Children’s Picnic – then Horror

The festive Kinderheim Picnic was held annually at Lake Street and Addison Road in Addison Illinois twenty-eight miles west of Chicago. It was a scene of thousands of happy children and families, music, hymns, games, and a baseball game.

There was also a tour of the German Evangelical-Lutheran Orphan Home Association of Northern Illinois which hosted the event.

huhgfIt was so popular that in 1890, five of Addison’s citizens formed the Addison Railroad Company and made an agreement with the Illinois Central Railroad to maintain the short two mile line connecting Addison to the Illinois Central Railroad that came out of Chicago. The very first train came to Addison for the Orphan Home Picnic on September 21, 1890. The picnic train doubled festival attendance from 5,000 to 10,000.

image008-11After a wonderful outing on that September day, the thousands of children and adults began boarding trains back to Chicago about 5PM. The picnic train was actually four trains, the fourth and last containing eight passenger coaches. About 7PM, that eastbound train was standing at the Kedzie avenue crossing and on the Chicago, Burlington & Quincy railroad tracks, only a few feet from the Douglas Park station, warned by semaphore of a danger ahead. About fifteen minutes later as the picnic train was about to proceed, disaster struck. A Chicago, Burlington & Quincy Downer’s Grove express train crashed into the rear car of that fourth section of the picnic train.

Festive had turned to disaster. Read on for the human toll.

Seven persons died, three of those were cousins, and at least eleven seriously injured just as when several hundred merry children and families were returning to Chicago after a festive day at the German Evangelical Lutheran Orphan asylum at Addison Park.Photo173103


The picnic train, was at a complete stand-still when Engine #105 pulling the Chicago, Burlington & Quincy’s Downers Grove Express train #134 crashed with terrific force into the rear car of that fourth picnic train at thirty miles an hour. 

It was described as an awful sight. The three rear coaches of the picnic train were telescoped. Beneath the debris of crushed timber and broken glass the groans of the dying and injured could be heard. The members of Chicago Fire Department Truck company No. 12 responded quickly, as did a Chicago Police patrol wagon carrying several officers to begin the task of extricating the passengers. The injured were taken out and carried to neighboring houses then later to the County and Presbyterian hospitals.

The engineer of the Burlington train claimed that the picnic train displayed no danger signals on the rear car, while his fireman, admitted that he did see one from his side of the engine, but the oil lamp was burning so low as to be almost indiscernable and could not be seen five car lengths away.

whatthehell-3-magnumA few days later, there were three white coffins side by side in front of the altar of the German Luthertische Zions Church at 826 W. 19th.. The beautiful Pilsen neighborhood church on the Lower West Side of Chicago was built just ten years earlier featuring a 90-foot-tall bell tower, sturdy wooden doors, worn Chicago brick, and Gothic German script above the entrance. It well served the German immigrants of the area until 1956.

See the story of the church on a previous blog :


Each coffin was laden with white flowers as was the chancel and chancel steps. Reverend Wagner conducted the somber service to a very large crowd. 24 pallbearers, all girls wore white gowns white ribbons on their arms and white silk crosses on their dresses.

obit 1In the first coffin was Lillie Diener, age 16, the daughter of F.C and Lillie Diener who lived at 489 Ashland Avenue. She was the cousin to Margaretha “Martha” Diener and “Minnie” Pilgrim. Her funeral began at her residence before the church service at Zions . Later that day, she was buried Wunders Lutheran Cemetery at Clark and Irving Park Road on Chicago’s north side.

In the second coffin was Margaretha “Minnie” Diener, 19 years of age, daughter of Gustave Diener, and cousin to Lilly Diener and “Minnie” Pilgrim, She had been living at 608 West 20th. Her funeral also began at her residence, then placed along side her two cousins. Margaretha was buried in Concordia Lutheran Cemetery, Forest Park, Illinois.


127507175_1396762733In the third coffin was Lillie Wilhelmine Pilgrim, “Minnie” (also found referred to as Annie /Anna) 127507175_1396762760born June 10 1875, age 15 and lived at 718 West 21st Street, daughter of Friedrich Georg Wilhelm Pilgrim and Johanna Wilhelmina Pilgrim Diener/Dienner Wagner. She had a family funeral in the First Immanuel Lutheran Church 1124 S. Ashland and then was buried in Wunders Lutheran Cemetery at Clark and Irving Park on Chicago’s north side.

There were three others who died on that train disaster. Otto Schloeff (various spellings found), 18 years of age, living at No. 162 or 165 Center street.

first immTheodore Burger, age 17 or 18, born about 1870, had been employed as a bricklayer, He was the Son of Albert Burger who lived at 500 Hastings Street. Theodore was first taken to Jaeger Brothers undertaker parlor on 12th St. west of Halsted, then to his funeral at First Immanuel Lutheran Church 1124 S. Ashland.

Albert A. Otto, age 15, born about 1875, only son of a widow living at 259 Washburne Ave, also first taken to Jaeger Brothers undertaker parlor on 12th street just west of Halsted,  then his funeral at First Immanuel Lutheran Church 1124 S. Ashland.

Sept20.14-014-e1411327140777 bw

Many other were seriously injured but survived. Some of which that were found in newspaper reports include Lena Riswig, 180 orchard street; Louise Toresa, 19 years of age; Freda Reswick, 180 orchard street; Tillie Burke 116 Burling street; Fred Prister; John Kraener; E. Korn ,30 Fisk street; Robert Hoffman, 290 Laflin street; Frank Burlint; Peter Kahlman; and Henry Hiennman, 438 Ogden avenue. (Spellings may differ)

We can learn from this accident that happened to so many children and young adults. We realize that life is fragile and can end abruptly for reasons we do not well understand. The lesson here is that we ourselves do not know whether there will be a tomorrow or a next week.

So while we are here, be very grateful for all the experiences that come across our path. Live well and strive to make a positive difference on this earth, so that when you move on, you shall have left a better world for those who follow.

Someone wrote “your life is your message to the world. Make sure it’s inspiring.”

And finally embrace your family, both those that are still with you and those who have passed.  It is all about family.




4 thoughts on “Children’s Picnic – then Horror”

  1. Thanks for your writeup on the wreck. The map, however, shows the wrong railroad. The Illinois Central had not yet completed their line (the Chicago, Madison & Northern) further than Clyde, so a temporary track connected to the Burlington line there and IC trains used the Q into Chicago to connect with the St. Charles Air Line at the Chicago River.
    The CB&Q is south of the map area.


      1. Thanks for the reply and email.

        A slight clarification. I did not mean to imply that you were wrong about the IC running into Chicago over the CB&Q. It did so for a number of years as they had not completed their own line from Iowa into Chicago. In 1890 the IC had finally completed their Chicago, Madison and Northern as far as Clyde but was having difficulty with ROW and dealing with the City of Chicago on completing the line east of there so they made a temporary connection with the Q. IC trains operated from Clyde to the IC/MC/C&NW/CB&Q joint connection “St. Charles Air Line” at the Chicago River to the IC main track at the lakefront at 16th Street. The map you had in your excellent article showed the Douglas Park/California Avenue depot of the Chicago & Northern Pacific Railroad which was north of the CB&Q. The CB&Q Douglas Park depot was at Kedzie Avenue on the north side of the tracks. At this time the tracks had not been elevated yet and were at grade. There was a manual block system in place where the signals were controlled by operators at stations, interlocking towers or signal cabins. I believe by 1890 the communication between points was by telephone which replaced the use of telegraph. The Millard Avenue depot was the first point involved in the wreck which involved the third and fourth (last) trains returning from the Lutheran Home. The last three cars of the train were completely wrecked and were lightweight cars usually used for the IC commuter service and were very similar to the cars used later on the elevated system. The CB&Q had a tower at California Avenue where the “blockade” forced the IC trains to stop. On January 8, 1891 there was another rear end accident, this time just east of the Millard Avenue depot- an IC Stock Train was run into by a CB&Q Stock Train killing two stockmen riding in the IC caboose. I couldn’t find the map you used but here is one covering the area in question showing the location of the CB&Q Douglas Park depot on the north side of the tracks at Kedzie Avenue. I am researching the history of the Aurora-Chicago line of the CB&Q and have not been able to find early photos, especially for stations closer to the city limits and within, hence my interest in the Forgotten Chicago website. Thanks, Charlie Vlk Mt. Juliet, TN (transplanted Brookfield, IL boy)

        bartoniusbartonius commented: “I have removed that map, althoughI have information that that IC did run on CB&Q tracks at one time for one reason or another. Thank you for your expertise, way above my pay grade. “


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: