April 15th, 1912 is a date forever attached to one of the world’s greatest tragedies, the sinking of the “unsinkable” RMS Titanic on her maiden voyage from Southampton, England to New York City.
The dreams for many of the 2,229 souls on board included high hopes for new beginnings in cities all over a new country. Sadly, over time, their tales aboard Titanic’s first and only voyage began to fade with time, but it took a major Hollywood event to change all that and bring the stories back to the front pages.
Without a doubt, James Cameron’s hugely successful 1997 film Titanic not only wove in a romantic fictional tale of love and loss, but at the same time gave aspiring researchers and writers a fresh opportunity to publish true-life accounts of those who were lost and those fortunate to have survived to share their accounts.
Cleveland's Titanic Connections
One angle that became popular, and remains so today, is looking up Titanic connections to one’s hometown. This brought a deeply personal connection for people in cities all across the country.
Cleveland is certainly not without its own connections to the Titanic, so let's take a look back at some passengers who may have called our fair city home, or perhaps had been looking forward to making Cleveland home.
Twenty-two-year-old Elsie Bowerman and her 48-year-old mother Edith Chibnall were from England and were embarking on an adventure to travel all through the United States and Canada with one of their first stops to be in Cleveland. Both were fortunate enough to have survived.
Cleveland, as well as Chicago, had been home to Catherine (Kate) McGowan, and she returned to Ireland to bring her 17-year-old niece Annie McGowan back on the Titanic for a family visit with Catherine’s sister still in Cleveland. Annie survived and made it to America while Kate perished.
Nicholas Sasser, age 28, had been in America working for a number of years before returning home to Lebanon to marry Adele, 14, and bring her back home to the U.S. Adele was already pregnant with their first child on the trip; she survived while Nicholas did not.
One of the most unusual tales of survival goes to 20-year-old Victor Sunderland, who was headed to Cleveland where his uncle lived. The unusual part was that he survived for over six hours precariously atop an overturned lifeboat.
Hoping to find work in Cleveland, Richard Rouse, 54, wanted to also reunite with his stepdaughter in a brand-new country. Sadly the two never realized that dream as Richard perished.
Traveling from India, where her husband was a missionary, 34-year-old Mary Corey was also pregnant with her first child as she headed to Cleveland to visit with her uncle, Reverend R.A. George. She also never completed her journey.
Many of my posts have some sort of a personal connection, and this next-to-last passenger happens to be immortalized with sign in a local restaurant/bar called Sirnas, as she was from Bedford.
Sirnas just so happens to be one of my sales accounts. When current owner Brett Holycross bought Sirnas from the Sirna family, he thought it to be very important to preserve some of Bedford’s rich history in some way with the restaurant. So he personally had signs created about significant Bedford historical moments, and these next passengers certainly met his criteria. Mary and Thomas Davison, 34 and 32 respectively, were returning to the United States from their native England for a second time to settle with Mary’s family in Bedford, but only Mary was able to complete the trip and reunite with family.
Last, but certainly not least, acclaimed artist, painter, and writer Francis Davis Millet was in Cleveland at the turn of the century painting the 13 murals that are in the rotunda of the iconic Cleveland Trust Building at the corner of E. 9th and Euclid. The original paintings were much smaller than what is seen today. The originals had been boxed and stored and only later discovered one hundred years after the building had opened.
Millet had booked passage to travel to New York to see art he had displayed in New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art. It would be his final adventure in a life well and fully lived, as he was one of the roughly 1,500 souls that perished aboard what was the largest ship of its time and, sadly, wrongly thought to be unsinkable.
Cities all over our country will certainly have their own tales similar to Cleveland’s when it comes to the Titanic and all the dreams that were so cruelly and quickly ended on that maiden voyage. We hope that Cleveland’s connections will inspire you to research other tales as well. In a way, it helps to keep their dreams alive just a bit.