Encyclopedia Titanica

Mary Conover Lines

Mary Conover Lines
Mary Conover Lines

Miss Mary Conover Lines was born in Mount Vernon, Westchester, New York on 27 July 1895.

She was the daughter of Dr Ernest Howard Lines (1859-1936), a New York native and president and medical director of the New York Life Insurance Company, and Elizabeth Lindsey James (1861-1942), who hailed from Burlington, New Jersey. Her parents had married in Pennsylvania in 1889 and besides Mary they had one other child, a son, Howard Burchard (1892-1916). The family appeared on the 1900 census living in Manhattan. They latterly settled in Paris, where Mary was educated, and they were frequent travellers across the Atlantic.

In April 1912, Mary and her mother were travelling to the United States to attend her brother's graduation from Dartmouth College. They boarded the Titanic at Southampton as first class passengers (joint ticket number 17592 which cost £39, 8s) and occupied cabin D-28.

On Saturday 13 April the two ladies had just finished luncheon in the first class dining room on D Deck. They had made a habit of stopping for coffee in the adjoining reception room following their meal. After they had taken a seat, Captain Smith and Bruce Ismay came and sat at a table nearby and began discussing the possibility of having the last boilers lit. Her mother recognised Mr Ismay from several years back when they had both lived in New York, and she confirmed his identity with her table steward.

On the night of the sinking Mary recalled that she had been dozing off when she and her mother became alarmed when the ship stopped and the noise of steam being vented out could be heard. They were soon pacified by their steward who told them to remain in their cabin which they did, for some time and the steward never returned. Mary later recalled that a man from a neighbouring cabin (whom she identified as a Mr White, possibly Percival White or his son Richard) alerted them to get dressed and helped them find their lifebelts. Half-dressed, the ladies left their cabin and ventured to the boat deck where an officer tied their lifebelts on, saying "We are sending you out as a matter of precaution. We hope you will be back for breakfast."

The two ladies were rescued in lifeboat 9 which Mary described as far from full. When the ship sank, Mary later claimed that she was too far away to hear the cries of those struggling in the water, something she considered a blessing. During sunrise and before their rescue by Carpathia, Mary recalled the magnificent sight of five or six huge icebergs nearby, a scene she would describe as one of the most beautiful spectacles she has ever seen. For Mary, having to climb a rickety rope ladder up the side of the Carpathia was a terrifying ordeal for her and many other survivors in her lifeboat, many of whom were too cold to climb and who had to be hauled up by ropes. Whilst aboard the rescue ship her mother was given a bunk whilst she slept on the floor with another girl around her age.

She and her mother did manage to arrive at her brother's graduation and eventually returned to Paris. During WWI Mary served for four years in a French Hospital as a nurses' aide. Her brother Howard served in the Ambulance Service but died in 1916 as a result of pneumonia.

Sargent Wellman
Sargent Wellman

Mary was married in Paris in 1919 to Massachusetts-born attorney Sargent Holbrook Wellman (b. 8 May 1892) and the freshly-married couple appeared on the 1920 census living with her husband's family in Manhattan but would settle in Topsfield, Massachusetts later that year. The couple had three children: Prudence (1920-1986, later Mrs Joseph Leo Leonard), Howard Lines (1924-2006) and Bradford (b. 1931). The couple were active in their local community in various civic and charitable roles. Mary devoted much of her time to the Girls Scouts on local and national levels since 1923 and was one of the founders of the Mid-Essex area council of Girl Scouts and had served as a commissioner of Massachusetts Girl Scouts for four years, among other roles. She was a member of the Herb Society of America for thirty years, serving as chairman of the New England Unit, and later assisted in the translation of the Natural History of Lavenders from French to English.  

For many years Mary never spoke about her experiences on Titanic and it was not until after the death of her mother that she chose to recount her story. Although invited to the New York premiere of A Night to Remember in 1958, Mary declined the request as she had no wish to relive her experience. She did however speak to local press and did so up until her death.

Mary died at her home, 103 Salem Road, Massachusetts on 23 November 1975 aged 80 following a stroke. She was buried in Pine Grove Cemetery, Topsfield.

Mat Lines Wellman Grave
Mary Lines Grave

Titanic Passenger Summary

Name: Miss Mary Conover Lines
Age: 16 years 8 months and 19 days (Female)
Nationality: American
Marital Status: Single
Last Residence: in Paris, France
Embarked: Cherbourg on Wednesday 10th April 1912
Ticket No. 17592, £39 8s
Cabin No. D28
Rescued (boat 9)  
Disembarked Carpathia: New York City on Thursday 18th April 1912
Died: Sunday 23rd November 1975 aged 80 years
Cause of Death:
Buried: Pine Grove Cemetery, Topsfield, Massachusetts, United States

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References and Sources

Commonwealth of Massachusetts Standard Certificate of Death
National Archives and Records Administration Passport Applications
Salem Evening News, November 24, 1975, Obituary

Newspaper Articles

Unidentified Newspaper (1975) Topsfield woman remembers the Titanic
Salem Evening News (24 November 1975) MRS. SARGENT H. WELLMAN, ACTIVE IN GIRL SCOUTING
New York Times (26 November 1975) Mary C. Wellman Dies at 80; Was a Survivor of the Titanic


Grave Marker
Mary Conover Lines
Mrs. Wellman's Topsfield colonial home circa 1760's
Photograph of Titanic Survivor Mary Lines
(1930) Mary Lines in 1930
Boston Globe (1932) Massachusetts Girl Scout Commissioners
Salt Lake Tribune (1935) Mary Lines in 1935
(1961) Mary Lines in 1961
Boston Traveler (1966) Topsfield Grandmother Recalls Tragedy
(1967) Mary Lines in 1967

Documents and Certificates

(1975) Mary Conover Lines (Death Certificate)
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Comment and discuss

  1. SCOTT

    SCOTT said:

    If anyone has information on First class passengers Mrs. Ernest H. Lines and or Miss Mary Conover Lines, Please contact me. They were both survivors. Scott Iowa

  2. Darren Honeycutt

    Darren Honeycutt said:

    Mary Lines (age 16) and her mother Mrs.Ernest Lines were survivors of the Titanic disaster. They lived in Paris where Mrs. Ernest Lines husband Dr. Ernest Lines represented New York Life Insurance Company as chief medical examiner for Europe. All three of them were booked for Titanic but at the last moment, press of business caused Dr. Lines to remain in Paris, thus saving his life. Later in life, Mary Lines said that two things stuck in her memory about that night. One was the intense cold and the other was the cries of those in the water, which... Read full post

  3. Jason D. Tiller

    Jason D. Tiller said:

    Thanks for posting that Darren. Best regards, Jason

  4. Daniel Klistorner

    Daniel Klistorner said:

    Darren, Great photo! Where did the information come from that Mr. Lines was meant to sail with them? If this is true, he had to have cancelled his booking either on or before Saturday, April 6, 1912. Regards, Daniel.

  5. Craig Stringer

    Craig Stringer said:

    Hi Daniel, If it helps, Ernest Lines, returned to New York on the Mauretania, arriving May 17th 1912. Craig

  6. Michael Findlay

    Michael Findlay said:

    Hi Daniel, From what I've been able to determine, Dr. Lines intended to sail with his wife and daughter to attend his son's graduation from Dartmouth College. To my knowledge, Mary Lines never said her father ever booked passage for himself but was apparently toying with the possibility of joining his wife and daughter for the trip. As already mentioned, he was delayed by business and therefore only booked passage for his family. Mike

  7. Darren Honeycutt

    Darren Honeycutt said:

    Daniel, I was given this information by Mary Lines son.

  8. George Pastarmatzis

    George Pastarmatzis said:

    Hi! I believe the Lines stayed in a D deck cabin. Which was it and by the way, are there any photos of actual D deck staterooms? Thanks!

  9. Peter Engberg-Klarström

    Peter Engberg-Klarström said:

    Has anyone seen an interview with Mrs or Miss Lines? Peter

  10. Stephanie Stokes

    Stephanie Stokes said:

    Hi!First of all I'm sorry I have not posted for long.It's been a crazy summer so far!I was wondering if anybody can give me any information on Mary Conover Lines.Shewas a 1st class passenger I do belive.Thanks in advance!

  11. franche

    franche said:

    Re: He looks wierd but sensible

  12. karen angeline

    karen angeline said:

    Re: My grandparents worked for Mr. and Mrs. Wellman on their estate in Topsfield in the 1950s-early 60s. My grandfather was the estate manager and my grandmother worked in the house. They lived in a small Cape Cod house across from the Wellman's house. My great-aunt provided nursing care to Mrs. Wellman. The Wellmans were classic New England Brahmins, old money with no need to be splashy about it. They were decent employers, according to my Italian immigrant family. I remember stories of their generosity and indifference to material... Read full post

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Gavin Bell, UK
Peter Engberg-Klarström, Sweden
Phillip Gowan, USA