The tragedy of the Iroquois fire sometimes reverberated for
many years for survivors. Such was the case of the Taylor, Fort and Swartz theater party.
The Taylor family lived at 1222 Morse Ave in Rogers Park. On Dec 30 1903 James Taylor and his young wife, Emma, took their daughter, Rene, to the matinee. Also in the party was Rene’s friend, Frances Irene Swartz, and Frances's older sister, Marjorie/Marguerite Swartz. The Swartz girl's aunt, Phoebe Irene Fort, brought the party to six,* all of whom perished
– but the story doesn't end until 1916 at which
time one more is added to the number of Iroquois deaths in the Swartz family.
The 1903 victims
Emma R. Taylor was
thirty-one years old (b. 1872, Chicago). She was James Taylor's second wife,
married in 1868. She and James had one child, Rene Mary Taylor,
and Emma was stepmother to three sons from her husband's first marriage. Emma's remains were identified by her daughter-in-law, Estella E. Sheetz
Taylor. (Estella, her husband, Albert Taylor, and
their son, Kenneth Taylor, lived at 1222 Morse
Avenue with James and Emma.)
At age sixty,
James Martin Taylor (b. 1844, Clarksburg, PA) was twice the age
of Emma. His body was identified by his son, Albert A. Taylor (b. 1869). Another son, Ralph Taylor, was in the navy at the time of the fire and
for some time could not be reached to learn that his father, stepmother and stepsister
had died at the Iroquois Theater.
Rene Mary Taylor (b. 1892, Chicago) was twelve years old . She was only child of James M. Taylor and his second wife, Emma R. Taylor.
She attended the Field elementary school. One
of her classmates at the Field school was also an
Iroquois victim. Thirteen year old
John V. Clayton also lived on Morse Avenue.
Frances “Irene” Swartz (b. 1891, Chicago), age twelve, was a friend of Rene Taylor. She was the daughter of Dr. Thomas and Mary Swartz, and younger sister of Marjorie Swartz.
She attended the Doolittle school in Chicago.
Other Iroquois victims who attended Doolittle
Marjorie / Marguerite Swartz(b. 1883, Indiana) was Irene
Swartz’s older sister. She was the daughter of Dr.
Thomas and Mary Swartz and a student at the
Washington Young Ladies Seminary in Washington, DC,
home for the Christmas holiday. She was also a
graduate of the American Conservatory of Music.
Phoebe Irene Fort (b.1858), 1881 graduate of Cornell, had been the principal of the Myra Bradwell School in Windsor Park since its founding. She was the aunt of the two Swartz girls, Marjorie and Frances.
A triple funeral was held for
Frances, Marjorie and Phoebe at the Sixth
Presbyterian Church on Thirty-Sixth and Vincennes
Mary Swartz lost too
The Swartz girls' parents did not attend the matinee
but thirteen years later their mother, having lost both
her children (Frances and Marjorie/Maruerite) and
her sister (Phoebe) at the Iroquois, then her
husband early in 1916, drowned herself in
the Potomac River in Washington. She was Mary Fort
Swartz (1861-1916) and her husband was Dr. Thomas
Benton Swartz (1856-1916).
They had married in 1883 and in 1903 lived at 143 35th
street in Chicago. Thomas was born in Pennsylvania,
Mary in Michigan. She was the daughter of Daniel
Fort and Clemma Hoag, with eight siblings, including
Phoebe Irene Fort (above).
Discrepancies and addendum
In some reports Mary
Fort Swartz's maiden name is said to have
been Ford but the 1900 census and genealogical
records show her as a Fort. In one report her
husband’s name is said to have been F.B. Swartz but,
again, the census and newspaper reports at the time
of the fire said he was Dr. Thomas B. Swartz.
Another Iroquois party included a sixteen year old
girl named Flora L. Taylor but I've not been
successful in learning if she was related to James
Pictures of Francis Swartz, Mary & Thomas Swartz.
Confirmation that Ream Taylor was Irene Taylor.
* There may have been two
in the theater party. In one newspaper report
this group included victim
Carrie Sayre, who was also reported to have attended
the theater with
Both Sayre and Gustavson were school teachers.
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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