- Jul 8, 1999
Has there been any instance where someone was supposed to have been lost in the Titanic disaster but found to have survived years later? If so, please give details.
Wasn't there a first class passenger called Rose Dawson or something like that? I seem to remember watching a documentary about her. She changed her name on the Carpathia to escape her abusive fiance or something along those lines?
You may find your answer in this excerpt from a post on my Titanic blog six years ago:
Titanic's Secrets Unfold: Shootings on the Titanic Part IV. The Deadly Rushes
Mrs. Alexander Louch was waiting to get into No. 12. Her account (with her name misspelled) appeared in the New York Times, April 19, 1912.
WOMAN MAKES CHARGES.
Forced to Sign Paper, Sailors Shot a Man Dead, Says Mrs. Lurch.
According to the story told by Mrs. Alexander Lurch, one of the survivors to reach this city on the Carpathia last night, a scene of disorder and cruelty took place on the Titanic and was continued on the Carpathia where, she said, she and others were forced to sng[sic] a paper stating that there had been no disorder of any kind, and all had been conducted on board the liner with precision.
Mrs. Lurch told her story to some friends who were taking her to the Junior League at Seventy-eighth Street and the East River, and was corroborated by another woman who accompanied her. She stated that the Titanic ran on to the iceberg at 11:45 o'clock, and was sure of this because her husband had looked at his watch and told her the time. Mr. Lurch then went up on deck to see what was the matter and was told to go back to his stateroom, as nothing had happened.
He returned, but told Mrs. Lurch to dress and after she had done so she came up on deck and saw men passing babies into the lifeboats, which had already been lowered and having great difficulty in lowering others. She said that she saw one woman clinging to her husbands neck and crying to the sailors to save him. Instead of doing this the sailor drew a revolver and pressing it to the man's head shot him to death. Several sailors then picked up the body, tossed in into the ocean and threw the woman into a lifeboat.
A shocking story, indeed. But who was shot? And who was the dead man's wife?
A clue may have appeared 18 days later. The New York Times carried this story:
"Aged Waif of the Titanic"
"Finding Shelter and is Lost After Telling of Lost Sons and Money"
"A Red Cross nurse found an old woman waiting about the White Star Line offices yesterday, and, learning that she was a survivor of the Titanic and penniless, took her to the Leo Hause, a Catholic home at 6 State Street. The old woman said that she came from Baden ,Germany, and was on her way to California, where she had a sister."
"She said that her two sons were with her on the Titanic, one of them having some $12,000, all the savings of the family, in a belt around his waist. When the steamhsip struck the iceberg the old woman said that she was put into a lifeboat and that her younger son tried to follow her. She said he was shot, insisting on it, though stories of shooting aboard the Titanic have been discredited."
"Of her famiy she alone reached this city, and since then has been wandering around trying to get to California. The telling of her story so excited the old woman that she declined supper, but went intead into the chapel to pray.There she became hysterical and a girl took her outdoors when she said she needed some fresh air."
"Presently the old woman sent the girl back as it was raining, saying that she felt much better and that she would return presently. That was the last seen of her and at 10 o'clock last night some one at the home telephoned to Police Headquarters asking that an alarm be sent out for her."
A hoaxer? She wouldn't be the first or the only one. But was she? The Titanic relief fund booklet contains a reference to: No. 373 (German) woman, 63. Two sons, 27 and 21. Hysterical, indicating mental disease.
That's pretty close to the New York Times story, with a few more details.
It wasn't until decades later that reliable lists of passengers on the Titanic were produced. And there was no listing for a German woman with two sons of those ages. However...the dead end suddenly didn't look so dead after all.
Travelling Third Class on the Titanic was a Norwegian woman, Lena Solvang, age 63. Her home was in the village of Skaare. She held ticket No. 65305.
Tickets 65303 and 65304 were held by fellow residents of Skaare, Konrad Hagland, 20, and his brother-in-law Ingvald Hagland, 28. As it happened, the Haglands shared a cabin with Bernt Johannessen, who survived the Titanic and whose story included escorting Lena Solvang to a port boat where he left her to get into a lifeboat as he went over to starboard from where he eventually managed to escape himself.
Was Lena Solvang the 63 year-old-woman at the Leo Haus immigrants home, lamenting the loss of two boys, not her sons but the sons of friends from her home town? Was the person shot by a sailor the younger one of the Haglands?
Perhaps most intriguingly, have we found a lost survivor? Mrs. Solvang was listed as lost, with her body never found. Did she manage to survive the Titanic, only to die alone, perhaps by her own hand, in New York City?
The answers may lie in the registers of Leo House, if they still exist. Originally located in the Battery Park area of New York, Leo House moved to its present location at 332 West 23d Street in 1926 and still operates as "a Catholic, non-profit guest house, dedicated to offering low cost, temporary accommodations to clergy and religious, persons visiting the sick, students, and travelers from the United States and abroad."