Mrs Dickinson H. Bishop (Helen Walton), 19, and her husband Dickinson H. Bishop from Dowagiac, MI, USA, boarded the Titanic at Cherbourg. They occupied cabin B-49.
On the night of April 14th Helen had already retired and Dick was reading in their stateroom when the Titanic struck the iceberg. Helen reported that she did not hear or feel any shock and it was several minutes until someone came to their door and told them to come on deck. Helen dressed and the went on deck, where officers told them they might as well go back to their cabin as there was no danger.
After they returned to their stateroom and prepared for bed, they were again summoned, this time by their friend, Albert Stewart, who expressed concern about the now noticeable list the ship had taken. They quietly dressed again and went on deck where they found only a few people there. Helen asked Dickinson to return to their stateroom and recover her muff. As he was going about that Helen came into the cabin and told him that they had been ordered to don their life vests. Returning to deck they were put into the first lifeboat (No. 7), Helen was reported as being the first person to board. She later claimed to have heard the order "all brides and grooms may board" and that three other newly married couples boarded as well.
Most of the passengers on deck were reluctant to board the lifeboats, dangling 75 feet above the dark ocean below. Helen also reported seeing the Astors on deck, they had spent some time with them in the days preceding this and had become quite friendly with them, but Mrs Astor was reluctant to leave the Titanic, as the ship "couldn't sink". Lifeboat 7 was lowered at 12:45 with 28 passengers, less than half its capacity.
Helen also regretted leaving her newly acquired dog, Freu Freu, in their stateroom. She had been allowed to keep her dog with them during the voyage, but left her there when Helen realized that "there would be little sympathy for a woman carrying a dog in her arms when there were lives of women and children to be saved."
There were only three crew members onboard the lifeboat, so several passengers including Helen, helped with the rowing. Helen recalled a French aviator, Pierre Maréchal, never took his monocle from his eye, even when assisting with the rowing. Another passenger, a phoney German baron called Baron von Drachstedt (Alfred Nourney) apparently refused to row and just sat smoking.
After being rescued early the following morning and returning to New York aboard the Carpathia the Bishops testified before the Senate inquiry into the disaster, which was headed by Dowagiac-born Michigan Senator William A. Smith.
During the Senate investigation Helen testified that they were literally pushed into the lifeboat, saying nothing about the "brides and grooms" order she had claimed to hear after they had arrived safely in New York. Dickinson then testified that he witnessed the sailors unsuccessfully trying to close the locks on the watertight doors.
Helen Walton Bishop was pregnant on board Titanic to be saved with her husband. On December 8th, 1912, Helen gave birth to a baby boy, Randall Walton Bishop, but the infant died two days later.
An interesting, and tragic, addendum to this story began when Helen, in an effort to buoy the spirits of the people in lifeboat No. 7, related to them a story. While the Bishop?s were honeymooning in Egypt a fortune teller had divined her future. She would survive a shipwreck and an earthquake before an automobile accident would end her life. "We have to be rescued," she said, "for the rest of my prophecy to come true." During a later vacation in California an earthquake jolted the couple, fulfilling the second part of the Egyptian?s prophecy. Finally, on November 15, 1913, the couple was returning to Dowagiac from Kalamazoo, Michigan, in their motor car when it went out of control and struck a tree. Helen suffered a severely fractured skull and was not expected to live. She recovered with a steel plate placed in her skull, but the accident caused a change in her mental condition and their marriage suffered. In January 1916, the couple divorced.
Three months later Helen fell while visiting friends in Danville, Illinois. On March 16, 1916, she died and was buried in Sturgis, Michigan. The article announcing her death was on the front page of the Dowagiac Daily News. Ironically the marriage of Dickinson Bishop to his third wife, Sidney Boyce of Chicago, appeared on the very same page.
(Courtesy of the Titanic Inquiry Project)
United States Senate Hearings, 30 April 1912, Testimony of Helen W. Bishop
Stan Hamper Dowagiac Stories: Windows to the Past
Walter Lord (1976) A Night to Remember. London, Penguin. ISBN 0 14 004757 3
United States Senate (62nd Congress), Subcommittee Hearings of the Committee on Commerce, Titanic Disaster, Washington 1912
South Bend Tribune, February 13, 1998, Lou Mumford "Titanic Recollections,"
Kalamazoo Gazette, February 2, 1998, Larry Massie "Dowagiac Couple Escaped Titanic But Not Tragedy,"
Phillip Gowan, USA
David Bronson, USA