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Nellie M. FlanaganNellie Flanagan, 1

1  |  2 | 3 | 4

Heroic sister. We can't help being curious about Nellie. My grandmother worshipped her bright and talented older sister and talked about her enough that 40 and 50 years after Nellie died, Kitty's grandchildren were aware that "Nellie" was part of Kitty Mom.

But the Nellie whose spirit lived on with Kitty Mom was the wonderful girl of their early childhood, when the family was healthy and prosperous.

But in 1903, life takes a turn for the worse.1  Dissolution starts with a house fire. Nellie single-handedly pushes her beloved piano out onto the front porch and gets her picture in the paper. She was about 14 -- the right age for a romantic act of heroism. But then her mother dies and Nellie's trail disappears.

She is not living with her father for the 1910 census but is back home with him in 1911, listed in the City Directory, working as a clerk. Until we probed deeper, the next thing we knew for sure is that, in March 1913, she is dead.

I'm thinking of my grandmother. Kitty Flanagan asserted her whereabouts in the world. Between the age of 19 and her marriage at 23, she moved around but held on to her job at Bell Telephone. She is in the 1910 census and makes her appearance every year in the City Directory. Kitty shouts "I'm here!" just as her sister fades away. I can't help thinking about that -- a clue to Kitty's ability to thrive amid tragedy -- her sense of self, her having her own identity that didn't crumble when those around her did.

But this is supposed to be Nellie's story.

Nellie's last days>>>

4.24.05 (last updated on 12.10.2005)


b. August 1889 , in Illinois - d. Mar 26, 1913

Coroner's Inquest (PDF)

For the basics, check the summary of the Flanagan kids and the timeline of their demise.

1  Speculation about when this fire took place: the family address changed from 4267 Kossuth to an upstairs flat at 4221a Farlin sometime between early 1902 and early 1903 -- when Nellie would have been about 14. Upstairs apartments in classic St. Louis brick 2-flats were unlikely to have porches that a piano could be dragged out on. Following this logic, the fire would have taken place during the year prior to Maggie's death in June 1903.

(It appears the City Directories were published in April of the referenced year, so I'm guessing that the information was collected in January.)