The History

Religious Institutions

Some families had as many as two or three lying in caskets in their homes. For three days and three nights we would go from house to house to pay our respects and express our sympathy and offer our help. The church bells tolled all day long." -- Grace Lutheran Church member

Pastors and priests were tasked with performing dozens of funerals held in churches throughout the greater Chicago area.

Grace Lutheran Church, located at 28th Street and South Karlov Avenue in Chicago, was impacted in many ways by the Disaster. Since the church was only a mile from Western Electric, many of its members found employment there. Among the victims of the Disaster, 25 were members of Grace Lutheran. Several families lost not only one of their beloved, but in four instances they lost two, and in one instance even three of their loved ones.

Rev. Henry Boester's account: "All funerals were conducted within a period of four days. Five were buried on July 27, 10 on July 28, six on July 29, and four on July 30. Pastor Theodore Kohn assisted at the cemetery while I conducted the services at the church. After the last funeral for the day, I also would go to the cemetery. I preached on different texts at all funerals. The bereaved at Grace bore the shock of the disaster as well as could be expected under the circumstances. It was, indeed, a great shock to the whole congregation, and even though the faith of the members of the families who had lost a loved one or more in the disaster was sorely tried, my observation was that they found much needed comfort and strength for such a time as that in the Word of God, which I was privileged to bring them."

“Some families,” recalled a member of Grace Lutheran Church, “had as many as two or three lying in caskets in their homes. For three days and three nights we would go from house to house to pay our respects and express our sympathy and offer our help. The church bells tolled all day long. One funeral after the other would leave the church. Since it was impossible to get sufficient hearses and carriages, trucks were also used to take some of the bodies to the cemetery. It was also hard to get caskets.”

St. Mary of Czestochowa Church (named for the Queen of Poland) goes back in its history to the late 1800s to the days when Hawthorne was literally a prairie. Eighty-six pioneer families formed the nucleus of what would become, in just a few decades, the largest church in all of Cicero, Illinois. In July of 1915, the Eastland Disaster devastated the Hawthorne area as well as St. Mary of Czestochowa Church. The tragedy took 29 parishioners of St. Mary's. A memorial Mass was held on the second floor in the combination church and school building. Reverend Bronislaus Czajkowski administered funeral services for 41 Eastland victims held on Wednesday and Thursday, July 28 and 29.

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