Charles and Catherine Trogg

Charles Walter Trogg
17 February 1869 – 24 July 1915

Catherine “Kate” Serowka Trogg
17 July 1884 – 24 Jul 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.

chicago tribune, 30 July 1915, p4The story of the Troggs was one of the more well-publicized in the wake of the disaster due to the dramatic way in which their bodies were found, their arms around each other. The indelible image of this loving couple, parents of two small children, holding on to each other in their final moments and beyond into death was impossible for the press not to highlight. Initially, it was said they were pulled from the hold in this state; their obituary said they were pulled from the water. It is a deeply moving story and so heartbreaking that they may have known they were doomed and could do nothing but cling ot each other in their last moments. The Troggs were also one of a few families where young children were left orphaned due to the loss of both parents.

Charles came to the US with his parents in 1871 and lost his mother at age 8. His father remarried shortly afterward to Julia, also a widow. Her name is listed on his death record and other public records for he and his full siblings, which make sense as they were quite young when their birth mother died, but it does confuse things for genealogists later.

Kate also came to the US with her parents as a young child. She was one of about eleven children, with nine surviving to adulthood. The facts about Kate’s family in the coverage of her death is mostly factually wrong. It’s said only three of her brothers survived her and that one brother (Tony who was 10 years Kate’s junior) had accompanied her and Charles that day and also died. In truth, six brothers, including Tony, and two sisters survived Kate. Tony actually went on to fought in WWI and lived to be 74 years old. It’s possible he did accompany them and was unaccounted for in the chaos long enough for the story to take hold, but that it was still reported in the Chicago Tribune July 31st special edition (published after Kate and Charles’s funerals) was likely pretty upsetting for the family.

Charles had many brothers and sisters, several surviving to adulthood. In his blended family, though, tracking them all is too complicated for this endeavor (due to the two marriages for each parent, the confusion of mothers, and just that the time period [between 1880 and 1900] during which some were born and some died is a real black hole for public records). I believe Charles was the oldest of all the children, and he stayed single and living with his parents for many years. It’s likely he went to work at about fourteen, and he first worked for Deering Harvester for several years. Then in 1906 or so, he got a job at Western Electric.

Perhaps it was this job that allowed him to feel secure enough to marry, for he and Kate wed in 1909 in possibly a destination wedding as an excursion ship did run between Chicago and St. Joseph, Michigan, where their ceremony took place. My actual theory though is that they “had” to get married. Charles was 38 and Kate was 25; Charles Lutheran and Kate Catholic. Their first child, daughter Evelyn, was born eight months after their wedding. While my theory would mean Kate would have had to have realized she was pregnant very quickly, and they then would’ve had to make a very speedy wedding of it, I think the fact that their wedding took place not from a relative’s home but in a port town across the lake supports my theory. (I mean, Eveylyn may have been premature and a honeymoon baby, too, but that seems a less likely scenario, all things considered.) Their second child, Walter, was born in 1912 (weird history tie-in — the day before the Titanic sank), and in 1915, the couple decided to go to Charles’ work picnic together, taking a day without the children.

After their parents’ deaths, Evelyn and Walter lived with their Aunt Martha (Trogg) Mundt and her husband. It appears that Martha may have been Charles’ only surviving full sibling. Of his married siblings, she was the oldest aside and her own children were older than Evelyn and Walter, so taking on the two younger ones may have been easist for her to manage.

Evelyn never married and lived out her life in Chicago. Walter married at least twice — his first marriage in 1945 either during his last months of military service or just after he mustered in September 1945 (after enlisting in March 1942 so it was a long war for Walter). He and first wife Grace had two children but divorced in June 1959. A few months later, Walter remarried to Annie and settled in New York.

It seems he and Evelyn either just lost touch which each other or were estranged, as he was not mentioned in her obituary though he outlived her by 12 years. The only person mentioned in Evelyn’s obituary was an Aunt Myrtle whom I can’t track down at all, and who may not have been her biological aunt (my best guess is that perhaps she was an aunt by marriage who had remarried). Only one of her parents’ siblings outlived her, and neither this aunt’s name nor her husband’s match those from the obituary.

In part due to their both being older when they married, all of Charles and Kate’s birth parents had passed before their own deaths. Only step-mama Julia outlived them, but she died just a few months later in January 1916. She and Ernest are buried beside Charles and Kate on the family lot.

Evelyn was cremated and Walter appears to have been as well, but his remains are interred with his second wife and her parents in a columbarium at George Washington Memorial Park in New Jersey.

RIP Troggs

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