EDHS News and Updates

"Survivor Story": Theresa Ragnhild Lindseth and Willard Brown

Chicago, Illinois -- Theresa Ragnhild Lindseth and Willard Brown were two Western Electric Company employees who were lucky to survive the Eastland Disaster.

Theresa Ragnhild Lindseth (pictured above), a secretary/clerk at Western Electric Company, later expressed to her family how lucky she was to survive the tragedy. She never married, but she lived with and cared for her mother, Serina Lindseth.

Willard Brown, a 16-year-old Western Electric employee, sat near the pilothouse when he observed the ship’s captain was nervously chewing on a cigar. While watching the captain, the Eastland began to tip. He recalled, "It made three tips to the dock and three tips to the river … terribly slow. It seemed like it took a minute for each tip."

After the Eastland sank into the Chicago River, Brown said, "It was like one big scream and then everything was quiet. I grabbed the hand rail … I was like a monkey on a barrel and headed for the side of the boat."

Brown watched as men attempted to make it to shore "hand-over-hand" on a rope strung "like a fiddle" from the ship to the dock. "They'd make it halfway, lose their grip and go down into the water. People were crushed by pianos and things and people crowding on top of each other," he recollected.

Willard lived long enough to see a commemorative marker placed at the corner of Clark Street and Wacker Drive in 1989. According to our research, Willard died on February 15, 1990, a few weeks shy of his 91st birthday.

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