Though dozens of newspapers
the day after fire reported her survival, twelve-year-old Louisa
/ Louise Alice Buschwah (b. 1891) lost
her life at the Iroquois Theater. She attended the
theater with an uncle and a cousin visiting from
Alpena, Michigan: Deforest and Gladys "Mattie"
Stratton. In addition to being reported as a
survivor, Louise's name was sometimes spelled as
Bush, other times as Bushway. Many newspaper
stories reported that both girls were DeForest's
daughters. Though the genealogical information
connecting Louise Buschwah to the Stratton family is
solid, and there is no doubt as to Louise's death at
the the Iroquois, I did not find period stories in
either Illinois or Michigan newspapers that
clarified that one in that party of three had not
Louisa was a
student at the Nettelhorst* elementary school and
two other Nettelhorst students,
Agnes Lange and Johnny Washington, were also an
Iroquois Theater victims.
Louisa was the only child of Mathilda Brecher† Buschwah
(1858-1942) and cabinet maker Jacob Buschwah (1854-1926‡),
married in 1884, and
granddaughter of Gustave A. Brecher‡
(1833-1918) who had emigrated from Germany in 1854.
In 1900 Louisa and her parents
lived with Gustave at 1810
Wellington Ave. in Chicago. Mathilda's sister,
Alice Brecher Stratton, was married to Deforest A.
Stratton (1866-1946) who chaperoned the theater
party, maybe giving sisters Mathilda and Alice time
to visit or prepare for the upcoming New Years
festivities. Cousin Mattie (1892-), possibly
nicknamed after Louisa's mother and Mattie's aunt,
Mathilda Brecher Buschwah, was eleven years old.
DeForest Stratton owned Huron
Handle & Lumber Company in Alpena, a manufacturer of
broom handles. The company was founded in
1896. In 1900 fires had burned 900,000 feet of
the firm's hardwood logs.
Louise may have first been
taken to Passavant Hospital. She was
eventually identified by E.
K. Robinson. Following a service at
Congregational Church of the Redeemer on Saturday,
January 2, 1904 Louise was buried at Graceland
Cemetery in Chicago where her parents and
grandfather would later be interred.
DeForest tried to turn back
to find his niece and daughter but the surging crowd
forced him down a fire escape until he fell to the
alley floor in Couch Place and was trampled.
Mattie had minor bruises and respiratory
difficulties. She was taken to the Thompson's
Diner next to the theater. DeForest was taken
to St. Luke's Hospital and later released.
In the years after the fire
In 1912 DeForest's company,
Stratton Company, became associated with a sawmill
at Atlantic Mine, Michigan, still manufacturing
handles. In 1923 the plant was destroyed
Discrepancies and addendum
Louise's name may have been
miss recorded with that of a fifteen-year-old "Lewis
Busback" reported as having been severely burned and
crushed. Their addresses on Wellington are
similar with Louise living
at 1810 Wellington and Lewis at 810 Wellington.
St. Sebastians catholic boys school was located at
810 so Lewis could have been a student there but
there weren't any fifteen year old boys named
Busback, Busbach, Bausbach or Bausback in the whole
country, least of all Chicago.
* The Nettelhorst school was
previously known as the Evanston Avenue school.
† Birth/death dates shown are
as reported on Jacob's death certificate and vary
from 1852-1928 inscribed on gravestone.
‡ Louise's grandfather, Gustave Brecher, a retired shoe
manufacturer, owned his home on Wellington Avenue
and left an estate of over $100,000 (inflation
adjusted $1.7 million). The spelling of Gustav’s and Mathilda’s surname varies. In the 1900 census it was
spelled Precher; in 1910 Brecher. On Louise’s
birth certificate it was Brecker. Brecher is
used on gravemarkers for Gustav and Mathilda's