December 30, 1903, a party of four from Chicago
and Aurora, IL, went to an afternoon matinee of
Mr. Bluebeard at Chicago's newest luxury
playhouse, the Iroquois Theater. I believe they
sat separately, probably unable to get four
seats together. Two sat on the ground
floor and two in one of the balconies. One
in the group died at the theater when a stage
fire spread to the auditorium. Another
member of the party escaped from the theater and
survived for seventy-two days before succumbing
to her injuries.
They joined over six hundred other victims in
America's worst theater disaster.
Theater party members:
Holbrook Frazier, victim
Frazier, Mary's daughter, survivor
Elizabeth Carrington, Mary's aunt, victim
To connect the dots in the relationships in this
story, I need to go back a generation, to Henry
Carrington and his wife, Gabrielle Phillips
Carrington. From Middletown, Connecticut, they
relocated to Illinois in the early 1800s. They had
three daughters: Mary (1845-1920), Elizabeth
(1847-1903), and Lucy (1849-1904). Elizabeth,
Bessie, is the
victim who died seventy-two days after the fire.
Mary, the only one of the girls who married, had
three children. One of them, her namesake, Mary
Holbrook Frazier, died at the Iroquois while her
teenage daughter, Helen, escaped and
survived. Lucy and Mary looked after their sister
Bessie during her last weeks.
Edward Frazier (1863-1920)* married in 1889. Their first child,
Helen, came along in 1890 and Philip was born two
years later. They lived at 150 Highland Avenue in
Aurora, Illinois, west of Chicago.
On December 30, 1903, Mary and Helen, possibly
Bessie too,† probably rode a
train two hours into the city from Aurora. Edward
was in Ohio on business and went to bed on December
30th not knowing about the fire. He came down for
breakfast in the morning, picked up a newspaper, and
exclaimed, "My God, my wife is burned to death."
When he telephoned his home, Mary's death was
verified, and he learned that his daughter Helen was
still missing. (Helen did survive but may have been
hospitalized and not yet located by the family.)
Dunbar Holbrook Frazier (b. 1868) was the daughter
of Mary Starr Carrington Holbrook and reverend
Charles A. Holbrook (1843-1922. She was born in
Connecticut and grew up in New Hampshire with two
siblings. She was fourteen in 1883 when her father
resigned from St. Johns Episcopal Church in
Portsmouth, NH, and joined the Trinity Episcopal
Church in Aurora, Illinois. She was married to
Edward Frazier at Trinity in 1889, the service
performed by her father. Mary was buried on January
4, 1904, in Spring Lake Cemetery in Aurora, but her
remains were later moved to Fairmount Willow Hills
Thirteen year old Helen “Lillie” Frazier
(1890-1940), Mary’s daughter, also attended the
matinee but escaped, reportedly without injury.
Mary's body identified by
three different families
Edward Frazier was joined in his search of Chicago
morgues by Albert W. Clayton (1864-1946), manager at
a paint company. Mary's body was finally located at
Rolston's Undertaking, identified by her jewelry. To
her husband's dismay, relatives of two other victims
Forbes and Victoria
had also identified the body and jewelry.
had to prove to police that the body was Mary and
the jewelry his property. Perhaps with dental
records for the body and purchase receipts for the
jewelry. Albert Clayton described the dilemma
while in Racine, Wisconsin on business.
Elizabeth Phelps Carrington (b. 1847),
nicknamed Bessie, died seventy-two days after the
fire. That made her one of only a handful of
first-floor fatalities. She and Mrs. Lasky sat in
the middle of the first floor. During their escape,
Bessie was knocked to the floor. Her clothing torn,
she made it out of the theater, and some initial
newspaper reports were that she was injured but not
seriously. She returned to her home at 6536 Woodlawn
in the Hyde Park area west of Jackson Park. Her
sisters, Lucy Carrington and Mary Starr Carrington
Holbrook, both nurses, cared for her. For several
weeks it was thought Bessie would survive, but she
grew suddenly worse and died on March 10, 1904.
Newspapers reported that she suffered respiratory
difficulties from smoke inhalation and
overexcitement. A Connecticut newspaper reported
that she was badly burned.
Lucy were buried in the Indian Hill Cemetery in
known about or her relationship to
In the years after the fire
Lucy Carrington had some sort of surgery early in
1904 but insisted on caring for Bessie. In
October 1904, she passed away and newspapers implied
there was a connection between her death and overexertion
while caring for her sister.
Edward Frazier, was one of the first members of the
Iroquois Theater Memorial Society.
Mary’s eleven-year-old son, Philip Andrew Frazier
(1892-1950), did not go to the Iroquois Theater. A few
months later, his pet goat drew the family into a
lawsuit when it wandered into a neighbor's home and ate a
plant and sheet music. For his father, having
buried his wife and father (see below), the goat
incident may have brought a laugh. Philip
graduated from college, married a couple of times,
and worked in publishing and banking in Chicago.
Helen Frazier grew up, married Donald
G. Heinly and raised two or three children at their
home in Western Springs, Illinois. She and
Donald visited Hawaii in 1927.
Mary Carrington Holbrook and her husband celebrated
their fiftieth wedding anniversary in 1915.
Discrepancies and addendum
another Elizabeth Carrington from the Middletown,
Connecticut area, who was born the same year as the
Bessie Carrington who died from Iroquois Theater
injuries, but died in 1896. I suspect she was
Edward S. Frazier was an Illinois native
and son of one of Aurora’s most prominent citizens,
Walter S. Frazier. Walter founded a company to
manufacture buggies, racing sulkies and bicycles.
Frazier’s two hundred employees manufactured buggies
purchased by individuals and
for use by carriers making rural U.S. Mail
W. S. Frazier Company carts were
distinguished by ball bearings that
produced smoother rides with reduced oiling
requirements and improved durability. In addition to
his business interests, Walter Frazier published the
Aurora newspaper, served as mayor of Aurora,
Illinois, and was a director
in various banks and hospitals. Edward and his twin
brother, Walter, joined their father in the company
around 1885. Walter Frazier Sr. died two months
after the Iroquois fire. His obituary and that
of Elizabeth Carrington appeared on the same day in
newspapers. His granddaughter and Iroquois
fire survivor, Helen, entered trotting horse Markey
in the 1908 Wheaton, Illinois Fair.
† According to the 1900
U.S. Census, Bessie and Lucy lived then with Charles
and Mary Holbrook at 125 West Avenue in Aurora.
Bessie worked at the Frazier carriage company.
They may have still resided there in 1903 but at the
time of her death, Bessie's address was reported as
6536 Woodlawn in Chicago. It was a seven-room
flat so she did not live there alone. If Mrs.
Lasky/Laskey/Laski was a roommate, I failed to find
evidence of it :(
5 year old Gracie Dawson from Barrington, IL
Moak and Mead family
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