Emory and Sarah Hewins
traveled to Chicago to spend the holidays with their
daughter, Eugenia, and her husband, Sam Muir.
On Wednesday, December 30, 1903, Sam and Eugie took
her parents and Sam's sister, Essie, to Chicago's
newest playhouse, the Iroquois Theater, for an
afternoon matinee of Klaw and Erlangers new
extravaganza, Mr. Bluebeard. In the party of
five, only Essie escaped from the theater alive but
died nine days later.
Muir Jr. (b. 1869),
Kentucky born, went by Gus. He was thirty-four years
worked as a traveling salesman for
T. B. Laycock, an Indianapolis-based bed
manufacturer, and managed the Chase Furniture rooms
in the Chicago Mart. His father
inherited Gus's $3,000
life insurance policy.
Eugenia Hewins Muir,
nicknamed "Eugie" (b.
1870) was thirty-three years old. She had one sister, Anna Hewins
Brashear. Sam Muir and Eugenia had married in 1892.
Sam and Eugie's only child, a daughter named Hortense, died
in infancy two years before her parents, Emory and
Sarah Hewins (at right).
Estelle Margery Muir nicknamed
(1874) . She worked as a stenographer.
She and her brother Sam Muir were the children of Samuel Muir Sr.
Margaret Brazelton Muir (1845-1937) with two other siblings:
Herman Muir (1876-1915) and Mary Alice Muir Clark
(1870-1948).* Estelle lived with Sam and
Eugenia at 301 Winthrop in Chicago.
Sam and Eugenia's bodies
were identified by a nephew, William S. Moore, and Essie's by she
and Sam's brother in law, Charles Harris
Clark, married to their sister, Mary Alice.*
Essie was conscious for a while when she first
reached the Polyclinic hospital,
frantic with concern for the others in her party.
Nine days later she succumbed to severe burns on her head,
arms and back. Reportedly her funeral was held
on Tuesday, January 12, 1904.
Sam, Eugenia and Estelle
were buried at Oak Hill Cemetery in Evansville,
Hewins (b. 1841) was
sixty-one years old. He was a minister.
He was the son of wagon maker Erwin / Elmer Hewins
and Maria Hewins.
Sarah L. Ravenscroft Hewins
(b. 1842) was sixty years old. She was the
daughter of school teacher Stephen and Anne Taylor
Ravenscroft. In addition to Eugenia, Emory and
Sarah had a second daughter, Anne Hewins Brashear,
married to minister named Turner Brashear.
Emery and Sarah lived in
Petersburg, in southwest Indiana, a town with a
population in 1903 of around 1,900, midway between
St. Louis and Louisville. Their bodies
were identified by William S. Moore, a relative of
Sarah's. It was reported that
both were trampled to death. They married in 1864.
Newspapers reported that
Emery and Sarah had never before been in a theater
and went to the Iroquois only to please their
daughter, Eugenia. I found references to Emery
involvement with both Presbyterian and Methodist
Episcopal churches. Safe to say his friends
and family may have been shocked to learn he'd gone
to a theater. Many a Sunday sermon in 1903
addressed the evils of playhouses. So strong
was the anti-theater sentiment that one
Methodist school in Wisconsin declined a substantial
bequest from a Iroquois victim because the man
died at the theater.
Emery and Sarah were
buried at the Walnut Hill Cemetery in Petersburg,
years after the fire
Samuel Muir Sr. and his wife,
Margaret, left Evansville for the Cleveland, Ohio
area in hopes the changed location would ease the
grief over the loss of their son and daughter.
It didn't and in 1908 they returned to Evansville to occupy a
four-room cottage within sight of Sam and Essie's
graves at Oak Hill. Sam helped maintain the
cemetery in exchange for lodging and a small salary.
Eugenia's sister, Anne Hewins
Brashear, had seven children and died at age
Discrepancies and addendum
As of 7/26/16
Find-A-Grave mistakenly reports Estelle was Sam's
wife rather than his sister.
Some newspapers made a mess of
reporting the relationships in this family. At Essie's death
they reported that she'd been at the Iroquois with
her two sisters.
reported the day after the fire that Gus's brother, Herman Muir, traveled to
Chicago, hoping to speak
with his sister Essie and to identify Gus and Eugie's bodies
but that Essie died before he
reached Chicago and Gus and Eugenia's bodies were
identified by others. In contradiction, on
January 29, 1904 the Chicago Inter Ocean
newspaper reported that "H. Muir," arrived in time
to speak with Essie before her death. The
Inter Ocean identified "H. Muir" as being
Essie's father, though he was her brother. The
story was based on a letter said to have been
received by coroner Traeger from "H. Muir" stating
that Essie told him she caught the ladder thrust
across Couch Place alley to the third floor window
of the Iroquois by the painters at Northwestern.
Essie's father's name was Samuel Augustus Muir, not
Herman, but was still living so could have written
such a letter, and his home in Evansville, Indiana
would have enabled him to reach Chicago by rail
before his daughter died. The story itself,
about Essie catching the ladder, is iffy. A
ladder long enough to reach across Couch Place would
have weighed over 60 pounds. Men on the other
side bore most of that weight but manhandling the
other end would have taken strength. Adrenalin
in the face of terror sometimes gives a person
uncharacteristic strength but a lengthy story in an
Indianapolis newspaper, related to the reporter by
Essie's sister in law, Herman's wife, described
Essie frantically beseeching her rescuers to save
her companions - as she was pulled from fire through
a window. Could her pleas have been made to
the painters at Northwestern when she reached the
other end of the ladder and was entering
Northwestern? It is safe to say she was not
pulled through a window in the Iroquois. The
only remotely accessible windows were on the ground
floor and Essie was in a balcony. To further
complicate, the Indianapolis newspaper who ran the
story was the most inaccurate/dishonest I've found
of the hundreds of newspapers who ran stories about
the Iroquois fire.
If you have additional
info about an Iroquois victim, or find an error, I would like to
hear from you. Chaos and communication limitations of 1903
produced many errors I'm striving to correct and welcome all the help I can get. Space is provided at the
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