Chicago, IL Eastland Disaster, Jul 1915 - Survivor Accounts


Earl Wensley and wife, son of J. L. Wensley, 436 Fourth street, who were saved, while Alex Dupke, brother of Mrs. Wensley was drowned, J. T. Rentschler, son of Mr. and Mrs. Phillip A. Rentschier, 1715 Riedmiller avenue, who was also saved from the disaster.

Fort Wayne News, Fort Wayne, IN 26 Jul 1915




Another Steamer Kept Close From Chicago to St. Joe and Return--Thinks Ballast at Fault.

That the ill-fated steamer Eastland, which turned turtle in the Chicago river on Saturday had been behaving badly previous to the tragedy is the statement of Dr. K. L. Seaman, of this city, who with Mrs. Seaman was a passenger on the vessel on Wednesday and Friday. Dr. And Mrs. Seaman made a trip from Chicago to St. Joe, Mich., and return on the steamer.

"There was something wrong with the boat on Friday," said Dr. Seaman today. "All the way across the lake on Friday the boat had a peculiar lunge, a sort of staggering motion. I have never been seasick, but on Friday I became so ill that I could not stay on deck and had to go down into the hold where the plunging was less violent.

"From the way the boat acted on Friday I believe the theory that the accident was caused by faulty water ballast is correct. There seemed to be something wrong with the ballast for the boat did not ride steadily as most of the lake boats do. Perhaps it was not the ballast but there was something very wrong and it felt to me like a lack of something to keep the boat steady.

That the owners of the vessel seemed to know something was wrong is the statement of Dr. Seaman. "All the way across the lake, both ways, a steamer of the Goodrich line kept close behind the Eastland. It looked queer to me at that time that the same steamer should keep so close to us, and now that this accident has occurred I am led to believe the owners had some agreement for one steamer to keep a close watch on the other in case of accident, knowing the Eastland to be unsafe."

Fort Wayne News, Fort Wayne, IN 26 Jul 1915



Mr. and Mrs. Q.C. Templeton Get Telegrams From Son, Saying He Is Safe.

Special to The News.

Cleburne, Texas, July 24—Mr. and Mrs. Q.C. Templeton received a telegram today from their son, Bryce Templeton, announcing that he was a passenger on the Eastland, which was overturned in Chicago River, but had escaped without injury. The telegram relieved them of great stress of mind as they thought he had been drowned.

Dallas Morning News, Dallas, TX 25 Jul 1915



Mr. C.E. Barker Was on Scene of Eastland Tragedy Within Few Minutes After Occurrence.

One of the most harrowing experiences that could possibly be vouched-safed an individual was that which befell Mr. C.E. Barker, Southern agent for Marshall Field & Co., who has just returned from Chicago where he went to attend the funeral of his father, Mr. Charles R. Barker, whose death occurred last week.

Mr. Barker was almost an eyewitness of the sinking of the steamship Eastland which occurred early Saturday morning in the Chicago River, Mr. Barker thus tells of his experience: “I was on my way down town on the elevated railway to attend to a business engagement and our train was on the bridge corssing [sic] the Chicago River. I heard a great shouting just a block away and I saw throngs rushing to the river dock. I could not see what was transpiring owing to the lofty building that shut off the view but I knew that it was something very extraordinary to create such a commotion. I jumped out of the car at the next street station and hurried to the scene of the disaster. Of course I had heard what had happened even before I could leave the elevated. The great steamer with its happy party of Western Electric employes [sic] off for an outing across the lake had tilteed [sic] over and hundreds and perhaps thousands had been drowned like rats in a trap. I pushed ahead but could not get within a block of the dock. The traffic squad and mounted officers had arrived within a few moments and had taken charge of the situation. I ran down a block however and got within sight of the river. I could even see the big boat which was then on its side in the murky stream. Bodies were floating on the water by the score and all sorts of paraphernalia littered the surface. There were baskets, garments of all kinds, steamer chairs and baggage of every description on the surface. And more harrowing still was there were constant accessions to the objects upon the face of the waters. Of course there were men doing everything in the world possible to gather those who came up while others were working with fury unabated to rescue those still imprisoned in the hull of the big vessel. I arrived on the scene probably 20 minutes after the vessel tilted and I shall not soon erase from my memory the fearfulness of the picture that unfolded itself before my eyes. I remained only a short time for the scene was entirely too gruesome. To see those sights and hear those cries and observe the fury of the energy of those working to rescue the perishing was something that will remain with me for some time to come. It was something that I count myself most unfortunate to have witnessed.”

Charlotte Daily Observer, Charlotte, NC 7 Jul 1915