Agnes Consilia* Byrne, nicknamed Cella,
was born on April 26, 1887, to Francis "Frank" Michael
Byrne (1861- 1902) and
Doyle Byrne (1862-1918). She may have been named after
her aunt, Agnes Cecelia Finnegan Doyle, wife of
Mary's brother, Owen Eugene Doyle.
was one of a thousand students attending the Joseph Medill High School (1898- ) in
Chicago but was the only Medill student I've found so
far who was an Iroquois victim.
late 1800s and early 1900s, the Byrne family lived
at 616 W. 15th street in Chicago with two of Mary
Doyle Byrne's three surviving brothers, Owen Eugene
Edward Doyle, and their families.
Byrne, who worked as a printer, died a year and ten
days before the Iroquois fire. Therefore the
identification of Cella's body at Rolston's funeral
home fell to his widow, Mary. She
buried Cella in the Doyle family plot at Calvary
Cemetery, where Mary herself would someday be
interred. Though only forty one when she
found herself a childless widow, Mary did not
participated in a committee that planned the memorial service for Iroquois victims that took
place on December 30, 1904, a year after the fire,
and at her death in 1918 worked for the Chicago
Telephone Company, presumably as an operator.
Mary Doyle Byrne was the only
daughter of four children born to Edward Doyle and
Catherine Moore Doyle, both of whom she lost in
1907. She was close to the large family of her
brother in law, Owen Eugene Bryne, and his wife, Agnes
Cecelia Finnegan Bryne, and to her brother, Edward
Doyle, until his death.
aunt, Mary A. Byrne was Frank Byrne's older sister.
She taught school until 1898
but by 1900 was not working outside the home.
Her body was also found at Rolston's and was
identified by her younger sister, Katherine J. Byrne
(1873-1922), with whom she lived.
Did Mary Doyle Bryne and Katherine Byrne
search the morgues
together? Not known but it seems likely.
At the time of the
Iroquois Theater fire, Mary Bryne, Katherine Bryne
and their brother, Patrick Byrne (1860- ), lived at
879 Kedzie Avenue in Chicago, along with a cousin from
Canada named Vincent Pelletier (1870- ).
Though Mary seems to have retired from teaching, Katherine
taught at the John Spry school on S. Marshall Blvd.
in Chicago. Patrick
worked as a musician and Vincent sold insurance.
In the years after the fire, Katherine
Byrne married a
grocer, Joseph Larkin, and in 1908 they had a
daughter -- named Mary, probably after Katherine's
sister who died at the Iroquois. Sadly, the
child died at age seven.
Discrepancies in period victim
Agnes and Mary made this story challenging and the only reason it came together was due to
help from three fellow history lovers. Many
thanks to Susan and Jessica at Find-a-Grave, and to
Kathleen Strobel one of Cella's descendants.
Susan scoured photos, records and Jessica was
patient when my "Aha!" moment turned out to be a
dead end. Cella's descendent was kind enough to let me use
Cella's photo and shared a bit of family history,
including Cella's burial information.
From her, I learned why Cella went by her middle name, rather than by Agnes. Her
namesake, her aunt Agnes Concelia Finnegan Byrne, so
strongly disliked her first name that when one of
her sons named his daughter after her, she insisted
he head right back to City Hall to have it changed.