Friday, October 10, 2008

The Great Chicago Fire of 1871

This week is the anniversary of the Great Chicago Fire.

This is a photo of my great-uncle, John Whelan, a survivor of the Chicago Fire. The family story is that as the fire was coming toward their house, they ran toward Lake Michigan for safety. But the father, Timothy Whelan, ran back to the house to lock the door against burglars, before joining the rest of the family. Their house was well within the burn district, on Chestnut near Franklin, so locking the door probably made little difference in the end.

This photo was labeled "John Whelann in his Johnny hat." As a young man, John (Jack) Whelan worked in a haberdashery as a model and then as a manager. Later he was with the steamfitters union, working off and on. He died in 1930, after being hit by an Illinois Central train at 27th street while shoveling the tracks.

Here are my favorite websites about the Chicago Fire:
The Great Chicago Fire and the Web of Memory
This is a great website containing images, eyewitness accounts and essays about the fire.

Progress of the Chicago Fire of 1871
The Encyclopedia of Chicago is a very useful reference. This link is to a map which shows which sections of the city burned in the great fire.