On Wednesday, December 30, 1903 William Bartlett met
his family at Union station when they arrived from
West Grossdale. He then went back to work at the J. V.
Farwell and Co dry goods store, probably
feeling like a lucky man. At thirty-three, he had a wife,
two children, a job, and owned his four-year old
Emma and Arthur Bartlett
the train into the city, a fourteen-mile trip that
took about a half hour.
At twelve and
seven, the children were probably excited about
the Mr. Bluebeard fairy tale pageant and Alvina was probably
curious about the city's elegant new Iroquois
Theater. The family may have planned to meet William after the play and ride home
together on the train.
days end, William's family was gone and he was
searching hospitals and morgues, looking for their
bodies. He found Alvina and Arthur's remains,
but could not find twelve-year-old Emma's. Finally, on
the third search through Chicago's morgues, he
recognized a bit of a fur collar.
William Bartlett (1870-1942) emigrated from England
as an infant in 1871 with his parents, William and
Ellen Bartlett. At twenty-one, in 1891, he
married Alvina Strenge (b.1870),* whose family had emigrated from
Germany two years previously. Their daughter Emma was born in
1882 and Arthur in 1897.
William and Alvina's home was in West Grossdale (renamed
Congress Park in
1905 and later made part of Brookfield, Illinois), in Lyons Township, Illinois.
Their address was possibly 4442 Deyo Ave** where William still lived in 1940.
In 1903, home ownership was usually reserved for
wealthier families but lots and houses in Grossdale were
priced for working class affordability.
West Grossdale was platted in 1895
and the Bartlett family would have been among the
initial residents, their home probably built in 1898
or 1899. In 1930 census records William valued
the property at $7,000. Homes in that area
today commonly sell in excess of $200,000.
There were two train depots and
easy commuting was one of the features promoted by
developer, the extraordinary
Samuel E. Gross, to sell lots and homes in Grossdale.
By the 1930s William Bartlett was a traveling
salesman but it is not known if he was on the road
in 1903. His employer, J. V. Farwell, was a
very successful dry goods wholesaler who supplied
retail stores around the Midwest. William would have
worked out of the company's eight-story facility at
the corner of Monroe and Market in Chicago.
on the same train with the Bartletts was another
family soon to become victims of the Iroquois
Anna and Arthur Neumann. Arthur Neumann
went to school with Emma and Arthur Bartlett.
The Neumann's are buried at Bronswood Cemetery in
Oak Brook in DuPage county Illinois with Alvina,
Emma and Arthur Bartlett. William Bartlett,
his second wife and daughter would join them there
when their time came.
years after the fire
Eight months after the fire
William Bartlett married Augusta A. Kestner
(c1870-1956), a German immigrant like Alvina, and they continued living in West Grossdale.
In 1907 they had a daughter, Laurette, who would
marry a McGregor and raise her own family in
West Grossdale / Congress Park.
Awash in Bartletts
The name Bartlett appears
frequently in reference to the Iroquois fire:
Bartlett was the maiden name of Iroquois
theater co-owner, and wife of manager
Will J. Davis,
Bartlett Davis. For publicity purposes, celebrity
contralto Jessie always included her maiden name.
Prosperous and influential Chicago
industrialist, Adolphus C. Bartlett, wrote to the AFL to object to
reports of bad behavior by striking livery drivers immediately
after the fire. Adolphus's brother, Frederick Clay
Bartlett, created murals in Chicago city council chambers.
William Alfred Bartlett, pastor at
Congregational church, was one of many Chicago ministers who
addressed the fire in their first sermon after the fire.
Amnesia, burial of wrong
woman and Herman says, "Nope!"
If you have additional
info about an Iroquois victim, or find an error, I would like to
hear from you. Chaos and communication limitations of 1903
produced many errors I'm striving to correct and welcome all the help I can get. Space is provided at the
bottom of stories for comments, or