Sixty four year old Sarah Ann Boyer may have been in
the office at her family’s hotel in Springville,
Utah when newspapers arrived with the first stories
about the Iroquois fire. Fear would have flooded her
thoughts as she ran to retrieve the letter received
from her oldest daughter Lulu just before Christmas.
Sarah probably prayed that her memory was mistaken
as she scanned her daughter’s handwriting. There it
was. Lulu wrote that after Christmas she was taking
her two children to a matinee at a beautiful new
theater in Chicago.
Eight-year-old Melba, a student at the Brown
elementary school, was captivated by the Bluebeard
fairy tale and begged her mother to see the play
when it came to Chicago. Not that the child had to
ask twice. Two of Sarah’s daughters were infatuated
with the theater, maybe influenced by performers who
stayed at the Boyer Hotel when the Johnson family
operated a theater in Springville. Ellen “Nellie”
was making a name for herself in the theater out
east and Lulu had performed in road companies for a
few years before marrying. In fact, Lulu and William
met and become engaged while fellow performers.
William was a phrenologist who lectured and
entertained audiences by analyzing skull shapes. He
graduated from either Rush Medical College or
Illinois Medical School (period reports cited both
schools) but it is not known if he actually
practiced medicine. He encouraged his audiences to
Sarah may have hoped that Lulu and the children were
at the Saturday matinee rather than Wednesday’s.
When her husband Philip came in from the farm that
night, he may have cautioned her not to jump to
conclusions but the next day she studied the
newspapers. Lulu’s name did not appear in early
victim lists. There was an unnamed eight year old boy
among the victims but Lulu’s little Boyer was just
four so it could not be him. Sarah and Philip felt
hopeful when there was no word from Lulu’s husband,
William Alexander; Sarah penned a letter to Lulu,
asking if she was all right.
Unbeknownst to Sarah and Philip, Philip’s sister
Lydia and her husband Don had received a telegram
Thursday from Lulu’s husband in Chicago: “Lulu and
children unrecognizable. Wire if you want bodies
sent home." Don and Lydia Johnson had delayed going
to see Sarah and Philip for a day, gathering the
resolve to impart the bad news about the death of
Lulu and her children. When the Johnsons saw that
the newspapers were full of stories about the fire,
in which they knew Lulu's name would soon appear in
victim lists, they new it was time to contact the Boyer's.
The Boyer's were a
prominent family in Springville. Philip’s brother
was the town mayor and a retired merchant; another
family member was a justice of the peace. Before
marriage, Lulu had taught school in Springville and
had been active in the community theater. Though
Lulu and William had lived in Salt Lake before
moving to Chicago eight months ago, it was a close
family and Don didn't need to confer with Lulu's
parents before answering William’s question. He
immediately wired back that the bodies should be
The Alexander's had been married for fourteen years.
For the last few years, William had given his
performance lectures in Europe and Lulu had
sometimes accompanied him. A child born in 1897 had
not survived and traveling may have been a welcome
Sarah and Philip received the news of the death of
their oldest daughter and grandchildren with the
numbness that came from having suspected as much for
The four victims
Lulu Boyer Alexander
seven year old wife and mother of two, a one-time
actress and teacher, beloved daughter of Sarah and
Melba Alexander (1895-1903)
Eight year old student at Brown elementary school.
year old was the boy referenced in newspapers around
the world as a victim of decapitation. His
father was said to have searched the morgues all
night before finally recognizing his son in the
Their loved ones
Dr. William G. Alexander (b. 1863, Canada) – husband
and father of Lulu, Melba and Boyer.
Dr. Alexander found Lulu's body
at Rolston's funeral home the evening of the day
after the fire. He had been searching for
twenty-four hours. The bodies of the children were
Sarah Ann Sanderson Boyer (1844 – 1921 native of
Mother and grandmother to Lulu, Melba and
Philip Henry Boyer
(1839 – 1905)
Pennsylvania) father and grandfather to Lulu, Melba
A peculiar story appeared in a 2006 issue of Utah’s
about Sarah, the Boyer Hotel
and a mysterious outbreak of fires in 1891.
The source of the fires was traced to the fifteen year
old servant girl. She was found guilty, caught in
the act, but judged innocent of criminal intent.
Just your average teenage fire bug.
Part II of that story.
Detailed description and graph
of Boyer graves at Evergreen Cemetery in Springville.