Her family reported that in addition to respiratory
injuries, Blanche suffered severe burns that left
her disfigured, scarred and barely recognizable.
Her husband by her side, Blanche was coherent
enough during her last days, to tell her family that she tried to
shield her face from the flames with her hat and
that when she reached the fire escape platform and
the stairs were not working, she tried to go back
inside the auditorium but the pressing crowds pushed
her back and off the platform.
Blanche was first taken
to Samaritan hospital but when physicians knew they
could not help her, she was released to her family to
take her home to 5145 Prairie St.
Blanche May Cornell
Nelms (b.1876) and her husband, thirty-one-year-old
Louis A. Nelms ( b.1872), had married in 1897. She grew
up in Athens, Ohio, the daughter of New Jersey
native, Cheretta Martin Cornell (1849-1926), and the
late Ezra Cornell (1845-1893). Blanche had at least
one sibling, a brother named Pearly. In 1903 her
mother, Cheretta, lived with Blanche and Louis at
5145 Prairie Ave. in Chicago.
Louis Nelms was a
traveling salesman for a mail-order butcher supply
wholesaler, Born Packer's Supply Company. The
company was associated with Cincinnati Butchers
Supply. (His boss,
Henry A. Born, must have been a colorful character.
He so offended Chicago Telephone operators with his
"vile, profane and abusive" language that his
service was cut off and it took a court order to get
it turned back on.) In the decades after the
Iroquois fire, Louis became an officer in Born's
company. I lost track of him soon after
1903. There is an outside chance he married
Pearl Shay, became a theater manager/producer in
Manhattan and died in 1933.
Blanche's funeral was
held at a Methodist church in her hometown, Athens,
Ohio, and she was buried there at the West Union
After her daughter's
death, Cheretta worked for a time as a cook in the
Athens State Hospital.