Thirty-year-old Dora A. Mitchell (b.1870) was a
public school teacher at the Charles R. Darwin
elementary school where she taught mathematics. She
had grown up in Lockport, Illinois, a town of around
2,600 residents then, about thirty miles southwest
of Chicago and five miles north of Joliet, Illinois.
She relocated to Chicago around 1901.
It is not known who
else was in Dora's party at the
Iroquois. Though over forty school teachers lost
their lives at the Iroquois, no others were from the Darwin school.
Dora’s body was taken to Jordan's funeral home where
it was identified by a search party from Lockport:
Father James McGovern, Walter Fiddyment and another
member of the Fiddyment family. From Lockport
they would probably have traveled on the Chicago and
Alton Railway to Chicago.
Dora was the
oldest child of Irish immigrants, boat caulker* Patrick
Mitchell (1835-1912) and Mary Ann Hyland Mitchell
(1844-1932), who had married in 1868.
Patrick came to America in 1836 and Mary in 1855.
educated at the Convent of the Sacred Heart in
Lockport, conducted by the Sisters of Providence,
and prior to assignment at the Darwin school in Chicago,
was one of three teachers at the South Lockport
school, earning $27 per month during the school
In early 1900 Dora
had still lived in Lockport with her parents, sister
and grandmother. She and her younger sister, Mary
(also the name of her mother and grandmother) were
the only two surviving of five children born born to
Mitchell’s owned their home, making theirs part of
forty five percent of owner-occupied Illinois households in 1903, but among a
smaller proportion of Iroquois Theater families. I
have not tracked it, so cannot supply a proportion
to substantiate my observation, but have noticed so
few home owners that it is a small surprise to see
funeral was held at St. Denis Church† on Saturday,
January 2, 1904 with a Solemn High Mass sung by
Dora's cousin, Father Joseph
(1876-1958)‡ of St. Mary of the Lakes Church.
of the teachers who died at the Iroquois, Dora
had a $1,000 life insurance policy (roughly $20,000
years after the fire
mother was oftentimes ill in 1905-6 but reports of
her health disappeared from newspapers thereafter.
Discrepancies and addendum
* Located on
the Des Plaines River, Lockport, IL boasted of being
home to the controlling works of the Chicago
Drainage Canal with offices there for the Illinois
and Michigan Canal headquartered in Joliet, IL.
The canal was the water link between the Great
Lakes and the Mississippi River. Other channels and
railroads eventually reduced Lockport's importance
as a waterway transportation hub but for most of
Patrick's life there were many employers there
connected with the canal, including boatyards.
In 1904 the community was home to ten churches, one
bank, public and parochial schools, electric car
lines and one weekly newspaper.
† St. Denis is still in
operation but the name is now spelled with two nn's.
‡ Ordained in
1900, Joseph had been at St. Finbarr's parrish in
Chicago assisting Father Judge until transferred to
Our Lady of the Lake in 1903. In the 1920s he became
pastor at Our Lady of Mount Carmel where he remained
for the rest of his life. He was related to
Dora's mother on the Hyland side of the family, his
parents being James E. Casey (1841-1929) and
Margaret Hyland (1846-1919)