H. Norton (b. 1890) was twelve years old and
her sister, Martha "Mattie" S. Norton
(b.1886), was eighteen.
The girls were from Ewen,
Michigan, a tiny city in Ontonagan
County on Lake Superior in Michigan's
Ewen's days as a romping and stomping logging town
were on the decline by 1903 but for parents with
means, a better education in a more refined
atmosphere for their youngsters offered
understandable appeal. Ewen may have been rough and
tumble enough still in 1903 that safety was also a
consideration. If so, for her family there was
a cruel irony in losing their daughters in Chicago.
Mattie was enrolled in the
Academy of the Visitation Catholic boarding school
in Evanston, a Chicago suburb. Her younger
sister Edith may have been enrolled as well but most
newspapers reported that Edith was
visiting Mattie over the holiday. They
attended the play with a nun from Mattie's school.
Some early reports said the nun's body was missing
but there were no follow up stories with which to
learn the woman's name or verify her death.
Mattie would have been part of the third graduating
class from the Visitation Academy.
Edith Norton's body was
found at Thompson's Diner next to
the Iroquois Theater
soon after the fire, identified by J. H. Burke Jr.
A group that searched on for Mattie's body included
Rev. J. L. Hollinger of Ontonagon, as well as nuns
and priests from the school. Sister
M. Boniface would eventually identify Mattie's
The girls were buried in a double
grave at Holy Family Catholic Cemetery on Rockland
Road in Ontonagon, Michigan following a funeral at
the Holy Family church with services
conducted by three ministers: Rev. A. Hasenberg of
Michigamme, deacon Rev. P. Manderfield of Rockland
and subdeacon Rev. William Stahl of Dollar Bay.
A local newspaper
reported that over a thousand people paid their
respects, coming from surrounding towns, including
Calumet on a special train. Businesses and schools
in Ontonagon were closed.
The girls matching white
caskets were carried by sleigh to the
cemetery (befitting a logging community in the
winter) in funeral procession
of fifty carriages.
Pall bearers included Henry
Bush, Del Woodbury, Harry Vincent, Leo Prouix, C. F.
Corgan, Dr. F. W. McHugh, James Burke, Joseph
Follett Jr., Walter O'Brien, Aaron Dolan, Don
Loranger, Charles Mooney, Charles Dirr and Lee
Edith and Mattie were the
daughters of Irish immigrant Dennis
J. Norton (1859-1935) and
(1864-1843), married in 1884. They had
three other siblings:
Julia Hebert Norton Wilcox (1884-1945) whose
husband Thomas was involved in copper mining in
Silver City, Michigan,
Daniel Learned Norton (1892-1949) who served
in France during WWI and
John Norton (1894-___).
All the Norton children were born in Michigan.
had emigrated to
America from Ireland in 1872 as a teenager. He
worked in then founded a drugstore in
the 1880s then turned to farming and logging in the early 1900s. He
became prosperous in the White Pine logging era in
Michigan's Upper Peninsula. As president of
the Ontonagon Lumber & Cedar company he
contracted for millions of feet of pine in the days
before conservationist techniques were used.
Another of his companies was the
Norton Lumber Co. He was prominent in the
Calumet / Iron Mountain area, serving as Ewen's mayor
in the late 1890s.
years after the fire
Julia and Daniel married and
had families. They remained in Ontonagon until
the 1930s when Daniel relocated to New York.
After Dennis's death Martha moved in with Julia's
family. All of the family except John are
buried in the family plot in Ontonagon.
The Academy of the
Visitation school (also known as Academy of the
Visitation on Marian Place) at Ridge and Simpson was
closed in 1915 then reopened as the Marywood High
School, operating until 1970.