Last known survivor of Eastland disaster dies
Loop North News


Eastland Disaster Historical Society Last known survivor of Eastland disaster dies

(Left) Marion Eichholz at age three, shortly after surviving the S.S. Eastland capsizing in 1915. This photograph was taken by a newspaper reporter in front of Marion’s house on West 23rd Street in Cicero, Illinois.

6-Dec-14 – She was just three years old when she walked onto the S.S. Eastland and into Chicago history. She survived the capsizing on the Chicago River, between Clark and LaSalle Streets, that claimed 844 lives and she went on to live another 99 years.

Marion A. Eichholz was the last known survivor of the 1915 Eastland disaster. She died on November 24 at age 102.

On July 24, 1915, Marion and her parents were on the upper deck of the Eastland when it listed, causing her to fall against a railing. Her mother, Anna, pulled her back and as passengers started to panic, Marion’s father, Fred, picked her up, stepped onto the railing and jumped into the river. Holding Marion in one arm, he swam to a nearby tugboat.

When the Eastland rolled over, her mother floated into the water and was rescued when someone threw her a rope.

Chicago History Museum

(Above) The S.S. Eastland being righted shortly after the disaster on July 24, 1915. Photo by Jun Fujita. Click on image to view larger version.

After taking Marion to safety, her father went home to put on dry clothes, not certain if Anna had survived. While he was there, a car pulled up, bringing his wife home. Along with a woman named Mrs. Lainge, Fred Eichholz then returned to a building near the Chicago River to get Marion.

“Someone had sat me in a chair and put a man’s suit coat over me,” Marion recalled recently. “Here I fell sound asleep but I do remember waking up when dad and Mrs. Lainge came. I do not remember the trip home at all but I remember walking into the bedroom and mom saying, ‘Hello, Marion,’ and she sounded happy to see me again.”

Marion Eichholz was born on July 12, 1912, in Berwyn, Illinois. She had one sister, Shirley Eichholz Clifford.

(Right) An undated but more recent photo of Marion.

Marion Eichholz

Ted Wachholz, executive director of the Eastland Disaster Historical Society, kept in touch with her family. “With Marion’s passing,” he says, “the last voice of Chicago’s greatest loss-of-life tragedy now belongs to history.”

Wachholz is currently discussing with the Chicago Department of Transportation a proposal that would make the Eastland disaster commemoration a part of the stretch of Riverwalk between Clark and LaSalle Streets. The proposal is being developed with the help of three design companies, including Ross Barney Architects, which designed the last six blocks of the Riverwalk currently being constructed.

 Related story: Proposal would expand Eastland Disaster commemoration on new Riverwalk

By Steven Dahlman | Loop North News |


What’s news in the Loop and Near North
neighborhoods of downtown Chicago.

Signup for our weekly email. No ads, no email tracking, and no charge.

Number of subscribers:

See this week’s update