I am writing a Chautauqua style oratory for our Museum in Greeley, Colorado about 10 circus men who died in a train fire in August 1884. My concept is to have an orator portray one of the men and entertain people with tales about life in the circus in 1884 and circus traditions of that time and “betcha’ didn’t know”, kinds of information. To put their lives into context I would like to know more about the Orton Anglo American Circus of that time. Also, would there be any way to chart their route of that year and maybe see a poster of their circus?
Thank you Nancy Lynch, Lead Interpreter, Greeley Museums
I just came across an ad for the Anglo-American Circus in a Lebanon (KY) newspaper of 11 Apr. 1883. The ad says the circus will be arriving in Lebanon, KY “on their own special trains” for a Tuesday, Apr. 24 show in Lebanon. The ad says that the show will then go to Greensburg, KY for a show on Wed., Apr. 25. (Though the C & O railroad had planned to go through Greensburg, KY on south, financial problems stopped track expansion at Greensburg.) According to the ad, “Miles Orton and Little Allie and Bernard are with us.” If you would like a copy of the ad, I would be happy to forward it.
William L. Slout, Olympians of the Sawdust Circle, pp. 228-230. Has some Orton genealogy and details on the family. Says Hiram Orton was born 1805 and died August 2, 1883 of heart trouble at Norris, Michigan, age 72. Norris, MI was a suburb of Detroit, MI, I think. Others have his death as 1884.
Regarding the death of Orton, we have very little on who died, just a few names mentioned in a newspaper article, and none were of an Orton. The following is a quote of the portion of the article that deals with that. Greeley Tribune, September 8, 1884, of August 29, 1884 event; “TEN MEN ROASTED ALIVE Ralph Meeker in the Denver News.” “The names of the dead, as far as can be learned, are as follows; Alex McCleod, of Marinette, Wisconsin; John Kelley, of New York city; Silverthorn, and others called Andy, Frenchy, Frank, George, Smithee, and one they don’t know anything about.”
I ran across this tonight about the Orton Circus. I would like a copy of that fire in Greeley, Colorado. About the 10 circus men who died in a train fire. Do you have a list? Hiram Orton died about that time and he was with his son Miles Orton who was in charge of the Orton Circus at that time. I am surprized to see that Miles Orton had names the circus Orton Anglo-American. I did write Greeley, CO for a death cert. on Hiram Orton 1884. Aug. 8, 1884 in a book said he died. From John Polacsek’s route, that put the circus in Kansas about that time. Miles’s brother, R. Z. Orton – Orton Brothers Circus wintered in Ortonville, Iowa. R. Z. Orton died in 1923 and his wife took over until 1931 when she died. I have been working on the Orton history, all I need now is where Hiram Orton died and was laid to rest. Do you know if Hiram Orton was on of those who died in the fire?
Thank you, Ruth Orton Miller
Thanks to John Polasek for your information on the itinerary for the Orton Circus in 1884. You had mentioned an ad in the Longmont Paper for the circus. I could definitely drive to Longmont and look that up. Bizarre that the fire occurred after midnight August 29, 1884 with ten men killed in the fire, numerous others seriously injured and incapacitated yet they played Golden that same day? Or, maybe they were scheduled to play that day and had to postpone a bit.?? Curious. Thank you ever so much. 🙂
Nancy Lynch, City of Greeley Museums
The Orton Anglo American Shows and Menagerie for 1884 started at the shows winterquarters just north of Detroit, Michigan. In May the played lower Michigan, in June were in Wisconsin, then worked their way to Minnesota going as far north as Duluth were they played the 4th of July. They were at West Union Iowa July 29, and Aug. 6 at Lamar, Missouri, then into Kansas at Girard Aug 8, Salina August 20, Junction City, Aug 18, Ellsworth Aug 22, McPherson Aug. 21, Hays Aug 23, (all Kansas). Sunday the 24 they had off, and appear in Longmont, Colorado Aug 27, Fort Collins Aug 28, Golden Aug 29. (There is an ad in the Longmont newspaper for the show, check the microfilm) Sept 15 Waterville, Kan,, Sept 17 Kirwin, Kan,,Sept 20 Washington, Kan., Oct 1 Pittsburgh, Kan., Oct. 4 Jonesboro, Ark, and a recorded date, but they may have not played it for Oct. 8 Grenada, Miss. The show reportedly wintered in Nevada, Missouri after closing in Jonesboro, Arkansas. I am unaware of any posters for that season.
I initiated this conversation in 2004 and my thanks to everyone who responded. We had a great response to the 2004 version and are repeating it this August (2007). I would love to have an advertisement copy or poster, if any have access to Orton Anglo American Shows and Menagerie for 1884, or any Orton poster copies. My email has changed to Nancy.Lynch@greeleygov.com.
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