On the morning of December 30,
1903 William E. Dee was a forty-four year old
widower with five children, aged two to fifteen,
including two stepsons born to his late wife and her
late first husband. At day's end, one of those
children was dead and a second was missing, her body
located the following day.
Seven years earlier William had married
widow Abbie Louisa O'Donnell Luby. Abbie's husband, William
H. Luby, had died three years earlier, leaving Abbie
with two sons,
five year old Simon and two year old William Luby.
Abbie's father, Simon
J. O'Donnell, was a prosperous stockyards man in
Pittsburgh so there was little likelihood she and
her boys would ever go hungry but William Dee
was nonetheless a good catch for the twenty-eight-year-old widow.
I don't know whether William
Dee went through a legal procedure to adopt Abbie's
boys but they went by the Dee name from the earliest
records I found.
In 1898, two years after
their marriage, Abbie and William Dee produced two
children of their own, twin boys,
Samuel Allerton Dee and Edward Mansfield Dee, and in September, 1901, Margaret Louise
was born. Two months later Abbie Dee died,
cause unknown. Childbirth complications maybe.
On December 30, 1903,
William was 135 miles away from home on business, at
the company's plant in Mecca, Indiana, west of
Indianapolis on the Indiana-Illinois state line.
When he received a telephone call about the fire he took a buggy to Clinton, Indiana, chartered a
private train engine to Danville, Illinois, then took
a special train into Chicago. In his 1933
obituary it was stated that he rode beside the
engineer in the locomotive, 175 miles to Chicago, and
that he was first to identify his children.
children's nurse, fifty-five-year-old widow Agnes
Bell Errett (1848-1917)*, had taken
four of the Dee children to
Mr. Bluebeard at the Iroquois Theater.
The party consisted of Errett, twelve year old
William Luby Dee and the three little
ones, seven year old twins, Eddie and Samuel, and
two year old Margaret Louisa Dee. Only the
nanny, William Luby Dee and Samuel Allerton Dee came
home. Eddie Mansfield Dee died at the theater
and Margaret died from one to three days later.
The Dr. Bridge in the
Marshall Everette disaster book story (see accompanying photo) was
Canadian native, James Charles Brydges (1858-1931), a profiteer with a stethoscope.
Five months after the Iroquois fire Brydges sued
William Dee for the care he provided to little Louise. The
newspaper report described Dee as a millionaire
contractor and Brydges as a caring doctor who saved
a dying child. Not all newspapers mentioned
that the child had not survived and none made note
of the fact that the doctor had taken Louise to his
home rather than a hospital where she might have
received better care.
Brydges demanded $3,000 for
his services. Or $2,000 -- reports varied.
$52,000 - $78,000 in today's money. Brydge's
story differed markedly from that told by Everette.
According to Brydges, he found Louise's body beneath
a pile of bodies at Thompson's diner, saw signs of
life and carried her off.
The story in the Everette
book was that
someone handed her off to Brydges as she was carried
out of the theater. A kerchief embroidered
with a "D" led Brydges to contact Dee and reportedly
Brydge nursed Louise for two to three days, not one
as told by Everette. I did not find a follow-up
report about the law suit.
Father Quinn of the St. James
Catholic church conducted Eddie and Louise's
funeral. It was reported that seventy five
carriages followed the hearse to the cemetery.
The Dee family prior
William E. Dee Sr.
(1859-1933), oldest of eight children born to
Irish immigrants, William M. and Julia Hawley Dee.
He had joined the family sewer tile company
founded by his father.
Abbie O'Donnell Dee
(1868 – 1901), late daughter of Simon and
Margaret Pearson O'Donnell.
Simon Robert Luby Dee
(1888 – 1955), son of late William and late
Abbie O'Donnell Luby Dee, stepson of William E. Dee.
William Thomas Luby Dee
(1891 – 1963), son of late William and late Abbie
O'Donnell Luby Dee, stepson of William E. Dee, who saved his younger half
brother, Samuel Allerton Dee and survived
Iroquois Theater fire. Later married Susie Helt.
Edward "Eddie" Mansfield
Dee (1897 – 1903), Iroquois fatality, son of
William and late Abbie O'Donnell Luby Dee.
Samuel Allerton Dee
(1897 – 1962), son of William and late Abbie
O'Donnell Luby Dee, survived Iroquois Theater fire,
Eddie's twin. Named after a close
friend and business associate of his grandfather
O'Donnell. Married twice, had two
Margaret Louise Dee
(1901 – 1903) daughter of William and late Abbie
O'Donnell Luby Dee, survived Iroquois Theater fire
initially but succumbed a few days later.
- Mrs. George H. Errett, nanny,
from Indiana, injured but survived. Not having
much luck learning more about her. Her
given name may have been Agnes.
In the years after the fire
Two months after the fire
William Dee married twenty-three year old Grace A. Muir
(1881-1969), her first marriage. News of the
marriage was withheld until July out of sensitivity
to the Iroquois tragedy. Newspapers reported
she was the daughter of James H. Muir, a Grand
Rapids merchant. William and Grace
went on to have two children of their own:
William E. Dee Jr
(1912 – 1989), son of William E. Dee and Grace
Jane Elizabeth Dee
(1914 – 1978), daughter of William E. Dee and Grace