Agnes S. Hinck Lange
(1857-1939) chaperoned a
holiday afternoon theater party for a group of seven
Chicago Lakeside area young people, including her own
two children. It was the day before New
Years Eve, leading into the last weekend of the
Christmas break before classes resumed.
Performed was Mr. Bluebeard, a Christmas
Klaw and Erlanger imported from the
Drury Lane Theater in London.
Shortly into the second act, a
fire broke out on stage. Despite a desperate
effort on the part of some of the stage workers to contain it,
coping with poorly designed and inadequate equipment, the fire spread to the
auditorium. The terrified audience fled,
jamming doors and stairways, handicapped by darkness,
ignorant ushers, draped exits and unfamiliarity with door
hardware and the building layout. When a back
draft hurled a ball of fire into the auditorium at
3:50 PM, hundreds died in the auditorium while
hundreds more died jumping from third floor fire
escapes and suffocating from inhalation and
crushing. The death toll of over
six hundred included four in Agnes Lange's party,
including her own son and daughter.
the Agnes Lange Iroquois Theater party:
Sixteen-year-old Herbert Lange (b. 1887)
who had left school and worked as a
Agnes Lange (b. 1888), named after her mother,
student at Louis Nettelhorst school
Johnny N. Washington
(b.1894), a student at Louis Nettelhorst school
Washington family lived on Melrose Street
Johnny was named after his fraternal
grandfather and Frieda after her mother. They were
two of eight children born to Herman B. Washington
(1847-1936) from North Carolina and Frieda
(1852-1842) from Baden Baden, Germany, who had married
in 1875 in Manhattan. Herman
Washington was a
employed by the Witkowsky and Affeld agency
in Chicago. The Washington
family moved often in their early years,
children were born in three
A third Washington child was
also in the party and escaped, probably Anna or
Percy L. Barter identified Frieda
and John's bodies.
The Washington family lived on Melrose St.
and Johnny were buried in the Saint Boniface
Cemetery in Chicago.
Herman and Frieda moved to
Brooklyn at the end of their lives at after death
returned to Chicago to be buried
at Saint Boniface Cemetery with Johnny
and Frieda. Herman was still selling fire
insurance at age seventy.
The Lange family lived at 1632 Barry Ave. near the Augustus H. Burley elementary school.
Louis Lange (1860-1931) was a Wisconsin native born
to German immigrants, and Agnes had
immigrated to America from Germany in 1885 with her
family. They married in 1886. Herbert
was born the following year and daughter Agnes the year
after. At her children's funeral, Agnes
sobbed, "We were four of the happiest mortals in all
One report said that
Agnes's body was located at Gavin's funeral
home, another that Herbert's was found at St. Lukes
hospital and a third report that both were found at
Rolston's funeral home. Agnes and Herbert's
bodies were identified by their father, Louis Lange.
funeral for the Langes
was held at the Johannes Evangelical
Lutheran church on Garfield and Mohawk and
burial was at Graceland Cemetery in Chicago
the Sunday morning after the fire. There were
over one hundred Iroquois victim funerals in Chicago
In Chicago Louis Lange was an
insurance agent. The Langes
carried life insurance policies on both Agnes and
settlement from Fuller Construction of
$750 per child (roughly $20,000 adjusted for
In 1899 Mrs. Lange was a
teacher at the Maniere school in Chicago.
Agnes suffered a brutal
Agnes S. and Louis Lange by
1910 moved to Otis, New Mexico and spent the
remainder of their years in the Carlsbad, NM area
selling cultivators and seed in conjunction with
operating a 160-acre hay and alfalfa farm.
Louis's younger and older brothers, Hermann
(1857-1939) and Henry (1854-) lived with Louis and
Agnes and helped work the farm.
As if it weren't enough for
Agnes to spend the last three decades of her life in
sorrow over the loss of her children, likely wrenched
with self recrimination for having survived while
they and the Washington children perished, her final hours of life were horrific as well.
At age eighty, widowed for
eight years, Agnes died from heart failure and
stroke. When the coroner-undertaker examined
the body he found the aged woman had been whipped,
her body bearing fifteen lash marks, and concluded
the beating had contributed to her death. Sheriff
Howell Gage opened an investigation and questioned
Agnes's eighty-two year old brother in law, Hermann.
Hermann claimed no knowledge of Agnes's wounds, said
she had been ill and sent him to get help.
Upon his return Hermann said he found her in her bed, dying.
The investigation was ended a few days after Agnes's
death, however, when Hermann died of heart failure
at her funeral. With Hermann gone, officials
concluded no one could shed light on her death.
A nephew of Agnes's from
Anaheim, CA, Edward Bloodgood, was executor of her
Discrepancies and addendum
versus Lange party
Decatur, Illinois newspapers were among
several who published stories reflecting the
confusion with the Lang and Lange families involved
in the Iroquois disaster. Some newspapers
reported Agnes Lange among the victims but not
Herbert, others Herbert and not Agnes. Some,
like those in Decatur, applied the story of a Lang
family to the Lange family.
There were seven Lang's in three different
parties and three Lange's in one party. To further
confuse matters, one of the Lang parties and the
Lange party each included a person named
Herbert. The difference is that while
all the Lang's survived,
two of the three Lange's died.
The Lang survivors:
Herbert Lang thought his daughters, Vera and Rosa,
were among the fatalities and even carried a body
home, only to discover that his girls were safe and
(That was the story misapplied to the
Louis Lange family in Decatur
Though reported as deceased in some
early reports, Emma, Hortense and Irene Lang
survived by escaping
from the third floor
across planks to Northwestern.
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