Susan “Susie” Isabel Clay
(b.1856) was forty seven years old and taught third grade at Chicago’s Gallistel elementary school.*
She attended the Mr. Bluebeard matinee with
another Gallistel teacher,
Ellen "Ella" M. Fair,
and her sister, a retired Gallistel teacher, Maria
who were also fire victims, and her landlord,
Henrietta Collier, who survived.
A New York native, named after her mother, Susie was the daughter of Irish
immigrants, Samuel Henry Clay (1820-1873) and Susan Clay (1826-1866). She
had four siblings, Margaret Clay, Mary Clay, George Henry Clay and Elisabeth
Clay. Susie taught school for three years in Summit, New York, then taught
in Albany while a student. She graduated from the Normal School in Albany,
New York in June, 1887. Her first assignment as a degree-holding teacher was
in the little town of Rondout, N. Y.
the February, 1892 census she was listed as a
teacher living in Jefferson, NY but in 1891 was
listed in a city directory as a teacher living in
Chicago. According to the Gallistel school she did
not join their staff until 1895 or 1896 so there is
a fuzzy area in her residence and school assignment
Whenever she got to Chicago, Susie
Clay must have been a courageous woman to move so far from home and to a
city far larger than any she’d known. Albany had dwarfed her hometown but
Chicago dwarfed Albany.
Susie’s body was taken to Carroll’s mortuary in Chicago
and a funeral was held in Chicago at the Windsor
Park Methodist church. The casket was sealed
in a zinc case and shipped to Albany, New York,
accompanied by her younger brother George, where a
second funeral was held prior to her interment next
to her parents in the East Greenbush Cemetery in
Rensselaer County, New York.
1904 newspaper report inaccurately reported Susie's age as thirty six. As her
parents were deceased, burial arrangements for Susie were made by a sibling,
who may have remembered her date of birth incorrectly by a year or two when
ordering her tombstone. I think a newspaper error is more likely, however,
than that a sibling miss remembered her birth date by a decade.
A descendent wrote
a thoughtful piece about Susie Clay.
Engleheart Collier (1869-1920)
survived the Iroquois fire and alerted friends and
relatives about the possible loss of Susie Clay and
the Fair sisters. After a two-day search they
found Susie's body at the Carroll's funeral home.
Henrietta was the second wife
of baker David L. Collier. (Who commonly went
by "D. L. Collier.") The pair had married in
Detroit in 1898. They owned their home at 6409
Monroe, where they rented a room to Susie Clay.
It went on the market in 1897 for $5,000, described
as a modern, ten-room brick home. When
advertised for rent six months later it had lost two
rooms. One of the Colliers, presumably David,
advertised a room for rent a few weeks before his
marriage to Henrietta.
Henrietta was the daughter
of George Engleheart; her mother's name is not yet
Henrietta was active in
the Woodlawn Woman's Club and the Martha Washington