April 14th will commemorate the 106th anniversary of an event which shocked the world: the sinking of the “Ship of Dreams”, the R.M.S. Titanic. The exact mechanics of this tragedy have been the subject of fascination for many, as we struggle to untangle the how and why. What combination of events and oversights brought this unsinkable ship to her final resting place on the ocean floor? Could it have been prevented?
This weekend, visitors to Laurel Hill can ponder these questions and more as they come along on a guided walking tour which will highlight our six Titanic passengers (along with some others who met similar, watery fates).
Three men, and three women of Laurel Hill were aboard the fated ship on April 14th, 1912, when she struck an iceberg, causing catastrophic damage. The three women survived to tell their tales, while the three men did not. Does this say something about the “unsinkable” female spirit, or does it confirm the reports of men giving up their seats on lifeboats for women?
Maybe a little of both. Let’s find out some more.
Lily had taken a trip to the Holy Lands as she grieved for the unexpected loss of her husband, Thomas. The trip on the Titanic would be her return voyage back to the states. She was accompanied by her daughter, Olive.
Both Lily and Olive were first class passengers. After the ship struck the iceberg and began to sink, they boarded lifeboat #7, and were later rescued by the S.S. Carpathia.
Lily lived to be 98, and was instrumental in founding the Southeastern Pennsylvania chapter of the American Red Cross.
Olive Potter Crolius
Olive accompanied her mother on her trip to the Holy Lands, as Olive herself was still distressed over a bitter divorce. Once Olive and Lily landed in New York after their rescue, they granted an interview to the waiting reporters. They confirmed that they were indeed still wearing the same clothes they had on when the Titanic went down.
Curiously, a copy of the Second Class passenger list which Olive had made notes in surfaced years later. Nobody is sure why she had this list, (being a First Class passenger herself) nor what her notations meant.
Despite her terrifying experience of surviving a sinking ship and a rescue effort, Olive never gave up her love of traveling.
Eleanor Elkins Widener
The Widener family had been traveling in Europe, and made sure to be in Cherbourg, France in time to return back to the U.S. aboard the Titanic. On the evening of April 14th, shortly after a lavish dinner party, the Titanic collided with an iceberg at 11:20 pm.
Passengers scrambled for lifeboats in a chaotic and frightening scene, and indeed, Eleanor boarded the last lifeboat to leave the sinking ship: lifeboat #4. Her husband and son stayed back as she went on. Eleanor survived the sinking of the Titanic, but her husband and son did not.
George Dunton Widener
Having recently built the Ritz-Carlton Hotel, George had been in Paris looking for chefs for the hotel’s kitchens. He boarded the Titanic with his wife and son, probably expecting nothing more than a luxurious, transatlantic voyage.
George placed his wife Eleanor and her maid into a lifeboat, and handed his wife two jeweled rings, telling her he’d retrieve them when they met up again. They never did.
George’s body was never recovered from the wreckage (or perhaps it was, but never identified). His grave is marked with a cenotaph in his memory.
Harry Elkins Widener
The son of Eleanor and George, Harry had spent some of his vacation in Europe searching for rare books to add to his considerable private collection. Harry was a graduate of The Hill School in Pottstown, and later Harvard.
Like his father, Harry stayed back on board the sinking Titanic after setting his mother aboard the last lifeboat to leave the ship. His body was never recovered, and he is also remembered with a cenotaph in the family mausoleum.
The Harry Elkins Widener Memorial Library at Harvard was founded in his honor, thanks to a monetary contribution from his mother Eleanor. Legend has it that she donated the money for the library on the condition that every graduate of Harvard be taught how to swim.
William Crothers Dulles
A first class passenger on the Titanic, William is the only male passenger of Laurel Hill whose body was recovered. He has one of the more interestingly worded inscriptions on his resting place inside his mausoleum: “Died From Titanic.”
When his body was recovered by the C.S. Mackay-Bennett, he was listed as body #133. Among his personal possessions were a gold watch and chain, a gold plated knife, and a gold tie clip.
Want to Know More?
We’d love to have you come out to remember the 106th anniversary of the sinking of the Titanic with us here at Laurel Hill. You’ll hear more complete stories of the survivors and victims, and learn about some other “residents” who met their ends in the water.