George Theede

29 November 1898 — 24 July 1915

George was the second youngest child and oldest son of German immigrants George Sr and Auguste Jaeschke Theede. The Theedes were lucky for their time with all their children surviving childhood.

George had four older sisters and a little brother. He and his sisters were all born close together — five children in just under eight years — and the youngest Arnold was born more than ten years after his nearest sibling (George) in 1909.

According to his obituary, George was “an employee of the Western Electric company as an office beginner, preparing to enter the shops as electrical apprentice.” His father was a machinist who worked on the street railway and appears to have done well in that field, so a career in some kind of mechanical or new-fangled electrical work was probably intentionally pursued by young George.

Sometime after 1910 and before George Jr’s death, tThe family had moved into the house where both George’s parents and his little brother would live out their lives. That house, which stood at 1247 South Harding, is no longer there, the location now an empty lot beside a period-correct two-flat townhouse that is likely what their home looked like. It appears that the Theedes owned the building and rented out the other flat though when this happened isn’t something I can determine from the available records.

George’s probate record is one of the ones that isn’t fully filled out so it’s unclear if his family received a settlement. I think they may have, though, and perhaps this is how they were able to purchase the building where they may have previously been renting. Again, as the move took place after 1910 and the next census is after George Jr’s death, it’s impossible to determine the status of their residence at that address between those signposts.

The family does seem to have had a good quality of life even before his passing, though. The girls were educated past the usual eighth grade level with eldest Magda having graduated high school and second-eldest Louisa becoming a teacher. Even George Jr appears to have had a couple of years of high school before starting at Western Electric as his first job — one which was clearly meant to be his first step in a life-long career.

I think we can put down their financial stability to the fact that, unlike the families of many Eastland victims, the Theede family was otherwise intact and their papa still healthy and able to work at what was quite a good job for the time. If they then also received some settlement as well as then having a rental property providing a supplemental income, then they would have been exceptionally well off compared to most of the working-class families I’ve researched and certainly compared to many of the Eastland families.

Louise Marie Theede
Louise’s Passport Photo
Auguste Theede
Auguste’s Passport Photo

In the summer of 1923, George Jr’s mother Auguste and second-oldest sister, Louise — then an unmarried school teacher, aged 30 — took a trip abroad to Germany. Sometime after their return and before 1933, Louise married and she and her husband had one daughter.

George Sr died in 1926 at 68, a good age for the time period, and Auguste and youngest Arthur lived on in the Harding Street house. After his mother’s death thirteen years later in 1939, Arthur married and stayed on in the house with his new wife.

Sister Elsa, the third oldest, lived with Arthur and his wife in 1940. She worked as a practical nurse and on that census lists her status as divorced. I was unable to identify her ex-husband, but it is likely her married years were around 1920. After her divorce, she reverted to her maiden name. Also in 1940, Louisa and her family had moved into the second flat, so three of the five surviving siblings lived together.

Arthur and his wife had one daughter before he passed away relatively young in 1950. Elsa passed away in 1952. Both were buried at Concordia.

Louisa and her husband died one month and one day apart, with Louisa passing in May and her husband in June of 1955 and were buried at Concordia.

Youngest sister Esther eluded my research efforts. She married someone named Nagel but there were too many similarly named, similarly aged couples around that time period and no bits of family info included in the records to definitively identify which one she was. I believe she survived all her siblings but eldest Magda.

Magda and her husband moved away from Chicago at some point after 1940 (likely after the war) and appear to have lived in both Michigan and possibly Endicott, New York. Magda died at 80 years old in 1971 while visiting her daughter in that town and that’s apparently where she was buried.

Arthur’s wife Dorothy outlived everyone, dying in 2002, and was the last of that generation to be buried at Concordia.

None of the obituaries I found mentioned George Jr which is a bit sad. The family plot has a single headstone with only the family name on it and no individual inscriptions. It’s possible the headstone there now was a replacement or was simply added to the family plot at a later date than George Jr’s death as it looks more modern than other Eastland-era headstones.

Until I did this research, only George Jr had a record, but I’ve added all the Concordia family members I found during my research. I am fairly certain George Sr and Auguste are buried with their son, and I would guess Elsa is also with them, but I’ll need to check with the office and verify the location(s).

RIP Theedes

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