter. He worked as a conductor on the railway express, though in 1920 he, too, was working at Western Electric. He and his wife had no children of their own before he died at 36 years old, the second husband his wife lost in his 30s which is either bad luck or… you know. Murder.
Gustave, Martha, and Mamie were living together in 1930, Gustave working as a night watchmen. It was in the early days of the Depression so that doesn’t tell us anything regarding the settlement’s status. They seem to be living in humble circumstances, but both he and Mamie are working so the family is not apparently desperate. If they’d had money from a settlement, however, it had apparently been lost or used up in the meantime. Four years later, Martha passed and joined Edwin and three years after that, Lester was buried with his mother and brother as well. There are some odd gaps on the headstone left between inscriptions, and it’s likely Gustave and possible even Mamie were thinking that perhaps Lester’s widow or Mamie herself might be added at some point in the future.
Gustave and Mamie were living together in 1940, Mamie not having married. Over the census years, she worked a variety of clerical jobs and always lived with her parents. After her father’s death in 1946, however, she moved away and married Charles DeZara (possibly in reverse order — I couldn’t find a marriage record for them), and the couple lived in Arizona for the rest of their lives.
Regardless of when the marriage took place, it appears Mamie had moved out to Arizona pretty shortly after her father passed away as she’s listed as earning a ten-year service pin at the VA hospital in Phoenix in 1958. Carl passed away in 1968, but Mamie lived to be 84 years old and died in Sedona in 1979. I love that for her. I love the sunshine and warmth, and hopefully romance, after a long life of hard work and loss.
All the obituaries for this family that I could find mention “the late Edwin.” He was never forgotten, which is not always the case with relatives lost young and long ago, I’ve found.
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