Dr. Robert W. McInnes
(1857-1928) practiced medicine in Belvidere,
Illinois, in 1900 a city of around 7,000 people.
Located less than two hours northwest of Chicago,
today's Belvidere is home to 26,000 residents and
the nearest larger city is Rockford, Illinois.
Following graduation from
Belloit College, and Northwestern Medical School, in 1886 McInnes married Emma Plane
(1864-1956), an Iowa native, and by 1888 they had
one son, Robert J. McInnes Jr. (1888-1974). He
assumed the practice of Dr. Charles Scott of
Belvidere and prospered enough that he and Emma were
able to purchase a home at 331 N. State Street in
McInnes served three terms as
Belvidere's mayor, from approximately 1896 to1914.
In that capacity he was instrumental in
persuading the Order of St. Joseph Sisters of
Kansas to establish the St. Joseph Hospital in
He is credited with having installed a new sewer
system and other municipal improvements. One
of those may have been fueled by his experience at
the Iroquois Theater: he established the city's
first paid fire department.
Robert and Emma's son,
Robert McInnes Jr.,
married Luella Goodrich, daughter of Frank L.
Goodrich, inventor and officer in the National
Sewing Machine company in Belvidere. The
company also made bicycles, washing machines, cast
iron toys, kitchen tools, and the Eldredge
automobile. Prior to WWII, it was a large and
important important employer in Belvidere.
* No one else
described the dancers uniformly turning to gawk at the fire but most
descriptions focused on the dancers behavior during the first minute after the
fire started, at which time one, then two woman glanced at the fire and were
hissed at by others in the troupe to continue dancing. McInnes' account tells us
what happened next, between the dancing and the troupe leaving the stage.
** It is unclear if McInnes was swept to one side of the front entrance doors or
to one of the first floor fire escape exits on the north side of the auditorium
leading out onto Couch Place but his remarks about people jumping from above onto
people below suggest he was in Couch Place. During body retrieval it
became obvious that a few people had jumped from
the balconies to the first floor inside the auditorium but there were many more
jumpers from fire escapes in Couch place, with numerous related reports of Couch Place
jumpers from the second and third floors landing on, injuring and killing
others, such as McInnes described. First floor audience members did
not describe seeing falling bodies inside the auditorium because by the time the
fire in the balconies was heavy enough that balcony occupants were desperate enough to
jump, the first floor had nearly emptied, its last occupants fleeing through exits
into the front lobby and Couch Place.
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