Friday, April 29, 2016

THE ROSEHILL HORROR - The Funeral of Little Frederick Payne

Frederick Payne, Jr., the infant son of Frederick and Rosa Payne, and half-brother of 7 year old Gracie Taylor died on January 22, 1890.  The funeral for little Frederick was held the next day, on January 23rd.  The ceremonies started at the Payne home at 24 (now 31) N. Aberdeen Street in Chicago, (a new condo building sits on that site today), and then proceeded to Rosehill Cemetery for the burial.  What happened at the gates of Rosehill was so horrendous that within a few minutes little Gracie Taylor would be the only member of the family still alive.

Before we look at the tragedy that took the lives of  Frederick and Rosa Payne and two others, let's see what we can find out about the Payne family.

Frederick D. Payne, Sr. was born  in approximately 1859.  He was a paper-hanger by trade.  Rosa DeLorenzo was born probably in New York circa 1860, the daughter of Vincent DeLorenzo and Sarah, nee DeAngelo.  Her first marriage took place in approximately 1880.  Rosa married Chrisman Toll Taylor, who was a juggler with the Robinson Floating Shows.  A daughter, Grace Taylor was born to them in Chicago on August 25, 1881.

Shortly thereafter, Rosa DeLorenzo Taylor filed for divorce from Chrisman Taylor. Because of the nature of her father's profession, the Court awarded full custody of Grace to her mother.

In approximately 1888 Rosa married again - this time to Frederick D. Payne.  In August of 1889, Rosa and Frederick were blessed with the birth of a boy they named Frederick Payne Jr.  Little Frederick Payne only lived for only five months, dying in Chicago on January 20, 1890. The funeral procession was on its way to Rosehill Cemetery to bury Little Frederick on January 23, 1890 when tragedy struck.  Let's look at the account published in the Chicago Daily Tribune of January 24, 1890:

MET INSTANT DEATH
A Frightful Tragedy at an Unguarded Railroad Crossing.
The Victims Number Four.
A Northwestern Express Crashes Through a Funeral Cortege.
Miraculous Escape of a Child.
The Engineer, Who Was Arrested, Gives His Version of the Affair.
Stories Told by Other Witnesses.

The absence of guard-gates and flagman is responsible for another crossing tragedy.  The fast express on the Northwestern leaving Milwaukee at 1:15 p. m. and due in Chicago at 4 o’clock struck a carriage at Rosehill, killing two persons outright and mutilating two others so horribly that they died shortly afterward.  The victims are:
FREDERICK PAYNE, AGED 32, No. 24 Aberdeen street, killed outright.
MRS. FREDERICK PAYNE, aged 30, instantly killed.
MRS. WILLIAM REPROGLE, No. 4 Nebraska street, died two hours later.
SIMON ANDERSON, No. 1114 West Madison street, driver of the carriage, died shortly afterward.

Gracie, the 8-year-old daughter of Mr. and Mrs. Payne, was also in the carriage, but escaped death by a miracle.

A few days ago Mr. and Mrs. Payne’s 5-months-old baby, Frederick, died, and the funeral was held yesterday at the family residence.  After the services the funeral procession of carriages set out for Rosehill, where the body was to be interred.  The carriage containing the parents, Mrs. Reprogle and little Gracie Payne followed immediately behind the hearse.  Almost at the gate of the cemetery three of the occupants of the carriage and the driver were dashed to death without a moment’s warning.

The engine, which was running nearly fifty miles an hour did not strike the carriage squarely.  Had it done so, little Gracie could not have escaped.  But the force of the collision was fearful.  Mrs. Payne’s body was found hanging on the wire fencing that guards the Rosehill grounds, fully sixty feet from the crossing.  A portion of the rear end of the carriage was thrown the same distance and rested upon the body of the unfortunate woman.  Mr. Payne fell upon the platform that skirts the track just beyond the carriage road.  He was terribly mangled about the head, a portion of his skull being found at a long distance from his body.  Mrs. Reprogle was thrown about thirty feet.  Little Grace was hurled into the air and fell near the cemetery gates.  The driver was thrown into the broad roadway leading to the gates.  The horses were not injured.

The traffic was stopped as quickly as possible and backed up to the station.  The victims were tenderly lifted into the baggage-car and brought into the city.

A DANGEROUS CROSSING.

The wonder is that his is the first accident of the kind at this crossing. The roadway leading to the cemetery is at right angles to the track of the Northwestern Road.  The fact that an accident has never before occurred at this point has to some extent rendered both railway officials and drivers careless.  The people of Rosehill claim that they have often asked that proper precaution should be taken to avoid such accidents as that which occurred yesterday.  They are indignant that what they call a “cheap policy” on the road’s part should have led to such a frightful disaster.  William H. Terwilliger, a bookkeeper for the Rosehill Cemetery company, said last night that on average about eleven interments took place each day at the cemetery, and so great was his fear of an accident that he voluntarily went to the crossing with a flag almost daily when a funeral procession was approaching at train time.  When he was unable to attend to the flagging, the station agent of Rosehill usually went in his stead.  By an unfortunate combination of circumstances neither the station agent nor Mr. Terwilliger was able to reach the scene of the accident yesterday and warn the procession of the approach of the train. 

The station building shuts off the view of the road for some distance, and only carriages in the immediate vicinity of the track can be seen by an engineer, while, on the other hand the track cannot be seen from carriages except at a point some distance from the crossing.  It was not until the engine was within forty-five feet of the crossing, so eyewitnesses say, that a warning was given.  One shrill blast of the whistle and all was over.  The train is due daily at Rosehill at 3:36 p.m., but yesterday it was a trifle late and the speed was unusually high.

THE ENGINEER’S EXPLANATION.

E. J. Mahoney, the engineer who was arrested early in the evening, said in explanation how the accident occurred:

“I left Evanston four minutes late and was making up the time, going at the rate of forty-five or fifty miles an hour.  The bell was ringing.  When several hundred feet from the crossing a hearse appeared on the track. The horses were going at a rapid trot.  I pulled the whistle and shut down the brakes.  I expected to strike the hearse, but it was going so fast that it cleared the track, and instead we struck the carriage following it, which was also going rapidly.  The pilot struck the hind wheel and smashed the vehicle to pieces.  The accident was unavoidable so far as I am concerned.  From the road the funeral procession was traveling the train could be seen a long distance off, but it was impossible for me to see it before it appeared on the track.  The depot obstructed my view, and the first idea I had of the procession was when the hearse appeared on the track before me.  It is the worst accident that even happened in connection with my train.”

Capt. Koch ordered Mahoney’s arrest.  He was brought into the station by Officers Hiott and Bell, protesting that it was an outrage, and claiming that he was a citizen and taxpayer who could be found at his home, No. 321 West Indiana street, when not out on the road.  In reply to questions he said he had been on the Northwestern road twenty-three years, and that he had been ordered by the company to run his engine at the rate of speed he was going when the accident occurred.  He declared that his inability to make schedule time would result in his discharge.

When Mahoney reported the accident to the company the matter was treated so lightly that he was instructed to be at the depot at 8 o’clock this morning to take out his train.  His arrest will interfere with that arrangement, as there is no likelihood of his getting bail until after the Coroner’s jury completes its investigation.  Conductor J. B. Kavanaugh was in one of the coaches when the accident occurred and knew nothing about it until the train had backed up to the depot.

AN EYE-WITNESS.

Said D. Lorenzo, brother of Mrs. Payne:  “I was in the carriage immediately behind the one struck. The train was going at such a high rate of speed that I had no sooner seen it opposite the station than it was close upon us.  There was no whistle until just before the crash.  I found the carriage, broken into kindling wood, on the other track, and near it the body of Mr. Payne.  A few feet distant lay Mrs. Reprogle and the driver, both unconscious.  After I had helped to carry them over to the platform of the station, I looked around for my sister.  I found her hanging on a barbed-wire fence fifty or sixty feet away.  She had been thrown with such force that I had to get two men to help me extricate her. She died in two or three minutes.  The little girl stood on the platform wringing her hands and weeping as she saw her mother carried up.”

In the first carriage, which preceded the hearse, were Miss Helen Gettman, Mrs. Farley and the four youthful pallbearers.  Miss Gettman said: “I was first apprised that something was wrong by the action of our driver, a careful, sober fellow, and a moment later I heard the roar of the train and the crash as it struck the carriage.  Then I only know I was gazing in a dazed way at the dead bodies of Mr. and Mrs. Payne.”

Dr. Norman J. Roberts of Waukegan, who was in the smoking-car at the time of the accident and helped to care for the injured people, said: “The train backed up to the station as soon as possible.  Mr. Payne was undoubtedly killed instantly, as he had a terrible wound in the head.  I did not make an examination, but the skull must have been fractured.  Mrs. Payne lived but a few minutes.  With the exception of the driver, no one of the four spoke a word after the engine struck them.”

“Did you hear the engine whistle before reaching the station?”

“I do not think it would be proper for me to answer that question, as I shall probably be called as a witness and prefer to make my statements then.”

“Will you say whether the train slowed up either on approaching the station or just previous to the crash?”

“No, I wouldn’t like to answer that question either.  I shall, of course, make a correct statement when called as a witness.”

HUSHING IT UP.

As soon as the news of the accident reached Chicago the officials of the road made arrangements to hush the affair up.  When the train arrived with the four victims they were carried into the old general office building at the northwest corner of the depot and an employee stationed outside, who replied “I don’t know” to all questions.  The gatekeeper showed the same degree of innocence.

“Do you think I’ve got time to run around after such things?” he said.

“Where would the bodies be landed?”

“Over there,” he replied, indicating the corner of the depot directly opposite the building within Payne and his wife already rested in their coffins, while Mrs. Reprogle and Anderson lay dying on rude couches, gasping for breath.

“I don’t know where they are,” answered Supt. E. J. Cuyler of the Milwaukee division, who was found closeted with Conductor Kavanaugh. “There were only two killed.”

“On whom does the responsibility for the accident rest?”

“On the driver of the carriage.  He was all muffled up so that he couldn’t see whether there are a train coming or not.”

“Were there bars at the crossing?”

“No.”

“Was there a flagman stationed there?”

“No.  There are not enough people using the crossing to make it worth while.”

THE DYING AND THE DEAD.

After being landed in Chicago Mrs. Reprogle and Anderson were attended by Dr. J. D. Andrews, the young assistant physician of the road. About 5 o’clock Anderson was removed to the Emergency Hospital where he died an hour later.  Mrs. Reprogle was not taken to the hospital, and died in the office of the railroad at a few minutes before 6 o’clock.

Last evening the four bodies lay in the back room of Jordan’s undertaking establishment, where they had been embalmed.  Payne, who was of powerful build, must have been leaning towards the engine in an attempt to shield the others when it struck him, as the whole front of the top of his head was crushed in.  Mrs. Payne was also dreadfully disfigured, her head and face being completely covered with cuts and bruises, and the scalp being torn loose for five inches on the left side of the head.  Anderson was probably thrown forward and struck on his forehead.  Both eyes were black, and besides several cuts about the head his right temple was much swollen and bruised.  Mrs. Reprogle showed few signs of injuries.  A slight cut on the lower lip and a bruise on the bridge of the nose were all.

Mr. Payne was a paper-hanger by trade, 29 years of age, and his wife was one year younger.  He was a steady, reliable man, and had hosts of friends among his fellow-craftsmen.  Little Grace is the only surviving member of the family.

Mrs. Reprogle lived with her husband, a painter, at No. 4 Nebraska street.  He did not hear of the accident until almost 8 o’clock last night. The news almost distracted him.  He is 21 years old, and she was about 19, and they were married about four months ago.

Simon Anderson, the driver, leaves a widow, but no children.  He was well known in sporting circles, and formerly worked for Budd Dobie at Washington Park.  His widow sent for the body last night, but was refused it until after the inquest, which will probably be held at 10 o’clock this morning.

Anyone who visits Rosehill Cemetery today and enters through the main gate is well aware of the railroad tracks - they are elevated atop a mound of soil and you have to go under the tracks to enter the cemetery.

Rosehill Main Gate - 2016











But that was not always the way the tracks were situated.  Originally the tracks were at ground level, as you can see from this stereo-opticon slide:

From Robert N. Dennis collection of stereoscopic views

This is the way the tracks looked in January of 1890 when the Payne funeral procession was struck by the train speeding down the track from the North.    

To get a slightly different viewpoint on the outcome of the Coroner’s Jury we will look at the following article from the Chicago Inter-Ocean from January 26, 1890:

DIVIDED RESPONSIBILITY.
Verdict of the Coroner’s Jury as to the Rose Hill Funeral Accident.
The Driver and the Cemetery and the Railroad Companies Jointly to Blame.
Driver Anderson, Who Was Killed, Had Been Warned of the Danger.


The Rose Hill Horror.
The Coroner’s Jury spent the entire day yesterday investigating the accident at Rose Hill, on the Northwestern Railroad, Thursday.  A number of witnesses were examined, and the jury took a very active part in the questioning of witnesses.  All of the testimony pointed directly to the fact that Anderson, the driver of the carriage, was in the main responsible for the terrible accident.  There was no testimony to show any criminal negligence on the part of Engineer Mahoney or the railroad authorities, the responsibility for a lack of guards at the crossing, according to the evidence, resting on the cemetery authorities, who own the road.

Edward D. Lorenzo (sic) and Frederick Payne were the first witnesses called.  (Note: obviously Frederick Payne could not have been called as a witness because he had been killed in the accident, but both the Inter-Ocean and the Tribune reported that Frederick Payne was the first witness.)  They were followed by William Reprogal, whose wife was killed, and by McAfee, of No. 1835 Wabash avenue.  The first testimony having any real bearing on the case came from Israel Fortier, who was driver of the carriage immediately following the one that was struck.  He had seen Anderson’s team plunging as though they were badly frightened and were trying to get away.  He saw Anderson urge his horses onto the track, and the next moment the train struck the carriage. Fortier said that at first he had seen the train when it was 150 feet away, but later he said that he did not see it until he got within fifty or sixty feet of the track, when he noticed smoke over the station-house.  Fortier had seen the driver of the first carriage, Frank Woodard, motion for the others to stop, but supposed (he) could get across the tracks ahead of the train or he would not have attempted it.  

Miss Hellen Geltman and Mrs. Nellie Farley, who were in the first carriages with the little pall-bearers, had seen their driver motion to the others to stop, and Mrs. Farley, looking out the back window of their carriage, had seen the train strike Anderson’s carriage, and hurl its occupants into the air.  Frank Woodard, driver of the carriage that led the procession, said he had noticed the train coming about a block away, and had motioned the other drivers to stop.

Louis Johnson, driver of the hearse which so narrowly escaped destruction, said he saw the train, but his team was unruly; he was afraid to stop, and so went ahead.

Julius Betzold, a boiler-maker, whose home is at No. 74 West Erie street, was on the rear platform of the smoking car of the train when he heard a crash, and looking out saw pieces of the carriage flying into the air and noticed the team running away.  Betzold said there was no whistle sound until after the accident occurred and that no bell was ringing.  On cross-examination the witness’ story was not very coherent, so his testimony was closed and the jury adjourned until 2 o’clock.

At the afternoon session several eye-witnesses of the accident from Rose Hill were introduced, but nothing new was brought out, the testimony being practically the same as given by the morning witnesses, and establishing very clearly the fact that the driver, Anderson, could have averted the accident if he had used ordinary precaution.

The testimony also showed that the engineer, under orders laid down by the railroad company in its time card, was running his train in the city limits ten or fifteen miles an hour faster than the city ordinance allows. Another fact elicited was that a number of narrow escapes have happened at the same crossing, and that the employees of the cemetery company have been in constant fear that just such an accident as the one of Thursday would happen them.

The first witness was William Flood, a teamster living at Rose Hill, who was on the railroad platform, about seventy-five feet from the crossing, and saw the accident.  He saw the driver of the first carriage motion to the others to stop, and saw Anderson urge his horses on to the track where he was struck.  Miss Addie Anderson told the same story of the accident as did William Lachle, who with Miss Anderson, saw the occurrences from the window of a store near the crossing.  All three of these witnesses thought that Anderson could have avoided the accident if he had stopped when the train whistled instead of urging his team onto the track.

John Scharres, an employee of the cemetery company, after relating the incidents of the accident as he saw them, said he had waved his hands to the approaching procession just before the first carriage drove onto the track, but no attention was paid to the warning, and he did not know whether the drivers had seen him or not.  “There have been a great many narrow escapes there,” the witness said, “but no flagman has ever been there.  The men working at the cemetery have always been afraid something like this would happen, and often said there ought to be a gate at the crossing.”  Scharres said he thought the road was owned by the cemetery company as the gates were closed and locked every night.

Franklin D. Cummings, for whom Anderson was driving, said that the team was a specially safe one, and he considered Anderson one of the best drivers he had ever known.  

Engineer Mahoney told his story very briefly.  “I was just opposite the north end of the Rose Hill station when I saw a carriage crossing the track ahead of me.  I whistled, put on brakes, and the next instant struck the carriage.  That was all there was to it.  My train stopped within a quarter of a mile and we backed up to take the people aboard.”  In answer to questions, witness said he was running at the usual speed for his train, forty or forty-five miles an hour, at the time of the accident.  “I know nothing of the city ordinances, I run by my time card,” the witness said, “and that card calls for the speed I was running at the time.  We were about four minutes behind time leaving Evanston, but were not running unusually fast on that account.  His engine bell had been ringing all the way from Highland Park, being worked automatically by compressed air.

William A. Anderson, the fireman, corroborated the engineer’s testimony.

E. L. Long, president of the Rose Hill Cemetery Company, who was the next witness, said that the road where the accident happened had never been formally dedicated as a public highway, but had been used as such for years.  The company had never anticipated trouble, and did not think of gates because the road is straight for miles and trains can easily be seen approaching.  There had not been an accident there before in thirty years.  Witness thought the railroad had bought the right-of-way from the Cemetery Company, but the latter company keeps the road in repair.

Acting Superintendent Walter Chadband, of the Cemetery Company, testified to practically the same facts as Secretary Long.

Then a long discussion of gates and means of protection for crossings followed between the jury and the witness.  Mr. Chadband thought that perhaps the former superintendent of the cemetery, Joseph Gow, had spoken to the railroad people about putting gates in at the Rose Hill crossing two years ago, but if he had, nothing ever came of it.  A map of the railroad track, showing the relative position of the track and buildings near the accident was shown to the jury, after which the case was closed.

The jury retired for deliberation at 5:30 o’clock, and a verdict was returned shortly after 7 o’clock.  According to it, the accident was due to the carelessness of Driver Simon Anderson, the neglect of the Rose Hill Cemetery Company in not taking proper precautions to guard the crossing, and the violation of the city ordinance regulating the speed of trains by the Chicago and Northwestern Railroad Company.  Engineer E. J. Mahoney was exonerated from all blame. 

Secretary Long, of the Rose Hill Cemetery Association, wrote to Commissioner Purdy yesterday asking whose duty it was to put up protective gates at the cemetery entrance, the city’s or the railroad company’s.  In looking the matter up it was discovered that the railway could not be compelled to do anything, as the entrance in question is not a public but a private one.  Consequently the public have no right to cross the tracks at that point, and the company is not responsible for an injury done, as no street has ever been platted there, and it has never been condemned as a highway.

It was reported that miraculously none of the horses involved in the accident were injured.

After the Coroner's Jury had completed their investigation, the bodies were released for burial. Ironically, Frederick Sr. and Rosa Payne were buried with their infant son Frederick Payne Jr. in Rosehill - in Section 106, Lot 232.




Elizabeth Reprogle was also buried at Rosehill - In Section J, Lot 157.



I was unable to determine where the carriage driver Simon Anderson was buried.
       
So, was that the end of the story?  Of course not.  Newspapers reported that the Chicago and Northwestern Railroad had, without admitting any liability I'm sure, awarded Grace Taylor $10,000.00 - $5,000.00 each for the loss of her mother and step-father.  (Several sources reported that the payout was $7,500.00 - maybe that was the net payout after the lawyers got their share.)  All of a sudden little Grace Taylor became a hot commodity, as everyone and their brother turned up offering to take in Little Grace.  This was complicated by the fact that the person who had taken Little Grace in, refused to give her up.

The Inter-Ocean reported on January 29th, that "Scott Woodward, of Kalkaska, Michigan, has written to Mayor Creiger, proposing to adopt the 7 year old daughter of Frederick Payne who was left an orphan by the railroad accident at Rosehill Cemetery, in which her parents were killed while attending the funeral of their other child."  The newspapers did not report Mayor Creigar's response.

The Tribune reported on February 11th that a writ of Habeas Corpus had been issued for little Grace Taylor.  Since her father, Chrisman Taylor, was on the road with the circus when her mother was killed, the Court appointed Mrs. Payne's brother Edward DeLorenzo as guardian. However, it was discovered that little Grace had been taken in by Mrs, Huldah A. Armstrong, a family friend, who refused to give her up.  Now it was reported that Chrisman Taylor was a "theatrical manager."  I guess that sounds like a more responsible job than "juggler."

For the next part of the story let's go back to the Chicago Inter-Ocean from February 22, 1890:

A GUARDIAN'S RIGHT

The petition of habeas corpus filed by Christman (sic) T. Taylor and Edward Delorenzo to recover the custody of little Gracie Taylor, now in possession of Mrs. Huldah A. Armstrong, of No. 1835 Wabash avenue, came up before Judge Collins yesterday.  There were many interesting features to the case. Christmas (sic) T. Taylor is the father of Gracie, and is now connected with the Robinson "Three Palace Floating Show." Some years ago Taylor secured a divorce from his wife, Rose Taylor, in the Superior Court, but the decree gave the custody of the child to Mrs. Taylor.  Subsequently Mrs. Taylor was married to Fred Payne, and they have cared for Gracie until a sad accident at Rose Hill in which  Mr. and Mrs. Payne were killed by a Northwestern train, and little Gracie, being in the same carriage, had a narrow escape.  Delorenzo is the uncle of the girl, and secured letters of guardianship on her estate, which consisted of claims against the railroad for causing the death of her mother and step-father.  The guardian settled with the road for $7,500.00.  Since the funeral Mrs. Armstrong has had Gracie, according to a request, as she says, made by the girl's mother before the latter's death.  Mrs. Armstrong contended that Taylor and Delorenzo were unfit people to have the custody of the child, because the father was a juggler in the show business and always on the road, and that Delorenzo was a saloon-keeper.

On the witness stand Delorenzo said he resided at 1379 West Taylor street.  He was in the saloon business at No. 147 Jackson street for two months before the death of Mr. and Mrs. Payne.  About that time he quit the business and has not been engaged since.  Prior to his keeping a saloon he was a bar-tender for Con Ryan.  When Mrs. Payne was being buried Delorenzo said Mrs. Armstrong took Gracie home and he has been denied the privilege of seeing his ward.  He denied having told Mrs. Armstrong that he wanted money and not the girl.  The money he received from the road was placed in a bank, and the uncle admitted having spent some of it for attorney's fees, etc.

Mrs. Eliza J. Taylor, grandmother of Gracie, resides in Louisville, Ky. She thought Delorenzo was a good man, and was willing that he should act as guardian.  A few neighbors were called, and as far as they knew, Delorenzo and his wife were respectable people.

Miss Susan Baxen said she was a Sunday-school teacher at the Centenary Methodist Church, where little Gracie began to go about the time Mrs. Taylor was divorced. To the witness Mrs. Taylor complained of the bad treatment of Taylor, and said she would sooner have the pretty child dead than have Mr. Taylor get her.  Augusta Olson had known Mrs. Taylor four years ago, when both of them were engaged in sewing around the wardrobe rooms of the various theaters.  Mrs. Taylor complained bitterly of her husband and of her brother Delorenzo.  She was almost starving, and no one would give her assistance.  Mrs. Taylor told witness that she would rather take Gracie's life than that the girl should fall into the custody of Taylor after she died.

Mrs. Armstrong then told how she became acquainted with the mother and how she got the custody of the child.  Gracie was asked who she wanted to go with, and she replied she desired to remain with Mrs. Armstrong.

After arguments were made the Court decided that the father could not recover his daughter by these proceedings because he was cut off by the divorce decree which awarded the girl to the mother.  As to him the petition would be dismissed.  The character of Delorenzo, the Court said, had stood the test of most young men.  The main issue, however, was Delorenzo's guardianship.  The Probate Court, having jurisdiction, had appointed Delorenzo guardian, and the Chancellor did not sit as a court of review.  A habeas corpus petition was a law case.  Having been appointed guardian Delorenzo was entitled to the child until removed by the Probate Court.  Delorenzo took little Gracie home, and this will probably wind up the litigation.            
               
After the Payne disaster, and continued concerns over the safety of residents who had to cross the tracks, sometime in the 1890s the City of Chicago enacted ordinances requiring the elevation of the Northwestern (ultimately the Chicago and Northwestern) railroad tracks.  This was a long and expensive process, and in fact, it wasn’t until 1908/1909 that the tracks were elevated all the way up to Evanston.

What about the other major players in this drama - what happened to them?  Little Grace's uncle and guardian, Edward DeLorenzo went on to become a lineman with the telephone company.  He and his wife Margaret had five children of their own.  Edward DeLorenzo died on November 20, 1912 at the age of 50.  Records indicate that he is buried in Calvary Cemetery in Evanston, but the archdiocesan cemetery database does not show any record of him.

Engineer Emmett J. Mahoney who was personally exonerated of blame in the accident, remained an engineer with the Chicago and Northwestern Railroad for the rest of his career.  He retired in 1916 after 50 years of service with the railroad.  Mahoney died on March 5, 1924 at the age of 79, and is buried in Oakwood Cemetery, Waukegan, Illinois:

Find a Grave photo courtesy of Priscilla Ross-Fox 

Huldah A. Armstrong, the erstwhile guardian of Little Grace, had two children of her own.  She went on to be the proprietor of a rooming house in Chicago.  Huldah Armstrong died March 24, 1928.  She was 83 years old.  Like the Paynes and Elizabeth Reprogal she was buried at Rosehill, but unlike the Paynes, her grave is marked:

Find a Grave photo courtesy of Ann Day


Chrisman Taylor, the father of Little Grace was denied custody by the Court after the accident in 1890.  Taylor remarried on November 12, 1892, to Annie Elizabeth Harvey who was living in Chicago but from New York.  To complicate matters, they were married in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.  “Christman” Taylor told the Methodist minister that he was a “Travelling Salesman.”

The 1900 US Census contains some interesting revelations about the Taylor family.  It shows Chrisman (now called “Charles”) Taylor and his wife Annie living in Little Rock, Arkansas along with their daughter Grace Taylor.  Apparently Grace was not happy living with her Uncle Edward DeLorenzo and his family, so she went back to her natural father and his new wife.

In the 1900 Census, Charles Taylor is now a “theater manager.  Also living with them was 50 year old William Taylor, a “Boarder.”  Charles and Annie must have decided to simplify their story, so most of what they told the census taker was untrue.  Charles Taylor told the census taker that he was born in May, 1850.  He was actually born in 1852.  He said that he and Annie had been married for 17 years; they had actually been married for 8 years.  They said that Grace was born in November, 1885 in Pennsylvania; she was born in August of 1881 in Chicago.  Annie Taylor said that she had given birth to one child and that child was still alive.  That may have been true, but that child was not Grace Taylor.  It never ceases to amaze me how often people gave incorrect information to the census takers.

Chrisman Toll ("Charles") Taylor died in Louisville, Kentucky in April 27, 1917.  He was buried in the Cave Hill Cemetery in Louisville,  No mention was made of his past as a juggler.

Find a Grave photo courtesy of Ken Kruschwitz

Annie Elizabeth Harvey Taylor died in Louisville on September 3, 1937. She is buried next to her husband in the Cave Hill Cemetery but her grave is not marked.

On July 15, 1905, 19 year old Grace Taylor (she was really 24) married 53 year old George Trendley (1853-1914) in St. Charles, Missouri. George told the 1910 US Census taker that he was a "Laborer."  They were blessed with three children:  Susan Elizabeth (1906-1989), Charles (1907-1964), and George Francis Trendley (1909-1980).  George Trendley died June 5, 1914 in Dardenne, Missouri.  He was 62 years old.

Grace went on with her life and on April 23, 1919 she married widower William Middeke in St. Charles, Missouri.  Grace said she was 33. she was really 38.  William Middeke had eight children with his first wife - he and Grace had only one:  Earl Joseph Middeke (1921-1966).

Grace Taylor Trendley Middeke died in Kirkwood, Missouri on January 9, 1951.  Here is her death certificate:

  
Grace was cremated at the Valhalla Crematory in St. Louis.  It is not know if her ashes were buried or scattered.

Many of the "facts" on her death certificate are incorrect.  She was born August 25, 1881, not November 10, 1881.  She was born in Chicago, not Pittsburgh.  Her father's name was Chrisman Taylor, not Charles Taylor. Her mother's name was Rosa DeLorenzo, not Anna Harvey.  The informant for the death certificate was her daughter Susan Trendley Reinecke.  I wonder if Susan even knew that the facts she was reporting about her mother simply were not true.  Did Grace ever tell her children about the horrible day in 1890 when she saw her mother and father killed and she was thrown from the wreckage of a carriage and a speeding train?  Or was the memory so painful that she blotted it out of her mind altogether?  Did she ever tell them she had a step-brother?  Did they ever visit the graves at Rosehill?  We'll never know - all of the principals are dead.

But we have not forgotten.  The purpose of this blog is so that these people and their stories are not forgotten.

Frederick Payne, Sr.
Frederick Payne, Jr.
Rosa DeLorenzo Taylor Payne
Elizabeth Reprogle
Simon Anderson
Chrisman Toll Taylor
Edward DeLorenzo
Huldah Armstrong
Grace Taylor Trendley Middeke

All of their lives were changed in an instant outside the gates of Rosehill Cemetery during the funeral for a little boy.

May they rest in peace.  

Friday, April 15, 2016

LOST AT SEA ON THE VILLE DU HAVRE - William Barry Culver

If you are traveling through historic Rosehill Cemetery in Chicago, you may see a sturdy monument by the side of the road in Section J:


On the front of the stone are three family names: Barry, Culver, Proudfoot – but we are going to look at the circumstances surrounding what is on the back of the stone.


As you can see, it says:


WILLIAM BARRY CULVER
1862-1873
Lost at Sea
On Ville du Havre

Before we look at the accident at sea where 226 souls were lost in only twelve minutes, let’s see what we can find out first about William Barry Culver.

William Barry Culver was born in Chicago on February 17, 1862 to Belden Farrand Culver (1829-1902) and Julia Dalton, nee Barry (1841-1938.)  Both the Culver and Barry families were distinguished families with roots deep in the American soil.

Belden Culver was originally from New York.  After teaching school for a time he came to Chicago and joined his brother Charles in the grain commission business.  He ultimately ended up in the real estate business as did many of his peers.  Belden Culver is descended from Edward Colver (1600-1685) the Puritan who came to America in 1635 with John Winthrop, Jr.

Julia Barry was born in Massachusetts, the daughter of renowned Unitarian clergyman Rev. William Barry, Jr. (1805-1885) and Elizabeth Chadwick, nee Willard (1814-1883).  Julia relocated to Chicago with her parents in the mid-1850s.  Later in life, Rev. William Barry Jr., was instrumental in founding and supporting the Chicago Historical Society.

Belden Culver and Julia Barry were married in Chicago on December 31, 1860.  They were blessed with five children:  William Barry (1862-1873), Julia (1864-1950), Belden Haywood (1867-1874), Bertram (1870-1874), and Agnes Goodwin (1874-1962).

William Barry Culver was only alive for one US Census – the one in 1870.  This census finds the Culvers living in the Town of Lakeview.  The family consists of Belden and Julia, both of who told the census taker that they were twenty-six years old (neither one was), and the children: William, Julia and “Haywood”.  Belden Culver reported that he was a real estate agent, and that he owned land worth $67,000 and $32,000 of personalty.  They also had one live-in servant and a live-in governess for the children. 

In late 1873, 11 year old William Barry Culver sailed to Europe on the steamship Ville du Havre.   The ship left from New York on November 15, 1873 and was due in La Havre, France in about ten days, depending on conditions on the Atlantic.  The Ville du Havre was the most luxurious steamship of its day and, as was common at a time when sailing ships were giving way to steam driven vessels, the Ville du Havre was also rigged to hoist sails. The ship was under the command of a French captain, Marino Surmount (some sources spell the last name "Surmounte"), and had a crew of 173 men.

The Ville du Havre



The Chicago Inter-Ocean newspaper from December 2, 1873 gives up a little background on why young Willie Culver was on the Ville du Havre:

Willie Culver, a most promising boy about 12 years of age, son of B. F. Culver, was also lost.  He was crossing the seas in charge of Mrs. Horatio (Anna) Spafford, on his way to Dresden, where for the past three years he has been attending school, under charge of his grandfather, the Rev. Wm. Barry (Jr.), formerly well known in Chicago – once secretary of the Historical Society.

It was said that his grandfather never got over the loss of his namesake, William Barry Culver.  Not long after the death of young Willie, Rev. Barry Jr. left Germany and returned to Chicago for good.

The Rev. William Barry, Jr.

Let’s look at the first-hand accounts of the disaster as reported by the Chicago Daily Tribune on December 2, 1873:

RUN DOWN.
Midnight Collision Between the Ville du Havre and the Loch Erne.
In Twelve Minutes the Ville du Havre Sinks with 226 Souls.
Terrible Bereavement of Well-Known Chicago Citizens.
One Father Loses All His Children, Another Both Wife and Children.
Nine, the Total Number Chicago Is Known to Have Lost.
Only 87 Saved, Including the Captain and 52 of His Crew.
Boat-Loads of Passingers Crushed by Falling Masts.
The Loch Erne Badly Damaged, but Makes Every Effort to Save Life.
Her Rescued Transferred to the Trimountain, and Taken to Bristol.
She Puts Back To Queenstown, But Has Not Been Heard From.
No Explanation Given How the Catastrophe Occurred.
List of the Saved -- Description of the Ville du Havre.
The Purser's Account of the Disaster.

London, Dec. 1, - The ship Trimountain, from New York, arrived at Cardiff, Wales. Early this morning with the intelligence of a dreadful disaster to the steamship Ville du Havre, which left New York Nov 15, for Havre, in command of Capt. Surmont.  At 2 o’clock on the morning of the 23rd, the Ville du Havre came in collision with the British ship Loch Erne, from London for New York, and sunk shortly after.  Two hundred and twenty-six persons on the Ville du Havre were lost.  The Trimountain saved eighty-seven of the passengers and brought them to Cardiff.

DESCRIPTION OF THE ILL-FATED STEAMER.

The Ville du Havre was formerly the Napoleon III.  She was altered and enlarged last winter, and came here for the first time as the Ville du Havre on the 9th of April, making the passage from Brest in nine days and Twenty-three hours.  With the exception of the Great Eastern, she was the largest steamer that ever entered this port.  Her dimensions were 490 feet by 48 feet.  Her carrying capacity was 3,500 tons, freight and measurement.  Her main saloon was fitted up with marble wainscoting of three varieties, the upholstery was velvet, and the wood-work was carved in the most unique designs.  Her engines were compound direct-acting, of 3, 200 horse-power, and made in England.

LATER
The Collision.

London, Dec. 1 – Later dispatches from Cardiff bring the following additional particulars of the loss of the steamship Ville du Havre:

She was struck amidships by the Loch Erne, and sunk in twelve minutes after the collision.  The Loch Erne immediately lowered her boats, which rendered all the service possible by them.  Fifty-three of the crew were saved, including the Captain, and these go to make up the eighty-seven saved.

THE SAVED.

Among the passengers saved are ten women.  The saved are as follows:  Capt. Surmont and five other officers, fifty-four of the crew and twenty-seven passengers, named Mary Hunter, Annie Hunter, Helene Mixter, Madeline Mixter, Emile Cook, Rev. N. Weiss, Mrs. H. G. Spafford, James Bishop, Charles Criste, Miss Breedon, Francisco Dado, Hyppolite Valle, R. A. Wittham, Jr., F. Marcounet, Fanny Benninger, Alfred Barbanson, Xavier Pequignot, Mr. Lauriaux, C. Burritt Waite, Cornelia Edhar, Mrs. Marie Bulkley, William R. Swift and his wife, Andrew B. McCreery, Mr. Cramer, Henry Belknap, and Legrand (probably Bangrand).

MEMBERS OF THE EVANGELICAL ALLIANCE ON BOARD.

Among the passengers in the Ville du Havre were the following members of the late Evangelical Alliance returning to their homes:  The Rev. Antonio Corrasco, of Spain; Prof. E. Provier, of Geneva, and the Rev. N. Weiss, Emile Cooke, and Mr. Lorriere, of Paris, Alfred Barbanson, of the Belgian Legation at Washington, was also a passenger.

THE SURVIVORS AT BRISTOL.

The survivors of the Ville du Havre reached Bristol today.  They were all saved by the boats of the Loch Erne, and were transferred to the Trimountain, which carried them to Cardiff.  There is great excitement in London over the loss of the vessel.

DAMAGE TO THE LOCH ERNE.

The ship Loch Erne was so badly damaged by the collision with the steamship Ville du Havre that the persons rescued by her from the wreck requested to be put on the Trimountain.  All were safely transferred, with the exception of three persons who were too badly injured to be removed.  After the collision, the Loch Erne put about for Queenstown, at which port she was due about the 29th ult.  Nothing has yet been heard of her.

STILL FURTHER PARTICULARS.

London, Dec. 2. – The following additional particulars of the loss of the Ville du Havre have been gathered from the officers and passengers at Cardiff.  The Ville du Havre experienced a thick fog until the 20th.  At the time of the collision the weather was clear, with little wind blowing, but there was a heavy sea.  The captain had just retired, and the second officer was in charge.  The lights on the steamer were all right.                  

THE COLLISION WAS WHOLLY UNEXPECTED.

The Loch Erne struck the steamer amidships, and made a chasm 12 feet deep and from 25 to 30 feet wide.  The exact position of the Ville du Havre at the time was latitude 47 degrees 21 minutes; longitude 35 degrees 41 minutes.

PANIC TOOK POSSESSION OF THE PASSENGERS.

Five minutes after the collision the main and mizzen masts fell across two large boats which were filled with people and ready for launching.  The boats were crushed to pieces and many of the occupants killed and injured.  In the brief interval between the collision and sinking of the steamer the crew were able to launch.

ONLY A WHALEBOAT AND THE CAPTAIN’S GIG.

The Loch Erne went a mile before stopping.  She then got out four boats to pick up the people struggling in the water.  Meanwhile, the whaleboat, under command of the Second Lieutenant of the Ville du Havre, picked up one load of those who were clinging to planks, spars, etc., and took them to the Loch Erne.  She returned to the scene and rescued another load.  Capt. Surmont, who remained on deck to the last, was rescued by this boat three-quarters of an hour after the collision.  One of his officers swam a mile to the Loch Erne, and was hauled on board with a rope.  The boats continued to search the waters in the vicinity of the disaster until there was no hope of saving more lives.

THE COLD WAS INTENSE.

Many of the survivors were immersed two hours, and were almost lifeless when rescued.  The ship Trimountain sighted the Loch Erne at 8 a.m., six hours after the sinking of the steamer, and received the survivors, as before reported.  The saved speak in the highest terms of Capt. Urquhart, her commander.  There were six stowaways on board the Ville du Havre.

DATE OF THE COLLISION.

Later accounts make the date of the collision the 22nd instead of the 23rd ult.  A vessel which arrived at Bristol reports speaking her with ten survivors of the Ville du Havre on board.

STATEMENT OF THE PURSER OF THE VILLE DU HAVRE.

[New York Tribune Cable Special.]
London, Dec. 1. – The purser of the steamship Ville di Havre gives the following account of the disaster: The steamer was struck on the starboard side.  The mainmast and rigging were carried away.  The long boat was not crushed on deck, but after being lowered the mizzenmast fell upon it and killed nearly all the occupants.  The mainmast fell after the mizzen, toppling over on deck, and killing many persons.  In a few minutes the ship began to sink amidst great disorder and panic terror.

THE SCENE WAS AWFUL.

And beyond description.  The air was rent with shrieks, but some were heard saying calmly, “As we must die, let us die nobly.”  The water rushed into the boat with incredible velocity.  I undressed myself, and, with a companion, jumped overboard and

SWAM TOWARD THE LOCH ERNE.

Then half a mile distant.  As I left I heard the ship cracking, and looking back saw her go down with one plunge forward. For a moment the shrieks were terrible, then all was silent.  It was the silence of death.  The captain remained on the bridge of the Ville du Havre during the whole, and went down with the ship.  He was picked up an hour afterward.  All the officers who were rescued were saved in a similar manner except the First Lieutenant, whom the Captain sent to the Loch Erne to see if she was in a sinking condition or if she were able to receive the passengers of the Ville du Havre.  I swam half-an-hour, and finally reached the Loch Erne, but missed the rope thrown to me.  I remained in the water another quarter-of-an-hour, but was eventually rescued by the Loch Erne.

Among the passengers on the deck of the Ville du Havre was a French gentleman of

REMARKABLE COOLNESS AND PRESENCE OF MIND.

He comforted many by his words.  A priest asked, “Are you a Roman Catholic?” “Yes,” was the answer.  “Repent then,” said the priest, “and I forgive your sins.” With these last words the priest sank in the waves.  The penitent was saved.  The boats crossed and recrossed the scene of the disaster.

SEARCHING FOR SURVIVORS.

Until 10 a. m.  Further efforts were then abandoned as hopeless.  The survivors remained on the Loch Erne until 9 p. m., when they were transported to the Trimountain.

CAPT. URQUHART’S NARRATIVE.

On Saturday morning, Nov. 22, being in latitude 47 deg. 23 min., longitude 25 deg,m 20 min., we sighted a vessel on our weather bow, with her bowsprit gone and sails flying.  We hove to, and saw a signal of distress flung out.  Coming nearer, the ship p[roved to be the Loch Erne, eight days out of London, for New York.  Coming alongside, the captain asked me to receive the survivors of the Ville du Havre, which had been sunk by the Loch Erne at 2 o’clock that morning.  After consultation, it was deemed advisable to transfer all the rescued people but one French clergyman,

WHO HAD BECOME DERANGED.       

Another of the party was left to take care of him.  The survivors were crowded into the small cabin in a pitiable state.  They were heart-broken, ill-clad, and destitute, but amid their grief they expressed their gratitude to the Captain and crew of the Loch Erne for

SAVING THEM FROM A WATERY DEATH.

I supplied them with all the clothing which could possibly be spared on my ship, and with other requisites.  Nevertheless, some were almost naked, and others were badly injured by fragments of the wreck coming in violent contact with them.  After receiving all on board the Trimountain, I decided to cruise about the scene of the wreck.  Search was continued until nearly dark that night, but we saw only two casks floating, and the search was finally relinquished, and we proceeded on our voyage to Bristol.  I intended to land in Queenstown, but a favorable wind enabled us to reach Cardiff.  The survivors attached no blame to the officers of the Loch Erne for the catastrophe, but say they did everything possible to prevent the sacrifice of life.

THE LOCH ERNE WAS VARY BADLY DAMAGED.

In her bows.  Her bowsprit was clean gone, and a great hole was cut above the water line.  The passengers of the Ville du Havre say that Capt. Surmont, during many days of fog, took every precaution, and was constantly on the bridge of the steamer.  No one explains how the collision occurred.

A FRIGHTFUL SCENE.

The Tribune’s correspondent says: “Men, women, and children, seized with terror, rushed on deck with their night-clothing, and all was confusion.  The Loch Erne’s bow had cut a fissure in the deck of the Ville du Havre twelve feet in depth, and the iron plating of her side was crushed in for a distance of 30 feet.  Most of the passengers were too terrified to try to save themselves.  Many prayed, and many laid down with the calmness of utter despair.  Some, hearing the water pour into the ship, never quitted their state-rooms.

WHOLE FAMILIES THUS WENT DOWN TOGETHER.

Among the survivors was one lady whose husband and four children had perished in the sea,  Three young ladies lost their father and mother.  One young man lost his father, mother, and sister, and another gentleman lost his sister, whom he was taking to France for her health.  Mrs. Spafford, of Chicago, lost three children and nurse.  She sank with the vessel, but floated again, and was picked up.

INSURANCE.

The Ville du Havre is insured in London for GBP 90,000.    

As the article mentioned, Mrs. Spafford, the traveling companion of Willie Culver lost her three daughters and their nurse, in addition to Willie, who had been placed under her charge for the trip.






We can learn a little more about the last few minutes of Willie Culver's life from Anna Spafford's own remembrance of that horrible night:***

It was the 21st of November, and after dinner Anna Spafford and the nanny, Nicolet, put the children to bed before rejoining the other passengers in the saloon.  Later in the evening Anna Spafford and Pastor Weiss went up on deck for some fresh air and to admire the stars. The air was clear and invigorating.  There was no moon.  Anna Spafford admired the view, despite the fact that her enjoyment was somewhat tainted by the absence of her husband whom she missed; this was the first time they had been apart for such a long time.  Pastor Weiss and Anna Spafford bid one another goodnight and retired to their cabins.

At about two o'clock in the morning the Ville du Havre was shaken by two thunderous reports followed by loud screams.  The engines stopped and the ship came to a standstill. The corridors filled with frightened half-dressed passengers shouting to one another, but their questions remained unanswered. Anna Spafford and Nicolet hurriedly pulled on their dressing gowns and quickly got the children up and into their clothes.  With little Tanetta in her arms, Anna Spafford was one of the first to reach the upper deck.

In the water, a few hundred meters from the Ville du Havre lay the cause of the commotion; a large ironclad sailing ship, the British vessel Loch Erne.  Like two huge wounded beasts the Ville du Havre and the Loch Erne lay in a sea foaming with the force of the collision.  On the deck of the Ville du Havre Captain Surmount was shouting out orders to his crew and to the frightened passengers.  On the quarterdeck, officers and sailors struggled to release the lifeboats.  In most cases this turned out to be impossible; the handsome looking vessel had just been painted and the lifeboats were stuck to the hull.  The same applied to the davits - these too were stuck fast to the ship's railings with paint.  The crew shouted out that there was nothing to worry about, that everyone should remain calm, but the passengers were rushing senselessly about on deck in their flimsy attire.  Everyone was struggling to climb aboard the few lifeboats they had managed to release.  The deck was a bedlam of curses, shouts and hysterical screams.  People fell to their knees and began to pray.

Anna Spafford stood with Tanetta in her arms.  The eldest daughter, Annie, could see that she was heavy for her and leant her shoulder into her mother to lend some support.  The two other children, Maggie and Bessie, pressed themselves to their mother. Nicolet and Willie Culver were there too, and Pastor Lorriaux kept an eye on the little group. Pastor Weiss ran back down to his cabin and returned with coats and shawls for the children.

Anna Spafford and her little group stood alongside one of the released lifeboats, but terrified passengers forced their way past, pushing the little group aside.  At that very moment a shudder went through the ship; the screams became more urgent and the confusion increased.  Pastor Weiss thought that there were too many people crowded onto their side of the ship and he began to shout that they must quickly make their way over to the other side.  At that moment the mainmast snapped and fell, pulling the mizzenmast down with it.  The released lifeboat was catapulted overboard, carrying with it all the passengers who had managed to fight their way onto it.

Things now began to happen very quickly.  The Ville du Havre tilted sharply to starboard and began to sink.  Anna knew that the end was near, but she was not afraid of dying, and thought only that it would be a comfort for her husband to know that she and the children perished together.  There was a moment of silence on board as the deck slowly slid down into the sea.  Little Maggie held onto Pastor Weiss' hand.  She looked up at him.  "Pray!" she said.  "God help us," replied the priest. Another loud crash was then heard as the bow broke away from the rest of the ship and sank.

Maggie, who up until this moment had been terrified out of her wits, now let go of the pastor's hand and walked calmly over to her mother, who still held little Tanetta in her arms.  Annie continued to lend her support, while seven year old Bessie clung, pale and silent, to her knee.  Nicolet and two of the French priests were there too.  Maggie turned up her dark eyes to look at her mother, saying; "Mother, God will look after us."  And Annie said: "Do not be afraid.  The sea is His, and He created it."

The sea was now washing over the quarterdeck and, like a chasm, it yawned open up to swallow the crumpled shell of the Ville du Havre. The little group fell together into the water - along with all the others crowded onto the deck.  Below deck, inside the ship, there were many who were trapped and unable to do anything to save themselves.  All slid into the sea which was several kilometers deep, in a maelstrom, in a rush of fragments of wreckage and human bodies.

Twelve minutes had passed since the Ville du Havre was struck.

As Anna Spafford was dragged down her little girl was ripped out of her arms.  She made a grab for her but managed only to grasp a hold of her dress, and then the material was jerked out of her hands once again. When she reached out again her hand only brushed the material of a man's corduroy trousers.  Then she lost consciousness.

She awakened to the sound of oars stroking the water.  She was lying in a boat, drenched from head to toe and retching from the sea water.  Her long hair was thick with salt and her gown was in shreds. Nobody had to tell her that her children were gone.

She had been lying in the water for an hour.  She went under and then surfaced again, unconscious. At some point a wooden spar slid in under her and this saved her life.  Sailors from the Lochearn managed to recover her from the water while desperately combing the area for survivors.  Shortly afterwards they found Captain Surmount, who had been washed overboard from the bridge of his sinking ship.  Pastor Weiss was already in the little lifeboat, as were Lorriaux and Blanc, and later they found the fourth minister, Pastor Cook.  Nicolet, however, was among those missing.

On board the Loch Erne, Anna Spafford learned that two of her girls, which ones she never learned, had appeared on the surface close to a man whom they had then clung to.  Being a good swimmer, he had told them to hold on tightly to his coat.  But first the smaller child lost her grip, and then the other child sank, just as he was almost within reach of a boat.

Anna did not give up the hope that she would see her children again. Every time a boat with rescued passengers came up alongside the ship she peered down desperately in the hope that she might catch a glimpse of one of her little girls.  Now and then faint cries were heard from the sea, but gradually the voices died away.  No one could survive in the cold water for long.  A slight, but insistent voice was heard.  It came from a little girl who was clinging to a piece of wood.  "I don't want to drown," she shouted.  They managed to pull her up into a boat.  She was the only child to survive the wreck of the Ville du Havre.

By four o'clock in the morning the cries for help had ceased and the sea fell silent.  There was only the moaning of the wounded and the weeping of the bereaved to be heard in the clear, starry night. The ocean rose and fell gently.  It had claimed 226 lives (including Anna Spafford's three daughters and their nurse, and Willie Culver) and spared only fifty-seven.

Here is a copy of the telegram Anna Spafford sent home to her husband reporting the loss of their daughters, their nurse and Willie Culver:


"Saved alone - what shall I do - Mrs. Goodwin, children, Willie Culver lost - go with (Pastor) Lorriaux until answer - reply Porclain 64 Rue Aboukir Paris"   Note that the telegram is dated December 2nd - the Ville du Havre sank early in the morning of November 23rd, but ship to shore wireless would not be invented until 1880.  The ships had no way to convey the horrible news to the world until they reached a port - in this case, Cardiff, Wales.

The family was hoping that Willie's body would eventually wash up on shore, as years later many victims of the Titanic would, but alas, no remains of Willie Culver were ever found.  The stone with his name on it at Rosehill is a cenotaph.


And that is the end of the story of young Willie Culver.  There is no record of any memorial service taking place for him in Chicago; perhaps without a body his family did not feel it was appropriate,  In fact when Willie's father Belden Culver died in 1902, his obituary did not even mention his three sons that predeceased him - only his two unmarried daughters.

May William Barry Culver, and all the victims of the Ville du Havre, rest in peace.



***The story of Anna and Horatio Spafford is a fascinating one in and of itself.  After losing their fortune in the Great Chicago Fire in 1871 and their daughters in the Ville du Havre disaster of 1873, they moved to the Holy City of Jerusalem and founded the American Colony there.  A fascinating account of their lives, before and after the loss of their daughters can be found in Faith and Fate in Jerusalem by Birgitte Rahbek & Mogens Bähncke.  A copy can be found here:

http://www.birgitterahbek.dk/faith_fate.pdf   

Friday, April 8, 2016

ROSEHILL THE BEAUTIFUL - 1908

Anyone who has read the stories I have posted on this blog knows how I feel about Rosehill Cemetery on Chicago's north side.  It is a place where one can find beauty wherever they look - be it the beauty of nature or the many beautiful examples of Victorian funerary art.  For the cemetery's 50th anniversary in 1908 the Rosehill Cemetery Company produced a booklet called "Rosehill the Beautiful" with facts about and photos of the cemetery.  The booklet is very scarce but I have a copy in my collection and have decided to share it with my loyal readers, many of whom share my love of Rosehill.

So, have your carriage brought around, and settle back for a trip thru Rosehill the Beautiful as it was in 1908.  Enjoy! 



"As one who wraps the mantle of his couch about him and lies down to pleasant dreams"