Grace Fiske Dunlevy

Brian Ahern

Dec 19, 2002
Almost a year ago, I put out a general plea for info on another Empress victim, Catherine Cay. I didn't expect anyone to be able to tell me anything anytime soon, so I was amazed when people replied with a wealth of info on her. A relative of hers even logged on, and was kind enough to send me some photos of her and of her family homes.

So now I'm seeing if anyone has any info on Grace Dunlevy of Denver. Everything I know about her, I know from David Zeni's excellent "Forgotten Empress". It discusses how she was a strong-willed socialite, who was originally from Lockeport, Nova Scotia and who'd been married seven years to Denver realtor Frank H. Dunlevy.

The book also included a photo of her. It revealed what was probably a dark-haired woman, rather regal and pensive-looking - whether or not she was a beauty - who was posing affectionately with a dog sitting beside her on a settee.

She was buried in Lockeport and two death notices are below:

I think Lockeport is largely a vacation destination. Perhaps someone who knows the area can enlighten me as to whether Grace was a small-town girl or not. I really want to get a sense of her family and/or the family she married into. I assume her marriage was childless.

The following link mentions a Frank H. Dunlevy of Denver investing in a Texas rail line in 1891. If this was her husband, he must have been a good deal older than she was, since I assume she was a young woman when she married:

Her husband's business listing in the 1913 Denver directory:

We all have people in a particular shipwreck that stand out to us for one reason or another, and this is one of mine for the Empress. I suppose I'm curious to know how this girl from Lockeport ended up with a Denver businessman, what her life was like, and all that.

Zeni also makes out that she called in several cities in the US and Canada before boarding the Empress, including Montreal and New York City. If true, this was quite a loop she was doing. It seems like it would have made more sense to plan differently and sail out of NYC, but...

One reason I suppose I find her interesting is because aspects of her story highlight the social pretensions of emerging North American cities at the dawn of the 20th century. Zeni mentions that the Dunlevys were listed in the Denver Social Register of 1913 (snippets of social registers from several American cities from the circa 1920's are available online and make for very interesting reading). The cover of the Denver SR, according to Zeni, describes it as "a directory devoted to ultra society". This is just embarrassing. Denver was not an old or a big city in 1913 and what could it have had in the way of "ultra society"? And just what is "ultra society"?
This isn't as bad as an example of the Wichita Social Register from the 1920's (anyone interested can just google "Wichita Social Register") which is online.

But I digress, as I so often do.

If anyone has any info on the Dunlevys and wouldn't mind passing it along, I would be very appreciative.
Thank you,

Mike Poirier

Dec 12, 1999
Hi Brian
Try emailing Craig Stringer or Geoff Whitfield through this board. They both have quite a bit on the E of I's people.

Brian Ahern

Dec 19, 2002
I managed a few years ago to dig up quite a bit of information on her that I never got around to posting. So here it is.

She was born on April 11th, 1873 in Lockeport, Nova Scotia, one of at least five children of Amasa Thomas Fiske (1840-1931) and Ellen Locke (born 1848). Her mother came from a family with a long New England lineage that had migrated to Nova Scotia and founded Lockeport in 1762. It was reported at the time of her death that Grace’s education was carried out partly in Paris.

Multiple sources agree that, when she died on the Empress, she had been married for seven years to Denver realtor Frank Dunlevy. Evidently, for approximately two years beginning in 1908, the couple was based in Hayden, Colorado, which Mr Dunlevy was helping to develop for the West Hayden Townsite Company. They continued to make frequent stays in Denver, however, where their address was the Metropole Hotel. Their activities during these years are mentioned frequently in the Routt County Republican of Hayden.

Frank and Grace also made appearances in New York during this period. Mrs Dunlevy was the bride’s attendant at a wedding at Manhattan’s Grace Church in October of 1908. The groom was popular society bachelor Marcel Steinbrugge and the bride was Aileen Goodwin. The New York Times claims that Miss Goodwin’s mother came from the Allan shipping family of Canada. The same paper has the Dunlevys as houseguests at the Steinbrugges’ Madison Avenue home two years later.

In the spring of 1914, Grace Dunlevy set out alone from Denver on what was apparently intended to be a rather meandering journey that would see her covering a lot of ground in North America and Europe. It was generally reported after her death that she had left Denver on April 15th and visited relatives in Boston, New York, Montreal, and Quebec before embarking on the Empress. Whether or not she actually visited people in all these cities, she certainly stayed with her sister Marion, four years older than her and by now Mrs James Arthur Henderson of 15 Woolson St, Mattapan, Massachusetts.

The Boston Daily Globe carried a photo of Mrs Dunlevy that I hadn’t seen before. According to the paper, she intended to sail out of Boston until she found that better accommodation could be had on the Empress. Mrs Henderson and another sister, Gladys L. Fiske saw her off at the North Station on the Wednesday before the disaster. The report says that Grace intended to visit London and then to travel on the Continent. The New York Times, however, claimed that she planned to visit “the old Fiske homestead” in England.

David Zeni writes that Frank Dunlevy personally contacted Canadian Pacific and asked that his wife be looked after. She was accordingly assigned the Empress’s Duchess of Connaught Suite and Captain Kendall had her seated at his table. In the tradition of Colonel Gracie, he assured her of his protection throughout the voyage.

After the sinking, Marion Henderson clung to the hope that her sister had not sailed on the doomed liner. According to Colorado’s Yampa Leader, Mrs Dunlevy had wired Mattapan from Montreal to say that she had missed the boat train to Quebec. She was not heard from by her sister afterwards.

But, of course, Grace Dunlevy had been aboard the ship. According to the report of the American Consul at Rimouski, her body was recovered soon after the sinking and claimed by her brother. All that we will probably ever know of her activities after the crash is that she took the time to collect her jewelry, which she wore pinned to her underclothing and in a bag around her neck. A book of her unused traveler’s checks washed onto the river bank several days later. With her husband’s permission, the body was sent to her parents’ house in Nova Scotia for burial.

The Routt County Republican reported within a few weeks of her death that she left an estate valued at $8,000 to be administered by her husband. This was a not insubstantial fortune for a woman who assumedly had never had a career and whose parents were still alive. It was perhaps an inheritance from other relatives or a marriage settlement from her parents.

The fate of Frank Dunlevy after his wife’s death might provides illumination into Grace’s marriage, and gives some insight into her intended sojourn away from him. In 1915, several papers reported that Dunlevy had been declared insane and was resident at the Woodcroft Asylum in Pueblo, Colorado. His brother Elias was obliged to take control of his estate which, surprisingly, was valued in press reports as being $8,000.

The press speculated that it was the traumatic loss of his wife that had caused Dunlevy to become unhinged. It seems unlikely, however, that his mental illness resulted from this one event alone. One wonders if it had been an issue throughout his married life. If press reports of his finances are correct, then it also seems that he must have experienced recent financial reversals, or been living very high on the hog during his working life, as his estate apparently consisted entirely of his inheritance from his wife. Grace Dunlevy’s 1914 journey gives the impression that she at least believed herself the wife of a rich man. Or did she simply really want to get away? Was the Duchess of Connaught Suite in keeping with her usual style of doing things, or the result of a lucky last-minute booking, or a once-in-a-lifetime indulgence? Did she have reason to want to cheer herself up?

Frank Dunlevy died at Pueblo, assumedly at the asylum, in 1918.

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