Forty-year-old engineer Nathaniel "Nat"
M. Stark (1863-1935) and his brother in law,
Lynn Joe Tuttle (1864-1930),
were partners in a bridge
construction businesses in Des Moines,
Iowa. Between Christmas and New Year in 1903 they
took their wives along on a business trip to Chicago,
the two couples staying at the Majestic Hotel.
The afternoon of
December 30, while their husbands were conducting
business, sisters thirty-eight-year-old
Minnie S. Givin Stark
(b.1865) and thirty-one-year-old
Edith A. Givin Tuttle (b.1872)
went to Chicago's newest playhouse, the Iroquois
Theater, for an afternoon matinee of Mr.
Bluebeard. The two couples planned
to board a train that evening to return to Des
Kids stayed home
At home were the Stark children, twelve
year old John F. Stark (1891-1973) and eight year
old Margaret "Peggy" Stark (1894-1976).
The Stark family lived at 1131 Ninth Street in Des
Moines. The Tuttles lived nearby, with Edith
and Minnie's mother, Margaret, in the
home where Minnie and Edith had grown up, at the
northeast corner of Eighth and Crocker, 905 Eighth,
with their two children, seven-year-old Dorothy
Tuttle (1896-1964) and three-year-old Lynn J. Tuttle
Waiting for another telephone call
Stark and Tuttle called
Edith and Minnie's mother and 4th sister to warn
them that the women had not returned from the
theater and that they were beginning to search
morgues and hospitals. While family in Des
Moines waited anxiously for two days for an update,
Nat and Lynn stood in long lines in bitter cold to
gain entrance to morgues, and looked at hundreds of
deceased. Finally Minnie's body was found at
Perrigo's funeral home and Edith's at Jordan's. It was
reported that Minnie's body was
badly burned and Edith's only slightly.
Minnie and Edith
were the daughters of the late John Givin
(1832-1892), an early Rock Island Railroad
superintendent, and Margaret McDermott Givin
(1839-1923). Margaret had lost a third daughter in
1900 so began 1904 with only one of her four girls
remaining – Clara, her eldest.
Margaret lived to see
all five of her grandchildren reach adult hood
and to hold at least five of her great grandchildren
(see accompanying picture).
A private double funeral was
held three days after the fire on Jan. 2, 1904.
Edith and Minnie were buried in Woodland
Cemetery in Des Moines.
The N. M. Stark & Company offices
in 1903 were in the Crocker Building
at the corner of 5th and Locust in Des
Moines. Nat had founded the
company in 1894 and Lynn Tuttle joined soon
after. One of the company's projects was
the bridge in Ames, Iowa over Squaw Creek,
connecting the town with the college.
Check out Bridge Hunter's info page about the
Nearly twenty other Iowans died at the Iroquois
Theater, a half dozen from Des Moines.
the years after the Iroquois Theater fire took their
Nat Stark and Lynn Tuttle
did not remarry. Lynn Tuttle continued an avid
hobby as an excursion bicyclist while Nat focused on
business with time out for boating, fishing and
hunting. Minnie's and Edith's daughters, Peggy
Stark and Dorothy Tuttle, graduated from Smith
College. Peggy married and had children,
Dorothy became an elementary school teacher and in
1928 opened a bookstore on 8th St. in Des Moines.
Lynn Tuttle Jr. went to Iowa State and John Stark
became and engineer and went to work for his
fathers. The Givins, Starks and Tuttles were
part of Des Moines society and their activities were
covered in the Des Moines newspapers. In 1919
Margaret Givin hosted a family Christmas dinner
attended by all the surviving Stark and Tuttle
family members. Perhaps memories of Edith and
Minnie were shared.