Mrs Thomas Henry Davison was born as Elizabeth Mary Finkenagel in Malmesbury, Wiltshire, England on 19 February 1878.
She was the daughter of a German father, John Finkenagel (b. 1837) and an English mother, Elizabeth Phillips (b. 1841). Her mother was a native of Rochdale, Lancashire and was married to John Finkenagel in Stroud, Gloucestershire on 2 October 1858. Mary had nine known siblings: George (b. 1862), Conrad (b. 1866), Mary (b. 1868), Ida (b. 1869), John (b. 1874), Frederick (b. 1876), Henry (b. 1880), Alice (b. 1885) and Frederick (b. 1886).
The family initially lived in Westport St Mary, Wiltshire before moving to Malmesbury around 1873 where they ran a boarding house. They appear on the 1881 census living at Church Street in Malmesbury. Much of the family seemingly emigrated to Cleveland, Ohio, Mary's parents among them.
Mary was married in Malmesbury in 1902 to Thomas Henry Davison (b. 1880), a blacksmith and native of Chippenham. The couple had two children (one named Thomas Henry, b. 1907), but lost both in early infancy. The Davisons appeared on the 1911 census living at 32 Marshfield Road, Chippenham.
The couple had spent time in Cleveland, Ohio around 1908 where Mary's parents lived and they decided to emigrate to Bedford, Ohio. They boarded the Titanic at Southampton as third class passengers (ticket number 386525, which cost £16, 2s).
Following the sinking, Mary later related:
"...We had retired when the crash came. Harry threw on some clothing and started on deck to see what was the matter. As we came on the deck we saw men and women fighting about the lifeboats. Some of the boats were lowered and everyone was shouting and pushing about the boat. Harry pulled me into a crowd that was struggling about one of the boats that was being loaded. One of the officers kept crying 'Women first Get back Women first'. Then someone grabbed me and threw me into the boat. I was terribly excited and didn't notice how many boats were left, but as we were being lowered I saw other boats pulling off under us and heard shouts from other boats that seemed a long ways out. As we came to the water I heard something whirl over us and strike the water. It was a man. The boat was crowded, there being thirty-five and we couldn't turn around to go back. Some were standing up and as we pushed off the boat listed and took water. It was frightfully cold and all the women in our boat were scantily clothed. Nearly all were women and there were only three sailors. Some of the women tried to help the sailors row, but we didn't make much headway. It seemed hours before the Titanic sank, but we had not got far away. Its stern came up ... then there was an explosion.....The cold was intense. We were afraid to move for fear of sinking the boat. Water kept coming into it until there were several inches on the bottom. Ice bumped against us at times. It seemed dawn would never come. The sailors kept rowing all night. The strain was terrible. A woman fainted and a man began to laugh and sob toward morning....''
Mary was rescued, possibly in boat 16, but her husband was lost.
It is not thought that Mary ever returned to England and she was remarried on 29 July 1913 in Warrensville, Ohio to Fred Buescher (1881-1944), an Ohio native. The couple were later divorced and Mary married again on 6 September 1917 to Henry Godwin (b. 1879) who was also from Malmesbury and who had emigrated in 1910. The couple settled in Cleveland, Ohio, later living at 12821 Martson Street.
Mary died as a result of cancer on 26 March 1939 aged 61. She is buried in Bedford Cemetery, Bedford, Ohio with her husband Henry Godwin who died on 7 November 1950. The skirt Mary wore to leave Titanic is still in the possession of her family.
Homer Thiel, USA
Articles and Stories
Cleveland Plain Dealer (1912)
Marion Weekly Star (1912)