On April 14, 1912, one of the most famous disasters occurred with the sinking of the Titanic. The loss of a ship at sea was certainly not a rare occurrence and though the loss of life was tragic, it was not the greatest loss ever experienced in such a disaster. Yet, the Titanic’s destruction lives in our collective memory, and this ship has become a cultural icon.
This is partly due to the ship and partly to its passengers. The Titanic was considered one of the most luxurious liners in the White Star fleet. Even its third class quarters filled with immigrants were of higher quality than was typical of ships at that time. It was new in design, and its owners boasted that it was virtually “unsinkable.” And it was taking its first voyage from England to America on that fateful day in April.
The list of first-class passengers was a Who’s Who among the wealthy elite of British and American society. Several well-known individuals were lost when the Titanic slipped beneath the frigid waves of the north Atlantic. Their wealthy families demanded investigations and accountability, and this kept the sinking of the Titanic in the news for months to come. Witnesses and survivors told harrowing accounts of the events in the wee hours of the morning on an ice-choked sea.
There were Oklahoma connections to the Titanic. Helen Candee was a wealthy socialite originally from Connecticut. She had lived for a time in Guthrie, Oklahoma Territory, and had written articles and one novel about the Oklahoma Land Run. She was returning from a visit to Italy and was aboard the Titanic that night. She was forced to jump into lifeboat number six and broke her ankle. She shared this craft with the “unsinkable” Molly Brown and helped in rowing the boat.
The Cornelius Foley family from Eufaula had been booked for passage to America aboard the Titanic. But at the last minute they chose not to board the vessel. Some accounts say one of their five sons had taken ill and that was the reason for missing the boat. But a descendant of Mrs. Foley shares a different story.
According to family lore, Mrs. Rosa Foley had dreamed about a ship sinking the night before they were to depart from England. The parents argued all the way to the dock, but eventually Rosa won the argument and they did not board the Titanic even though most of their luggage had already been stowed aboard. Mr. Foley then booked passage on the Carpathia which set sail the same day.
It was the Carpathia which received the distress signal from the Titanic and changed course to reach the ship about an hour after it sank. The Carpathia rescued all the survivors who had made it to the lifeboats. Mrs. Foley’s oldest son took photos of the Titanic passengers and shared them with family members for many years to come.
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