French Miner From Iowa Arrives Here and Learns Wife and Children Were Lost With the Liner
Sons Ignorant of Wreck
Passengers at Union Station Take Up Collection to Send the Bereaved Husband Back Home
Convinced at last this his wife and four children went down with the Titanic, Francois Le Febvre, a French coal miner living at Mystic, Iowa, returned last night to his home to tell his sons that the family reunion to which they had looked forward would not take place.
Le Febvre had come to Chicago on Tuesday to seek information as to the whereabouts of his family and to convince himself that they could not have been lost. He had just heard of the disaster. To his friends in Mystic who read to him from American newspapers of the tragedy, he had said that it was impossible, and, still unwilling to believe it, he had come to Chicago to learn for himself.
After seeing the names of his wife and children on the Titanic’s passenger list at the White Star Line and receiving a telegram for New York saying that they were not among the steerage passengers brought in on the Carpathia, he gave up hope and decided to return home.
The tears rolled down his face as he sat in a corner of the Union depot yesterday and told his story. In his pockets were $5, the proceeds of a collection taken up among sympathetic strangers who had heard his story, and a return ticket to his home, obtained by a charitable organization. Having been idle since the coal strike was called, he had come here penniless. His savings of the last year he had sent to France to pay for the transportation of his family to this country.
Unable to read or speak a word of English, Le Febvre had not even heard of the Titanic’s disaster when he received a letter last Thursday from his wife telling him that she and their children were about to embark on the Titanic to join him here. He went joyfully to his friends among the French colony there with his news. Then they told him gently of the Titanic’s fate and showed him the newspapers.
Consul Doesn’t Answer
Incredulous, he wrote to the French consul here for assistance. When his letter received no reply he decided to come here himself. A collection was taken up by his friends to pay his expenses, and without telling his sons of the purpose of his mission he left.
Tuesday and yesterday morning were spent at the office of the French consul and at the White Star office. A representative of a charitable organization accompanied him because of his inability to make himself understood, and through here he learned that his family was at the Atlantic’s bottom.
“I haven’t any hope now of seeing them again,” he said in French, as he waited for his train. “I could not believe it was possible at first, but now I cannot help it.”
“I am going back to Mystic to go to work in the mines again as soon as I can. When I have saved up money again, I am going back to my home in Lille, France, with my sons. We have nothing here now.”
Has Been Here a Year
A year ago Le Fevre came to this country with his sons to make a home for his family. Out of the meager earnings of the two elder boys and himself he supported both halves of his family and saved enough to pay for the passage of his wife and other children when they should come to join him. A few weeks ago he sent this money to his wife. Shortly after the strike was called, and he was left without work.
A short time ago his married daughter and her husband came to America. They are now some place in Pennsylvania, but he does not know where. He is waiting to hear from them before he decides whether or not to stay in the United States.
Chicago Evening Post, Thursday, April 25, 1912, p. 3, c. 1 (item):
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