Several interview excerpts by Helen and family details

Providence Journal

The Oslo-born family sent its first members to America in 1866 toestablish the foundation on which the family would build for decades tocome.

Englehart studied at the Royal School of Art in Oslo and apprenticedas a jeweler.  Coming to Providence in 1869, he worked for severalprestigious firms before starting his own in 1879 in partnership withNathan B. Barton.  Ostby & Barton is known to this day inProvidence. 

A member of Grace Episcopal Church, Englehartwas known for his good works, charitable acts, and astute businesssense.  He became trustee and director on many boards and banks inthe city.  He married Lizzy Macy Webster in 1876 and four sons anda daughter were born to the distinguished couple. 

HeleneRagnhild, named for Englehart’s sister, would later drop the final “e”on her name and become plain Helen.  Helen was to lose her motherat age ten when Lizzy died tragically in 1899, leaving Englehart’smother, Josephine to help raise the children.

When Helen wasabout seventeen, her father would take the pretty daughter with him onbusiness trips to Europe, especially Paris.  Helen got to seeNorway at last in 1907. 

While on the Grand Tour which included Egypt, they heard about the chance of returning home on the Titanic.Friends they had met in Egypt, the Warrens, were already booked, and sothe Ostbys boarded First Class at Cherborg.  Englehart carriedaboard his black leather bag filled with gems he had collected in histravels.   

The following recollection is given by Helen in 1912 and 1962. She had been collected at the pier by her brothers and taken to theBelmont Hotel, where the hotel managers threw a crowd of newspapermenout of the lobby and got Helen safely to a fourth-floor suite. The lobby is described as a pitiable picture as one survivor afteranother was half-led, half-carried into the office and whisked offupstairs to quiet rooms.  Some had to be carried in chairs and oneor two on stretchers, and all looked as if they had stepped from the"very mouth of the Inferno".

They hoped to get Helen on a trainfor Providence Friday morning if she could stand the trip.  Shewas attended in her room by Dr. Lamb and a trained nurse. The doctorwas obliged to give her a sleeping draught about 2 a.m. Fridaymorning.  During the night, the brothers were trying to learn newsof their father, as the word back in Providence was that both had beensaved on Carpathia- the shock of the truth was overwhelming. 

Dr.Emery Porter, of St. Luke's Hospital and a personal friend of RaymondOstby from tennis-playing days at Brown University, finally convincedthe brothers that Englehart was drowned when he explained he hadvisited every sick person on Carpathia and Mr. Ostby was not among the saved. 

Thebrothers called home with the sad news and the rest of the family tookthe midnight train from Providence to New York. The plan was made tospread out and check every single hospital and charitable group whichhad gathered-in Titanic's survivors from the pier.  Dr. Porter had mentioned there were some bodies aboard Carpathia which he was not permitted to see, so their was still hope. 

Helen related her story to her brother Raymond who released it to the the Journal as follows:

"When the crash came, father and I were in our cabins inbed.  The crash was terrible and we got up and stood there nearthe staterooms for a moment.  We put on a few clothes after ashort time and about that time stewards and stewardesses came roundtelling us there was no danger.  Some of the people went back tobed again.  Father told me to go up on deck as I had bundled upwarmly.  He said he would put on some more clothes and join meimmediately so I went.  As soon as I got on deck I met Mr. andMrs. Frank Warren and we remained together for a short time waiting forfather.  Commotion had begun at that time and the escaping steammade it almost impossible to hear conversation.  People all aroundus were putting on life belts so we three did the same.   Iwondered what kept father below however, and after about ten minutes Iwent down to try to find him.  I guess my father must have come upon deck some other way for I could not find him in the stateroom. Thinking he had gone up and joined the Warrens, I too went back but hehad not been around there.  I was waiting for him all the timewhen the crew came around and told us to get into one of theboats.  We all hung back awhile, I wanted father to come with usbut the men insisted that we hurry up so we got in.   Thatis, Mrs. Warren and I got in with some other women and a man."

This later 1962 account continues

" It was a very unpleasant feeling stepping into that boat becausealthough it was level with the boat deck, it was swung out over thewater so that there was a little gap between it and the side of theship.  An officer and two sailors manned the boat and just as itwas lowering, two men from among the passengers were allowed to jumpinto it.  Once below the boat deck, there were no lights so it wasdifficult for the men on the deck who were letting the boat down byropes to keep it level.  First on end would dip, then theother.  By the time we were lowered to the water, the Titanic hadbegun very noticeably to go down by the head.  The stars were outbut it was pitch dark.  As we pulled away we could see the lightsof the ship and the lighted forward portholes gradually disappearing.As we were sitting there watching, the first of about eight distressrockets went off so high in the sky that they startled everyone.Everybody began to talk in the dark and wonder whether our ship hadbeen able to send off any wireless messages.

Up until that time, things had gone on very calmly.  But atthe end we could see and hear people on board were realizing there wasno place to go.  As the ship began to stand on end we heard a bigrumbling, rattling noise as if everything was being torn from theirmoorings inside the ship. She stood quietly on her end for a minute,then went down like an arrow.  Everybody was looking and hoping tosee the lights of a ship.  Of course some complained of losingjewelry and clothing -and some the cold.  One woman wasseasick.  When somebody happened to mention jewelry left behind, Iremembered for the first time that I had lost a diamond bar pin whichwas given me by my father which was still pinned to my nightgown aboardship.  I hadn't given it a though, and when I was reminded, itdidn't matter. At dawn we could see the Carpathia was heading towardus. She stopped a mile or so away and let the scattered lifeboats cometo her. They slung over a rope hitch like a bo'sun chair.  I satin it and held onto the rope."

1912 interview:

"Our treatment on the Carpathia could not have been better. As soon as we were aboard, stewards wrapped blankets about us and ledus into the dining room where steaming hot brandy was waiting. This I think may have saved many lives.   There was alsocoffee and tea.   After that some went on deck, some tostaterooms.  Standing there on deck I looked up and saw Mr. andMrs. Chapin.  They took me down to their stateroom and Mrs. Warrenwent too. It was noble,  Absolutely everything was done that couldbe done. I tried to send a wireless Tuesday but the wireless mencollapsed under the strain as they had so much to do.  The last Isaw of Capt. Smith he was on the deck in charge of things.  Mylast sight of Mr. Ismay showed him in pajamas only helping women intoboats. I have been told he put on evening clothes.  In that way hecame aboard Carpathia.  Mrs. Astor had a cut on her face. That afternoon we sailed along the edge of an ice floe miles long andin it, now and then, was a mountain of ice." 

Helen is recorded in newspapers as saying she had seen Col. Astorclinging to a life raft, until exhausted by the strain and overcome bythe chilling waters, he relaxed his fingers and sank beneath thesurface.  She also witnessed up on deck, the touching moment whenMrs. Straus stepped back.

Mr. and Mrs. Howard Chapin of Providence were on a honeymoon tour ofEurope.  Helen had known Mrs. Chapin as Miss Hope B. Brown, thedaughter of former governor D. Russell Brown.   Helen wouldgo on to survive many other harrowing escapes.  IN 1914 she hadbeen traveling in Germany when the war broke out but escaped throughFlandres and arrived in Liege the same day as the Germansoldiers.  She later returned to Belgium and lived in Brussels forten years.  One morning in 1940 she was awakened by German bombsfrom planes overhead.  During her last five months there, Belgiumwas occupied by invading Nazi armies.  When she returned toProvidence in January 1941, she gave a first-hand account of thefleeing refugees.  She waited three months in Lisbon for passagehome.

Ostby & Barton continued on - managed by the brothers. Englehart's address at 61 Cooke Street was found in his pocket. The magnificent mansion stands today, not far from 230 Waterman wherethe family had lived many years before Titanic.  Helen,when unable to care for herself went to live a few blocks away in theluxurious Wayland Manor residential hotel. 

It would seem Helen remained vivacious and strong-willed to theend.  Today, if one calls her church, Grace Episcopal, at thecorner of Westminster and Mathewson, they remember the Osbys- "Mr. Raymond used to lend his car for church canvassing back in 1916-they had one of the few automobiles around back then. That was a greatfamily, giving in church and community."  Englehart was found andlaid to rest in a magnificent mahogany casket at Swan Point Cemetery ,a 17 foot granite Celtic cross above his head and his dynasty laid torest all around him.  Mr. Warren was never found. 

The entire Ostby plot and family markers may be seen online at  www.revdma2.com/forgetmenot.html

Excerpt from an article first published in TIS Journal. VOYAGE (On the Road-Rhode Island)

Related Biographies:

Engelhart Cornelius Østby
Helen Ragnhild Østby

Acknowledgements

Shelley Dziedzic

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Copyright © 1996-2020 Encyclopedia Titanica (www.encyclopedia-titanica.org) and third parties (ref: #4634, published 11 August 2005, generated 16th January 2020 07:04:01 AM)
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