By David Shultz Rockford Register Star.
Rockford's connection to the Titanic spent less than two weeks in the city after surviving the wreck of the great luxury liner.
Dagmar Bryhl of Sweden was aboard the Titanic with her brother and her fiancé when it struck an iceberg and went down in the North Atlantic on April 15, 1912. They were on their way to Rockford to visit an uncle.
Her story was told in 1912 in the pages of three separate Rockford newspaper: The Morning Star, The Rockford Republic and The Rockford Daily Register Gazette. It was uncovered and retold by Carl Brown, editorial page columnist and assistant editor of the editorial page, in the April 18, 1982, edition of the Rockford Register Star, the 70th anniversary of the sinking. Much of the following is taken from Brown's story.
While spelling of the names varied in the first reports, the travelers finally were identified as Kurt Bryhl, 24; his sister, Dagmar, 19, and Ingvar Enander, no age given.
March 1912: Gottfrid Lustig, stationmaster of Skara, Sweden, wrote to his brother Oscar Lustig, a carpenter, who lived at 511 Pear St., Rockford. Skara is in a district of Sweden from which hundreds have emigrated to America and Rockford.
Gottfrid had exciting news to tell. His daughter, Dagmar, was engaged to marry Ingvar Enander, an Uppsala University graduate in agricultural engineering.
Dagmar also was well educated. Besides her native Swedish, she spoke French, German and English. She also wrote fluently in English. They and Dagmar's brother, Kurt, a student at Uppsala and well-traveled in Europe, would visit relatives in Rockford next month.
The young couple would be married while there (Rockford) and if they liked what they found in America, they would make their home there. Further, they had booked passage on the maiden voyage of the Titanic.
Gottfrid also sent greetings to his other Rockford relatives: Charles Ellison, Mrs. Charles Lindstedt, Mrs. I.D. Gustafson, Mrs. Judith Lodin and Mrs. Henry Lindstrom. Another cousin Ivar Gustafson, resided in Evanston. (Please see Survivor, 6D).
Thursday, April 4: Dagmar, Kurt and Ingvar left Skara and traveled to make their boarding date on the Titanic.
Tuesday, April 16: Oscar Lustig received a frantic telegram from Gottfrid, who heard the Titanic news. He pleaded with his brother to learn what had happened to the three travelers, who were among the "second cabin" (second class) passengers.
Oscar sent a telegram to the Swedish Emigrant Home in New York City asking for help and made arrangements to travel there himself.
Wednesday, April 17: Oscar Lustig learned that his niece's name is listed among survivors and boarded a train for New York to find Dagmar and learn what he can about Kurt and Ingvar.
Thursday, April 18: Rockford relatives hoped for word from the Swedish Emigrant Home in New York that Dagmar, her sweetheart and her brother were safe and being cared for until Oscar Lustig's arrival.
Friday, April 19: Carpathia , with its load of grieving Titanic survivors had docked. With it, came the full impact of the tragedy and all the stories of heroism, despair and death.
The following telegram was received that afternoon in the Oscar Lustig home: "New York, April 19 - Dagmar Bryhl bound for Rockford on Titanic safe here. She will receive best treatment until relatives come for her. Her brother, Kurt Bryhl, and Ingvar Enander were lost. - Swedish Emigrant Home."
Oscar Lustig had arrived at the Swedish Emigrant Home only to find "no trace" of his niece. Rockford relatives already knew by way of a wire from the home, that Dagmar was in a hospital on Madison Avenue.
Reading the New York newspapers, Dagmar learned her worst fears were fulfilled: Her sweetheart and her brother were among the lost.
Uncle Oscar finally found Dagmar that day - physically well, but near a nervous breakdown.
Sunday, April 21: Rockford relatives heard from New York that Uncle Oscar was busy buying a wardrobe for Dagmar who had lost everything in the sinking. The only things she saved were her lifeboat clothing and the watch Ingvar had given her. That she wore on a chain around her neck.
They would be leaving soon for Rockford.
Monday, April 22: Uncle Oscar and Dagmar will leave Tuesday for Rockford. Meanwhile, the Lustig family has received a letter Dagmar wrote Friday while in the hospital and before her uncle had found her. She wrote:.
"Dearest uncle: "As uncle has, of course, read in the newspapers, the Titanic has gone down. I don't know whether my fiancé or my brother, Kurt, are saved. Evidently they are not for most of the men went under. I was saved and have been taken in charge by good people. "I am at a hospital, but am not sick, although very feeble. I have lost everything. I have no clothes, and so cannot get up but must lie in bed for the present. "I would have been glad if I had been permitted to die, because life no longer has any value for me since I lost my beloved. I feel myself so dreadfully along in the land. These people are certainly good, but nevertheless do not understand me. "Could uncle possible come here if it would not be too difficult or expensive? I would rather wish uncle to come, because father has spoken so much of you that I feel I know you best. I need someone to help me to rights. Perhaps uncle thinks I ask too much. But I feel myself so bewildered and lonely. With the heartiest greetings to all relatives. "Uncle's affectionate, Dagmar"
Later that week, Dagmar and her uncle arrived in Rockford and went to his home on Pearl Street where Dagmar went straight to bed. Oscar Lustig met news reporters on his front porch:
"Poor Dagmar," he said, tears welling in his eyes. "You cannot, must not, see her now. Nobody knows what the poor girl went through."
The story of the sinking as told to her uncle by Dagmar:
" On that Sunday afternoon, the weather was quite balmy and Dagmar, wearing a light summer dress, was enjoying the day on deck with Ingvar and Kurt. Then, suddenly, it turned so cold that those on deck went into the salons or their cabins.
"That the ship was in the midst of the ice was apparent because of the cold and there was a slackening in the speed of the liner as it slipped through at a rapid gait.
"Dagmar was in her cabin, not yet retired, when she felt a jar, not severe nor strong enough to indicate something out of the ordinary had occurred. She and her cabin mate along with others in second class rushed out to be informed by ship's officials there was no danger.
"She returned to her cabin and prepared to retire as did hundreds of others. Ingvar knocked at her door and said: "Get up, Dagmar, we are in danger. I don't care what the officers say. I tell you we are in danger of our lives. The boat is sinking."
"Dagmar put a skirt and a coat over her nightdress and went up on deck with the others and found lifeboats already being loaded. Ingvar picked her up and carried her toward one of the boats. When she heard the order that only women and children were being allowed, she seized her sweetheart and begged that he and her brother be allowed to board."
"I seized Ingvar's hands and wouldn't let go," said Dagmar, and pleaded because the lifeboat was only half full. But an officer tore them apart and the boat was lowered.
"Dagmar looked up to see Ingvar and Kurt standing side by side, leaning over the rail waving and smiling. It was her last sight of them.
"Had I thought that my sweetheart and my brother were in such danger, I would never have left the ship,' Dagmar told her uncle. 'Poor, father. It is for him I weep. This blow falls heaviest on him there in Sweden."'
Friday, May 3: The Republic reported on Page 1 that "Miss Dagmar Bryhl, who is a survivor of the Titanic wreck, will leave the home of her uncle Oscar Lustig on Pearl Street tomorrow and return to her parental home at Skara, Sweden."
Sunday, May 5: The Morning Star's page 1 reported: "Dagmar Bryhl, accompanied by her cousin, Olga Lustig, left yesterday for her return to Sweden."
In researching his story, Brown discovered that some years after returning from Rockford, Dagmar married an engineer, Uno Aberg, who was employed by the Nobel brothers in their oil industries at Baku, Russia. One of the brothers was Alfred Bernhard Nobel, who founded the international Nobel prizes.
Dagmar and her husband were living in Russia at the outbreak of the revolution in 1917. They had to flee at short notice and had to leave most of their belongings. Dagmar died in August 1969.
Unlike Dagmar's brief stay in the city, Ruth Shultz, my mother, lived here nearly 28 years before her death in 1970. Her brush with the Titanic was told in the Sept. 8, 1985, edition of the Register Star, the week after Dr. Robert Ballard had discovered the wreck on the ocean floor.
Mom was 2 years old when she traveled the Atlantic with her mother, Emily Goodwin, and sister, Muriel, to join their father, Ernest Goodwin, in Iowa. The Goodwins had steerage (third class) tickets on the Titanic's maiden voyage.
But, because White Star officials said the voyage was over-booked, they offered passengers earlier accommodations on other ships or later passage on the Titanic.
Since my grandfather had been in Canada for two years toiling in the oil fields and Grandma and her two toddlers were ready to come to America, Grandma jumped at the earlier passage. The family lived to read newspaper accounts of the disaster in their new home near Des Moines, Iowa.
Third class fate.
Had the Goodwins taken the maiden voyage of the Titanic, they probably would have died.
Of the 706 steerage class passengers, only 178 (25 percent) were saved. Women and girls fared the best, however. Seventy-six of the 165 women (46 percent) were saved; 14 of the 31 (45 percent) girls survived.
But scores of third-class passenge rs died, including seven British subjects with the surname of Goodwin.
It is believed many of them were trapped below decks during rescue operations, mainly because of restrictive U.S. immigration laws.
Such laws mandated keeping gates locked between third class and other passengers to limit the spread of infectious diseases.
In his book "The Titanic, End of a Dream," author Wyn Craig Wade quoted one third-class passenger, Daniel Buckley, testifying at the American inquiry into the disaster: "They tried to keep us down at first on our steerage deck. They did not want us to go up to the first-class place at all.. There was one steerage passenger there, and he was getting up the steps, and just as he was going in a little gate, a sailor came along and chucked him down.. into the steerage place."
Asked if the gate was locked, Buckley replied, "It was not locked at the time we made the attempt to get up there, but the sailor.. locked it."
Third class was located on the lowest passenger decks, fore and aft. Since bulkheads separated them from midships, they had no ready access to the lifeboat deck. Because the lifeboats were filled on a first-come, first-serve basis, first class passengers inevitably fared better than steerage
Our family had another close call with ships when my uncle, Al Goodwin, was in the infirmary aboard a hospital ship in Pearl Harbor on Dec 7, 1941. The ship escaped damage during the Japanese bombing.
In 1950, Grandma and Grandpa decided to make one trip back to England. They sailed both ways on the S.S. America. Grandpa's diary tells of rough crossings, which extended the trips to and from Europe by several days. But they didn't see an iceberg.