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The sinking of the Titanic (1912)

by Jay Henry Mowbray

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Praises Captain and Crew — Bids President of Grand Trunk Railway Good-bye — In Water for Six Hours — Saved by Cake of Ice — Boats not Filled, she says — Millionaire Died to Save Wife's Maid — Heroic Sacrifice of Railroad Official.

  From William E. Carter, Bryn Mawr, Pa., who, with his wife and two children, Lucille and William E. Carter, Jr., was saved from the wreck of the Titanic, it was learned today that the three women probably most notable among the survivors were in the same lifeboat. They were Mrs. John Jacob Astor, Mrs. George D. Widener and Mrs. John B. Thayer. In the same boat were Mrs. Carter and her two children.

  Colonel Astor, Mr. Thayer, Mr. Widener and Mr. Carter separated as soon as the ladies were safely in the lifeboats, and Mr. Carter never saw the three men again.

  Mr. Carter was a passenger on the lifeboat in which J. Bruce Ismay, managing director of the White Star Line, made his escape from the sinking liner. Mr. Carter declared that the boat was the last to leave the starboard side of the Titanic and was nearly the last which left the vessel.

  When entered by Mr. Carter and Mr. Ismay the boat was occupied entirely by women of the third cabin. Every woman on the starboard side of the vessel had been sent off in lifeboats when Mr. Ismay and he got into the boat, Mr. Carter said.

  Mr. Carter and his family were staying for a few days at the home of his brother-in-law, William C. Dickerman, 809 Madison ave., New York. Mr. Carter expressed the greatest admiration for the discipline maintained by the officers of the Titanic, and voiced the opinion that Mr. Ismay should not be held open to criticism.

  "If there had been another woman to go, neither Mr. Ismay nor myself would have gotten into the boat. There can be no criticism of Mr. Ismay's action."

  In describing his experience Mr. Carter said he had urged Harry Elkins Widener to go with him to the starboard side of the vessel. Young Mr. Widener, thinking that there was no immediate danger, remarked that he would take his chances on the vessel.

  Mr. Carter said he was in the smoking room of the Titanic when the crash came. "I was talking to Major Butt, Clarence Moore and Harry Widener," he explained. "It was just seventeen minutes to 12 o'clock.

  "Although there was quite a jar, I thought the trouble was slight. I believe it was the immense size of the Titanic which brought many of the passengers to believe there was no danger. I went on deck to see what had happened. Almost as I reached the deck the engines were stopped.


  I hurried down to see about my family and found they were all in bed. Just then the vessel listed a little to port, and I told my wife and children they had better get up and dress.

  "Just then orders were issued for everyone to get on life preservers. When we came out on the deck boats were being lowered. Mrs. Carter and the children got into the fourth or fifth boat with Mrs. Astor, Mrs. Widener and Mrs. Thayer.

  "After I got my family into the boat and saw it pushed off the Titanic listed more and more to one side. I decided that I had better look out for myself and went up to a deck on the starboard side. In the meantime a good many boats were getting off.

  "There were no women on the starboard side when I reached there except one collapsible raft load of third-class women passengers. Mr. Ismay and myself got into the boat, which was either the last or the next to the last to leave the Titanic.

  "As we left the ship the lights went out and the Titanic started to go down. The crash had ripped up the side and the water rushing into the boiler-room caused the boilers to explode.

  "We were a good distance off when we saw the Titanic dip and disappear. We stayed in the boat until about 5 o'clock, Mr. Ismay and myself pulling on the oars with three members of the crew practically all the time.

  "Never in my life have I seen such splendid discipline as was, maintained by Captain Smith and his men. There was no panic and the order was splendid.

  "Before I left Harry Widener I urged him to come with me to the starboard side of the ship, and it was then he told me he would take his chances on the vessel. He had on a life belt, as did every other passenger, many of whom stayed in the smoking room playing bridge.


  "I saw Colonel Astor place his wife in the same boat that put my family in, and at the same time Mr. Widener parted from his wife and Mr. Thayer put Mrs. Thayer in the boat. I did not see the men again."

  Major Arthur Puechen, a wealthy resident of Toronto, Canada, was the last man on the Titanic to say goodbye to Charles M. Hays, president of the Grand Trunk Pacific Railway, who lost his life.

  After assisting members of the crew in filling up the first five boats, Major Puechen who is an experienced yachtsman, was assigned by the second mate to take charge of boat No. 6. Major Puechen said he declined to accept such a post, not desiring to have any preference over any of his fellow passengers.

  Captain Smith, wishing an experienced boatsman on boat No. 6, directed the second officer to give the Major a written order to take charge of it. Major Puechen displayed this order to some of his friends last night, so as to make it plain that it was at the demand of the ship's officers that he undertook the assignment.

  Just as the Major was about to leave in the lifeboat, his old friend, Charles M. Hays, of the Grand Trunk, came up and said goodbye. Mr. Hays had no idea, according to Major Puechen that the ship would sink as soon as it did, but believed that help would be at hand sufficient to care for all before the vessel went down.

  Mr. Hays remarked to the Major that the ship could not possibly sink within eight hours, and that long before then everybody would be taken off safely. Mr. Hays expressed no fear that he would be lost by remaining on board the ship.

  Peter D. Daly, of New York, jumped from the deck of the Titanic after it was announced that there were only boats enough for the women and children. As he saw the ship settling gradually he swam away with all his might to prevent being carried down with the suction of the sinking liner.


  "For six hours I beat the water with hands and feet to keep warm," he said. "Then I was picked tip by one of the Carpathia's boats, which was cruising around looking for survivors. I was numb from the cold, after a fight which I can scarcely bear to discuss.

  "Even after I recovered from the chill and shock, I was practically prostrated by the nervous strain, and every mention of the disaster sends a shiver through me.

  "There was no violent impact when the vessel collided with the ice. I rushed to the deck from my cabin, got a life preserver and, when things began to look serious, threw myself into the water. The boat had already begun to settle."

  A huge cake of ice was the means of aiding Emile Portaluppi, of Aricgabo, Italy, in escaping death when the Titanic went down. Portaluppi, a second class passenger, was awakened by the explosion of one of the boilers of the ship. He hurried to the deck, strapped a life preserver around him and leaped into the sea. With the aid of the preserver and by holding to a cake of ice he managed to keep afloat until one of the lifeboats picked him up. There were thirty-five people in the boat when he was hauled aboard.

  Mrs. Lucien P. Smith, of Huntington, W. Va., daughter of Representative James P. Hughes, of West Virginia, a bride of about eight weeks, whose husband was lost in the wreck, gave her experience through the medium of her uncle, Dr. J. H. Vincent, of Huntington, West Virginia.

  "The women were shoved into the lifeboats," said Dr. Vincent. "The crew did not wait until the lifeboat was filled before they lowered it. As a matter of fact there were but twenty- six people in the boat, mostly all women, when an officer gave instructions to lower it. Mr. Smith was standing alongside the boat when it was lowered. There was plenty of room for more people to get into the lifeboats, the capacity being fifty.


  "Mrs. Smith implored Captain Smith to allow her husband in the boat, but her repeated appeals, however, were ignored. This lifeboat was permitted to be lowered with but one sailor in it and he was drunk. His condition was such that he could not row the boat and therefore the women had to do the best they could in rowing about the icy waters.

  "As the boat swung out from the side it was evident that the three men knew absolutely nothing about rowing and Mrs. Kenyon said she and another woman seized the oars and helped the sailors to pull clear. Gradually the small boat was worked away from the Titanic. The boat had gone quite a distance when suddenly all heard a terrific explosion and in the glare which followed they saw the body of a man hurled from the bridge high in the air. Then darkness fell. At 6.30 the boat was picked up by the Carpathia."

  Mrs. Elizabeth Dyke, of Westhaven, Conn., a bride whose husband perished, lost besides her husband all her worldly possessions.

  "When the crash came," said Mrs. Dyker, "I met Adolph on deck. He had a satchel in which were two gold watches, two diamond rings, a sapphire necklace and two hundred crowns. He couldn't go in the boat with me but grabbed a life preserver and said he would try to save himself. That was the last I saw of him. When the lifeboat came alongside the Carpathia one of the men in it threw my satchel to the deck. I have not seen it since."

  Kate Mullin, of County Longford, Ireland, told of how stewards had tried to keep back the steerage women. She said she saw scores of men and women jump overboard and drown.

  Bunar Tonglin, a Swede, was saved in the next to the last boat which left the Titanic. Before getting into the boat he placed two hysterical women in another boat. Then he heard a cry, and, looking up, saw a woman standing on the upper deck. The woman, he said, dropped from her arms her baby, which Tonglin caught, and gave to one of the women he had put in the boat. Then he got into his own boat, which was lowered, and shortly afterwards came the two explosions, and the plunge downward of the Titanic. Tonglin declared that he had seen numerous persons leap from the decks of the Titanic and drown.


  Mrs. Fred R. Kenyon, of Southington, Conn., was one of the Titanic's survivors. Her husband went down with the vessel rather than take the place of a woman in a boat. Mrs. Kenyon said that when the call was given for the women to take places near the boat davits, in readiness to be placed in the boats as they were swung off, Mr. Kenyon was by her side. When it came her turn to enter the boat, Mr. Kenyon helped his wife to a place and kissed her goodbye. Mrs. Kenyon said she asked him to come with her, and he replied: "I would not with all those women and children waiting to get off."

  In an instant Mr. Kenyon had stepped back and other women took their places and the boat swung clear and dropped to the water. In the boat Mrs. Kenyon said there were one sailor and three men who had been ordered in because they said they could row.

  Mrs. John B. Thayer, whose husband, the second vice-president of the Pennsylvania Railroad, went down with the Titanic, after heroically standing aside to allow his wife's maid to take his place in the lifeboat, and whose young son, John B. Thayer, Jr., was pulled aboard a lifeboat after being thrown from the giant liner just before she sank, seemed too dazed by what she had gone through to realize the awful enormity of the tragedy when she reached her home at Haverford, Pa.

  After reaching the Thayer home Mrs. Thayer was put to bed and the greatest precautions were taken to see that neither she nor young "Jack" Thayer was disturbed. Detectives from the Pennsylvania Railroad, assisted by two members of the Lower Merion police force, guarded the house both front and rear. All callers were told that both Mrs. Thayer and her son were too much overcome by their heartbreaking experience to see any one.


  Mrs. Thayer, young John B. Thayer, junior no longer, Miss Eustis, a sister of Mrs. Walter B. Stephenson, of Haverford, and Margaret Fleming, Mrs. Thayer's maid, for whose safety Mr. Thayer sacrificed his own life, all arrived at the Haverford Station at 12.30 o'clock. They had made the trip from Jersey City in a special train consisting of an engine, baggage car and Pullman, with two day coaches to add the necessary weight to make the train ride easily. The special left the Pennsylvania Station at 10.16 and drew up at the Haverford Station just two hours and fourteen minutes later.

  Harry C. Thayer, of Merion, a brother of Mr. Thayer, met his sister-in-law and nephew at the New York pier where the. Carpathia docked, together with Dr. R.G. Gamble, of Haverford, the Thayers' family physician. Mrs. Thayer, though seemingly composed, is really in a very serious condition, according to Dr. Gamble. Her hours of exposure in an open boat, her uncertainty as to, the fate of her son, whom she saw jump overboard, just before the Titanic sank, carrying her husband to a watery grave, was more than any woman could be expected to bear.

  Eight or ten friends and relatives of the Thayer family, together with Captain Donaghy, of the Lower Merion police department, and a squad of his men, were awaiting the special train at the Haverford Station. A big limousine automobile was also on hand with the motor running, ready to whisk the party to the Thayer home, "Redwood," just back of the Merion Cricket Club.

  As the train slowed tip, the relatives and friends formed a double line opposite the Pullman car. The moment the train stopped, Mrs. Thayer was helped down the steps and to the automobile. Wearing heavy brown furs, a dark hat with a half veil, Mrs. Thayer looked dazed and walked as one asleep, as she was assisted into the motor car. Her son, young "Jack" Thayer, was at her side, with Miss Eustis and the maid, Margaret Fleming, bringing up the rear. The boy, a husky youngster, looked little the worse for his experiences and bore himself in manly fashion.


  There was a clang of the motor car door, a crashing bang as the gears were shoved into Place and the machine was off at top speed for the Thayer residence. Dr. Gamble, whose car was also in waiting, acted as spokesman for all. Mrs. Thayer, he said, was too overcome to be questioned, but he had gleaned from young "Jack" Thayer and from Margaret Fleming, the maid, a few details that brought out in vivid relief the quiet heroism of Mr. Thayer.

  The son, also had proven, himself in the critical moment. Shortly after the Titanic crashed into the iceberg, said the doctor, Mr. Thayer had collected his wife, his son and his wife's maid and gotten them in line for a lifeboat. Realizing that there was not enough room for the men, Mr. Thayer forced his wife and her maid into the boat and then tried to get his son in also.

  The lad, however, refused to desert his father. Stepping back, he made room for some one else, said to have been a grown man, and grasping his father's hand, said he "guessed he would stick by dad." Before Mr. Thayer could protest or forcibly place his son in the lifeboat, it had been launched and the opportunity was gone.

  A few seconds before the Titanic sank, however, Mr. Thayer seemed to grasp the fact that the end was near. Picking up the boy he threw him into the sea. "Swim to a boat my boy," he said.

  Young Thayer, taken by surprise, had no chance to object. Before he knew what had happened, he was struggling in the icy waters of the ocean. Striking out, the lad swam to a lifeboat, said Mr. Gamble, but was beaten off by some of those aboard, as the boat was already overcrowded.

  But the pluck that has made so many Thayers famous as athletes in many branches of sport was deeply implanted in young "Jack" Thayer. Turning from the lifeboat from which he had been beaten off, he swam to another. Once again he was fended away with a long oar. And all this time Mrs. Thayer, safe in another boat, watched her son struggle for life, too overcome with horror to even scream.


  A few seconds later the Titanic went down. There was a swirling of the waters, though not as much suction as had been expected. To save himself from the tug of the indraw waters, young Thayer grasped a floating cake of ice. To this he clung until another boat, filled with people of more kindly hearts, came by and pulled him aboard.

  In this boat was Miss Brown, a friend of the boy's mother. She took charge of him until they were taken on board the Carpathia. Mrs. Thayer had not seen the rescue of her son. She had fainted, it is said, but revived a few moments later and did yeoman service at the oars. Other survivors in her boat spoke in the highest terms of her calm courage, which served to keep up the spirits of the women, half frozen from the bitter cold, insufficiently clad and bereft of their loved ones. Taking an oar, without waiting to be asked, she used every ounce of her strength for long hours before the Carpathia arrived, aiding the few sailors aboard to keep the boat's head to the sea and to dodge the myriads of ice cakes.

  The exercise, however, served to keep her warm, and when she was lifted to the deck of the Carpathia she did not need hospital treatment. Her son, however, was in bad shape when he was rescued. His clothing was frozen to his body and he was exhausted from his battle with the ice-filled sea. Restoratives and hot water bottles in the Carpathia's hospital brought him around in time, however, and the moment he was able to stand on his feet he rushed through the ship, seeking his mother. That was a joyful reunion for both, but particularly for Mrs. Thayer, as she had given her son up for lost.


  Broken in spirits, bowed with grief, Mrs. Thayer stepped off the Carpathia at New York with the other few hundreds of survivors last night. With her was her young son, John B. Thayer, Jr., who stayed on board the vessel until she sank to share his father's fate, but who proved more fortunate than the railroad magnate, and was saved. She was heavily veiled and was supported by the son, who seemed, with his experience, to have aged twice his sixteen years.

  Awaiting her arrival was a special train, sent by officers of the Pennsylvania Railroad for her arrival. One of the cars was that in which she and Mr. Thayer frequently had taken trips together. It was in this car that she rode to Philadelphia, the last time she ever will enter it.

  Every arrangement had been made for the care and comfort of Mrs. Thayer. Immediately upon her arrival at the pier where the rescue ship, Carpathia, docked, relatives and representatives of the railroad were ready to receive her.

  A motor car had been held in readiness and when she disembarked from the vessel, leaning upon the arm of her young son, she was led silently to it. They were the first of the Philadelphia survivors to arrive at the Pennsylvania station. It was exactly 10 o'clock when the car in which she and her son had ridden, pulled up outside the great building erected when her husband was one of the directing heads of the road. With her was Dr. Neidermeier, the station physician, who had been sent to take care of her during the short time she stayed in New York. Tenderly he lifted Mrs. Thayer to the pavement and then led her inside and across the central floor toward the train.

  Garments had been brought from her home for Mrs. Thayer, to take the place of those which she bad worn when, scantily clad, she bade her husband good-bye and climbed down the ladder of the Titanic to the waiting lifeboats. But the widow was too worn physically and too greatly bowed down with grief to make the change. She wore a thin raincoat which reached nearly to the ground. Its folds were wrinkled. A heavy veil completely covered her head, crushing down her hat.


  Following her from the cab came her son and Henry Thayer, a brother of the former railroad man. Dr. Gamble, the family physician, and Mr. Norris, a relative of Mrs. Thayer, were also in the party which had met her at the Cunard pier.

  As the widow of their former chief passed them, the employes of the railroad stopped and removed their hats. T. DeWitt Cuyler, a director of the Pennsylvania Railroad, saw her coming and stepped toward her. As he did so, Dr. Neidermeier quickly grasped his arm and drew him to one side where Mrs. Thayer would not hear.

  "Mr. Thayer is dead," the physician whispered silently. Mr. Cuyler gripped the doctor's hand and then, his face working violently, he turned quickly away.

  It was only a few minutes after Mrs. Thayer had stepped on board the car that the train started for Philadelphia. It left the station at 10.19 o'clock.

  "I was with father," said "Jack" Thayer, speaking for himself of his experience. "They wanted me to go into a boat, but I wanted to stay with him. Men and women kept calling to me to hurry and jump in a boat, but it wasn' t any use. I knew what I was doing. It didn't seem to be anything to be afraid about. Some of the men were laughing. Nobody appeared to be excited. We had struck with a smash and then we seemed to slide off backwards from the big field of ice. It was cold, but we didn't mind that.

  "The boats were put off without much fuss. Mother was put into one of the boats. As I said, she wanted me to go with her. But I said I guessed I would stick with dad. After awhile I felt the ship tipping toward the front. The next thing I knew somebody gave me a push and I was in the water. Down, down, down, I went, ever so far. It seemed as if I never would stop. I couldn't breathe. Then I shot up through the water just as fast as I went down. I had just time to take a long, deep breath when a wave went over me.

  "When I came to the surface a second time I swam to a boat. They wouldn't take me in. Then I tried another. Same result. Finally, when I was growing weak, I bumped against something. I found it was an overturned lifeboat. It was a struggle to pull myself upon it, but I did it after a while. My, it was cold! I never suffered so much in my life. All around were the icebergs.

  "I could see boats on all sides. I must have shouted, because my throat was all raw and sore, but nobody seemed to notice. I guess they all were shouting, too. Every part of me ached with the cold. I thought I was going to die. It seemed as if I couldn't stand it any longer.

  "The time was so long and I was so weak. Then I just couldn't feel anything any more. I knew if I stayed there I would freeze. A boat came by and I swam to it. They took me aboard. The next thing I remember clearly was when the boat from the Carpathia came and I was taken into it and wrapped tip in the coats of the men. They told me I was more than three hours on that raft and in that open boat. It seemed more like three years to me."


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