Mr George Frederick Crow 1,2 was born in Battersea, London, England on 22 February 1886 3 although he would claim to be slightly older in later years. He was baptised 17 March 1886 in St Phillip's Church, Battersea and his home address was recorded as 44 Robertson Street East.
He was the son of Thomas William Crow(e) (b. circa 1851) and Katherine Maria Brown (b. circa 1852), natives of Hayes, Middlesex and Hastings, Sussex, respectively who had married in Lambeth on 13 February 1870. Thomas Crow was described as a clubhouse superintendant at the time of George's baptism.
George had four identifiable siblings: Thomas William (b. 1872), Katherine Maria (b. 1874), Alfred Thomas (b. 1877) and William George (b. 1884).
Crow first appears on the 1891 census, then still a resident of 44 Robertson Street East, Battersea and his father was then described as an Inn waiter. At the time of the 1901 census the Crow home address was 727 Wandsworth Road, Clapham, London but George was not listed with his family and his whereabouts are unclear, although he was likely at sea.
Making a career of seafaring since around 1901, Crow began working for IMM on the American Lines and serving as a steward, storekeeper and barkeeper. Working predominantly on US ships, in 1904 he declared his intent on becoming a US citizen and was described as standing at 5' 11" and with brown hair, grey eyes and having a fair complexion and a scar above his right eye. At the time he weighed 202 lbs. He appeared on the 1910 US census, described as a steward and then living as a lodger at West 22nd Street, New York.
George's signature from his naturalisation papers
George was married in Southampton in 1904 to Lydia Topp (b. 1882), a native of that city and daughter of Charles Topp and Ellen Spencer. Although George was absent and presumably at sea, his wife Lydia appeared on the 1911 census living at 89 Milton Road, Southampton. Also present at the same address was Lydia's brother Thomas Topp and his family.
GF Crow's signature on the Titanic sign-on sheet
Crow signed-on in Southampton for Titanic's maiden voyage on 4 April 1912; he gave his local address as 89 Milton Road and his previous ship as the New York. As a steward he could expect monthly wages of £3, 15s and also serving aboard was his brother-in-law Thomas Topp. Although at sea for many years by this point, the Titanic marked the first occasion for which Crow worked for the White Star Line. On the second or third day of the voyage he noted his allocated lifeboat was number 14.
On Sunday 14 April Crow had been on duty up until approximately 10.30 pm and then turned into bed in his quarters amidships on E-deck at around 11.00 pm. Shortly after, at what he estimated to be 11.40 pm, he was not sleeping although was dozing off when he was stirred by "a kind of shaking and a little impact, from which I thought one of the propellers had been broken off." He admitted though that the impact was so slight that had he had been in a deep sleep he would not have been awakened by it. He did not rise immediately.
Eventually getting out of bed, Crow went out into Scotland Road and saw a number of stewards gathered, including a number of steerage passengers who had already began filing aft, many carrying their baggage; someone passed by carrying a chunk of ice. He inquired as to the trouble but was told by his fellow stewards, several of who were joking about the situation, that nothing was amiss and he was advised to go back to his bunk. A passing stewardess (unidentified) stated that she had left her quarters on account of the rising water. Soon after though an unidentified saloon steward appeared in his quarters, advising him to come to the upper decks with as much warm clothing as he could get on.
After preparing himself Crow mounted the stairwell to the boat deck. Arriving there he saw the crew working around lifeboat 1 but he soon left to find his own allotted lifeboat, number 14. He stood by that boat as instructed and was soon assisting in passing women and children into the craft under the commands of fifth officer Harold Lowe. Asked if he could handle an oar by an officer whom he believed was William Murdoch, Crow replied that he could and was ordered into the boat. He described how a crowd of male passengers "probably Italians or some foreign nationality other than English or American" attempted to rush the lifeboat, an officer brandishing his revolver and firing it into the air to repel them.
Filled with what he described as 57 women and children, around 7 men (himself and Lowe included in that number), Crow described how lifeboat 14 was lowered and came within four to five feet of the water when the ropes jammed in the block and tackle. Officer Lowe called for the ropes to be cut to aid in getting the boat away, following which the boat dropping several feet into the water. Crow believed this sudden drop into the ocean caused a leak in the lifeboat, with one woman and two men complaining that water was beginning to cover their ankles, those same people starting to bail the water out with whatever they could.
Officer Lowe then ordered that the lifeboat stand by close to the ship in case they were needed for people left aboard who may begin dropping down the side of the ship, Lowe hoping to save their lives. With the lights burning bright, Crow described that the ship went almost perpendicular before breaking in two, the after-end of the ship settling back in the water for a time before sinking.
After the ship had foundered Lowe corralled a number of other boats and began distributing #14's passengers amongst them, hoping to return to the scene of the wreck to look for survivors. It was only after boat 14 was cleared of many of her occupants that Crow noticed that the boat had taken in around 8" of water.
Returning to the wreck site, Crow described hearing various cries and stated that the lifeboat's crew endeavoured to reach all of them. They were successful in answering the holler of William Hoyt; reaching him, the crew had difficulty dragging him in on account of his size; he died shortly after.
Other chance encounters were with steward Harold Phillimore who had frozen hands by the time they had rescued him, and one of the Chinese men who was found floating on a sideboard or table. At daybreak the lifeboat encountered collapsible A from which Crow estimated 20-25 men, including one woman Rosa Abbott, being liberated from it, he describing three or four dead bodies being left behind. Again after that, with Crow describing lifeboat 14 hoisting a small canvas sail, they took collapsible D in tow which he described as overloaded.
George was taken aboard Carpathia and eventually made it to New York; he was a witness at the US Inquiry into the sinking but was not required to give evidence to British Inquiry.
Following his survival George returned to sea; he and his wife Lydia welcomed their only child, a daughter Lydia Catherine, who was born in Birkenhead on 24 April 1916. Wife Lydia did not live long after this and died on 26 February 1917. She was 34.
Lydia Crow's probate
George later settled permanently in New York and in 1918 became a full US citizen, his papers indicating that his wife Lydia was by then deceased. That same year, at the time of his military draft he was living at 2000 Arthur Hill Road in Rossville, Staten Island, New York. His nearest relative was given as an Agnes Crow of the same address, his second wife.
Agnes Trotter is bride of George Crow, of London
By special correspondent
Tottenville, Feb 15: announcement has been made of the marriage of Miss Agnes Trotter, niece of Mrs Annie Elizabeth LaForge, of Arthur Kill road, Rossville, and George R. Crow, of London England, that took place at Bala Hall, St George, February 7. The ceremony was performed by Deputy city clerk Elton. Mr Crow's chief steward on transport carrying troops and supplies to France. Mrs Crow is well known in Rossville, where she has resided for some time. Mr and Mrs Crow have gone on a wedding tour and upon their return will take up their residence on Staten Island.
Perth Amboy Evening News, 15 February 1918
George and Agnes, née Trotter, had been married in Tottenville, New York on 7 February 1918; he was described as aged 33 and his bride 35. Agnes was born in New York in August 1882, daughter of William Trotter and Sarah Honeyford; she was reportedly an adopted child, apparently being raised by Stephen LaForge and his wife Elizabeth Ann, natives of Richmond, Staten Island.
On the 1920 census George and Agnes were still living at 2000 Arthur Hill Road in Rossville, Staten Island, the home of Elizabeth Ann LaForge; George was then described as a shipping clerk. He and his new wife would have no children of their own.
Crow's young daughter Lydia, who had been in the care of her maternal family, left British shores in June 1920, accompanied by her Southampton-based aunt Laura Bagley (née Topp) and headed for the home of her father George at 2000 Arthur Hill Road, New York. Becoming known as Catherine in America, she appeared with her father and stepmother on the 1930 census living at 239 Sinclair Place in Westfield, Union, New Jersey. George was still working, then as a shipping salesman. George and Agnes also appear on the 1940 census at the same address.
Other details about George Crow's life over the following years are sparse; there is no indication that he returned to Britain following his final recorded entry into the USA on 5 April 1918 aboard the New York. He remained in Westfield, New Jersey for the rest of his life and appears to have lived a quiet and mundane life, seemingly never making any public mention of the Titanic ever again. He was made a widower when his wife Agnes died 12 August 1949.
George, who was a member of St Paul's Episcopal Church, rallied for a further decade and during that time took a third wife. With nuptials in June 1950, this new bride was former nurse Marion Lenou Fisher (b. 27 May 1902). Marion, a graduate of New York Post School of Nursing in the class of 1926, had worked as a nursing supervisor at the Orange Memorial Hospital for many years. She had been born in New York to Martin Fisher and Hannah Miller.
George, whose final address was recorded as 624 Clark Street, Westfield, passed away following a long illness on 1 February 1960 aged 73.
George F. Crow of 624 Clark street died Monday at home after a long illness.
Born in England, he had resided here 34 years. He also had previously lived in Staten Island.
He was a semi-retired representative for Hawkins and Tipson Ltd., exporters and importers of London and New York. Mr. Crow was a member of St. Paul s Episcopal Church.
He is survived by his widow, Mrs. Marion L. Crow, a daughter Mrs Kathryn Conrad of Rahway, and two grandchildren.
The services were yesterday in Grays with the Rev. Richard J. Hardman of St. Paul's Epicopal Church officiating. Interment was in Fairview Cemetery. - Westfield leader, 4 February 1960.
His widow Marion later passed away on 8 August 1977. Both of George's wives are interred at Fairview Cemetery in Westfield so there is a chance that he is also buried there.
His daughter Lydia Catherine was married in 1937 to Chester Conrad, a traffic clerk, and had two children, Susan Jean and Peter George. She died in Westfield on 3 December 1978 and was also buried in Fairview Cemetery.
I have recently discovered that G F Crow was my Great Great Uncle Thomas Topp's BIL, who survived the Titanic. Sadly my GG Uncle did not. George was married to Lydia, my GG Uncle's sister ♡