According to a story in the Corning, NY newspaper
(near Clara's hometown, Bath, NY), Daniel
Martin left his sons in
their seats in the balcony at the Iroquois,
intending to come back for them after helping Clara
escape. When he went back, it was too late. He found
his sons sitting in their seats, suffocated.
newspaper humbuggery. Even
allowing for women being more submissive in 1903, I
don't see Clara Martin being shuffled out while her
husband tells her children, "Sit tight, I'll be back."
Nor do I see even the most obedient of teenage boys
remaining in their seats with smoke thickening, the
house blanketed in darkness and people screaming. Yes, there
were burned corpses found in their seats (though the
quantity may have been as few as six, depending upon
the testimony, with the estimate of twenty by
fireman Roche the most credible). If the
Martin boys were in that handful, it is unlikely
Daniel Martin regained access to the auditorium
and found their bodies, or that firemen recognized
the bodies of the Martin boys and told him of their
location and position in the theater. There
were other such stories told, by out-of-town newspapers. Chicago newspaper
reporters knew better. So did Clara.
Thirty-one years after the fire when asked if her
sons died in their seats her response was less than
definitive. "Presumably," she said. See panel below for more
about the improbability of this story.
to other more reliable references, in Chicago newspapers, Daniel Martin found
and identified the bodies of both his sons at Rolston's
Martin boys' funeral was held on January 2, 1904, at
the St. Joseph's chapel at 121st and Eggleston in
rented at 11 Market Circle / 112th
Chicago in 1903. Daniel R. Martin, a Vermont native,
graduated from the Williston Seminary in
Massachusetts and attended Amherst and Cornell. He
located in Chicago in 1876 and in 1881 had become
principal of the Pullman
school at the northeast corner of 113th and
had married Clara Bell Campbell in Boston in 1888.
Clara was born in Illinois but grew up in Grove Springs, New York.
graduated from the Haverling Academy in Bath, New
and Harold weren't Clara and
Daniel's first experience with the grief of losing a
child. In 1895 they had lost an infant
years after the fire
February 13, 1904, Daniel and Clara testified about
their Iroquois Theater experience before the special
In April 1904 Clara Martin was one of a group working with
Viva Jackson's mother to assemble statistics
demonstrating that a
Memorial Iroquois hospital in
the Loop would have important benefits in saving
lives. In 1915 her prediction came true when the
S.S. Eastland excursion steamer rolled over in
the harbor, killing nearly 850 passengers.
First responders took many survivors to the Iroquois
According to 1910 census reports, almost a year to
the day after the Iroquois Theater fire a daughter
named Katherine was born.
the Martins had purchased their home at 12207
Eggleston. They were prosperous enough to
employ a live-in servant until at least 1920. Katherine went on to graduate from college, became a public
school teacher and married reverend Alexander Wood.
In 1940 Clara lived with Katherine and Alexander in
Duluth, Minnesota. The household later
relocated to Charlevoix,
Michigan where Clara spent her final days.
When asked in 1934 if she would rather have died at
the Iroquois with her sons, she spoke through the
perspective of a woman who had lived with their
deaths for over thirty years. "That is out of
our hands. I have tried to accept life as
courageously as possible. I have my daughter, and
that means a great deal. I do hope that persons
today hearing of our loss, and all those who
remember the Iroquois, will help observe safety