Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Resurrection Mary and the Eastland Disaster

While we're looking up possible candidates for the "real" Resurrection Mary, why not look back a few years further than we normally do?

In 1915, when the Eastland capsized in the Chicago river, killing more than 800 people, it was the worst tragedy in Chicago history. The dead had come from all over the city, though most came from the West side, and the most notably-large chunk were of Bohemian descent (though suggesting that Resurrection Mary may not have been Polish tends to generate some pretty odd hate mail).



At least five young women named Mary who perished aboard the Eastland were buried at Resurrection, and one other may have been.

 One was Mary Malik, age 20 or 21 (depending on the source you're looking at), who was buried in the same casket as her 18 year old sister,  Stella (their parents could only afford one - this sort of flies in the face of stories I hear about the Western Electric company bending over backwards to make sure everyone had a coffin). Both girls lived at S 3023 48th Court in Cicero. Mary was born in Moravia, Poland and settled with their parents in the Chicago area as a girl. Upon completing her education at St. Mary's Polish school at 13, Mary got a job with the Western Electric Company and had been with them for 7 years at the time of the disaster. Stella had been working there for four years herself.


Also listed among the casualties of the disaster buried at Resurrection:

Mary Ceranek - age 17 according to modern casualty lists, though the Tribune said she was 20 at the time. She lived at 2838 S. 48th Av, Cicero, and had five brothers and sisters. She had been working for Western Electric for four months.

Mary Krzyzaniak-Dudek. 27 year old wife of John Dudek - probably too old to be the ghost.

Mary Kaszuba, 24. A single women who worked for the Novelty Candy Co, lived at 8042 Throop, had four sisters and two brothers.

Mary Kupski (or Cooper) - age 23, lived at 2832 Lawndale Ave. An employee of Western Electric, she was the family's only means of support, as the rest of the family was unemployed.



Another -the "maybe" - was Mary Bizek (or Bezik), who was buried along with her sister Anna. The two, aged 19 and 16 respectively, lived at 2828 S. 50th Court. They had been raised in Chicago. Mary worked for Sears and Roebuck as a mail stamper, and both helped to support the family. The Eastland casualty list I consulted said that both girls were actually buried at Bohemian National, as does find-a-grave.com , though the funeral description in the Trib certainly makes it sound like it was at Resurrection.

The description is part of a section of the Trib that also speaks of the Maliks:

As one of the motor trucks left the church it contained two coffins. They contained the bodies of Miss Mary Malik, 21 years old, and her sister, Miss Stella Malik, 18...They worked on the same bench in the Wester electric plant, went on the steamer together, and found death at almost the same moment. A single grave in Resurrection Cemetery received their bodies.  Two other households contributed two members each to the cortege. They were Antonia and Agnes Ignaszak....and Angela and Ladisslaus Latwoski... In the afternoon services were held for Mary and Anna Bizek. 


We don't have photos of and of these women, as far as I know, and they died a few years before most Mary "candidates" did. But they're roughly the right age, the right name, and at the right cemetery, which makes them just about as good as candidates as anyone else we know of. The "ideal" candidate is a blonde girl named Mary, age 16-24 (give or take), who died on or around Archer Avenue some time before about 1935, preferably after going out dancing, and was buried at Resurrection. Once again, no one fits all of those criteria, as far as we know. Of the three "major" candidates, Mary Bregovy was a brunette who died in the Loop, Anna Norkus was only 12 and buried at a different cemetery, and Mary Miskowski actually died in her 40s, not at 19, as the story goes.

To consider any of these candidates, you have to jump to some wide conclusions:

1. That the ghost is real in the first place.
2. That her name is really Mary. Most of the eyewitnesses don't seem to get her name at all. And, even if one of them did, was she giving her real name?

Reading all of these obituaries is really terribly depressing. That the people in charge of the ship were never tried for criminal negligence, after adding tons of cement to the deck, raising the capacity after simply adding more life boats, etc,  is simply shocking (they were only ever tried for conspiracy to run an unsafe ship, of which they were innocent). Yes, I'm familiar with the argument that the ship tipped over because the out-of-control government required it to have too many lifeboats (since the Titanic had just gone down without enough boats, prompting a handful of new regulation), but that theory doesn't hold water with me. The added weight from the boats didn't concern them so much that they didn't add all that cement, and they RAISED the capacity instead of lowering it. The government probably never should have allowed that ship -which was known as fussy both before and after - to be used as a passenger ship at all.


For a whole lot more information and speculation, check out our Resurrection Mary Roundtable podcast!

1 comment:

edhsinc said...

Interesting blog. The Bizik sisters are indeed buried at Bohemian National Cemetery on Chicago's northwest side.

Grave marker

Photo of girls

Thank you for sharing information about the Eastland Disaster with your readers.

Regards,
Ted Wachholz

Executive Director
Eastland Disaster Historical Society

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