Mr Charles Melville Hays
Mr Charles Melville Hays, 55, was born at Rock Island, Illinois, USA, on 16 May 1856. He was educated at the public schools of Rock Island, and went to work for the Atlantic and Pacific Railway when he was 17. At 22 he was appointed secretary to the Manager of the Missouri Pacific Railway.
He married Clara Gregg in St. Louis Mo, 13 October 1881, and they had four daughters.
In 1889 he was appointed general manager of the entire Wabash Railway network. In 1896 he moved to Montreal to become general manager of the Grand Trunk Pacific Railway. It was Hays who convinced the Canadian Prime Minister, Sir Wilfrid Laurier, of the need for a second transcontinental railroad. To this extent, the Canadian government subsidized the Grand Trunk to the tune of $30-million, and in November 1902 construction of the railroad began. The company's board of directors in England, however, were more concerned with dividends than with risky expansion. Financing proved chaotic, and at the end of 1911 the railroad was 100-million in debt. Hays went to England for a directors meeting where he proposed to spend the companys way out of bankruptcy by upgrading rolling stock, double tracking and by building a chain of luxury hotels across Canada. Hays had already built the flagship hotel, the Château Laurier in Ottawa, and had plans for six others, including the Fort Garry in Winnipeg and the Macdonald Hotel in Edmonton.
He arrived in England "looking fagged and tired," according to Alfred Smithers, Chairman of the Grand Trunk's board of directors. He was supposed to spend Easter in Paris with his daughter and son in law, Thornton and Orian Davidson, but in a letter to friends in Montreal on April 1, said he preferred to stay at Smithers country estate in Kent before sailing home on 10 April on the Titanic. The recipient is unknown, partly because the letter is so hard to decipher, it is possibly Lockett Gavin Coleman, asst. superintendant of the Grand Trunk Railroad but the informality of the letter suggests it was to a close friend or relative.
While in England he recieved news that the third of his four daughters, Louise, was having a difficult pregnancy and might have to be delivered by Ceasearean section. ANother reason for his return was the imminent opening of the Château Laurier Hotel on April 26. Travelling with him would be Paul Romaine Chevré, the sculptor who had done the bust of Laurier that still stands in the lobby.
In his business dealings Hays had had discussions with the White Star Line about speeding travellers from Europe to the Orient using White Star ships and his transcontinental railroad. As a result, J. Bruce Ismay invited Hays and his entourage as guests aboard Titanic. They paid £93 10s to cover incidental expenses, travelled on ticket number 12749, and occupied four cabins: B-69-71-73 and B-24. (Mr and Mrs Hays in B-69, Thornton and Orian Davidson in B-71, their maid Miss Perreault in B-73 and Hays secretary, Vivian Payne, in B-24).
One hour before the disaster, Hays relaxed with Colonel Archibald Gracie and Captain Edward Crosby in the Gentlemen's Smoking Lounge and they talked about the technological advances in transportation. At one point, Hays conceded that while Titanic was a superlative vessel, he expressed concern that "the trend to playing fast and loose with larger and larger ships will end in tragedy." Twenty minutes later, Titanic struck the iceburg. Hays never believed the ship would sink quickly. As he put his wife and daughter into a lifeboat he assured them Titanic would stay "afloat for at least 10 hours."
Hays drowned in the disaster, but the Minia recovered his body on 26 April. "It was no trouble to identify him as he had a lot of papers on him and a watch with his name on it," sailor Francis Dyke wrote to his mother. His coffin was brought back to Montreal for burial aboard his private railway car, Canada. The car is still preserved and on display at the Canadian Railway Museum near Delson, Quebec.
Simultaneous funerals for Hays were held on 8 May at the American Presbyterian Church in Montreal...
and at the Church of St. Edmund King and Martyr in London. At 11:30 a.m. on the day of the funeral, as the Montreal Herald Reported:
Hays is buried in the Pine Hill Section, (Lot 246) of Montreals' Mount Royal Cemetery. A massive monument is inscribed: "And so he died and the example of his simple, devoted consecrated life is our priceless heritage. We are a different people, we are a better people, because this man worked and loved and died."
The town of Melville in Saskatchewan and Hays in Alberta, Canada are named for him, and a statue in his memory was erected in Prince Rupert, B.C. which would have been the Pacific terminus city of the transcontinental railroad he had planned to build.
In 1919 the Grand Trunk Railroad was placed in recievership, and later was absorbed into Canadian National Railways.
References and Sources
Newark Evening News, 16 April 1912, Word Received Here of C. M. Hays?s Rescue
Philip Hind (Editor)
Derek Boles, USA
Alan Hustak, Canada
Diane Lapierre, Canada
Hugo Normandeau, Canada
Hermann Söldner, Germany
Craig Sopin, USA
Related Articles and Documents
Titanic Passenger and Crew Summary
Name: Mr Charles Melville Hays
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