Victims & Survivors 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 theaterfirebook.com 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.*
  8. Brown, William*
  9. Clay (Claw, Clary), Mary *
  10. Convert, child*
  11. Convert, Josephine*
  12. Conyers, Sarah C. (called Sally) *
  13. Cook, Rebecca *
  14. Cook, child (also named Rebecca?)*
  15. Copland, Margaret*
  16. Coutts,Elvira (Elvin Coutes)*
  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.

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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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10 Responses to Victims & Survivors List

  1. Susan Guckenberg says:

    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!

  2. JOHN G STARKE says:

    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.

  3. admin says:

    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

  4. admin says:

    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.

  5. Danny says:

    Any idea why Polly Girardin would have been listed as Mary Girardin?

  6. 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?

  7. admin says:

    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

  8. admin says:

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

  9. 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.

  10. Meredith says:

    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

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