2 August 1877 – 24 July 1915
This is the latest in my series on The Eastland Disaster which focuses on the victims buried at Concordia Cemetery in Forest Park, Illinois, and their families.
Henry’s parents married less than seven months before he was born. His father Joseph Schuett was more than ten years older than his mother Friedericke (Flöring) Ahrens who was fairly recently widowed and had four children already. I can find nothing about Joseph before or after this marriage, so it’s unclear if he was a widower himself or had any children prior to Henry. According to the 1900 census, he was a builder, and that’s all we know.
Though all six of Friedericke’s children on the 1900 census were listed as Schuetts, only Henry and his younger sister Lydia actually were. The older four were Friedericke’s with her first husband, William Ahrens, and they all used their birth-father’s last name in all other public records.
It appears from a family ancestry record that William died in 1885, a few months after his daughter Sophia was born, though I can’t find a death record. In 1880, he was working for the railroad, so it’s possible he died away from home.
Friedericke and Joseph either broke up, or he passed away between the 1900 and 1910 census years, and in 1910, Friedericke was using the name Ahrens again, was styling herself a widow, and was living with her much-younger cousin Louisa Sukow (1871 – 1922) who never married. Louisa had recently lost her brother John Sukow (buried beside Henry) who worked for the railroad and died in Kalamazoo, Michigan in 1908, run over by the cars. It appears as if Friedericke had ended up financially secure however her marriage ended, for she owned the house outright and perhaps she took cousin Louisa in during a time of hardship or to have help around the house. By 1920, cousin Louisa was living elsewhere as a lodger and Friedericke was living alone. Joseph was sixty in 1900 and vanished after that. He may very well have died and left Friedericke some money, and she did list herself as a widow, but the fact that she reverted to using Ahrens as her name and that her death record states that she was divorced does leave the end of that marriage shrouded in mystery.
By 1910, all the Ahrens siblings were married and living elsewhere though all were still in Proviso. I can’t find any of the Schuetts in 1910 which is frustrating, though both Henry and Lydia would have been adults well into their working years by 1910. Lydia married in 1911 in Indiana, echoing her own mother by doing so just a few months before her only child Betty’s birth. That marriage ended in divorce a few years later, and apparently Betty had little to nothing to do with her father after that. She is not mentioned in his obituary. Lydia remarried in 1931 and outlived her second husband. Both she and Betty lived most of their lives and are buried near Merrillville, Indiana.
Oldest daughter Louisa (married name Sukow, 1877 – 1929) is buried behind Friedericke and Henry and next to her own daughter Erna. The existence of two Louisa Sukows who both were born and died within a few years of each other on the same family plot is confusing, but daughter Louisa apparently married cousin Louisa’s brother August (which I think would make them second cousins).
Second son William is buried elsewhere in Concordia with his wife. Oldest son Martin lived in Proviso his whole life, died in Forest Park, but inexplicably is buried at Arlington out in DuPage County. Youngest Ahrens daughter Sophia died in 1963 and was married to a Forest Park police officer who lived to be 100 years old, outliving her by almost 37 years. He’s buried at Woodlawn, and she’s likely also buried in Forest Park, but it’s unclear at which cemetery.
Any further insight into Henry’s life is lost to us beyond the basic public records, however, as there is no obituary in the July 31st Tribune special edition for him and no obituary at all that I can find. He was listed as single on his death record and was an employee of Western Electric.
He does have one of the most specific and easiest-to-read headstones, however. Inscribed on it are his name, dates, “Victim of Eastland Disaster” and the following poem:
A loved one from us has gone
A voice we love is stilled
A place is vacant in our home
Which never can be filled.
RIP Henry and family
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