September 20, 2011

Victims List

Known Victims

Note:  Considering the number of persons present in Richmond for the winter social season, it is likely that the fire claimed more victims than this on the night of December 26th, 1811. Many who are not listed in “official” death lists died of their fire-related injuries at later dates. These 70-odd names are those which have been captured in the historical record.


  1. Alcock,  young boy: He sustained serious injuries in the fire and died a few weeks after the blaze. Death notice published  in the Richmond Enquirer, 1/14/1812.
  2. Anderson, Margaret (Margaretta)*: Anne Margaretta Anderson was born around 1799, the daughter of boarding school headmaster Leroy Anderson and the late Nancy Shields. (Leroy would remarry Hannah Wright Southgate in 1812; her brother William was a Theater fire victim.) For more information on Anderson family history see the William and Mary College Quarterly, vol. 13 (1903-2). A moving series of letters between Matthew Clay and Leroy Anderson after the fire is also published in the Richmond Enquirer 1/11/1812. Therein Anderson indicates his daughter was identified by a locket around her neck. Instead of a private burial, he chose to have her interred with her friends in the mass grave, still wearing her locket.  In a letter to William Temple of the Burial Committee, Anderson wrote, “No, my dear friend, I have no wish to separate the remains of my beloved child from those of the amiable and dear companions, in whose embrace, perhaps, she died. Side by side they sunk, together their immortal spirits took flight, and it is even a sort of melancholy satisfaction, that their dust will mingle in one common tomb, social even in death.”
  3. Bausman, Adeline*: Adeline’s loss was remarkable not only because she was one of the fire’s youngest victims, but because five members of her family died in the fire—patriarch Joseph Jacobs, his seventeen year old daughter Eliza, his four year-old granddaughter Adeline Bausman, and his two nieces, Mrs. Marks (or Marx) (a mother of four,) and Charlotte Raphael, who was about five years old. (See Richmond Enquirer of 1/4/1812)
  4. Bosher, Mrs. John (Mary)*: Mary (Polly) Bridges Bosher’s age at the time of death is unknown. It appears she was married in 1805 to John Bosher, a building contractor in Richmond who was involved in city government.
  5. Botts, Benjamin*: born 1776 in Henrico Co., VA, Botts was a prominent lawyer in Richmond who had defended Aaron Burr in Burr’s 1807 trial for treason. His lengthy and interesting obituary in the Enquirer (1/4/1812) may be found at this link from the blog.
  6. Botts, Jane (Jenny) (Munford?) Tyler*: born in Dumfries, VA, married Benjamin in 1798. The Richmond Enquirer states she had four sons and one daughter although other records indicate six children. (1/4/1812) A niece, Arianna Hunter, had attended the theater with Mr. & Mrs. Botts that evening, and she was also a victim. She and her husband were seen by survivor Caroline Homassel Thornton, who relayed in her autobiography that Benjamin held his wife firmly and said “in confident tones” that there was time for all to get out. Shortly after, smoke consumed them both.
  7. Braxton, Anna F.* : born 1786. Mrs. Tayloe (not Taylor) Braxton was Anna Frances Maria (Corbin) Braxton. Had been in a box with Mr. Venable and Mrs. Gibbon (mentioned in Munford’s book “The Two Parsons”). Was a widow of the son of Carter Braxton, signer of the Declaration of Independence. Had a 4 year old daughter also named Anna who was orphaned by the Theater fire.
  8. Brown, William*: a Scottish merchant aged 46 was “overwhelmed by the crowd” (Enquirer, 12/31/11). A letter informing his father in Scotland of his death is at the Library of Virginia. (Brown Family Letters, 1802-1812, Acc. no. 37703, Personal Papers Collection, Library of Virginia.) Letter from John Coalter to St George Tucker (William and Mary archives, Tucker-Coleman Papers) postscript: N.B. The Mr. Brown who was killed on Thursday evening at the Theatre was Mr. Brown of the House of Wm. Brown and Co and not James Brown. The Deceased was a Bachelor and highly respected. J.C.
  9. Clay (Claw, Clary), Mary *: a student at the Anderson School, she was the daughter of U.S. Representative Matthew Clay. A Danville, Virginia native and Revolutionary War veteran, he was in Washington, D.C., serving his 8th term in the United States House of Representatives on behalf of District 14 in 1811. (He was a second cousin of Senator Henry Clay, “The Great Compromiser,” who helped to broker the Missouri Compromise.) He would die suddenly while giving a speech in Virginia in 1815. A mother and sister preceded her in death. Mary was 16 years old and died with her friends Misses Gwathmey, Gatewood, and Anderson who had attended the performance together.
  10. Convert, child*: according to US 1810 census, would have been a female under age 10.
  11. Convert, Josephine*: wife of Lewis (Louis) Convert, part of the French community in Richmond. In 1813 Louis would marry Adelaid Trouin, who lost two sisters in the fire.
  12. Conyers, Sarah C. (called Sally) * :    Raised by Joseph Gallego, the wealthy Spanish flour merchant, and his wife Mary Magee Gallego, who were sometimes referred to as her uncle and aunt. The story of the romance between Sarah C. Conyers and Lt. James Gibbon, her neighbor at the corner of Fifth and Main Streets in Richmond, and their both perishing in the theater fire, has been much told and was romanticized and retold for decades in Virginia.  The paper published a detailed memorial that captures some of her personality.  (Richmond Enquirer, Jan 21, 1812) : “With her we have been deprived of one of the fairest flowers of Virginia in the sprightly morning of its youth…Sympathy can scarcely soften the anguish in one of whose declining years she was the youthful comforter and for whom her bosom glowed with all the sacred sensations of a filial piety, nor soothe the sorrows of him to whom she was bound by the ties of a still softer sympathy. How brighter were their prospects of intellectual happiness! But oh! How changed—how fallen! Miss Conyers had just attained her 20th year, and was distinguished for personal as well as mental charms. To features that were handsome, she united a most lovely expression of countenance. It wore a lustre on it expressive of the generous divinity of the soul that sat enthroned within. Her opinions were perhaps too refined for the world we dwell in, yet her conversation was extremely captivating; for there was a feeling melody in her voice, and her sentiments combined refinement with the candid truth of rural innocence. Her manners were a little reserved, but they were sweet and fascinating, and possessed a kind of magnetical attraction, that won the affections of every condition of life from the lisping of infancy to the decrepitude of old age…. In early youth she was not attached to light amusements, but employed her time in attaining some pleasing accomplishment [sic] of the mind. She was very fond of polite literature, and was acquainted with the French, Spanish and Italian languages.—Music was also a favorite pursuit, and she played with exquisite taste upon the Harp and the Forte Piano. In drawing too, she has left specimens of her skill that are admired and valued by her friends. To these accomplishments, Miss Conyers united a temper as mild and gentle as the gate of spring…She possessed a sweet-souled piety and genuine benevolence, that extended the hand of sympathy to the afflicted, and of charity to the distressed. No soul was ever more grateful to those who were kind to her, and none ever took a livelier interest in the happiness of her friends. Her disposition which was naturally a little pensive, had been rendered still more serene and plaintive by delicate health. But the loveliest attribute of her character, was her fondness for domestic life, for she preferred the social circle of her family and friends, to all the pomp and vanity of the world….”
  13. Cook, Rebecca *
  14. Cook, child (also named Rebecca?)*: little known about the Cooks except that the husband of Rebecca was named William (1810 Census). The Enquirer (1/02/1812) wrote: Mrs. Cook, the lamented wife of Mr. William Cook, and her daughter Rebecca, perished together. Long shall the disconsolate husband and father, weep over their ashes. Three motherless children are left behind her.
  15. Copland, Margaret*: Dead at age 16 or 17, Margaret Copland was the daughter of Charles Copland and his wife Rebecca Nicolson, who had died in 1800.  Virginia Argus; Tuesday, August 5, 1800. ; “Died- On Friday, the 25th ult. Mrs. Rebecca Copland, consort of Mr. Charles Copland of this city. (p. 3, c. 4).” She died at age 33 and left 9 children. Copland did not marry for another 8 years, when he wed Heningham Carrington Bernard (1781-1838) in October 1808. He was born in 1756, so he was 25 years older than her. Charles Copland was one of the most eminent lawyers of his day in Richmond and in surrounding courts, known as an equal of John Wickham and William Wirt. The family lived near the theater, and three of Copland’s four children attending that night escaped. See the following for a heartrending eyewitness account as Copland searched the burning theater for his missing daughter: “Extracts from Diary of Charles Copland,”  William & Mary Quarterly (1st series), vol. XIV, p. 217, 224-27 (1906). Several of his daughters went to school in Bethlehem, PA.
  16. Coutts,Elvira (Elvin Coutes)*: another young girl. She was one of four children of Reuben Coutts, who married Jane New, 17 Sept. 1799 and died in 1806. (Marriages and Deaths from Richmond Newspapers, 1780-1820, p. 37.)
  17. Craig, Ann *
  18. David (Davis), Mary *
  19. Dixon, George *
  20. Edmonson, James
  21. Elliott, Judith*
  22. Ferrill (Ferril), Robert *
  23. Frazier (Frayser), Thomas*
  24. Gallego, Mary*
  25. Gatewood, Sally*
  26. Gibbon, James *
  27. Gibson, Eleanor Sanderson*
  28. Girardin, child (male) *
  29. Girardin (Geradine, Gerard), Mary*
  30. Goff (Graff), Fanny (Tommy) *
  31. Green, Ann Morton (called Nancy)*
  32. Greenhow,  Mary Ann (Ann) *
  33. Griffin, Patsey (Patsy)*
  34. Gwathmey (Gwathney), Lucy*
  35. Harvie, Edwin James*
  36. Harvie, Juliana (Julia)*
  37. Heron, Sarah*
  38. Hunter,  Arianna (Marian/Anania/ Mariana)*
  39. Jacobs, Elizabeth (Eliza)*
  40. Jacobs, Joseph*
  41. Jerrod,  Mrs. *
  42. Johnson, Betsey *
  43. Judah, Judith (child?)*
  44. Laforest, Mrs. *
  45. Lecroix (Lacroix), Thomas*
  46. Leslie (Lesslie), Mrs. (Ann)*
  47. Littlepage, Miss*
  48. Marks (or Marx), Cyprian (Zipporah/Zepporah)*
  49. Marshall, Almarine *
  50. Mayo,  Louisa*
  51. Moss,  Mrs.*
  52. Nelson,  Maria*
  53. Nuttal*
  54. Page, Elizabeth*
  55. Page, Mary*
  56. Patterson, Elizabeth*
  57. Patterson,  Nancy *
  58. Philadelphia, (Philadelphian)
  59.  Pickett (Pickit), Mrs. *
  60. Pleasant *
  61. Raphael (Raphiel), Charlotte *
  62. Rozier, Jean Baptiste (or Rizi, John B.) *
  63. Schaub, John (or Shaub, John/ Schrub) *
  64. Scott, Mary Love (Mrs. Richard Scott)*
  65. Smith, George William *
  66. Southgate,  William *
  67. Stevenson, Elizabeth (Eliza)*
  68. Trouin (Tronin), Cecilia *
  69. Trouin (Tronin), Sophia *
  70. Venable, Abraham B. *
  71. Wade, Jane*
  72. Waldon (Walden), James *
  73. Wanton, Edward *
  74. Welch, John *
  75. Whitlock,  Mary (Mary Gabriella Whitlocke/May)*
  76. Wilson, Mrs. Thomas (Lucinda C.)*

*Over a dozen sources were examined to create this list, and spellings differed in many of the sources. The italicized variations provided here were found in less authoritative sources. Names followed by an asterisk are listed on the Monumental Church memorial urn.

Mary Love Scott

Cephas Thompson portrait of Richmond Theater Fire victim Mary Love Scott, The Valentine collection, Richmond, VA

Also, Mr. F. Claiborne Johnston, Jr. recently compiled a marvelously thorough resource entitled “A More Complete Record of Those Who Perished in the Richmond Theater Fire” which is available from the Library of Virginia.” Those interested in family history or more detail about the victims will find a well-researched treasure here.

If you are interested in genealogical research, other valuable sources about victims include:

  • death list in James E. Goode, Full Account of the Burning of Richmond Theatre. Richmond, VA: J.E. Goode , 1858.
  • George Wythe Munford, “The Two Parsons.” From The Two Parsons; Cupid’s Sports; The Dream; and The Jewels of Virginia. Richmond: J.D.K Sleight, 1884.
  •  John F. Watson, Calamity at Richmond: Being a Narrative of the Affecting Circumstances Attending the Awful Conflagration of the Theatre, in the City of Richmond, on the Night of Thursday, the 26th of  December, 1811. Publisher John F. Watson, Philadelphia, 1812.
  • Fillmore Norfleet, Saint-Memin in Virginia: Portraits and Biographies. Richmond: The Dietz Press, 1942.
  • Richmond Enquirer, 1811-1813
  • James K., Sanford, ed. Richmond, Her Triumphs, Tragedies & Growth. Richmond, VA: Produced and distributed by Metropolitan Richmond Chamber of Commerce, 1975.
  • John P. Little, History of Richmond. Richmond, VA: The Dietz Printing Company, 1933.
  • Samuel Mordecai, Richmond in By-Gone Days. Republished from the Second Edition of 1860. Richmond, VA: Dietz Press, Incorporated, 1946.
  • George D. Fisher, History and Reminiscences of the Monumental Church, Richmond, VA, from 1814 to 1878. Richmond, VA: Whittet & Shepperson, 1880.
  • Virginius Dabney, Richmond: The Story of a City. New York: Doubleday & Company, Inc, 1976.
  • Ann Tuke Alexander, Remarks on the Theatre, and on the Late Fire at Richmond, in Virginia. York, England: T. Wilson & Son, 1812.
  • W. A. Christian, Richmond: Her Past and Present. Richmond, VA: L.H. Jenkins, 1912.






14 thoughts on “Victims List

  • I believe the Mrs. LaForest on the victims list was the spouse of Aubin LaForest. She was Jane Cole Clarke when they were married on 8 March 1809. It was a second marriage for both. Mr. LaForest operated a store on Main Street, evidenced by a notice he placed in the Richmond Enquirer advertising a public auction held on 13 September 1811. The sale included “Peas, Sugar, Wines, Cordials, China, Glass Ware and a great variety of other articles too tedious to enumerate, comprising a very general assortment of Groceries.” By 1818, he too had died. My 4th great-grandfather Wilson Bryan lived on Grace Street between 2nd and 3rd. On 9 April 1818 he took out property insurance with Mutual Assurance and the line drawing of the buildings on the block included notation “On this side stands a wooden house of Aubin LaForest’s Estate. Wilson Bryan was age 40 in 1811. I am happy that he and his spouse Elizabeth Pearson Bryan and their 5 living children did not attend that theatre that night but surely were witnesses to the horror. I look forward to reading your book!

  • In her Thursday, Dec. 6, 2012 VHS lecture on the 1811 Richmond Theater Fire, author Meredith Henne Baker mentioned that young survivor Caroline Homassel was “lowered by her arms” to safety from the burning building. In Caroline’s family papers at VHS, the phrases “I was borne along” and “I was let down” are used by her to describe her rescue. But a more descriptive story is told by Mary Elizabeth “Dolly” Hite in her book, “My Rappahannock Story Book” (The Dietz Press, Inc., Richmond, VA, 1950). On page 4, “When a small girl, I listened spellbound to the story of Caroline Homassel Thornton, as told to me by Susan Fitzhugh Voss, her granddaughter, who had married Kidder Meade Hite, my uncle. This story I will tell to you….. Fate took a hand when Dr. Philip Thornton of ‘Montpelier’ came to her (Caroline’s) rescue. With the courage and coolness of a strong man, he wrapped his hand in her long, flowing hair and lowered her to safety in the arms of the waiting crowd below.” This oral history would have been told to Dolly Hite in the late 1880’s/early 1890’s. I realize that oral history is often subject to embellishments, especially as told to young children across generations, but this book is a well written compilation of family stories (friends & relatives that she actually knew) of Dolly’s native Rappahannock county, Virginia. For interested readers, Dolly’s story about Caroline Homassel Thornton and ‘Montpelier’ is found on pages 4-7, and Caroline’s original papers (as stored at VHS) are found on pages 14-39 in “My Rappahannock Story Book”. I thoroughly enjoyed Meredith Henne Baker’s VHS lecture, as told thru the eyes of young Caroline Homassel, related to so many old Virginia families. Her book “The Richmond Theater Fire” is a MUST BUY for anyone interested in Virginia and/or Richmond history.

  • Mr. Starke, Thank you for coming to my lecture at the VHS and also for sharing this family lore. I have heard the “lowered by her hair” legend before–apparently it was once featured in a Ripley’s Believe it or Not column years and years ago. I haven’t seen it, but if you know where I can lay hands on it, please share!
    I came to the conclusion about her rescue based on records I found wherein Dr. Thornton was said to have lowered her by his arms as far down the wall as he could reach. (I have no idea why it would be more expedient to do this via her hair than her arms, but it could be true!) She also writes that she could see below her the face of a dead man, and I can’t imagine she’d be able to see down terribly well with her hair being gripped… However she was rescued, I am glad she was, as she has quite a legacy. I appreciate your enthusiastic recommendation for my book and am so pleased that you enjoyed it. It’s always a pleasure to have an opportunity to speak in Richmond! All best, MHB

  • Susan, thanks for sharing the results of your research! If you’re interested, I’d recommend F. C. Johnston’s wonderful document “A More Complete Record of the Victims of the Richmond Theater Fire” (available at the VHS and Library of VA); in it he examines the background of each victim–the LaForests were his ancestors, so he had particular interest in “Mrs. LaForest” and her niece, who attended the show together and both perished. He records that she was Jane Cole Lipscombe LaForest, and her niece (unnamed on the monument) was Margaret Booth Lipscombe. Her husband LaForest’s first wife was her sister Elizabeth (!), and he is also described as a French confectioner. Thank you again for your comments, and it was so nice to finally meet you this past week.

  • Since the Richmond Theater fire was before the era of medical examiners and funeral directors (as such) and before J. Leroy Sutherland of Richmond was engaged cabinetmaking, upholstering and undertaking in 1840, who was in charge of identifying (as was possible), the dead?

  • Mark, thanks for your question! Dr. John Adams, William Hay, Jr., Gabriel Ralston, and John G. Gamble were commissioned by the Richmond Common Council to form a Burial Committee overseeing the collection of the remains. I presume they coordinated with a second committee that performed a sort of census, going door to door in Richmond to create a list of the missing. In any case, they corresponded with the families of the deceased and made funeral arrangements. Although the process seems a bit ad hoc, the committee was praised for its sensitivity. My book addresses this in more detail in Chapter 3. Best, Meredith

  • Danny, Polly was a common nickname for Mary. Seems as strange as nicknaming Margaret “Peg” or Richard “Dick,” but there you have it! Meredith

  • Does history know and record who most of the Richmond Theater fire survivors were? I recall reading in “A Century of Commerce, 1867-1967” that one survivor lived until ca. 1870, but don’t remember his name.

  • Mark, thanks for reminding me that this page is supposed to have information about survivors too! I do have a list of names I’ve gleaned from various sources and will try to post it in the next few weeks. It’s been a haphazard process, running across names in various personal letters from the 19th century, hearing about them in family lore, finding others in early newspaper articles. There is no complete list or record of survivors, and as is the case with many famous disasters, you have people claiming to have been there who probably weren’t. Thanks for your note and I will look into the “Century of Commerce” book! Meredith

  • Meredith,

    Have you identified the individual survivor from the fire who lived until 1870 and is mentioned in 1967’s “A Century of Commerce?” It may be that he changed his mind and did not attend the theater that evening, I don’t remember.

  • I have identified a contemporary Richmond cabinetmaker who may have provided coffins and/or buried some of the dead from theater fire in 1811.

    It comes from “Out of the Box,” “Notes From the Archives @ The Library of Virginia:
    “In the fall of 1805, John Alcock, a Fredericksburg, Virginia, cabinetmaker, relocated to Richmond and opened a cabinetmaking shop.”

    Mr. Alcock was a party in the Henrico County Chancery Case 1811-01, “Alcock vs. Brockenbrough,” which is open for research at the Library of Virginia.

  • Mark, thanks for the lead! The young son of John Alcock (listed as being “of this city”) was one of the unfortunate victims. Jay Johnston’s genealogical research (copies available at the Library of VIrginia) turned up a John Alcock in the 1811 CIty of Richmond personal property list (he had three slaves). That would be a tragic connection if the cabinetmaker responsible for the coffins was also the father of a victim.

    I haven’t found any other information about the coffin makers or those responsible for the other funerary arrangements (besides the committee members). Thanks for helping to fill in the blanks!

  • Mark, I have the Century of Commerce book (“Richmond, Her Tragedies, Triumphs, and Growth” by James K. Sanford), or at least portions of it photocopied, but can’t find the mention of the survivor who died in 1870. Do you have a page #? Thanks.

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