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1811 Theater Fire Victim List

Portrait of Mary Love Scott, victim of the fire, by Cephas Thompson. Permanent collection of the Valentine Museum

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.* : 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.

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.

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