In the Pilat and Kwapil
theater party, three survived and one did not.
lived at 1633 34 Humboldt Blvd. in Chicago (renamed
Logan Blvd., in
Logans Square). She went to the theater
with her mother, Mary Pilat,
younger sister, Gertrude H.
Pilat, and a
distant cousin visiting from
Wisconsin, Cecelia Kwapil.
(The Pilat family had lived in
Watertown before moving to Chicago and still had
The matinee at the
Iroquois was a girls trip. Left at home were
Josephine and Gertrude's older brothers, Robert
and George, and Mary's
parents, Joseph and Katie Pilat who lived
with the family. The party of four were seated
in the third floor gallery, six rows from the front.
Josephine Pilat (1890-1903) - fatality - thirteen
Yates school along with another Iroquois fire
body was identified by her father, Ignac J.
As a young man Ignac was a butcher in his father's
meat market. As an adult he remained in the food
industry, forming a commissioned brokerage for eggs
and poultry on the Poultry Board with Louis H.
Brink, doing business in the South
Water St. market.
Josephine's funeral was held the morning of Sunday,
January 3, 1904 and burial was in the Pilat family
plot at the Bohemian National Cemetery in Chicago.
Her name was not added to the grave marker.
Gertrude Helen Pilat
(1893-1978) - survivor - ten years old
Gertrude, who went
by her middle name, Helen, most of her life was burned on the
head and hands but not badly enough to require
It is not known if she followed her
mother on a plank across Couch Place.
Mary Pilat (1866-1958) - survivor
- thirty-seven years old
Mary escaped from the auditorium by
crawling across a plank to Northwestern.
It was reported that she had anxiously
watched the struggle to lower the fire curtain, sure
it would end the risk.
Cecelia A. Kwapil (1889-1930) - survivor
- fourteen years old, from Watertown, Wisconsin
/ Celia was badly injured with burns to her
ears but recovered.
She escaped by crawling
between the railing irons on the topmost fire escape
platform, swinging from there to drop onto the next
lower fire escape platform and repeating the process
to drop onto a third platform at a second floor fire
escape exit, then jumping to the alley below,
fortunately not suffering any broken limbs. A
man picked her up briefly, probably getting her out
of the way of other jumping and falling bodies.
It was not reported whether she headed west to
Dearborn street or east to State street. She
first entered a crowded restaurant but for some
reason left there and went on to a dentist office
where someone telephoned a sister. Cecilia
spent several days in bed while her wounds were
She was the
daughter of Frank and Mary Kwapil, natives of
Czechoslovakia, like the Pilats,
and the sister of
eleven or twelve siblings. The Kwapil family lived nearby Ignac's
parents, Anna and Wenzel Pilat. The
Kwapil family name was mistakenly spelled as Knapel,
Knopel, Kwapel and even Kwafril.
years after the fire
attended the Illinois Institute
of Technology (IIT),
married Lester Stevenson
in 1916, gave birth to a Lester
junior, lived in Minnesota for awhile,
traveled to Europe and spent their final years in
California where she is buried. Her
brother, Robert, settled in California, too, and
Mary joined her children there after Ignac's death.
Joseph Ceurvorst in 1923 but that may have
been another woman by the same name. She
worked as a stenographer and bookkeeper.