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Samuel Beard Risien Who was he really

Discussion in 'Third Class Passengers' started by William Barber, Oct 8, 2003.

  1. I know that Samuel Beard Risien was a well-to-do business man, who owned property, ostensibly was transporting diamonds from a mine in South Africa, yet was travelling on a third class ticket with his wife. What were his reasons for choosing third class? Can anyone shed light on this enigmatic figure from the Titanic?
  2. William,
    As you say a mysterious couple - here is all I have on them:
    Risien, Mrs. Emma. Missing. Lived at 154, Camden Street, Camden Gardens, London. UK. Occupation - Housewife. Age 58 years.
    Risien, Mr. Samuel. Missing. Same address as wife above - Occupation - American Hotel keeper. Aged 68 years.
    (From The Emergency and Relief booklet by the American Red Cross, 1913).
    Case number 394. (English). A man and his wife, returning to this country from a visit to England were drowned. Communication with the two sons, who reside in this country, disclosed the fact that the parents had no one dependent upon them.

    Brian J. Ticehurst - Southampton UK
  3. Bob Godfrey

    Bob Godfrey Member

    Samuel Risien's wealth came from his hotel business in Texas. Samuel was born in Kent, but had an adventurous life and was widely travelled (including a period in South Africa) before he settled in the USA and became an American citizen. After the death of his first wife Mary he married her sister Emma, herself a widow. Both had children from their first marriages.

    Samuel and Emma were returning on the Titanic from a year-long trip to South Africa and to England to visit family members. In London they stayed with Samuel's brother, who was a jeweler and dealer in precious stones. It's not clear whether the diamonds he had brought from Capetown were for his brother or perhaps, on his brother's advice, he intended to sell them to dealers in New York. It's been suggested that if he was still carrying some or all of the diamonds he was travelling Third Class (and possibly dressed accordingly) to conceal the fact that he might be carrying anything of value. I'm not convinced!
  4. I may be mistaken but I understand that the Risien family learned via letters (or cables?) that Samuel and Emma were indeed carrying with them on Titanic the diamonds from the mine in which they owned shares. It is family lore, so I understand from Phil Gowan, that the couple had sewn the bags of diamonds into their suitcases to safeguard them en route.

    The Risien story is of special interest to me because they were from North Texas, as am I.

    The Rowe family, by the way, whose patriarch Alfred Rowe ran a North Texas ranch and was among Titanic's victims, is believed to have owned a dry goods business in Ennis, my hometown. There's still work being done by genealogists to determine the link.

    The four story John Rowe Building, built in the 1890s, still stands in downtown Ennis, having been renovated as an antiques emporium and tea room.
  5. Bob Godfrey

    Bob Godfrey Member

    Randy, I believe Samuel's last letter was to his son (Charles?) a couple of weeks before they sailed. I haven't seen the contents, but doubtless we know someone who has (one way or another, the initial G comes to mind!) Hopefully that may provide a solution to the mystery of the Third Class tickets. Maybe Samuel Risien was quite simply a man reluctant to open his wallet wider than absolutely necessary - a policy of which I myself am often accused (and I plead guilty).
  6. George Behe

    George Behe Member

    Hi, Bob!

    I don't know if Phil Gowan has returned from his trip yet, so I hope you'll forgive a supernumerary "G" for butting into the conversation. :)

    The only surviving communication from Samuel Risien that I'm aware of is the postcard that he sent to his son Charles on March 30, 1912. Aside from mentioning the scarcity of coal due to the coal strike, though, Mr. Risien didn't give any hints as to why he was travelling Third Class.

    (Since the Titanic was not scheduled to deliver John Jacob Astor to New York any sooner than it delivered the steerage passengers there, though, I can perhaps understand why Mr. Risien might have decided to save a few dollars for more important things than merely travelling First Class.)

    All my best,

  7. Bob Godfrey

    Bob Godfrey Member

    That's the communication I had in mind, George (and you were one of the G's!). Thanks for the info and the suggestion. As a man with very deep pockets and very short arms, I can well understand that line of thinking.

  8. Hi all,

    I'm only recalling conversations with Phil about this but I thought there was another letter besides the postcard. I know there's at least oral history within the family about the diamonds. But I defer to the G Force - Phil G, G Behe and Bob G!

    Another thing that may be of interest here is the family's amusement that Sam and Emma traveled steerage. Phil will be able to tell more about it but Bob's and George's idea of the Risiens being frugal probably isn't far off the mark. They certainly had the money to go first class. This is info that Phil related as coming from the Risiens' daughter-in-law who was a close friend of Phil's family in Corsicana.

  9. George Behe

    George Behe Member

    Hi, Randy!

    >I'm only recalling conversations with Phil about >this but I thought there was another letter
    >besides the postcard.

    Phil could easily be aware of a Risien letter in addition to the postcard that I spoke of. Let's hope he'll elaborate on the matter after he returns from Pitcairn Island (or was it Tierra del Fuego?) :)

    Hi, Bob!

    I have a pair of short arms, too; perhaps we'd have found ourselves rubbing elbows in the Titanic's Third Class dining room. :)

    All my best,

  10. Bob Godfrey

    Bob Godfrey Member

    Quite so, George, and after a good feed of bangers & mash we could have sorted this Risien business once and for all by using our respective talents - you'd get the drinks in while I went through his pockets. :-D
  11. Mitsy Barber

    Mitsy Barber Guest

    In an affidavit that Samuel W. and Charles J. submitted to the probate court in Limestone County, they received a post card from their father posted Southampton. They also mention that their Uncle John Risien received a picture postcard of the Titanic posted Queenstown. The library in Groesbeck, Texas does have a copy of a letter written by Emma to a friend in Groesbeck. Much to my disappointment, she talks mostly about the beautiful flowers in London in the spring.
    Frances E. Reynolds likes this.
  12. Samuel Beard Risien was my great-grandfather. All the notes above have elements of fact. There is no definite confirmation whether Samuel and Emma were bringing diamonds back. This is part of the story my mother, Sadie Louise Risien Reynolds Shumway, told me. It might be logical that they were since Jonathan Risien was a diamond merchant in London. It is conjecture that they sailed third class because that is all they could get. We (my sister and cousins) think they might have had passage on another ship, but because of the coal strike they could not sail on that ship, so took what they could get on the Titanic. My niece has the original postcard sent to Charlie Risien (my grandfather). I have a copy. Samuel was well off - not wealthy. He was a successful business man and hotel owner. His obituary cites him as being a valued and upright citizen of Groesbeck, Texas. He sailed, too, on the CSS Alabama in the Civil War, even though he was a British citizen. He belonged to the Joe Johnston Camp of the Confederate Veterans. I have pictures of him and of Emma Jane. We are not sure what really happened to Mary Louisa, Samuel's first wife. An historian in Groesbeck told us that she had run away with another man sometime after 1883. She is a mystery that we have not been able to unravel. We need to do more sleuthing!
    Philip Hind likes this.
  13. I have a copy of that letter, too. She gives an interesting pictures of the 1912 London. When I lived there I went to Deal, Samuel's birthplace and to all the London addresses, etc.

    I have a copy of this record. It is very interesting because of Samuel's directive that he hopes his sons and Emma Jane would be compatible (not his exact words)! After this, Samuel's sons, Charlie and Samuel W. Became estranged. Reason unknown.