Miss Nellie Mayo Bessette was born in Whiting, Addison, Vermont on 7 October 1872.
She was the daughter of Joseph Bessette (b. 1838) and Sophriona Mayo (b. 1852). Her father was a French-Canadian originally hailing from Québec whilst her mother was a native of Addison, Vermont and they had married in Brandon, Vermont on 10 December 1868. Nellie had only one known sibling, her younger brother Oliver who was born in 1877.
Her mother died on 22 January 1880 and her father apparently never remarried. When the 1880 census was conducted Nellie and her brother were listed under the care of her uncle Abram Bessette and his family in Whiting. Her brother later died on 7 March 1888.
Nellie later worked for the wealthy New Yorker Hubert William Denton (1856-1925) and his family in Whiting and she was listed as a nurse at their home on the 1900 census (although later census records would identify her as a cousin). Her father also came to live with the family which included Hubert's wife Delia (née Bessette) and their sons: Thaddeus Abram (1887-?), Irving Linus (1891-1954), Claude Almer (1894-1944), Sherwood Hubert (1897-1962) and Kenneth Joseph (1900-1957). The 1910 census shows Nellie working in Lakewood, New Jersey.
By 1912 Nellie was working as a maid to a wealthy New York widow, Mrs Ella Holmes White. How long Nellie had been in her employ is not certain. She boarded the Titanic with her employer at Cherbourg on 10 April 1912 (joint ticket number 17760 which cost £63, 7s, 2d). Travelling with them was Mrs White's manservant Sante Righini and her friend Marie Grice Young.
Nellie survived the sinking, escaping in lifeboat 8 with Mrs White and Miss Young.
Following the disaster it is not clear how long Nellie remained in the employ of Mrs White. She and her father continued to live with the Dentons in Whiting and, following the death of Hubert Denton in the 1920s, continued to live with his son Sherwood Denton in the family home and she later worked as a hotel housekeeper. Her father died on 16 September 1924.
Nellie was never married and remained with the Dentons for the rest of her life, working as a housekeeper. She died as a result of spinal cancer on 23 July 1944 aged 71 and is buried with her parents and younger brother at Pleasant Hill Cemetery in Cornwall, Vermont.
References and Sources
Contract Ticket List, White Star Line 1912 (National Archives, New York; NRAN-21-SDNYCIVCAS-55)
List or Manifest of Alien Passengers for the United States Immigration Officer At Port Of Arrival (Date: 18th-19th June 1912, Ship: Carpathia) - National Archives, NWCTB 85 T715 Vol 4183
Gavin Bell, UK
Hermann Söldner, Germany