Forty-year-old Rachel "Hattie" E. Zug Secrist
(b.1865) and her eight-year-old daughter, June Secrest (b.1885), lived at 2839 Paulina St. in
north Chicago neighborhood in the Lake View
subdivision, today's Lincoln Square community. It is not known where in the
theater Hattie and June were seated but
they could have afforded seats of their choice.
Since there were few fatalities from the ground
floor, they may have been seated in the second floor
Hattie and June's bodies were not found for two
days, Hattie's at Gavins funeral home; the morgue
where June was found was not reported. They were
identified from their clothing by Columbus D. Hussey (1852-1925) and
their husband and
father, Charlie Secrist (1860-1923).
was Hattie's brother-in-law, married to Charlie
Secrist's sister, Maud. Columbus came from Dixon, Illinois,
roughly a hundred miles west of Chicago, to help the Secrists.
It is possible he arrived in Chicago and began the
search alone while Charlie Secrist traveled back to Chicago.
Charlie's boss, a powerful railroad manager, spent
much of his time on the road for Union Pacific,
traveling with a group of subordinates that included
stenographers and, perhaps, Charlie Secrist.
and Northwestern railroad donated use of two coaches
so that eighty people could travel from Chicago to
the the funeral in the Secrist's hometown, Franklin
Grove, Illinois. Held at the First Presbyterian
church on Tuesday, January 5, 1904, the service was
conducted by pastor Rev. Seldon. Hattie and
June were interred at Franklin Grove Cemetery,
resting place for several generations of Secrists
since settling there in the 1860s.
Charlie, Hattie and their
children had moved to Chicago in mid 1901 from
Omaha, Nebraska when Charlie was transferred, along
with his boss, John C. Stubbs, then traffic director
for Southern Pacific, to new positions at Ed
Harriman's lines at Union Pacific.
directly to Harriman, Stubbs, promoted to a vice
presidency, set rates for Union Pacific, Southern
Pacific, Oregon Short Line and Oregon Railway and
Navigation. As his chief clerk, Charlie Secrist would have had an front row seat to
Harriman's railroad dealings, including his hostile
take-over attempt of Northern Pacific Railroad.*
June, nicknamed "Junie,"
had three older siblings including Courtland Secrist
who worked for the Chicago and Northwestern
railroad at the time of the fire. Her sisters were eighteen-year-old Garnett Secrist (1885-1950) and
fourteen-year-old Frances, nicknamed "Frankie"
(1893-1922). It was not reported if
Garnett and Frances also attended the theater and
survived. Probably in the third grade, June was one of a thousand students at the
James B. McPherson Elementary School, and the only
victim from the school who died at the Iroquois.
Hattie's given name was
Rachel, named after her mother, Rachel Johnson Zug.
Hattie had seven siblings. Her mother was
still living at the time of the fire. Her
Israel Zug, had passed in 1894. In
Switzerland, from which came the first Zug's to
America, the word zug in German meant "train" and
was attached to various railway entities.
Charlie and Hattie most probably smiled about the
train girl marrying a train man.
In the years after
Charlie Secrist died in 1923 after a lifetime on the
railroad. At his death he was VP and General Manager of Pacific
Fruit Express with
responsibility for 30,000 leased refrigerator cars. Two of
his children, Courtland and Garnett, survived, along
with his grandchildren, June Betts and James C.
Ford, Frankie's son. I did not find evidence
that Charlie remarried.
In 1914 Garnett Secrist,
married to Curtis Betts, named
her daughter after her lost little sister June.
The marriage did not last and Garnett later married Ira B. Fry and moved to
Hinsdale, IL. Daughter June Betts (1914-2010) graduated from Smith
College, Northampton, Massachusetts in 1936, became a journalist and traveled
She married Henry H. Lyman in 1941. In 2008,
at age 94, she made a return visit to Bermuda, one
of the countries she'd visited in 1937.
Perhaps June was taught to take Hattie's and June
Secrist's unexpected deaths as a reminder to live
each day to its fullest.