Encyclopedia Titanica

Rescued Union Hill Girl's Story

Miss Dowdell tells of treatment received on board the rescue ship Carpathia

Jersey Journal

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Elizabeth Dowdell
Elizabeth Dowdell

A story entirely different from that of those rescued from the Titanic is told by Miss Elizabeth Dowdell of 215 Park Avenue, Union Hill. When seen at her home last night Miss Dowdell was very emphatic in telling about the treatment received on board the rescue ship, Carpathia. She said the passengers were virtually robbed by those who offered to send wireless messages to friends telling that they were safe, and that these cost $1 a word.

The band on board the Titanic did not play "Nearer My God to Thee" when the ship made its final plunge into the deep, and there was a scene of utter desolation at the end of the tragedy of the sea with only the heroic conduct of the men passengers to relieve the terror of the situation, she says.

There was open and flagrant gambling on board the Titanic all day Sunday, she says, to such an extent that she felt something dreadful would be the result. She describes the final moments of the ship and among other things declares that two of the boats were not available because the crew was unable to get the canvass coverings off them. She was on boat No. 13 and there were seventy persons in that boat.

Miss Dowdell was returning from Southampton with the six-year-old daughter of Estelle Emanuel, a well known opera singer. Mrs. Emanuel sent the child over to New York to see her father and grandparents and did not accompany her because she has just signed a six months' contract to sing in England. Several weeks ago Mrs. Emanuel went to England with the child and Miss Dowdell on the Olympic, the sister ship of the Titanic.

Both Miss Dowdell and the child were saved. They were taken aboard the Carpathia and for one whole day bundled into the steerage, where they were fed hard-tack. Finally, when Ethel, the little girl, refused to eat this coarse fare any longer they were admitted to the second cabin.

"When taken on the Carpathia," she says, "we were herded on deck, cold, chilled, and with only so much clothing as we were able to get on. I had taken time to dress, however, and also to clothe my charge. I even put on her kid gloves before starting for the deck of the Titanic. We arrived on deck late and were put into lifeboat No. 13.


"On the Carpathia we were looked over by the officers, and those who apparently had nothing were all ordered down into the steerage. With my charge I was put in with the rest. We were fed on hard-tack. Many of us refused to eat, and when the Carpathia's officers saw this, they had us come into the second cabin. Before this we had been down in the steerage for a full day, rubbing arms with Chinese immigrants. We were desperately hungry by the time they had decided to take us out of this place.

"All of the survivors who were recognized to have been of prominence or means were well taken care of and given choice treatment, while we were accorded anything but that.

"Those who had money could send messages, and those without funds had to go without doing so. I had $5 in my pocketbook, and I was charged a dollar a word to send word to Mrs. Emanuel, in England, telling of our rescue and the safety of her daughter. I sent the message on Tuesday.

"One man, a barber, had but $1.25 with him, and he handed over one dollar of this to send the word ‘safe’ to his mother.


"Prior to the wreck there was open gambling aboard the Titanic every day. No effort was made to conceal it. Even on Sunday the tables were crowded with men of the first and second cabins, and the games were open to anyone who wished to enter. I felt then that something dreadful would happen.

"The iceberg was plainly visible from the lifeboat in which I was. In fact we rowed towards it as soon as we could. It was about five stories in height, and at least a block square.

"My honest impression was that we struck the iceberg headon. The impact was not very great, but a terrible shiver seemed to go through the ship at the time.

"I had put Ethel to bed, and was preparing to retire when the crash came. I went into the passageway and asked a steward what was wrong. He assured me that everything was all right. I returned to bed. Scarcely had I closed the door before someone came running along the passage, ordering all hands to dress and put on life belt.


"I took my time in getting ready, not thinking the situation was serious. I firmly believed the Titanic was unsinkable. When we tried to get to the deck the stairways were so crowded that we could not use them. Men and women were climbing over each other here, and it was impossible for them to move up. They appeared to me to be steerage passengers, and their cries and curses were terrible to hear.

"Finally some of the men passengers realized that it would be impossible to get up by the stairways, and they hoisted the women and children to seamen on the gallery above. They clasped their hands to gether [sic], to enable the women to step upon them and reach out to those who would grasp them.


"An Englishman stepped to my side and picked up my charge. He held her up as high as possible, but she was too small to grasp the hands overhead. Finally he stood alongside one of the poles and lifted her to his shoulders. Still she could not get up.

"Step on my face, kiddie," he said.

"She did, and was lifted up. Then I placed my foot on his two hands and climbed above. The child had her shoes on, too, and his face was frightfully scratched. Still, he smiled bravely when he assisted me.

" 'Goodby, Miss, and good luck,' " he said.

"When we arrived on deck nearly all of the boats were off. They were just filling No. 13, and the men and officers were trying to get the canvass off two others. They failed in this, and at last gave up in despair. My charge and I were carried bodily into boat No. 13.


"Several men tried to rush in on us before we were lowered. I saw an officer shoot three of them. The others stopped immediately.

"The Titanic began to list alarmingly. When we reached the water the next boat behind us was coming down, and just missed coming on top of ours. As it was we collided, and for a moment I thought we would overturn.

"I stated before that we saw the iceberg plainly. After striking, the Titanic had backed away. When we rowed towards the towering ice mountain I looked and saw the gaping hole in the side of the big ship. The sea rushed in in torrents. Our boat was manned with twelve sailors, two at each oar, and it must have taken nearly ten minutes before we were free from the suction.


"No sooner were we off than the Titanic began to go down rapidly. The bow disappeared first. There was no playing by the bands, and only the cries and sobs of those aboard and in the boats was to be heard above the wash of the sea.

"Many aboard the lifeboats, when they saw their dear ones on deck doomed, threw themselves overboard. Some had to be forcibly restrained. The last thing I heard was what I believed to have been the captain's voice crying 'every man for himself.'

"While we were rowing about many came alongside and were pulled aboard. We had seventy in our boat by the time the Carpathia picked us up. I do not know how many we took on board at the start.

"All during this time rockets were being sent up from the doomed vessel. Revolver shots added to the din and the dying voices. Then there was one great explosion. I guessed it was the boilers. The Titanic did not stay up long after that, but tilted, bow downward, with a great part of the stern in the air. She stayed for a moment, then plunged under. Her lights were burning to the last.

"One woman from a capsized boat came near to us. She was swimming. 'Man, let go of me,' she pleaded to some one who was hanging upon her.

" 'I will not,' responded the masculine voice. 'If I do I will drown.' He did let go, however, and the woman was hauled aboard. She said she had been swimming for an hour, and supporting this unknown man for half of that time.


"There was one instance of a family of nine, including the mother and father. The men tried to force one of the daughters into the boat, but when she learned that her father and brothers could not be saved, she leaped back on the wave-washed Titanic deck. This was in the boat lowered after ours.

"We were rowing about for six hours before being picked up. The men became so tired that we women had to change places with them and row.

"I was even surprised at my own calmness. I guess it was the responsibility I had in caring for Ethel. I worried only about her, for I have been with her a good while and we are attached to each other."

Miss Dowdell's relatives were among those at the White Star Line pier awaiting the arrival of the Carpathia. When they arrived and were admitted they could find no trace of her. In fact, when they decided to return to North Hudson they were satisfied of her being among the missing.

She had gone with the grandparents of the Emanuel child, in their home at 605 West 113th Street, New York. They are Mr. and Mrs. Thiel. Later the father came from his residence, at 629 West 115th Street, New York. Then a telegram was sent to Union Hill announcing Miss Dowdell's safety.

Her name was not checked off as among the survivors by the White Star Line officials. In some manner she slipped by them in leaving the dock. Later the father of the little girl sent word to his wife in England that their child was safe.


Miss Dowdell's relatives came over the Fourteenth Street ferry to Hoboken, sorrowing, for they were sure of her loss. They boarded a Fourteenth Street trolley car there, and to their amazement she came aboard a few passengers behind them. There was a great reunion, and it was learned that the survivor had sailed from New York to Hoboken in the same ferryboat as those who were looking for her.

When asked about the time of the collision with the iceberg Miss Dowdell said it must have occurred about ten minutes to 12 o'clock. She is positive that the stern disappeared beneath the waves at half past 1 o'clock, for one of the sailors had a watch with him, and looked at it.

Excepted from Hudson county survivors....

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Encyclopedia Titanica (2003) Rescued Union Hill Girl's Story (Jersey Journal, Saturday 20th April 1912, ref: #1897, published 21 November 2003, generated 4th June 2023 09:58:16 PM); URL : https://www.encyclopedia-titanica.org/rescued-union-hill-girls-story.html