Courtesy of Michael A. Findlay, USA
Mr Arthur Webster Newell, 58, was born in Chelsea, Massachusetts, on January 30, 1854, the only child of Benjamin and Susan (Bennett) Newell. He was educated in Chelsea's public schools. At an early age, he began to support himself. A brilliant student, eager to learn, he began working as a clerk in a Boston bank. He later became a bookkeeper in the Fourth National Bank of Boston. With the growth of business in its neighborhood, and particularly with the development of the great markets and provision houses on which the bank relied, it quickly grew in size and importance. Arthur Newell knew his business well. He was quick, accurate and reliable.
On October 11, 1877, Arthur Newell married his childhood sweetheart, Mary Greeley, also from Chelsea, Massachusetts.
In 1879, Newell was appointed the bank's chief cashier. After his promotion, a daughter named Madeleine was born on October 10, 1880, followed two years later by a second daughter, named Alice, in 1882.
As his position in the bank advanced, Mr Newell's success permitted his family to move from Chelsea to Lexington, Massachusetts, in 1888. Here he bought a large home which was landscaped into an attractive gentleman's farm. Mr Newell became an earnest and devoted citizen of the town. Aside from his business, his strongest lay in the Hancock Congregational Church. He was ardent supporter and an upright, influential member whose convictions were deep and whose religious temperament and devotion were unmistakable.
On February 12, 1889, a third daughter was born to Mr and Mrs Newell whom they named Marjorie.
Although a respected and successful businessma, Mr Newell attended strictly to his own business, and preferred the direct approach to any diplomacy. He had a singularly high regard for truth. Flattery never left his lips and praise from him was a simple statement of fact - an act of judgment. His daughter Marjorie later said that her father's inner clarity of spirit made him a keen judge of honesty and reliability in others. It was said that honest people had nothing to fear from him but the double-dealer might well avoid him.
To those who knew Mr Newell well, he was in outward demeanor what the world called "cold." His character appeared distant and austere in social circles. His companions were many, but few were close. Neighbors respected him but his association with them was infrequent. As far as she could think, Marjorie remembered that even her mother addressed her husband, at least in public, as "Mr Newell."
Yet, Mr Newell was an exceedingly sensitive man who knew how highly charged words between people could be in causing pleasure and pain. To those who knew him well, he was among the most affectionate of men with a tenderness unsuspected by those who saw only the surface. Despite an almost Puritan character, he envinced love and warmth often.
Marjorie remembered an occasion when she was a young girl of about 7 or 8. One summer, she and a neighbor boy were playing in the barn next to the Newell home. The ladder leading to the loft seemed daring and together they climbed the rungs when they heard the groom approaching the barn door. The children hid among the hay bales, secretly watching from above. Unknown to them, Mr Newell had asked one of his farm hands to kill a turkey for dinner. Just as the hatchet was raised, piercing screams filled the barn. Mr Newell raced in where the farm hand had frozen in his tracks. The children were crying uncontrollably and quietly Mr Newell brought them down. Before the children, he ordered that the turkey be spared (at least for the time being), and spent the entire afternoon comforting and playing with them.
Another occasion occurred when Madeleine, Alice and Marjorie were eating dinner at the dining room table. For an unknown reasons, the girls were giggling among themselves, annoying Mr Newell. Without saying a word, he took his knife and tapped his water glass three times with a look of disapproval. This signified a quick end to the giggling. After dessert, however, Mr Newell perhaps concerned about his stern technique, took each daughter on one of their long walks through the countryside, often quoting from the Bible and telling enchanting stories. Marjorie was especially delighted. "We were so honored to be able to go on a walk with Father. He seemed so busy most of the time and we loved and respected him because of all the attention he gave us despite that. What child would feel that way about their father today?" Marjorie wondered years later.
In 1896, the Newells moved to a more modern estate at 20 Percy Road in Lexington, Massachusetts. A year later, Mr Newell was elected chairman of the Fourth National Bank, now thriving in the heart of Boston thanks to his oversight, wisdom and personal direction.
As the family grew, they became very close. Mr Newell had musical talent, and all of his daughters were taught violin by some of the best music instructors in Boston. Mr Newell played the cello and Mrs Newell the piano. Every Sunday afternoon, the family congregated in the living room. The Newell's home's choice music was a source of unfailing delight, and in history books written about Lexington, the Newell home was described as the site of many wonderful family musical entertainments.
As his daughters grew up, Madeleine and Alice went on to attend Smith College in Northampton, Massachusetts. The elder girls were serious students while young Marjorie was not. She chose to turn down the opportunity to attend Smith College and freely admitted that she was not a serious student in areas that did not interest her. Music and violin were her favorite recreations.
In March 1909, Mr Newell arranged for his family's first trip abroad to Europe. None were more pleased than Marjorie, who travelled with her father into Boston to buy a scrapbook in which to record their journeys. The Newells sailed in April aboard the White Star liner Romanic. They would spend more than three months visiting Italy, Switzerland, Germany, France and England. On their return voyage home, Marjorie entered the final words in her scrapbook, "We had only our memories left of the past three months. But what were those memories - pleasant ones? Yes, delightful. We have concluded that European travel is a wonderful experience and education, but like everything else in the world, everything is not perfection. But why look for unpleasantness when you leave home seeking pleasure?" Hauntingly, Marjorie's next trip would end in circumstances she clearly asked herself about.
In 1912, Mr Newell decided to take his family overseas again. His particular area of interest was now the Middle East. As a student of the Bible, he very much wanted to see Egypt, Israel (then known as the Holy Land) and the surrounding areas. However, for this journey, Mrs Newell and daughter Alice would not be joining the family. The trip to Europe in 1909 had taken its toll on them. They were delicate ladies and did not feel that they had the energy or strength to make another long journey. Instead, Mr Newell travelled with Madeleine and Marjorie to the lands Mr Newell had always wished to see.
The trio spent about three months seeing such places at Cairo, Bethlehem and Jerusalem. Marjorie remembered how impressed her father was to have seen these holy places and spoke about them constantly.
The Newells left the Middle East and sailed for Marseilles, France in April, 1912. They eventually arrived in Paris where Madeleine and Marjorie learned of a surprise their father had made for them. To finish such a pleasurable trip to the Middle East, Mr Newell had made reservations for the three of them to return home to the United States aboard the maiden voyage of the RMS Titanic, the largest ocean liner in the world.
The Newells embarked on the Titanic in Cherbourg, France. Mr Newell was assigned cabin D-48, while his daughters shared stateroom D-36. Among the items they had brought with them were two violins. Mr Newell had reminded his girls to bring them with them so they could practice while they were touring. Marjorie remembered that every evening she and her sister Madeleine would play the violin in their cabins for about an hour before they went to bed.
Marjorie remembered the last afternoon she would spend with her father on the Titanic. She remembered sitting in deck chairs with her father and sister and talked with them about the ancient sites they had seen. She remembered looking at her father to see how pleased he was at having visited the Middle East. It was as if he had finally managed to accomplish the one thing in life he had not yet done. She was very proud of him.
At dinner that last evening, Marjorie remembered seeing all of the beautiful gowns being worn by the ladies as they entered the dining room for dinner. "I had been given my first long train gown before I left home, and I took great pleasure in wearing it that night," Marjorie said. After dinner while sitting in the Titanic's reception room, Mr Newell pointed out Mr and Mrs John Jacob Astor to his two daughters. Mr Newell then turned to his daughters and asked, "Do you think you will be able to last until morning?" He was joking with them concerning their healthy appetites. A woman who was sitting next to Marjorie turned to her and said, "Don't you think the ship is going too fast? We are in the icebergs and I think we should slow down." Marjorie was unaware of the situation.
Mr Newell and his daughters retired at 10:30 p.m. on April 14th. About an hour and half later, Marjorie remembered being awakened by the collision with the iceberg. Before they could get dressed and investigate, there was a knock at their cabin door. It was Mr Newell. His only words were, "Get up, girls and get dressed. Put on your warmest clothes and follow me."
The sisters joined their father in the hall, and joined the other passengers heading up to the Boat Deck. Marjorie remembered that her father was very quiet but made all possible investigations into what was going to be done. Marjorie learned later that the ship had struck an iceberg and could distinctly feel the slight list the Titanic was making.
When they reached the boat deck, Marjorie saw one lifeboat being lowered. Arthur Newell turned to his daughters and told them that they would have to get into a lifeboat and row around until the damage to the Titanic was repaired. He led them to lifeboat number 6 and placed them in. His last words to Marjorie were, "It does seem more dangerous for you to get into that boat than to remain here with me here but we must obey orders." Marjorie last saw her father standing back helping other women in the boat.
In her later years, Marjorie thought back to that cold April night. "I often wonder what Father did after he said goodbye to us. I would like to think that he went to help other women and children. He would have never taken a place knowing there were others still aboard. I am sure he thought about my mother and sister and perhaps wished he had never taken us on this trip."
Madeleine Newell described the Titanic's final moments. "From about a mile away we saw the Titanic sink. From the time we left her she was sinking slowly at the head but began to sink faster. The water got into the engine room for we heard a terrific explosion. The stern of the Titanic lifted way out of the water and the ship's keel showed. The tipping of the vessel threw everybody toward the bow and the ship went to the bottom."
Marjorie remembered "It was cold and dark. The great ship made a tremendous groan and there was suddenly a great rush of water before she went down. I'll never forget that enormous, awful roar."
The Carpathia arrived a few hours later, and the Newell sisters climbed the rope ladders. They immediately went in search of their father but Mr Newell was not among the 705 survivors. They showed remarkable courage under the strain of uncertainty. Rumors began aboard the Carpathia that other ships had rescued other survivors and this last bit of hope was all they could cling to.
When the Carpathia reached New York, a friend of Mr Newell was at Pier 54 to meet Madeleine and Marjorie. Mrs Newell and Alice were at a nearby hotel but were too emotional to go to the pier themselves. Marjorie remembered, "As Madeine and I stepped out in the hall of the corridor where Mother was waiting for us, she had her arms outstretched and anxious to embrace what she hoped would be three people. When she saw just Madeleine and me, she let out a terrible scream." She had finally realized her husband had died in the disaster.
The broken family returned home to Lexington, Massachusetts where life was and could never be the same. Almost two weeks following the disaster, word was received at the Newell home that Mr Newell's body had been recovered by the Mackay-Bennett. The entry was recorded in the body description list:
NO. 122 MALE. ESTIMATED AGE, 60. GREY IMPERIAL & MOUSTACHE
CLOTHING - Black suit; white shirt; black boots
EFFECTS - Gold watch and chain; signet ring; gold cuff links; solitaire diamond ring; fountain pen; keys; knife; four gold studs; 8s. in silver; 6 pounds; 103 francs; $2.96; letter case containing $31.00; cheque for $35.00; diary; pocket book with initials "A.W.N."; His business card with name and address.
FIRST CLASS NAME - A. W. NEWELL
Mr Newell's body was delivered to a family friend and was shipped to home to Lexington, Massachusetts. The funeral was held at the Newell home on May 4, 1912, where the family home was overflowing with mourners and floral tributes. A week before, a memorial service was held at the Hancock Congregational Church in honor of Mr Newell. The congregation sang "Nearer, My God, to Thee" as the closing hymn.
Following the funeral, Mr Newell was buried at the Mount Auburn Cemetery in Cambridge, Massachusetts.
Mrs Newell never remarried and lived the rest of her life in mourning. She slept with Mr Newell's watch under her pillow every night. She frequently wore black and never allowed the subject of the Titanic to be mentioned in her presence. She died in November, 1957, at the age of 103.
Alice Newell never married and died in Lexington in July, 1972.
References and Sources
Arlington Advocate, 20 April 1912, Article
Michael A. Findlay, USA
Arthur Merchant, USA
Articles and Stories
Arlington Advocate (1912)
New York Times (1912)
New York Times (1912)
Unidentified Newspaper (1912)