James was in in his late sixties when he traveled to Chicago to
find the body of his
forty-one-year-old son, Charles D. James jr.
Presumably he was alerted to his son's death by a
telegram but the sender is not known. Perhaps
daughter-in-law, Mildred. It is
also not known if he was joined on the trip by his wife, Sarah, or if
she remained at their home in Detroit, Michigan.
Was Charles' wife, Mildred, in
Chicago at the time of the fire or at their home in
Davenport, Iowa? Was she at the theater with
him and survived?
1860 found John James
(1806-1893) and his son, Charles B. James
(1835-1918) operating a hardware store in Detroit,
then a city with a population of around 45,000.
John's first wife and Charles's mother, Emily
Watkins James (1818-1836), had passed soon after
giving birth to Charles.
Adeline E. Rutter (1809-1882), his second wife, had
raised Charles alongside her niece and nephew, Sarah
and Louis Dalby.* Growing up so close, like siblings but not, it
probably came as no surprise when Charles and Sarah Dalby (1841-1917) married in 1857. They had
nine children during their sixty years together, all
born in the Detroit area, and lived long enough to
John retired and closed his
retail store but Charles remained in the hardware
business, working as the Detroit area sales
representative for Russell, Burdsall & Ward Bolt &
Nut Company. He prospered in the position, in
1898 able to pay $7,000 cash (nearly $200,000 in 2017
dollars) for their home at 43 Erskine Street in
Detroit. Gone now, it was a three-story brick
and stone structure with ten rooms and a bath on a
25' x 100' lot. An advertisement for the property
described the bath as luxurious, equipped with marble porcelain tubs. It was finished in hardwood, had
double floors and offered both gas and electric
In 1900 Charles and Sarah lived
with two of their grown children - Worthington
James, a stenographer for the Lawrence Publishing
Company, and Gertrude Adeline James, their youngest.
Their son, Charles Dalby
James jr. (1862-1903), followed his grandfather and
father into the hardware business. As a sales
representative for the Sall Mountain Asbestos
company, operating out of Davenport, Iowa, Charles
traveled the Midwest selling asbestos pipe
insulation for large-scale building projects at
universities and other institutions. Sall
Mountain Astestos was headquartered in St. Louis, mined in
White County Georgia and maintained several offices
around the country, including one in Chicago, at
It was not reported why
Charles was in Chicago on December 30, 1903 but it
is assumed he was there on business with the Chicago
Sall Mountain office. It is
also not known if his wife, the former Mildred
Miller (1872-1948), was with him in Chicago.
The pair had married in1896 in Missouri and had not
yet started a family, increasing the possibility
that she traveled with him over a holiday.
Charles' body was found at
St. Luke's hospital and transported to Detroit for
burial. His afternoon funeral was held at
his father's home on January
2, 1904 and at the Episcopal church, the services
conducted by reverend Charles E. Woodcock.
Pallbearers were Wells Utley, Harry C. James, Fred
R. Perry, George Baker, J. Crapo Cristy and William
Both Chicago and Detroit
issued death certificates. The
Detroit document reported that he was buried in
Detroit's Elmwood Cemetery, as had newspapers, but that cannot yet be
confirmed by online burial records. Elmwood is
cited as the burial place for other James family
members but 30% of the 18,000+ graves at
Elmwood have yet to be added to Find-A-Grave.
In the years after the fire
Charles' wife, Mildred,
remarried in 1908, to another traveling salesman -
John Hopkins Stearns. They settled in Madison, Ohio
and had one child, a daughter named Harriet.
Sarah and Charles B. James
passed in 1917 and 1918. Gertrude kept
newspapers updated on her travels; her date of death
is not known. Worthington
died at age seventy of heart failure and exposure in 1939 at the
Eloise Institution, the Wayne County, Michigan poor