Charles LaVerne Roberts (b.1873)
was the pastor at the Hamlin Avenue Methodist Church
in Chicago. A month shy of his thirty-first
birthday, the clergyman succumbed to his
injuries January 16, 1904 at the West Side hospital,
bringing the victim total to 572. It was
reported that until his last two days, he was expected to live.
Respiratory problems were attributed.
One source reported that Charles had wandered around
outside the theater, dazed for a time, taken to a hospital. He was described as "burned and frozen,"
indicating that the time spent outside the theater,
as much as an hour according to one report, with the
temperature at two degrees, worsened his condition.
Reportedly amputation of his hands was considered.
A native of Pennsylvania and son of William Leach
Roberts (1848-1924) and Nancy Failes Roberts
(1850-1928), Charles graduated from the Boston
Theological Seminary in 1898. He and Edith
Harsh (1879-) had married four years before and had one son,
De Witt L. Roberts (1896-1963), age seven when he
lost his father.
In Chicago the Roberts family lived
at 279 Drake Avenue,
sharing their home with Edith's widowed mother,
Isabelle Beatty Harsh (1849-1929).
Funeral and burial
Charles L. Roberts was buried in Fredonia,
Pennsylvania at the Millbank Cemetery.
Both his parents and two brothers were still living
at the time of his death. Held at
the Hamlin Avenue church, his funeral service was led by Bishop
Merrill, Dr. Cady and Morton C. Hartzell.
Hamlin Avenue Church
The Methodist Episcopal
church on Hamlin Avenue was at the corner of Huron
St. in the Humbolt Park area. Charles may have
begun as assistant to reverend Clarence Abel but by
1903 he was the primary pastor for the church.
He had served at three churches prior to coming to
the Hamlin Avenue church: Crawford, Douglas Park and
Berwyn. Charles joined his friend George Studley
in working with the Actors Church Alliance and in
founding the Church of all Strangers for transients,
incorporated eight months before the Iroquois fire.
In the years after the fire
Charles left behind
$200, comparable to $5,000 today. It would
have paid to ship and bury his body in Fredonia, and
bought a little time for Edith and De Witt to start
anew. They moved to Berwyn, Illinois, a suburb
west of Chicago, taking along Edith's
mother, Isabelle. In 1909 Edith received a
$750 settlement from Fuller Construction, one of
only thirty-five issued for Iroquois Theater
victims. In 1910 Edith worked as a
newspaper editor. She later completed her college
education and became a high school teacher. In
the 1920 U.S. Census she reported a husband, teacher
Robert S. Roberts, who was gone by the 1930 census.
I failed to find record of their marriage, divorce
or his death.
a year in college, in 1917, De Witt tried farming in Colorado.
It kept him out of Europe during WWI. He
later became a realtor. He married in 1921 and
had three daughters, of which two did not survive to
adulthood. In 1930 he and his wife lived
with his mother. According to his WWI draft
registration he inherited his father's fair
complexion. He gave his mother's name, Edith,
to one of his daughters as a middle name.
demands of their churches, families and missionary work in Chicago, the energetic pace
required of Charles and George might have exhausted
older or less enthusiastic men. They were
clearly not motivated by money. Paid $600 a
year, comparable to the average wages of a
government worker then, and to $16,000 today, their compensation was twenty
percent less than the average for ministers at the
time. Presumably their compensation would have
increased with their experience;
still, it was modest pay when you consider
that minister's wives are often very
involved in the church as well.
One contemporary blogger refers to it as
"two for one" bargain.
Reverend George Howard Studley (b.1874)
was pastor at the Asbury Methodist Episcopal church
at 31st St. and 3115 Parnell Avenue (previously 3115 Shurtleff) in Chicago.
He was two months from his thirtieth birthday. George
had graduated from Boston University's Divinity
School in 1896, two years before his friend, Charles
George's body was identified by
Morrison,** who lived at 3036 Parnell.
Morrison and Dr. Joseph H. McDonald (another Boston
U graduate) began searching for
George's body around 7:30 the night of the fire.
A tip from a police officer took them to Gavin's
mortuary where he was identified around 11:00 pm.
It was reported that
George H. Studley was found dead in his
seat. Other claims of individuals being
identified while still at the theater are doubtful but in George's case, it may have been
true. The difference is that his role as a
pastor and missionary work with Chicago's transient
population made him familiar to many, thus increasing the possibility of a
rescue worker recognizing his body.
Alta sent a telegram to
George's parents, George (1848-1906) and Abbie Studley
(1855-1919) and sister, Ruby, informing them of
their son's death and to alert them that the body
would be transported immediately to California.
She and the children
boarded a train for San Francisco on New Years day,
two days after the fire. Reportedly neighbors
helped pack up the Studley's furniture and
belongings for transport. Waiting in
California was Alta's large family, including many
siblings and her parents.
In 1902 Chicago had taken
her fourth child, an infant, and now her husband.
Little wonder if she fled the cold Midwest and never
Married in 1894, George
and Alta C. DeWolfe (1875-1961) had three children: seven-year-old George Jr. (1896-1973), six-year-old
Alta (1897-1975) and four-year-old Hillman
(1899-1951). The family lived on
Parnell Ave near his Asbury church.
Funeral and burial
Funeral services were held at 11:00 am on Wednesday,
January 1904 at Grace Methodist Episcopal church at
21st and Capp in San Francisco. Dr. McClish,
president of the University of the Pacific and one
of George's mentors,
conducted the funeral services. The bond
between he and George was such that George gave his first born son the
middle name McClish. The invocation was given by Dr.
F. D. Bovard, editor of the California Christian
George was buried in
Cypress Lawn Memorial Park in Colma, CA. His
wife and children joined him there in subsequent years.
The 40' x 60' brick and stone Asbury
Methodist Episcopal church in Chicago was completed in
1884 at a cost of $5,290. George's prior
assignments had been the Lisbon Church
in 1901, then Centenary and the Francis Willard
While the pastor at Asbury,
George and Charles Roberts
created Church of all Strangers, for transients,
headquartered at the Auditorium Annex Hotel, and the Chicago chapter of
Actors Church Alliance (ACA).***
George also created a Parish Reading College, as he
had in Lisbon, sharing his personal library of
around 100 books with interested
In the years after the fire
George left $4,100 in
life insurance policies that helped his
family make a new start in San Francisco. By
1910 Alta owned her home there. All three
children married and had families. Alta did a
bit of traveling and lived to see the births of several
grandchildren and great grandchildren but also lived long enough to suffer the death in 1951 of her
youngest son, Hillman Q. Studley. In the 1930s
she operated an "Old Ladies Home" with
Episcopal was the first Methodist denomination in
the United States. In
1939 it was melded with others to form the Methodist
Church and, in 1968, the Methodist Church was melded
with others to form today's United Methodist Church.
George Studley and Charles Roberts were members of
the Rock River Conference (1840-1968),
representing Methodist Episcopal churches in Chicago and northern
Illinois. Today's Northern Illinois Conference
grew out of the Rock River Conference.
George's Asbury church was
named after Francis Asbury, the first Methodist
Episcopal minister in America. Chicago's
Francis Asbury M.E. Society had been organized in 1873.
may have been related to Alta as her father's
middle name was Morrison. He and his family
were likely members of
George Studely's Asbury Methodist church on Parnell.
1904 newspaper lists cited Morrison's first initials as "W.
M." but the only man found at his address at 3036
Parnell in 1903 was Charles C. Morrison,
manufacturer of paint chip color matching cards.
His wife, Alice Morrison, was on the Board of
Managers of the Northwestern Branch Women's Foreign
Missionary Society of the Methodist Episcopal
***Imported from London in
1899, the Actors Church Alliance was an outgrowth of the Social Gospel movement. It was
founded on the premise that society's best interests
would be served by a cooperative rather than an
adversarial relationship between the church and the
theater. Participating pastors, primarily
Episcopal, sought to
influence theatrical offerings by supporting
"wholesome entertainment" that included a
dollop of religious doctrine. By 1902 there were
four hundred chapters and 2,250 members, including
850 pastors. Chicago's chapter of Actors Church Alliance
disbanded in 1909 amidst bickering between