The Freer family was well known in Galesburg,
Illinois, a city in 1903 of around 20,000 people,
165 miles southwest of Chicago. Francis "Frank" A.
Freer (1843-1909) was the postmaster there, and his
wife of thirty-three years, Elizabeth "Jennie"
Christy Freer (b.1849), was involved in the
Presbyterian church. Their five children, three boys
and two girls, graduated from Galesburg schools.
In 1903, the Freers spent the Christmas holiday in
Chicago* with the youngest daughter and her husband.
Twenty-six-year-old Alda Mary Freer Henry (b.1878)
and Guy A. Henry (1878-1967),† married in mid1902,
lived at 1198 Wilton Avenue in Chicago. Guy worked
as a clerk for the Chicago branch of American
After Christmas, everyone returned to their homes
except Mary's mother, fifty-three-year-old Elizabeth
Jennie Christy Freer (b.1850), who extended her
visit with her daughter for a few more days.
When word of the fire at the Iroquois Theater spread
through the city, Guy Henry cabled the news to his
father-in-law, Frank Freer, that the women had not
returned from the theater. Frank contacted his son,
twenty-three-year-old Morton Freer (1880-1948), who
lived in Rock Island, and both men took trains into
Chicago. They checked in to the Palmer House and
began searching for Jennie's and Mary's bodies.
Joining the search effort were five men, Mr.
Frohlich, John Platt, Major McClelland, Henry Hill
and James Howe. Their relationships to the family
are not known. Frohlich was probably liquor
wholesaler Solomon Frohlich of Galesburg.
Mary's body was found first, on Thursday, the day
after the fire. Jennie's body was not found until
two days after the fire, on January 2, 1904, at
Rolston's funeral home. Her body was identified by
Frank. He had spent hours going through morgues and
hospitals, including Rolston's Undertaking on
Thursday, but did not recognize Jennie then. Though
not severely burned, her face was blackened by soot
and blue from suffocation. On the second visit, he
recognized her blouse, a gift from him. All her
jewelry was recovered, having been retrieved and
cataloged by the police department. She was body
Funeral and burial
Jennie's and Mary's bodies were sent back to
Galesburg by rail in a private coach donated by Hale
D. Judson, superintendent of Chicago, Burlington,
and Quincy Railway (many years later absorbed into
the Burlington Northern Railway). A group of friends
and Odd Fellows club members from the Veritas Lodge
met the train upon arrival.
In Galesburg, the Kimber & West funeral home
performed embalming and burial services. A double
funeral was held on Monday after the fire at the First
Presbyterian Church with
services conducted by pastor Dr. William Spence, who
had officiated at Mary and Guy's wedding. Burial was
at the Hope Cemetery in Galesburg.
In attendance at Jennie and Mary's funeral were
many members of G.A.R. Post 45, of which Frank was a
member. Many flags in Galesburg were flown at
half-mast and, as the funeral procession passed down
Main St., other churches in the city added their
bells to those of the Presbyterian.
Freers in happier times
Mary Freer Henry had graduated from the music
conservatory at Knox
1900. Her sister, Lizzie Freer Walker, and two of
her brothers, Charles Freer and Howard Freer, were
also Knox graduates. A third brother, Morton,
graduated from another Galesburg university, Lombard