things in common, including daughters in danger
Michael Doherty and John
Ericson began their careers for the city the same
year, 1897. They each had just one child, a
fifteen year old daughter. On December 30,
1903 those daughters were together at the Mr.
Bluebeard matinee when word spread through City
Hall that the Iroquois Theater was on fire.
Michael and John were across the street at the scene
of the fire before a call came into their offices
that the girls were back home, missing some outer
garments but safe and sound.
Mildred Ericson and Katherine
Doherty had arrived late
to the theater and could
only get standing seats (floor unknown, probably
1st or second). It was not reported whether
someone went to the fire to try to find the men and
deliver the good news about their daughters.
Doherty came through
Doherty soon had a job
to do that required him to put his worry about
Katherine on the back burner. Acting commissioner of public works,
William F. Brennan, learned that
fire chief Musham needed
wagons to carry the dead to
what in the final count would be thirteen morgues.
Brennan told Doherty to get it done.
Doherty delivered the 1st
ward -- all 150 workers and 70 wagons from the
street department were soon assembled in the
City Yard at the foot of Randolph street, ready for
Michael J. Doherty (1866-1909) was
superintendent of Chicago's 19,000 miles of streets
and alleys, appointed by democratic mayor,
Carter Harrison Jr. John E. Ericson
(1859-) was city engineer and a member of the board
of local improvements. He became the city's
Tunnel Master and served on the committee that made
Navy Pier a reality.
Reportedly Michael's job was
a reward for his campaigning for Harrison in the
stockyards district. Ericson got his job by
passing a civil service exam. Both would endure
condemnation in newspapers from political opponents
before their careers were over. Doherty was
accused of incompetence, Ericson of improper
Michael's career was ended
by death from a stroke in 1909 when he was
forty-three.* Ericson's career, and $10,000
salary, came to an end in 1919 when mayor Thompson
wanted to put his own man in the job.
From Brooklyn, NY, one of
six children born to Irish immigrants, Michael and
Mary Doherty, Michael J. Doherty was raised in Boston and came
to Chicago in 1880 with his parents. He went
to work at the stockyards and by 1888 won political
office as the clerk in the former town of Lake (now
part of Chicago). From 1890 to 1897 he worked
as an undertaker.
His daughter, Katherine A. Doherty
(1887- ), was named
after her mother, Katherine "Kitty" Mullaney.
Kitty died sometime before 1899 and Michael
remarried, to Theresa Dowling. After Michael's
death in 1909, Theresa petitioned the court to
legally adopt Katherine. By age
twenty, Katherine had lost her birth mother, gained
a stepmother, survived the
Iroquois Theater fire, lost her father and gained an
adoptive mother. I failed to learn what became
Katherine after 1913.
Mildred Ericson (1887-1957)
married Ralph Quinlan of Evanston in 1913.
Katherine served as her maid of honor.† Mildred and Ralph were still together in the 1940s,
living in California.
John Ericson, a native of Sweden, and his wife
(maybe named Esther, or Bertha) remained in Chicago.
Discrepancies and addendum
* One day after work, Doherty
went to a sporting event, as a spectator, with his
John Traeger (coroner during Iroquois Theater
investigation). At home later, Doherty took
his dog for a walk, came home, keeled over and died.
He left behind an estate valued at $65,000.
According to one Chicago newspaper report Doherty
spent winters in California but notice of his estate
was published in a Salt Lake City newspaper.
It wasn't mentioned anywhere else outside Chicago so
it seems likely the Doherty's had Utah connections.
† Katherine was also in the
wedding party of Rosina Powers, daughter of
Harry Powers, co-owner of the Iroquois.