Mrs John Pillsbury Snyder (Nelle Stevenson) was born on 15 January 1889 in St Croix Falls, Polk, Wisconsin.
She was the daughter of Thomas William Stevenson (1853-1927), a merchant, and Cora Vincent (1857-1933). Her father was born in Indiana and her mother in Wisconsin and they had married in St Croix Falls on 13 December 1877.
Her known siblings were: Mable (b. 1880), William Claude (b. 1881), Maud (b. 1887), Jessie (b. 1890), Raymond Vincent (b. 1891), Cora Louise (b. 1894), Florence Lucille (b. 1895) and Robert Louis (1896-1896).
Nelle spent her very early childhood in Wisconsin before resettling with her family around 1890 in Minneapolis, Minnesota where she appeared on the 1900 and 1910 censuses.
She was married on 22 January 1912 to John Pillsbury Snyder (b. 1888), a Minneapolis native. 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 her husband's business.
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 and 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. Her husband later reported that the ship broke in two following several explosions.
Aboard the Carpathia the Snyders met the other Minnesotan survivors, Mrs Mahala Douglas, Mrs Alice Silvey and Miss Constance Willard.
Nelle and John settled in Minneapolis and had three children: John Pillsbury (1913-1989), Thomas Stevenson (1915-1976) and Susan (1918-1984, later Mrs Rowley Miller). She and her family are shown on the 1920 through 1940 census records living at 2118 Blaisdell Avenue, Minneapolis. Her husband operated the Snyder Garage Inc. in Minneapolis up until his retirement in 1955 when they resettled in Wayzata, Minnesota.
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.
Nelle, who was widowed in 1959, was active in her community in many philanthropic organisations and was a charter member of the Northwestern Hospital Board. In later years she became a member of the Titanic Historical Society and attended a convention in the 1970s. She continued to live at her home in Wayzata, Minnesota, lastly at 520 Indian Mound Street, and died there on 9 December 1983 aged 94. She was buried with her husband in Lakewood Cemetery, Minneapolis.
Hi All, I was able to visit the Minneapolis Public Library where I searched through several area newspapers on microfilm. I found several great articles concerning John & Nelle Snyder. John provided a detailed interview immediately following his arrival in New York, and I hope to post the articles and reflections for all to see. Best, Eric
That sounds really interesting, Eric. I'll very much look forward to reading whatever it is you have to share with us and learning more about the Snyders. I've always liked the photograph of John and Nelle that appears in Don Lynch's 'Illustrated History' and they seem to have been a most attractive couple.
...although even the most cursory of Googles this morning has revealed that John's maternal grandfather, John S. Pillsbury, had been the Governor of Minnesota. I wasn't aware of that. Furthermore, it seems that John's mother, Susan, who had died in 1891, and her sister, a Mrs Webster, were commemorated in stained-glass windows, depicting allegorical figures of Hope and Faith after designs by Burne-Jones, which were presumably installed somewhere in Minneapolis after being put on display in New York in 1901.
Martin, allow me to take this opportunity to recommend newspaperarchive.com. An annual membership is less than $100 (which is probably about 3 British pounds at this point!)and it has no end of archives from papers going back a couple of centuries, including such local papers as those that followed the Snyders' lives in Minneapolis. It's a fantastic value. From what I dug up on the Snyders not so long ago, I think they were plain folk who lived fairly quiet lives. John once told a reporter that he and his...
Thank you, Brian, for that excellent suggestion. It has struck me that 'The New York Times' archive, fabulous resource though it is, will only contain information on the careers of those passengers who were natives of that city or who moved on the international stage, in the European capitals and the fashionable holiday resorts. Which makes it far more difficult to research the likes of, say, Helen Churchill Candee, who was primarily based in Washington, Midwesterners, like the Minahans and the Snyders, and Canadians, like the Davidsons and Fortunes. Which is not to say that any of these...
Hi Martin, I wasn't aware either that John's maternal grandfather has been Governor of Minnesota, but then again I also didn't know that John himself served one term in the Minnesota House of Representatives from 1927-1929. I will see what I can find out about those stained-glass windows. That's really interesting. It will give me something to do other than dream of warmer weather!! Best, Eric
Confusingly, the Wikipedia entry for Governor John S. Pillsbury (c.1828-1901) says that he had only one son and one daughter - and SHE married a chap called Edward C. Gale: obviously not the mother of 'our' John Snyder. Yet the 1901 'New York Times' article about the memorial windows, and the 1923 biographical sketch I've mentioned above, both identify John's mother Susan as the governor's daughter. I wonder if somebody, somewhere, has confused women of similar names? I'm inclined to believe that Wikipedia is in error but it would be interesting to know if anybody on the board could shed some...
I'm hopeless at posting hyper-links but the address below should take you to an article which includes much more information about John Pillsbury Snyder (including a photograph of him which I've never seen before) and his 'Titanic' experiences. Once again, he is identified as the governor's grandson.
John's parents were Fred B. Snyder and Susan May Pillsbury. After Susan's death, Fred married Leanora McElroy. Fred's parents were Simon P. Snyder (born in Pennsylvania) and Mary (born in Ohio). Susan's were John Sargent Pillsbury and Mahala Fiske. John and Nelle had three children:John Jr., Thomas and Susan. Susan married Rowley Martin.
Thanks David...but, again, the 1923 biographical sketch available on-line lists John's stepmother as one Leonora Dickson of Pittsburgh. Apparently, she gave birth to John's half-sister, Mary Stuart. Sorry if I'm causing confusion here but I confess to being confused myself! Three separate articles have all identified John's maternal grandfather as a governor of Minnesota but this is contradicted by other sources. Which is the more reliable? Do you have any information on John's mother's family, David?
Martin, any chance you could remember the path you took to access the article? I was rummaging around that site with no luck.
Ummmm...nope, sorry. I just typed in 'John Pillsbury Snyder' and up it popped. The article can be found in 'Session Weekly: A Nonpartisan Publication of the Minnesota House of Representatives', dated 3 April, 1998, Vol. 15, No. 11. Besides the photograph of Snyder himself, and much biographical information, it also contains by far the fullest account of the Snyders' experience aboard the 'Titanic' I've read so far. You were right, Brian - they had been travelling through Italy on their honeymoon but John took advantage of the opportunity to investigate the possibility of opening a Fiat...
Ah - got it, thanks. Strangely, typing his name in didn't pull it up for me, and I had to go into the Session Weekly archives.
The Minneapolis Star published the obituary about John Pillsbury Snydef July 23 1959. It was mentioned that he was the president of the Snyder Garage, Inc, which was an automobilfirm at 407 S 10th St.which he sold to the Curds hotel in 1955. The business had been on the same site for 43 years. In 1912 Snyder had a trip to Italy to arrange a dealership for Fiat cars. Eventually information about the survivors, in case any details are not known form before: His son John, Karel his wife anaother son Thomas S. A daughter Mrs Rowley Miller, all of Wayzata, one sister Mrs. Crawford Johnson jr....
I just returned from another trip to the Minneapolis Public Library. I had more time this visit, so I was able to locate several articles about John & Nelle Snyder. Both provided detailed accounts to the Minneapolis & St. Paul newspapers. I am scanning them now and will upload them onto their respective biographical pages. I understand that it may take several days for them to be accepted, am I right? There are several pictures of the Snyders contained within the articles as well. Arne, I was able to locate John's obituary with the information you provided. It's quite lengthy and...