Paterson Morning Call

William Johnson, Nineteen-year-old Hawthorne Boy, Went Down on the Titanic
Not Known Until Then That He Took Passage on the Ill-Fated Ship---Borough Grieved

Hawthorne, although grieved by the loss of one of her promising and well liked young men, cannot help but feel proud of the manner in which he met his death. As is known in every household from one end of the town to the other, William C. Johnson, Jr., the nineteen-year-old son of Mr. and Mrs. William C. Johnson, of Diamond Bridge avenue, was one of the victims of the greatest marine disaster of the age when yesterday his name was positively placed among the missing on the ill-fated Titanic. All along there has been some doubt as to his having sailed, as his name was not on the passenger lists. Young Johnson was fourth quartermaster on the S. S. Philadelphia, which has been laid up in Southampton for repairs. Johnson was to have sailed for home on the Olympic and return in time to leave on the regular trip on the Philadelphia. He missed the Olympic and was shipped on the Titanic under a pass ticket and for that reason his name was not on the passenger or crew lists. Yesterday the White Star offices in New York gave it out that he had sailed on the Titanic as his name had been brought over on the Adriatic as having shipped under this special ticket.

Desiring to know something of his son, the father placed personals in the New York papers asking for information. Yesterday George Bolt, manager of the Waldorf Astoria, sent word to Mr. Johnson that he had in him employ two former stewards of the Titanic, one of whom was also a steward on the Philadelphia. The latter, he said, knew young Johnson well and saw him when the Titanic was sinking.

Frank Turnquist, one of the stewards, gave the following story when interviewed: “I knew Johnson well when I was on the Philadelphia and when he shipped for home on the Titanic. I was well pleased to have his company, as he was a fellow anyone would like. When we were on the Philadelphia he made many friends, not alone among the crew, but among the officers as well. His sterling character was admired by all and it was this that caused him to rise so quickly in the service. In all, I think, he served only two years, yet he was a quartermaster and still on the road to rapid promotion. Chief Officer Candy, of the Philadelphia, thought there was no one like ‘Billy.’

“On the Titanic the officers took to him right away, and especially the captain, who called him “Kid” and used to joke and talk with him. When the ship struck Billy was sleeping, but arose with the rest of us and went on deck. When the lifeboats were being lowered one of the officers recognized Billy and told him to do duty at the boat, I and another steward were detailed to row in that lifeboat. Johnson never wavered, but jumped right into the work of getting the women and children safely on board of the lifeboats. Just as the boat I was in was about to be lowered, I called to Billy and told him to climb in, as I thought there was room. The captain at the time was rushing past and he turned and, seeing Billy, placed his hand on his shoulder and said: ‘Jump in, Kid, you might as well have a chance.’

“‘Nothing doing,’ replied Johnson, ‘I’ll wait until the women and children are all off and the other officers go.’

“The captain turned away, saying, ‘You’re made of the right goods, Kid, but it is too bad to waste them.’

“Our boat was lowered and then we rowed off I kept watching Johnson and saw him and another officer climb to the bridge as the last boat left and both of them stood there as the Titanic took its last plunge. It is certainly great the grit that lad had. It was that determination to stand by for the ones that should go first, that made Johnson rise so rapidly and if some of those older officers could have done it they would have willingly given up their chance for rescue to save him, as they all knew he deserved to have his life by the courage he showed when put to the test. In my eyes and in the eyes of others who saw the affair, Johnson was a hero.”

In speaking to the father of the boy, Mr. Turnquist said that he was sure his son had gone to his death as a true man should. Through all the terrible suffering caused by the loss of his son Mr. Johnson said he could not help but feel proud of him.

When a Call reporter interviewed the sister of the dead hero, she said: “Willie said he wished to have the ocean for his grave and I think he must have had his wish. We still try to find things that will cheer us up and give us hope, but they are few and far between, especially since we have heard Mr. Turnquist’s story. I know Willie would be a man in a case like that and as mother has said, she knows he would not leave the vessel if there were still women and children aboard.

“The last two weeks have been an awful trial for us all, but we realize that if it was ordained that will should go, he left this world in a manner that no one can say was anything but to his praise. I expect to go to Halifax when the Minia arrives and see if his body is among those saved.”

All over the little town of Hawthorne people express great sympathy for the bereaved parents and sister.

The young man was born in Newark some nineteen years ago and moved to Hawthorne about thirteen years ago. He was a graduate of the Hawthorne schools and attended high school in this city. His first employment was with the Wells Fargo company in their New York offices. About two years ago he entered the marine service as a cadet on the St. Paul, of the American Line, on which he was advanced rapidly. When he was transferred to the Philadelphia, about a year ago, he was made quartermaster, and from members of the crew that knew him he was well liked and would have been promoted again in the near future.

Johnson was a member of the local Y. M. C. A., a member of the Young People’s club, of Hawthorne, and the Young Men’s club, of the town. His comrades can hardly realize that he is gone.

Related Biographies:

William Cahoone Jr. Johnson

Relates to Ship:



Mark Baber

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