Fifty seven year old
Josephine Kyle Bowman (b. 1846)
took her daughter, twenty-nine year old Beatrice
M. Bowman (b.1874) and adopted son,*
eight year old Lucien Bowman (b.1895) to the Mr.
Bluebeard Christmas pageant at Chicago's new
Iroquois Theater. Beatrice's body was
found the following day at Rolston's funeral home
but Josephine's body wasn't found until Friday, at
Jordans. They were reportedly buried in Rose
Hill Cemetery in Chicago.
Josephine also had a son, Fred
"Frank" K. Bowman (1870-1903) who died seven months
before the fire. He had worked in a Decatur
drug store prior to his death.
Kyle Bowman was born
in Pennsylvania and her children in Illinois.
Her parents were the late David and
Margaret Kyle of Decatur, Illinois, from whom
Josephine inherited property at the
corner of Water and Cerro Gordo streets in Decatur,
Illinois, at one time site of the Church of God and
the Kyle home. In 1892 Josephine sold the land to Otto
and Frank Curtis** for $8,500 (roughly a
quarter million dollars today). The property
sale explained her capacity, in 1900, to afford a
fulltime servant, as well as the legal action taken
by her ex-husband after her death to claim her
Not a week passed after the
fire before Abraham R. Bowman (1840-1913)
laid claim to Josephine's estate, asserting that Josephine's age
probably resulted in her dying before her daughter at the fire,
making him the rightful heir of their daughter,
Beatrice. I was unable to find a follow up
newspaper story but it's possible he prevailed
because Josephine was an only child.
Bowman worked as a stenographer.
* 1904 newspapers referred to
Josephine's adopted child, Lucien, as a daughter and
it has stuck for over a century. In the 1900
census, Lucien was reported to be a male. Lucien Bowman was
** Otto and Frank were the
sons of Dr. Ira Curtis of Decatur. Frank was a
successful jeweler. Selling her childhood home
to the Curtis family may have seemed fitting to
Josephine. Kyle and Curtis were of the same
generation and shared a crippling infirmity.
Her father, David Kyle, was a revivalist minister
who had to give up his career after an accident
limited his mobility. Dr. Curtis was left
paralyzed after an illness and spent his last years
in a wheel chair. Josephine likely grew up
with the Curtis boys.