Yoopers on the Titanic

by Larry Chabot

Jenny Henriksson, a twenty-eight-year-old maid for a Swedish banker, saved money for years to migrate to America. Her chance to pursue her dream came when a relative, Wilhelm Skoog, decided his move from America back to his native Sweden the previous year was a mistake, and so he and his family were returning to Michigan.
Jenny jumped at the opportunity to go along, as did her cousin Ellen Petterson. Gathered in the British port city of Southampton on April 10, 1912, they excitedly marched onto RMS Titanic, the world’s biggest and grandest passenger ship, about to make its maiden voyage to New York.
Bristling with the latest maritime advancements, the White Star Line’s Titanic was thought to be ‘unsinkable’ until it hit an iceberg in the North Atlantic and sank in less than three hours in the early morning of April 15. Although 706 people survived, more than 1,500 died in one of the worst maritime disasters ever. Its lifeboats were sufficient for only 1,178 persons.
0903bt1The news was shocking: all those people gone. The famous and the anonymous were aboard: millionaire John Jacob Astor IV and wife Madeleine, Macy’s owner Isidor Straus and wife Ida, White Star Line’s manager Bruce Ismay, the ship’s builder Thomas Andrews, and Denver millionairess Margaret Brown (known in legend and movies as “The Unsinkable Molly Brown”).
Jenny Henriksson and friends weren’t the only U.P.-bound passengers. Since we are seldom linked with that disaster, many will be surprised to learn that twenty-three people were heading for our beautiful peninsula—some returning from homeland visits, others migrating here. Only three survived. Sadly, the dream died for Jenny, her cousin Ellen, and all six Skoogs.
These are the twenty who died (none was in first-class):

Second Class

• Frank Andrew, 30, from Cornwall to Houghton, left a wife and two children.
• Frederick Banfield, 28, from Plymouth to Houghton, former Nevada and Isle Royale Mine employee, returning from a visit.
• William Berriman, 23, from Cornwall to Calumet, a miner; Carbines’ brother-in-law.
• William Carbines, 19, from Cornwall to Calumet, to join two brothers in Calumet.
• Joseph Fillbrook, 18, from Cornwall to Houghton, a painter and decorator.
• Stephen Jenkin, 32, from Cornwall to Houghton, electrical engineer; played the piano at a service the night before he died.
• Samuel Sobey, 25, from Cornwall to Houghton, a miner returning home, traveling with Banfield and Fillbrook.

Third Class

• Jovo Calic, 17, from Croatia to Sault Ste. Marie, a farmer.
• Petar Calic, 17, from Croatia to Sault Ste. Marie, a farmer.
(Note: Four others from Croatia with the same surname, heading for Chicago, also died.)
• Alfons de Pelsmaeker, 16, from Belgium to Gladstone, a weaver, to join his brother.
• Jenny Henriksson, 28, from Sweden to Iron Mountain; she remained unidentified for years until her clothing’s initials—“JH”—revealed her as Jenny.
• Ellen Petterson, 18, from Sweden to Iron Mountain, cousin of Jenny.
• Wilhelm Skoog, 40, from Sweden to Iron Mountain.
• Anna Skoog, 43, from Sweden to Iron Mountain.
• Four Skoog children: Karl, 11; Mabel, 9; Harald, 5; and Margrit, 2. (Skoog was a Swedish mining engineer who lived in Iron Mountain while working at the Pewabic Mine. He returned to Sweden with his family in late 1911 and they were on their way back.)

The Survivors
So which three lived? Here they are; oddly, all were in the same second-class cabin:

• Maude Sincock, 20, from Cornwall to Hancock, in lifeboat 11.
• Elizabeth Davies, 40, from Cornwall to Mohawk, in lifeboat 14.
• John Davies, Jr., 9, from Cornwall to Mohawk, in lifeboat 14.

0903bt2Their safe arrival was understated seriously, as if they’d just returned from Dollar Bay. On April 22, the Mining Journal blandly reported that, “Maude Sincock of Cornwall arrived in Hancock yesterday to join her father, John Sincock, after being rescued from the Titanic.” Her cabinmates got the same treatment: “Mrs. Davies and sons [sic] arrived in Mohawk after being rescued from the Titanic.” There was only one son—the other died at sea.

Maude Sincock gained true celebrity status. Born in Canada, Maude and her family moved to her father’s native Cornwall for several years. He emigrated to Hancock in September 1911 to work at Quincy Mining Company. Maude followed the next April. She booked passage on another ship, which was aborted due to a coal strike.
So Maude, Elizabeth Davies and little John boarded the doomed Titanic. After the iceberg was struck, the little group worked their way up several decks before reaching the top, where they were placed in different lifeboats.
Maude looked back as her boat rowed away to safety, still dodging icebergs, and saw the great vessel disappear beneath the waves. The following morning, the liner Carpathia rescued them, and it was then she learned her two companions were safe. She marked her twenty-first birthday aboard the rescue ship, with no money or clothing of her own. In New York, White Star Line paid her train fare to Hancock and a joyous reunion with her father.
Her experience brought her to the stage of Hancock’s Orpheum Theater as well as Marquette County venues. After publication of the book, A Night To Remember, in 1955, she was in demand again, speaking here, interviewed there. Maude married Arling Roberts, worked at Michigan Bell for years and passed away in Hancock in 1984. She never crossed the sea again.

Elizabeth Davies, twice widowed, left Cornwall to join her son Richard Nicholls in Michigan, selling all she had to buy tickets for her and sons John and Joseph. She was sleeping when the ship hit the iceberg. Joseph rushed to the cabin, helped them to the top deck, and placed them in a lifeboat. When he tried to enter, a ship’s officer warned him to stay back or be shot.
Elizabeth, too, was rescued by the Carpathia. Upon arrival in New York, the line paid her way to Mohawk, plus some spending money and a lunch. That’s all she had. Her fellow train passengers learned of her plight and took up a collection for her, as did people in the Mohawk area once she arrived.
The reunion with her son Richard was a very emotional one. Like Maude Sincock, she was soon in demand for talks, including one at the Calumet Opera House. She later married Richard Edwards and lived in Hancock, where she died in 1933.

A twenty-fourth passenger with U.P. connections was Major Archibald Butt, loyal military aide to both Theodore Roosevelt and William Howard Taft, who were battling for the 1912 Republican presidential nomination.
A key member of Taft’s four-day visit to the U.P. in September 1911, Butt then toured Europe to overcome his stress as his two friends fought each other. Health restored, he marched up the Titanic gangplank and lost his life. His prominence resulted in his inclusion in the 1997 Titanic movie, though his name was changed to “Butz.” Survivor testimony made him a hero for loading passengers into lifeboats, calming the hysterical and preventing them from jumping overboard.
In a Cleveland newspaper interview, passenger Marie Young was quoted saying old friend Archie Butt put her in a lifeboat and waved farewell with his hat, but she later denied knowing Archie at all and said the interview was a fake.
Survival rates largely depended on who you were and where you bunked. Only one child was lost in first and second class, but two-thirds of the third-class children died. Women fared as well: while almost all of them survived in the top classes, less than half of those in third class did. Men had the worst luck: four out of five died, regardless of class.
One local Titanic item had a happy ending. On April 19, the Mining Journal reported that Negaunee businessman Matt Koivisto arrived safely from Europe, to the surprise of his friends.
“Despite reports that he had sunk to a watery grave with the ill-fated steamship Titanic, Matt Koivisto arrived home safely Wednesday evening, after a three months’ absence, during which time he visited Finland and other places in Europe,” wrote the paper.
His friends knew he was returning about this time and assumed he was on the doomed vessel. However, Matt wasn’t happy with the White Star Line, so he avoided it at the last minute. Ironically, on the day of his return, the Palmer Store burned to the ground. Matt was a major stockholder in the business.
Another report mourned a large group of Finns feared lost in the sinking. Twenty-five Finnish families consisting of 110 people were heading for Duluth to farm, but a check of the lists showed no Duluth-bound passengers. Three from Finland did make it safely to Minneapolis.
Then there’s the so-called Titanic curse, which alleged it was doomed because White Star never christened its ships (one movie did show a christening). Some thought it was cursed due to the Belfast builder’s refusal to hire many Catholics in that Protestant stronghold.
The ship supposedly was numbered 390904, which, when reflected off water and read backwards in a mirror, spelled “no pope.” This was fiction, since the Titanic’s actual number was 401.

— Larry Chabot

Editor’s Note: Much of this information came from the internet, where Titanic web sites abound. Two of the best are www.encyclopedia-titanica.org and www.titanicstory.com. Another site offering excellent information and resources about the Titanic is located at www.cruisedirect.com/ship_history_the_titanic.

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