Gabrielle Schlentz

Gabrielle Schlentz

...may have been pinned underwater by a smokestack...

Gabrielle Schlentz (or Ella as she was known to her family and friends) was the eldest child of Gabriella and Peter Schlentz's six children: Ella, Harry, Walter, Agnes, Hattie, and Eva. Her parents both immigrated as children from Luxembourg, but the children were born in Cicero, Illinois. Ella and her brother Harry both worked together at Western Electric. She was 20 years old and worked as an accountant at the Hawthorne plant for four months.

The day of the Disaster, the two siblings made arrangements to go to the picnic together. Ella left first with her fiancée John Thomas and his sister Rose. Ella and John got to the dock and boarded the Eastland.

Harry ran late and arrived at the dock at the exact moment that the Eastland capsized. He immediately took action to help and was frantically trying to find his sister Ella. Finally, several hours later, Harry arrived home to tell his parents the tragic news that his sister had drowned but that her fiancée had survived. Ella's relatives passed down the story that Ella drowned because she was pinned underwater by one of the smoke stacks and couldn't breathe, but that fact was never confirmed.

Ella's father Peter was convinced that if his daughter had known how to swim, she might have been able to help herself. In the summer following the Disaster, he started taking his family to Cedar Lake, Indiana so that the surviving children could learn to swim and tread water. Several years later, on advice from the judge he was a bailiff for, he began taking the family to Lake Geneva, Wisconsin instead of Indiana.

Get Involved