Mr William James Elsbury was born in Stoke St Gregory, Somerset, England on 3 September 1863.
He was the son of James Elsbury (1823-1893), an agricultural labourer, and Mary Ann Pope (1828-1906), both Somerset natives who had married around 1848. He had seven known siblings: Ellen (b. 1849), Sarah (b. 1851), Elizabeth (b. 1854), Mary Jane (b. 1857), Rosina (b. 1859), Sophia (b. 1861) and John (b. 1866).
He first appears on the 1871 census living on Stanmoor Road, Stoke St Gregory and would still be listed at this address on the 1881 census, then aged 17 and described, like his father, as an agricultural labourer.
According to US census records William, or James as he preferred to be known, emigrated around 1881 and settled in Gurnee, Lake County, Illinois where he acquired a 105 acre farm. It was here that he met his Illinois-born wife Eliza Jane Hucker. Eliza was born on 20 September 1862 to English immigrant parents, George and Emma Hucker, who worked as farmers. James Elsbury and Emma Hucker were married around 1889 and went on to have four children: Elbert Edward (1889-1979), George William 1890-1988), Robert Lloyd (1893-1991) and Bernice (1897-1991). James continued to work as a farmer, later being joined by his two elder sons, and the family prospered in their local community.
On 20 November 1911 James returned to Somerset alone to assist his younger brother John in the winding up of his deceased parents' financial affairs. He was due to return to Illinois in the March of 1912, but on hearing of the maiden voyage of Titanic he decided on the new ship as his means of returning to America.
He boarded the Titanic at Southampton, travelling third class under ticket number 3902 which cost £7, 5s. He was lost in the sinking and his body, if recovered, was never identified.
His widow Eliza was never remarried and continued to live in Lake, Illinois with her daughter Bernice. The two also spent time in Rice Lake City, Wisconsin. Eliza died on 16 September 1946 just days short of her 84th birthday and was buried in Warren Cemetery, Lake, Illinois. Her husband is commemorated on her headstone. There is also a memorial to James on a gravestone in the Taunton, Somerset area.
All of his children would be blessed with long lives: Elbert died on 3 March 1979 aged 89; George on 7 October 1988 aged 97; Lloyd on 30 August 1991 aged 97; and Bernice, who had never married, on 14 March 1991 aged 93.
References and Sources
Contract Ticket List, White Star Line 1912 (National Archives, New York; NRAN-21-SDNYCIVCAS-55)
Antioch News, 2 May 1912, Death of Elsbury Positive
Antioch News, 1 January 1913, Wife Can't Collect Damages
Waukegan Daily 17 April 1912
Gavin Bell, UK
Steve Coombes, UK
Tim Morse, USA
Articles and Stories
Antioch News (1912)
Antioch News (1913)
Chicago Tribune (1912)