Elisabeth Liening

1 November 1894 – 15 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.

There is not much to learn about Elisabeth beyond the information in her Chicago Tribune obituary from their July 31st special edition; however, much in there appears to be wrong, including the family names which are both misspelled.

Miss Elisabeth, 20 years old, 4912 W. Twenty-fourth-st. Miss Leining [Liening] was born in Germany, coming here when 8 years old. She was the step-daughter of Herman Rievy [Riewe] and was engaged to be married. Meanwhile she was working in the Western Electric office where she had been for two years. Miss Leining was a member of the German Evangelical Lutheran church. The funeral was held Wednesday, after which the body was interred in Concordia.

Another apparent error is that it says Elisabeth came to the US at eight years old — which may be true, but her mother Marie married her stepfather in March 1899 when Elisabeth would’ve been only four years old. It is possible she was sent over later by family back in Germany, perhaps by her grandparents after her mother was situated and Herman had agreed to take her in. Unless it was just another error in obituary, it’s a plausible explanation though I can’t find any immigration records.

But honestly, this family really just avoided being documented which I respect but it’s frustrating. Aside from their marriage record, one birth record for their youngest child together, and a death a few death records for various family members, there’s nothing.

Elisabeth was apparently born, as they would have said back in the day, “out of wedlock,” and the few records I’ve found (along with the story told to the Tribune) show some signs of fibbing to cover that up. For instance, Marie put her own father’s name down on Elisabeth’s death certificate as her father, and she gave her married name rather than her maiden name (which is usual), I’m sure this to protect her daughter from being thought a bastard, and if grandpa August was back in Germany, too, who was going to know?

Marie had at least five children, that I was able to trace. Aside from Elisabeth, Marie had four with Herman: Anna (1900 – 1971), Louise (1905 – 1918), Fritz (1909 – 1910), and Herman Jr (1913 – 1965). Little Fritz died on Elisabeth’s sixteen birthday which is so sad, and losing both daughters so close together must’ve been a terrible blow to the family.

Marie died at 58 years old in 1931 and Herman passed just five years later at 66 when Herman Jr was 23 years old.

Anna, who was fifteen when her big sister died, married in 1922 to Herman Dems, and they had two children. She does turn up in the 1930 census with this little family, but sadly, Herman died just two years later. Anna remarried to Henry Poggensee in 1934, but it doesn’t appear they had any children together. Anna lived to be 70, outliving both husbands.

Herman Jr, like his parents, doesn’t turn up in any census records that I can find. According to his WWII draft card, filled out over a year before Pearl Harbor (October 1940), he was married to someone named Eleanor (I could find no marriage or birth records), but on his enlistment record filled out fourteen months later (February 1942), he was listed as separated with dependents. At some point the draft card was updated to scratch out what was likely his address with Eleanor and replace it with sister Anna’s information.

Herman Jr was not admitted into the service until December 1943, and he spent just a few months in service before being discharged in June 1944, apparently for coming down with tonsillitis (though it’s labeled “line of duty” and seems to have been treated as an injury which seems odd).

It seems wild that his discharge date is literally three days before D-Day, so I do wonder if he was perhaps not a stellar recruit as you’d think they’d let him recover and get back to it if he were. It’s also unclear if he ever shipped out prior to becoming ill.

It appears that Herman died at only 52 years old (I am 99% certain the 1965 death record is his, but there isn’t definitive info to absolutely confirm it), and I was not able to turn up anything to tell me who his children were (the dependents mentioned above).

It’s possible Elisabeth had other siblings who survived to adulthood, but another obstacle to finding that out aside from the total lack of census data is that the family names are pretty common.

RIP Elisabeth

Please visit my Instagram for any questions or comments on this post!

error: Content is protected !!