Mr John Pillsbury Snyder was born in Minneapolis, Minnesota on 8 January 1888.
He was the only child of Fred Beal Snyder (1859-1951) and Susan May Pillsbury (1863-1891), both native Minnesotans who had married on 23 September 1885. His father was a partner in the law firm Snyder & Gale and at one point was president of the University of Minnesota. His mother Susan was the daughter of one-time Minnesota Governor John Sargent Pillsbury, coming from a prominent milling family.
John's mother died on 3 September 1891 and his father was remarried on 18 February 1896 to Leonora Stuart Dickson (1865-1946) who hailed from Pennsylvania, with that union garnering John a step-sibling, sister Mary Stuart (1897-1963, later Mrs Crawford Johnson). John seemingly lived all his life in Minneapolis and by the time of the 1910 census was still residing with his family in that city.
He was married on 22 January 1912 to Nelle Stevenson (b. 1889) who was a native of St Croix Falls, Wisconsin. They left for Europe where they honeymooned, spending time in Gibraltar and Italy, the latter destination being spent arranging a dealership of Fiat cars.
For their return to the USA the couple boarded the Titanic at Southampton (ticket number 21228 which cost £82, 5s, 4d). They occupied cabin B45. Whilst aboard they became acquainted with other Minnesotan passengers; Mr and Mrs Walter Donald Douglas, Mr and Mrs William Baird Silvey, and Miss Constance Willard.
On the night of the sinking the Snyders had retired around 11.30 and were in their stateroom when the ship collided with the iceberg but explained “There was not a great crash, not even a heavy jar when the ship struck the iceberg.” They both left their cabin to investigate and saw other bewildered passengers milling around. They asked a passing steward if they had struck anything and the man nonchalantly replied that they had just "grazed an iceberg" but that there was no danger and they were better going back to bed. Soon though they heard a man knock the door of an adjacent cabin; he had just come down from the decks above and reported to his friend that something serious may have happened. John and Nelle there and then decided to get dressed and go up top; when they got there a member of the crew was addressing the gathered passengers, advising them to return and fetch their lifebelts. The Snyders did as instructed and soon rejoined other passengers on the boat deck where they saw the crew swinging out the lifeboats.
When the crew called out for people to enter the first lifeboat being filled (number 7), the Snyders reported that a large number of the crowd seemed reluctant and stepped back. John and Nelle were assisted into the boat which was the first launched, the Snyders describing the launch as leisurely and without any confusion or commotion. They reported that the boat pulled away for about 200 yards before resting and was soon tied up to other boats during the night and also claimed to see, off in the distance, the iceberg that the ship had struck. Still not fathoming any real danger, from their vantage point in the boat they saw rows of portholes gradually disappear and that was when the urgency of the situation dawned on them. As the ship sank lower John reported two explosions, which he attributed to the water reaching the boilers, after which he described the ship breaking in two, many people left aboard being flung into the water in the process. He also stated that those struggling in the water were visible from his lifeboat.
Following the disaster John and Nelle settled in Minneapolis and had three children: John Pillsbury (1913-1989), Thomas Stevenson (1915-1976) and Susan (1918-1984, later Mrs Rowley Miller). He became a successful businessman and operated the Snyder Garage Inc. at 507 S. 10th Street in Minneapolis, served as a director of various mining corporations and served one term in the Minnesota House of Representatives as a Republican in the 1920s. He and his family are shown on the 1920 through 1940 census records living on 2118 Blaisdell Avenue, Minneapolis.
The couple continued to travel and one such excursion to Europe in 1938 saw them in Austria when Nazi troops marched into Vienna and the Anschluss was declared. The family retreated back to the USA aboard the Queen Mary, arriving in New York on 4 April 1938.
John retired in 1955 and settled in Ferndale, Wayzata, Minnesota where he was a keen huntsman, fisherman, bowler and golfer and he was on the board of directors of the Great Northern Insurance Company.
An avid golfer, John suffered a heart attack and died at his local golf club, the Woodhill Country Club, Orono, Minnesota on 22 July 1959. He was aged 71 and was buried in Lakewood Cemetery, Minneapolis.
Articles and Stories
St. Paul Pioneer Press (1959)
Chicago Daily Journal (1912)
References and SourcesMinneapolis Morning Tribune, July 24, 1959, Death Notice
Minnesota Department of Health Certificate of Death