Ten Englewood High School students lost their lives
at the Iroquois Theater.
seven were in a party
hosted by Helen
Ella Freckelton, went to the theater with her older
sister, Edith, and the ninth, Englewood student,
Elva Fowler, went to the theater with her cousin and
Arthur and Henry Richardson.
The tenth Englewood student
was Florence Dow, who attended the theater in a
party of five. Two in her party survived – her cousin, Harriet Zerbe Vorwert, and
Harry Akin. The other three in the party lost
their lives. They were Florence Dow, Catherine
Payne, and Emily Matchate (see numerous alternate
spellings below) who was housekeeper for Harry Akin's father, John
The party sat in the 2nd
floor balcony in the second row from the back, two
aisles from the exit (doorway nos. 32 & 33). Hattie
was in the last seat on the aisle and Florence was
five seats away.
I like to research by parties
who attended the Mr. Bluebeard matinee
because it usually helps paint a fuller picture of
the individuals to see them in relationship to their
friends and family. In this case, however,
that benefit is limited because I've failed to
find connecting links. A lengthy interview
with Vorwerk appeared in Akron newspapers (see
above) and provides all that is known of the party. Dow and Vorwerk were
cousins. Akin and Matchate were housemates.
However, how did Akin or Payne connect to Dow and Vorwerk? Dow and Akin were
about the same age. Had they
attended school together? A budding
romance, maybe? Akin was a pianist. A shared
appreciation for music? Harry Akin's father
worked as a traffic manager in the railroad
industry, as had Florence Dow's late father.
Florence B. Dow (b.1886)
In November, 1901 Rebecca Margaret Zerbe Dow
(1853-) had lost her husband, George L. Dow
(1843-1901). Two years later she lost
her seventeen-year-old daughter. (The photo above provided to the
newspaper shows Florence at a much younger age.)
Initially it was
thought that Florence's brother, Robert B.
Dow (1888-), had attended the theater too
and was missing but it turned out he had
been ill and did not attend the theater.
(He grew up and become an architect, living
with his widowed mother in Denver.
Also living in Denver then was his aunt
Harriet Zerbe Vorwert see left. Twenty-five
years later newspaper retrospectives
described he and his sister as the niece and
nephew of Hattie Vorwert, rather than as her
cousins, and reported that he'd gone to the
Iroquois. An example of 1903/4 errors
Prior to 1901, life for the
Dows may have seemed pretty good. George Dow
worked as chief clerk for the accounting department
of the Chicago Railway Transfer Association. He was
responsible for auditing and paymaster with an
office in the Exchange Building in the Union Stock
Yards. The family could
afford to own their
home at 642 West 60th St. in Chicago. A decade
found his widow living with their son, Robert in
Although Harriett Vorwert reported that her
husband, Fredrick Vorwert, identified
Florence's body at Rolston's Funeral Home,
by her hair and skirt, other reports
credited Frederick H. Dow, who lived
in Chicago with his wife and son. Reportedly
Florence's body showed no evidence of
trampling thus it was assumed she died of
Catherine Payne (b.1868)
Catherine's body was found and identified at
Jordan's funeral home by her husband, James
H. Payne. They lived at 357 W.
Garfield in Chicago. Nothing else is
known about Catherine or her husband.
Emily / Amalie /
Amalia / Emla
/ Matchette / Mashate / Machate / (born
was around forty-nine years old at the time of her
death. She lived at 686 (or 636) W.
60th St. in Chicago. Her body was identified
by her employer, Harry's father, John J. Akins.
immigrant, Emily had come to America in
1891. I suspect she is the woman
identified as a single female
passenger named Amalie Machate, age
thirty-four, who arrived
in New York on September 21, 1891 aboard the
steamship Normannia. She was buried in
Chicago's first Jewish cemetery, Mount
Mayriv, within the Zion Gardens Cemetery in
In addition to a
range of name spellings, in some newspapers
she was reported as being twenty-one years
America after the 1880 U.S. census, since
the 1890 census records were destroyed by
fire, the only census information that
included Emily was in 1900 when she lived
with the Akins family. Perhaps a
descendant or someone with a world-access
subscription on Ancestry will pop in one day
and share information about her. I
looked for the various name spellings in
several years of Chicago city directories in
hopes of finding relatives or Emily herself
prior to her employment by John Akins but
Harry Lee Akins (1886-1958)
Seventeen-year-old Harry lived with his
widowed father, John J. Akins, a traffic
manager for the J.V. Farwell Company, and
their housekeeper, Emily Matchate.
His mother, Mary Jane Akins, had died when Harry was nine years old.
Harry stood 5' 6",
weighed 150 lbs, had grey hair and a ruddy
complexion. So said his WWI draft
Harry was the son
of John James Akins. They may have
become estranged in the years after the
fire. Though Harry was by then of age,
days before John's death in Apr, 1916 John had
a new will drawn up that left $10 to Harry
and named John's sister as executor of his
estate. In the 1880s John had worked
as a bank cashier but by 1916 worked for the
railroad fire department and his estate was
probably small. Still, Harry was his
only child. Looks like he wanted his
son to feel the slight. Not hard to
imagine scenarios in which a former banker
and a piano player had alternate life views.
After a year of
college Harry became a pianist in theaters and moved to Skagit,
WA, then settled in Portland, OR where he
worked as a theater manager for the next
thirty or so years, occasionally functioning
as director of semi-amateur orchestras. In 1922 he married a
Minnesota girl, Olga A. (1897-1890) Christopherson.
Zerbe Vorwert (1879-1911)
Age twenty-four in 1903. Just
over two months earlier she'd given up her
job as a stenographer in an Akron insurance
agency, Hall & Harter, to marry Frederick
Vorwerk (1881-1917), and had moved to join
him in Chicago where he worked as
lithographic artist. In so doing she
was making a commitment to a man with good
prospects but some baggage. See
Hattie was the
daughter of Akron resident, Elizabeth
Corbett Zerbe, and the late William Zerbe.
William was the brother of Margaret Zerbe
Dow, Florence Dow's mother, making Hattie and
Florence cousins. Harriet had two
sisters, Georgette and Vesta, and two
brothers, William jr and Howard Zerbe.
In the years after
the fire Harriet bore three children.
She and Fred moved west to Denver in hopes
of relieving his tuberculosis. Hattie
died of a stroke at age thirty two and Fred
followed six years later.
Vorwerk was shot during a riot
in August, 1900 in Akron, OH
when a mob of several hundred
vigilantes dynamited and burned
down city hall. A blight
in Akron's history to be sure.
When police and fire
children were shot and killed in
carelessly aimed shots by a
frenzied policeman and several
firemen were shot. In all,
dozen adults, including Fred Worwerk, were shot and wounded.
The mob's intent was to hang a
black man, Lewis Peck, who had
confessed to getting drunk and
luring three young children into
a rented wagon. He let two
of the children go free then
drove into the country and
sexually assaulted six year old
Tina Maas. Peck later
insisted he was too drunk to
commit the assault and that he'd
confessed from fear of the mob.
Newspapers told a different
story of a neighbor finding the
semi-unconscious child at the
side of the road, bruised and
beaten, her clothing torn.
law was proclaimed, the state
militia called in to restore
order, Peck was sentenced and
sent off to the penitentiary in
Columbus for life.
wounds were serious enough that
he was not expected to survive.
When he did, he was accused of
having taken part in the riot.
He went to trial in June, 1901
but the jury could not reach a
verdict and he was freed.
He subsequently moved to Chicago
but that didn't prevent his
marriage to a hometown Akron
girl, Hattie Zerbe.
Discrepancies and addendum
1927 when he and Olga lived in Seattle Harry played the Lohengrin wedding march at a friend's wedding.
He was still performing in 1941, directing an
all-girl orchestra from Portland at an Elks
gathering in Salem, OR that year.
Fannie Crowley and her
girls survived Iroquois fire
Frank Hayes was twenty
Hull family of 4 perished
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