Mrs Walter Bryant Stephenson (Martha Eustis) was born in Boston, Massachusetts on 15 March 1860.1
Martha was the daughter of William Tracy Eustis (1822-1906) and Martha Gilbert Dutton (1829-1900). Both her parents hailed from Massachusetts and had married in Boston on 3 October 1849. Her father, a Bostonian, was educated in Boston and Maine and first found employment as a clerk in the millinery business before becoming an "oil dealer" by the mid-1850s with Sturtevant, Barker and Athearn. The mid-1860s had him working in the note brokerage business and he was also a Civil War Veteran. By the 1880s he was in the hotel business. Her mother Martha was the daughter of Henry Worthington Dutton, a Boston City councillor and founder of The Boston Evening Transcript.
Martha had six siblings: Eleanor Tracy (1851-1922, later Mrs Frank H. Pattee), Henry Dutton (1854-1939), Annie Dutton (1855-1856), Elizabeth Mussey (1858-1936), Joseph Tracy (1864-1931) and Mary St. Barbe (1870-1954).
The 1860 through 1880 censuses show Martha living with her family as a resident of Boston. She was married on 10 October 1883 to Walter Bryant Stephenson (b. 8 April 1857), a dealer of cotton and woollen yarn who hailed from Middlesex, Massachusetts. The couple settled in Pennsylvania and had three children: Martha (1884-1966, later Mrs Arthur Shirley Cookman), Helen (1887-1975, later Mrs Edward Le Boutillier) and George Eustis (b. 1888).
Reportedly a frequent traveller, by 1912 Martha lived in Haverford, Pennsylvania and had been on vacation with her sister Elizabeth Mussey Eustis for a tour of southern Europe. For their return to the USA they boarded the Titanic at Cherbourg as a first class passengers (ticket number 36947 which cost £78, 5s, 4d) and the sisters occupied cabin D-20. Whilst aboard they reportedly spent time with Mr and Mrs John Borland Thayer, Martha's Haverford neighbours.
On the night of the disaster the sisters were awakened by a "ripping" sound and Mrs Stephenson decided to slip on a wrap and investigate. However, other noises outside their stateroom made both ladies decide to get fully dressed. They went out into the corridor but a steward advised them to go back to bed. They did not do so, but instead put on street clothes, grabbed their rings and went up on deck.
Mrs Stephenson and Miss Eustis were on A-Deck when all women and children were ordered up to the boat deck. They followed Mrs Thayer and her maid up the stairway and stood watching the distress rockets being fired, which alarmed them greatly. Steward Dodd then ordered the ladies to return to A-deck and led them down to where lifeboat 4 was hanging next to the enclosed screen's windows. The ladies were helped into the boat which was then lowered away.
Later, when the ships lights failed, someone called out that the Titanic was going down and Mrs Stephenson covered her eyes. "She's broken!" someone cried, but Mrs Stephenson kept her eyes covered for what seemed like a long time. Finally she looked back at the ship, only to see the black silhouette of the stern outlined perpendicularly against the sky. The ship went down, and the terrible cries for help began. Boat 4 pulled several men from the sea and was then lashed to the flotilla of boats commanded by Lowe.
Upon her arrival in New York aboard Carpathia she was met by relatives and returned home to Pennsylvania by train that same night. The Philadelphia Evening Bulletin (19 April 1912) reported that Mrs Stephenson had also survived the 1906 San Francisco earthquake, having been staying at the St. Francis Hotel at the time.
Mrs Stephenson later made a claim (#67) against the White Star Line for $1739.75 for the loss of her property.
Martha resided in Haverford for the rest of her life and was active in her local church. She died 24 December 1934 whilst visiting her son in Marblehead, Massachusetts and is buried in Mount Auburn Cemetery, Cambridge, Massachusetts with her parents and several siblings.
Her son George Stephenson, a 1910 Harvard graduate, joined the reportorial team of The Boston Transcript in 1913, was made assistant treasurer in 1920 and rose to the rank of president. He was married to Louise Dixon (b. 1893) and had two children. What became of him is not clear.
Her daughter Martha Cookman died in Englewood, New Jersey in 1966 at the age of 81 and her daughter, Helen Le Boutillier died in Haverford, Pennsylvania in 1975.