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  • William Logan Gwinn: Letters to Florence

    A unique collection of letters and postcards sheds light on the domestic life of one the RMS Titanic's Sea Post Clerk William Logan Gwinn.

    In this detailed article Ted Robinson reveals how a chance discovery led to an fascinating research project to learn more about William Gwinn and his bride Florence Rohde.

    William Logan Gwinn was a US Sea Post Clerk who was lost on the Titanic in April of 1912. He was married to Florence Rohde, a young lady that he met at a party in New Jersey in 1904.


    William Logan Gwinn, back row left.
    Courtesy of Ted Robinson / Alan Gwinn

    In the mid 1990ís I found among some old books and other items purchased at a yard sale in Brookhaven Hamlet, on Long Island, NY a packet of old letters and photos. It was several months before I examined some of the letters, which seemed to be love letters almost a century old. I found that I got a discomfiting voyeuristic feeling while reading them and put them aside. Taking them up again sometime later I saw that they were not so very intimate as I had originally imagined, and that they seemed to illuminate a lost age of the early 20th century and in that context would be of historical interest. It was even later that I found the important letter from the US Government that mentioned that Will, as he was known, had perished on the RMS Titanic. I then organized the letters by date and assembled what turned out to be a glimpse into the family dynamics of a couple that met, married, had children and later faced the ultimate disaster.

    Although the provenance of the material is unknown the memorabilia was apparently collected by Florence and later probably came into the possession of their only son, William Thurston Gwynne, who was a long-time resident of Brookhaven Hamlet. Most of the letters have survived in excellent condition.

    1908-01-29 p1.jpg 1908-01-29 p2.jpg 1908-01-29 ef.jpg 1908-01-29 eb.jpg

    In order to preserve the collection of Florence Rohde Gwinn as much as possible, I digitally scanned all the letters, postcards and photos.

    Having dabbled in my own familyís genealogy for over 25 years I found it irresistible to look for more information on the Gwynne and Rohde families. In this article1 I attempt to collate facts and leads that have been found via various sources. Necessarily, there is a modicum of inference and speculation required on my part to link together some of the background information. I have annotated some of the sources for information found in the following synopsis, most of which refer to items in the collectio and to URL addresses on the internet.

    Ted Robinson

    Comments 2 Comments
    1. GwinnAnne1983's Avatar
      GwinnAnne1983 -
      Mr. Robinson,
      William (Will) L. Gwinn was my great uncle on my mothers' mothers side of my family. For generations, the women in my family have been named after my great grandparents (my grandmothers' mother and father), who immigrated from Germany. For years, I have been trying to resurch my family history. I had been told stories of Uncle Charles and Cornelius and other family members. I'd always been drawn to the Titanic ship history, until one day I was going through some old family photos my grandmother had showed me and I came across a framed picture of a young man, about 19 years of age, standing on the deck of a ship. I asked my mom and grandmother who this young man was; my grandmother responed by saying something along the lines of, "Oh, that is Will." After this discovery, I looked on the internet about Will and discovered why I was so drawn to the history of the Titanic ship; "Uncle Will" was William Gwinn of the Titanic, a postal clerk. I was instantly determined to find out what happened to his wife and children, and, although I looked and looked and looked, I could never find out what happened to Florance and their two children. Your resurch article has opened up some new leads and answered a lot of unanswered questions for me, so thank you so much for this. Is there any way you can send me copies of these letters and any pictures you may have? It would mean a great deal to me, and to my family.
    1. GwinnAnne1983's Avatar
      GwinnAnne1983 -
      Marjarie had a daughter, possibly, named Bonnie