Seventeen-year-old Gertrude Eloise Swayze,
fourteen-year-old Hazel Grace Browne and a
sixteen-year-old relative of Hazel's named Harold
Browne attended Mr. Bluebeard
during Christmas break in 1903, sitting in the third
row of the first balcony. The girls attended a
girls school called "St. Mary's" in 1903-4
newspapers, and were supposedly at the same school,
but other points of the reports were in error so
that too may be incorrect.
Harold survived and that is
all I know about him. He was probably Hazel's
cousin, son of one of her late father Franklin
Some newspapers reported that both
girls attended Saint Mary
of the Woods near Terre Haute, Indiana. The
library there was kind enough to do some research
and neither girl was a student there. Other
reported both attended St. Mary's at Notre Dame,
Indiana. Another source split them up,
reporting that Hazel
attended the "St. Mary Convent" in South Bend, and Gertrude Saint Mary of the Woods.
Gertrude Eloise Swayze
Gertrude's mother sent a family
friend to search the morgues in search of her
seventeen year old daughter's body. He found a badly
burned victim that seemed right and brought her home
but it was not the right girl. The body was
returned, the search begun again, this time with the
mother joining in, and Gertrude was identified.
(The initial body brought home was Frances Maddox
Michigan in 1888, Gertrude was the daughter of Ogden
Clark Swayze (1853-1923) and Julia Isabel Bennett
(1865-1949). She was named after her aunt, Gertrude Bennett.
Married in 1885, Julia and Ogden
were divorced before their twelfth year. Julia was Ogden's
first or second wife. His subsequent wife died
in 1901 and he married again weeks before Gertrude's
death. Though Ogden fathered five
children, only one was born before Gertrude's death
so she lived her short life as an only child.
Julia remarried in 1918, to a shoe salesman, and
spent her final years in Los Angeles, California.
Julia and Ogden lived in
Michigan, as did their parents. After their divorce,
Gertrude remained with her grandparents while Julia
went to Chicago to build a millinery
business. Nathaniel Wallis
Bennett (1841-1925) and Francis
Bennett (1854-1915) lived
in the village of Columbiaville,
Michigan, northeast of Flint, where
Nathaniel worked as a bookkeeper.
Julia was one of two children born to the Bennetts.
Though her legal name was Julia
Bennett Swazey, she went by Lulu B. Bennett in 1903.
In 1900 she lived at 160 42nd Place in Chicago with
two boarders and a servant. After the fire
she lived at the corner of
Normal and 56th (between today's Sherwood and Hope
parks. I found several addresses for her hat shop,
including the Drexel Hotel at
3968 Drexel Blvd.
Two years after Gertrude's
death, her grandparents moved to South Dakota where
they remained until their deaths.
In 1914 they celebrated their 50th wedding
anniversary in Mellett, SD.
Gertrude is buried with her
grandparents in the
Oxford Cemetery in Oakland, Michigan.
Hazel Grace Browne
Learning so much about Gertrude
Swayze makes it doubly frustrating to have learned
very little about Hazel Grace Browne. Her body was identified by a T. C. Newman
and in 1903 her family lived at 94 31st street in
Chicago. (Today that address on 31st street
would give them a front row seat at soccer and
lacrosse games at Stuart Field.
Hazel (b. August, 1890) was
the daughter of
Kleme (or Klemme)
Browne (1864-1921),* a
widow. Hazel had one sibling, an
older brother named Franklin Browne
(1885-). Hazel, Clara and Franklin were all from
Illinois. Clara's father had been
Hazel is buried at Oak
Woods Cemetery in Chicago.
In the years after the fire
Hazel Browne's mother, Clara, helped Maude Jackson,
mother of Iroquois victim
Viva Jackson, to organize volunteer girls groups
for fund raising events for the Iroquois Memorial
Hospital. Her son, Franklin Browne Jr., became a
military major during WWI and Clara did volunteer
work for the war effort. Franklin became a
realtor and in the early 1920s was active in the Ku