Edward “Eddie” Grimms
25 Mar 1892 — 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.
Eddie was the oldest of three sons born to German immigrants Fred and Augusta (Elendt) Grimms. All three sons were employed at Western Electric at the time of the disaster. Eddie and middle brother Fred Jr both boarded the Eastland that morning, but only Fred Jr survived. It doesn’t appear that Walter was with them that day. It seems unlikely he didn’t plan to attend, but perhaps he was going with friends instead of with his older brothers.
Augusta and Fred Sr had both arrived in the US as children and married in 1889. They had two other children besides their surviving sons, but those unknown babes died prior to 1900.
Tragedy continued for the family later the same year when Fred Sr died of tuberculosis two days before Christmas at only 50 years old. According to the Red Cross records, Fred Sr had been ill for some time and Augusta was worried that even with her sons’ wages, they’d be hard-pressed to make the payments on their home on South Tripp Avenue which was purchased at some point between 1910 and 1915.
Eddie had worked at Western Electric for more than 6 years at the time of his death and had been making a good wage. Both Fred Jr and Walter also had decent wages for the time period, but it’s likely the budget had depended on all three boys’ money to pay for the house, care for their father, and the needs of all the family members. On thee 1910 census, Fred Sr was still able to work and indicated he had not spent anytime unemployed in the prior year, so it’s likely the house was purchased with some optimism that this would continue to be true. I expect Fred Sr had only become unable to work after the committment had been made to the mortgage, and his illness and loss of income would have put extra financial pressure on everyone.
But they did not lose the house. Augusta’s sons lived with their mother on S. Tripp Av. for several years, both moving into key positions at Western Electric as time passed. Both noted the importance of their work to national security on their WWI draft cards as reasons why they should be exempted from military service, though this excuse did not work for Walter who ended up serving in the army.
In 1921, Walter married, and in 1925, Augusta’s only biological grandchild was born. As events took place between the census years, there’s no way to know why, but by 1930, Walter, his wife and child were living with her sister’s family. Fred Jr. had also married (in 1923) and moved away between the census years. He married a widow with two sons who would have been sixteen and nine years old at the time of their mother’s remarriage. In 1930, all four were living together along with the oldest son’s young wife. They did not have any more children together.
In 1930, Augusta was still living on S. Tripp Av., but in the interim period, the house had been divided into two apartments, and she’d taken up residence in the smaller one while renting the rest of the house out to a good-sized family. This house is still standing and from its structure, I suspect Augusta moved into the garden level of the home and rented out the upper floors.
Why her own sons didn’t live there is of course impossible to know — perhaps they moved closer to work; perhaps this was the best financial arrangement for all of them; perhaps they just wanted to be on their own entirely and felt their mother was taken care of; maybe she shooed them out of the nest.
In 1934, Augusta passed away. Both she and Fred Sr are buried at Concordia and likely with Eddie, but there are no headstones remaining on the lot if there ever were any markers.
Fred’s wife died in 1945, but her sons considered him their “dear father” for the rest of their lives. He moved away from Chicago at some point after her death and lived out his life in Georgia. Walter and his wife moved away to the other side of the country, living out their lives in Oregon where both are buried.
RIP Grimms Family
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