15 December 1893 – 24 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.
Edward was the youngest of 8 children born (7 surviving in 1900) to German immigrants Friedrich and Florentine (Stack) Leu. When Edward was 15, his father died, and prior to that 3 of his siblings had moved away from home, so he was left with brother Otto and sisters Elizabeth (Lizzie) and Martha to help support their mother, according to the 1910 census.
At that time, Edward was not yet working at Western Electric, his employer listed as a wood works. However, he’d been working at WE almost 5 years at the time of his death so he must’ve switched jobs shortly after the census. Otto had followed their father’s profession and was a plumber; Lizzie was a baker; and Martha was a typesetter.
By 1915, Lizzie had also married, and only Otto and Martha are listed with their mother as official survivors in Western Electric’s records; however, the Chicago Tribune obituary which ran on 31 July 1915 listed Bertha (Matz); Rennell (possibly Reinhold); Otto; Elizabeth (Jahnke), and Martha along with their mother as survivors. It appears that oldest sister Emma died at some point between 1910 (when Florentine still listed 7 surviving children of 8 born) and 1915, though I could find no record of what happened to her after 1900.
It is pretty difficult to track this family past Edward’s death. I could only definitively track Otto all the way to his @findagrave record. I found some information on Martha (Eggert) who outlived Otto (d 1958) but couldn’t find her death information. Sister Bertha also outlived Otto, but I also couldn’t track her past that point. What became of Emma, Reinhold, and Lizzie is a mystery.
Florentine lived 15 more years after her youngest child died. She lived with Otto and Martha, who remained unmarried through 1920, and after Otto married, she lived with his family according to the 1930 census. At the end of that same year, she passed away and was buried beside her husband and son though I could find no death record for her. Otto’s family lived in DuPage County, so it’s likely that’s where she died.
RIP Leu family
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