Mrs Emma Eliza Bucknell

Emma Eliza Bucknell

Mrs William Robert Bucknell (Emma Eliza Ward) was born in India in 1852.1,2

She was the daughter of the Reverend William Ward (1821-1873) and his wife Cordelia Heffron (d. 1859). She had two known siblings: Mary (b. 1854) and William Lorenzo (1856-1868). Her father, hailing from Connecticut, was a Baptist missionary and had spent 22 years on mission work in India.

Following the death of her mother, Emma appears on the 1870 census living in Burlington, New Jersey. By this time her father had remarried to a Massachusetts-born woman named Susan (b. 1822).3

In 1871 she was married to William Robert Bucknell (b. 1 April 1811). Bucknell, who hailed from Delaware, Pennsylvania, was a committed Baptist, real estate dealer and agent, builder of gas and water works, owner of coal and iron mines, and was patron of Bucknell University. In 1882 Bucknell donated a large to the university when it was in financial difficulties and in 1886 the university changed its name from the University at Lewisburg to Bucknell University, in his honour.

He was first married around 1836 to a woman named Harriet Ashton (b. 1815) and had at least five children: Louisa (b. 1840), William Ashton (b. 1842), Rufus (b. 1847), Sarah (b. 1849) and Harriet (b. 1851). Following the death of his first wife in 1851 he was married to a woman named Margaret Crozer (b. 1822). Following his second wife's death Emma would become his third and ultimate wife and, at over forty years her senior, Bucknell could boast that his youngest child was older than his new bride.

Emma and her husband lived in Philadelphia and went on to have four children of their own: Howard (1874-1962), Margaret Crozer (1876-1963 later Mrs (Countess) Daniele Pecorini4), Gertrude (1877-1936, later Mrs Jay Gould Day) and Edith Louise (1880-1944, later Mrs Samuel Price Wetherill). The family were shown on the 1880 census as residents of Walnut Street in Philadelphia.

Emma was widowed on 5 March 1890 and inherited a fortune from her late husband. She later built a summer retreat, Pine Point Lodge on Upper Saranac Lake, New York, and divided her time between living there and in Pennsylvania and also did a considerable amount of globetrotting. She is believed to have made frequent trips to her daughter Margaret, the Countess Pecorini, in Rome. She was shown returning to New York from one such trip aboard Kaiser Wilhelm II on 1 June 1910. By the time she returned from another trip on 28 June 1911, aboard Kronprinz Wilhelm, she was accompanied by her maid Albina Bassani, a Rome native.

In late 1911 she again travelled to visit her daughter, Countess Pecorini, and for her return to the USA and the home of her son Dr Howard Bucknell in Atlanta, Georgia, she boarded the Titanic at Cherbourg as first class passenger, together with Albina Bassani (ticket number 11813 which cost £76, 5s, 10d). She occupied cabin D15. While awaiting the Titanic on the tender at Cherbourg Mrs Bucknell told Margaret Brown, an old acquaintance, that she had "evil forebodings" that something might happen to the ship. Mrs Brown laughed but Mrs Bucknell would have cause to remind her of her words only days later.

On the night of the sinking Mrs Bucknell and her maid were rescued in lifeboat 8. In the lifeboat she helped row until her hands were blistered.

Following her rescue by Carpathia, she would later describe the scene of Bruce Ismay being confronted by other survivors:

"After being taken aboard the Carpathia, J.Bruce Ismay went to a cabin and remained closeted until waited upon by a committee of the survivors, who demanded that they be permitted to see him. One of the questions that was put to him was as to what the White Star and the International Mercantile Marine Co.'s intended doing in the way of reparation. To this Mr. Ismay replied that the company would do all in its power to make a partial repayment for the suffering of the survivors. Further than this he would say nothing."

The disaster did not deter Mrs Bucknell from further travel. On a passport dated 27 September 1912 she is described as standing at 5' 3¼" with a round face, hazel eyes and mixed-grey hair.

In later years Emma divided her time between her home Pine Point Lodge and her winters in Florida although it is not clear how long her maid Albina Bassani remained in her service. Emma appears on the 1920 census residing at her home in Clearwater, Florida. She died, following a long illness, at her home in Upper Saranac Lake, New York on 27 June 1927 aged 74 and was later buried in Erieville Cemetery, Nelson, New York where her parents were also laid to rest.

Her last surviving child Margaret, Countess Pecorini, died in a nursing home in Guttenberg, New Jersey on 4 November 1963 aged 87.

Notes

  1. Some sources state she was born in Hindustān, India (now part of modern-day Pakistan). The Bengal birthplace derives from her 1912 passport.
  2. Birthdate under dispute. Widely circulated as 28 August 1852, on her 1912 passport application she stated she had been born on 29 July 1852.
  3. The 1870 census shows Emma with her father, described as a Baptist minister. Also present are her stepmother Susan (b. 1822) and three younger "siblings": Wayland (15), born in Massachusetts; Helen (13), born in St Helena Island; and Mary (10), born in New York. It may be assumed that some of these children, if not all, were from Susan's previous marriage.
  4. Margaret was first married to Charles Falconer Stearns (1866-1946), Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Rhode Island. With him she had a son, Howard Bucknell Stearns (1898-1986). They lived in Providence but were later divorced sometime after 1900. Charles later remarried to Amelia Frances Lieber (1874-1962) and had a daughter, Bettie Alexander (b. 1909). He died in Rhode Island on 3 September 1946 and is buried in Swan Point Cemetery in Providence. 
 

Pictures

Emma Eliza Bucknell
Daily Northwestern 
EMMA ELIZA BUCKNELL
 

Articles and Stories

Titanica! (2008) 
New York Times (1927) 
Worcester Evening Gazette (1912) 
 

Comment and discuss

  1. Arne Mjåland said:

    It will be almost impossible to obtain an obituary about her. She died at Saranac Lake N.Y. June 27 1927. You will understand that when reading the message I got from Saranac Lake Free Library: "I was not able to find an obituary for her , because the Adirondack Enterprice newspapers were foolishly discarded from 1926 to 1953. I do not have any copies on microfilm on them". The only other possibility is if any relatives of her saved an eventually obituary about her. I read in another thread here that Mrs Bucknell has relaticves in South Carolina. You think it may be possible to ask them?

  2. Michael Findlay said:

    Hi Arne, I remember that an obituary for Mrs. Bucknell appeared in the NY Times in June of 1927 - although it was not a very detailed one. I also have one from the Philadelphia Inquirer. If I'm not mistaken, I do not even think the NY Times obit mentioned her Titanic affiliation - although the Philadelphia notice did. Regards, Mike Findlay

  3. Mark Baber said:

    Here's the NYT obit: The New York Times, 29 June 1927 MRS. EMMA W. BUCKNELL --- Widow of University Founder Dies at Saranac Lake Camp --- Special to The New York Times --- SARANAC INN, N. Y., June 28.---Mrs. Emma Ward Bucknell, 75 years old, widow of William Bucknell, founder of Bucknell University, died last night at her camp on Upper Saranac Lake, having recently arrived from Clearwater, Fla., where she spent each Winter. With her at the time of her death were her son, Dr. Howard Bucknell of Atlanta, Ga., and her daughter, Countess Pecorini, formerly Margaret Bucknell. Mrs.... Read full post

  4. Arne Mjåland said:

    Thank you Michael and Mark.

  5. Zachary Schwarz said:

    This pertains more to Mrs. Bucknell's maid, Albina Bazzani. Has it been determined whether or not she was married, and if so has anyone come across her maiden name?

  6. Chris Dohany said:

    Ellis Island records from when Mrs. Bazzani/Bassani entered the US in June 1911 (with Mrs. Bucknell) indicate she was widowed.

  7. Glenda Bowling said:

    The information on Ms. Bazzani has not been made public but she has been tracked down. She was twice married and lived to a ripe old age and had three children. The older two lived out their lives and died in Europe. The youngest is now in her late 80's and lives in the United States. I've seen a lovely family portrait of them taken circa 1930.

  8. Zachary Schwarz said:

    Hi Glenda, Do you happen to know when it will be announced? I always assumed that Albina was hired by Mrs. Bucknell while she was visiting her daughter in Italy. Thanks, Zach

  9. Chris Dohany said:

    Albina had some connection to Bucknell's daughter, as the Countess Pecorini is listed as "nearest relative or friend in country whence alien came" for Bazzani in the same passenger manifest from 1911. I'm taking a stab in the dark here, but perhaps Bazzani was in the employment of the Countess at some time?

  10. Martin Williams said:

    Yes, I believe that Albina Bazzani HAD been in the employ of the Countess Pecorini and until quite recently too. Emma Bucknell had spent the early part of 1912 visiting her daughter in Italy - newspaper reports suggest that Margaret had not been in the best of health, although it was obviously not a terminal condition, since she was alive and kicking at the time of Emma's death in 1927 and was apparently still paying visits to her family in the States in the mid-Thirties. I am curious to know how Margaret Bucknell came to be married to a member of the Italian aristocracy. Much has been... Read full post

  11. Brian Ahern said:

    Two more Titanic passengers had even grander connections within the Italian aristocracy. Margaret Graham's husband's sister, Elsie Moore, was the wife of Marino Torlonia, 4th Prince of Civitella-Cesi. One of their sons married the daughter to the King of Spain, while a daughter married an American and became the grandmother of Brooke Shields. And William Augustus Spencer's sister was the Princess di Cenci-Vicovaro, who - it's been said elsewhere on this board - was a lady-in-waiting to the Queen of Italy.

  12. Martin Williams said:

    In the years after the 'Titanic' disaster, Emma Bucknell preferred to spend her winters under the warm, sunny skies of Florida. Quite by chance, I've discovered an article which features a period photograph of the beautiful Greek-Revival house she had built in fashionable Clearwater in 1921:

  13. avatar

    Mike Poirier said:

    There is a new book on Emma Bucknell on amazon.com

  14. Martin Williams said:

    Well spotted, Michael, and thank you. It is always a pleasure to learn that a less celebrated passenger has come in for his or her share of attention at last. Intriguing to discover that Emma Bucknell's parents perished during the Boxer Rebellion in China. I can't wait to find out more

  15. Brian Ahern said:

    I've just ordered my copy. The article on the book and its author says that she was motivated by Judith Geller's book making Emma out to be a gold digger. I recall Geller's portrayal of Mrs Bucknell as that of an elegant, loving woman.

  16. Martin Williams said:

    Brian, welcome back! Your presence on the board has been much missed of late. I very much hope that you'll be making some more contributions to the first-class passenger biographies in the not-too-distant future. I have to say, though, I agree with you about the Geller. I don't think that Emma Bucknell comes across as a gold-digger. Quite the contrary, in fact: it sounds to me like she had rather a lot to put up with in her marriage! I've not seen a decent photographic portrait of her as she would have appeared around 1912, so it will be interesting to know if the new biography contains... Read full post

  17. Brian Ahern said:

    Thanks, Martin! It's good to be back.

  18. Bruce De Benedictis said:

    Albina Bassani was my great-aunt. That is her maiden name. As far as I know, she never married. Her experience on the Titanic was traumatic. My father said she shook for the rest of her life.

  19. Kalman Tanito said:

    Bruce, check out Glenda Bowling's message above, it appears that your great-aunt was married twice!

  20. Bruce De Benedictis said:

    Glenda Bowling's message is unlikely. Even the name is incorrect. That is probably some other person. The family name was Bassani. Her signature on her claim for her lost articles is in the National Archives.

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Credits

Gavin Bell, UK
Peter Engberg
Hermann Söldner

References and Sources

Contract Ticket List, White Star Line 1912 (National Archives, New York; NRAN-21-SDNYCIVCAS-55[279])
United States Passport Applications, 1795-1925 :
Search archive British and Irish newspapers online

Link and cite this biography

(2020) Emma Eliza Bucknell Encyclopedia Titanica (ref: #44, updated 27th January 2020 16:46:12 PM)
URL : https://www.encyclopedia-titanica.org/titanic-survivor/emma-bucknell.html