The Rescue of Bessie

As this short narrative indicates, Mrs. Butler's moving story of her precious doll and the fire that destroyed Chicago found an eager family audience before she shared it with the world.

To fix a point for my earliest recollections, let me take the Chicago fire.

This story has been told and retold to generations of grandchildren who liked to hear it repeated. I was a very little girl, six years old; the youngest of the family and had been put to bed as usual early on that Sunday eve the 8th of October, 1871. Some unusual noise waked me and I found my big sister and brother gone from their beds, walking around fully dressed in the middle of the night.   Mother came at my call and to my pleasure said I might get up and dress for, as there was a great fire on the West Side which seemed to be coming in our direction[,] the sparks [were being] blown by a strong wind. Mother took me to the window to look at the brilliant sky where the blazing sky made it light enough to read by. All night long people came to our home for refuge, driven from their own homes[,] and all watched the progress of the flames.

Father and our house man helper were carrying the carpets up to the roof to soak there with water which would put out the sparks, when just then word came that the water works tower was burning and [there was] no more water. Father had a carriage and an [express] wagon waiting at the door and when morning came all of our personal belongings were loaded on the wagon[,] and Mother, my big sister and I got into the carriage ready to move; Father and my brother Stuyve on the wagon. At that moment I remembered my precious doll Bessie, had been left in the playroom and instan[t]ly I jumped out and ran back to the house where I picked up Bessie in her crib and carried both away in my arms.

So, we joined the long procession which was passing; mostly on foot, people carrying some special treasure in their arms (one woman had a pig) all bound Northwest.

At the entrance of what is now Lincoln Park we turned West; finally crossing a bridge over the river to the Northwest side which the fire never reached; burning itself out in the open unbuilt land of Lincoln Park.